Best Places to Visit in Cambodia
Known both as the site of the massive Angkor Wat temple and the brutal Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s and the ensuing civil war, Cambodia’s history includes both humanity’s greatest artistic achievements and its most gruesome acts.
History is what draws most tourists here, but the Southeast Asian country has more attractions for those who come for a short stop in Siem Reap than a short one. Besides temples, Cambodia is a major destination for travel in Southeast Asia and manages to attract anyone who comes to visit.
The white sandy shoreline lures every sun lounger. The vibrant capital Phnom Penh immerses visitors in the frenzied pulse of contemporary Cambodian urban life, while the forest-clad countryside prepares for the bolder.
Plan your visit to this fascinating country with our choice of the best places to visit in Cambodia.
10 Best Places to Visit in Cambodia
Here are the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Cambodia:
1. Angkor Wat
This temple city is number one on the list of best places to visit in Cambodia. Entered from Siem Reap Town, Angkorian-era temples are large-scale and majestic in architecture, and Angkor Wat is rated as one of the ancient must-see places in the world.
Built between 802 and 1432, the city was the largest city in the world during the Middle Ages and was a powerful force for Khmer kings who sought to surpass their predecessors in architectural beauty.
While the wooden houses of the city were occupied and decayed by the surrounding forest, today only those magnificent temples remain.
Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building, is just a small part of the entire site, and if you want to see the scope of Angkor’s architectural achievements, it’s worth three days to explore its sprawling temple circuit.
For those short on time, though, the main highlight after Angkor Wat is the tree-rooted temple of Ta Prohm (it gained international fame as a location first used in the movie Tomb Raider), the Bayon Temple, famous for its 216 stones. faces, Angkor Thom and Berkhan.
2. Phnom Penh
Cambodia’s capital, the country’s crazy heartbeat; a city full of chaotic streets filled with motorcycles and car horns, which can be tiring at first glance. Completely abandoned and left to wither and rot during the Khmer Rouge craze, Phnom Penh has become one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant cities.
For tourists, this is Cambodia’s most cosmopolitan destination, with cafes and restaurants unrivaled in the rest of the country. It is also home to a number of important historical sites that help unravel Cambodia’s modern and ancient history.
The National Museum houses a collection of Khmer sculptures that trace the history of the country from the pre-Angkorian era to the extraordinary glory of the Angkor god-kings.
The Royal Palace offers magnificent examples of traditional art, while the Tuol Sleng Museum and Choeung Ek’s Killing Fields tell the story of the horror and brutality that this country’s people were subjected to under Khmer Rouge rule.
3. Koh Rong Samloem
Just off Cambodia’s south coast are scattered islands that are just as beautiful as the Thai islands to the west, but much less visited.
Compared to the now highly developed islands of Koh Samui and Phuket, the Cambodian islands are a laid-back tropical paradise where sun and sand come into play and large resorts have yet to leave their mark.
Of all the islands, Koh Rong Sanloem is one of the most beautiful, and the long sandy Saracen Bay is home to over a dozen beach cottages that offer a great escape from the world. It’s really all about hammock time here, but there are plenty of scuba diving activities for the more active.
4. Siem Reap
As Siem Reap is the foundation of Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap is often seen by travelers as one of Cambodia’s top tourist attractions, but the city itself offers much more than just mighty temples.
It’s the country’s main hub of activity, with tours ranging from cycling through the lush countryside outside the city to Cambodian food tours. Shoppers will also find plenty to occupy themselves, as downtown Siem Reap is packed with opportunities to browse traditional crafts.
Before going to Angkor Wat, be sure to visit the Angkor National Museum to learn about the history of the site. The exhibits here explore the breadth of the culture and art of the Khmer Empire.
For evening entertainment in the city, don’t miss Phare The Cambodian Circus. This internationally acclaimed circus and social enterprise put on a dizzying array of performances combining theatre, acrobatics and music.
Ratanakiri is a nature-filled resort for travelers suffering from temple fatigue. This is Cambodia’s interior, and the region’s endless red dirt roads leading to minority villages are a treat for the intrepid traveller.
For the more adventurous, the province is one of the best places for trekking in Cambodia, from night excursions to spotting macaques in Veun Sai-Siem Pang Reserve, getting up early to sleep in a hammock and watch the mild-cheeked macaques. Go hiking in Virachey National Park, home to elephants, tigers and sun bears.
There are many more relaxing options. The emerald waters of Yeak Lom Crater Lake, just outside Ban Lung town, are a peaceful swimming spot, while the waterfalls at Chaa Ong and Ka Tieng are fun times that offer more opportunities to get wet.
6. Prasat Preah Vihear
Angkor Wat temples may take all the glory, but Pasa Preah Vihear wins the award for the most dramatic location. Perched atop the Dangrek Mountains with dazzling views of Cambodia’s floodplain, Prasat Preah Vihear is a massive temple complex made up of intricately carved pavilions connected by a long gorge and was originally built in honor of Lord Shiva.
Located near the Thai border, the temple has historically been a point of contention between two countries, both of which claim to belong to it. The International Court of Justice ruled in Cambodia’s favor in 2013, following border disputes from 2008 to 2011.
Tensions have dissipated over the past few years, which means the UNESCO World Heritage Site can now regain its rightful role in the tourism circuit. Access is from Sra Em, although most tourists come on day trips from Siem Reap (200km south).
The rice fields and small villages around the northwest city of Battambang have some of the most peaceful countryside in Cambodia, and the area is also home to a wealth of history. All this makes the city itself a popular destination on travelers’ itineraries.
For history buffs, the temples of Phnom Sampeau, Phnom Banan, and Wat Ek Phnom are all within a day’s trip distance, while the famous Bamboo Train, a single-track railway with a wooden and bamboo “horse carriage”, in Battambang. East Bank and the small village of O Srav – one of the most popular activities for tourists.
Compared to the hustle and bustle of the capital, Battambang is a rather sleepy city with colonial buildings at its center. For those who find the busy hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh a bit overwhelming, Battambang is a very friendly town to use as a base.
The cozy river town of Kampot has a lot of old world vibes. The compact central space is a joy to stroll through and is filled with standing shop buildings, some of which have been lovingly restored.
Kampot’s charm lies in its extremely cool weather, and many travelers who find themselves staying here longer than they expected have succumbed to its easygoing.
For the more active, it’s also a great base for exploring the surrounding attractions in the south.
Boker Hill Station, a former French country resort with an abandoned church and the eerie empty shell of a once stately hotel, is an easy day trip from town with the ancient limestone caves of Phnom Chhnork and the temple of Phnom Sorsia.
9. Tonle Sap Lake
Tonle Sap is the most important waterway in Cambodia and the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. In addition to being an important source of food and an important tool for irrigation in Cambodia, the lake itself is home to 170 fishing-based floating villages with houses built directly on the water.
The houses, shops, churches, schools and temples in these villages are built on wooden barrels and rustic buoys connected by bamboo, and all transportation is based on boats. They are a fascinating place to spend a day exploring.
One of the most interesting is the sprawling village of Kompong Luong near the town of Pursat on the west coast of Tonlé Sap, but the most popular is Chong Kneas near Siem Reap.
10. Koh Kong Conservation Corridor
The Koh Kong Conservation Corridor covers an area within the Cardamom Mountains south of the border town of Koh Kong in southwest Cambodia. The highlands here have lush rainforests, meandering rivers and waterfalls, and offer ample opportunities for hiking and boating.
If you want to immerse yourself in the lush surroundings and take some time out of your life, head to Tower River. Here you’ll find boutique eco-resorts scattered along with the riverbank, all offering activities like day hikes and canoeing.
Further south of Cardamom is Chi Pat Village, an ecotourism destination that offers a host of activities, from simple homestays and guesthouses and multi-day hikes to forested mountains and riverboat excursions for wildlife viewing.
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Cambodia. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Cambodia, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.