There are many fascinating places beyond Angkor in Cambodia, including small, traditional villages, Asia's largest lake (Tonle Sap), lush jungle landscapes, island retreats, white sand beaches and smaller towns where few travelers venture. Below are some our recommendations of where to go in Cambodia, all of which combine easily with a tour of Angkor.
"Here then are those temples which for so long seemed like visions... Here are the foundations, the plinths, the galleries, the extraordinary domes resembling multi-ringed tiaras" —Claude Farrere, L'illustration, 1931
If you've come this far to the region, you will not want to miss the "Prize of Southeast Asia" — the Temples of Angkor — short one-hour hop from Thailand or Vietnam. Angkor what? Most confuse Angkor Wat, the main temple with Angkor the city which consists of over 70 discovered ruins spread over a hundred square miles. Angkor Wat itself is a kilometer-wide one of the greatest stone monuments ever constructed. There are astounding structures of equal impact surrounding it. This density of ruins is unparalleled anywhere else in the world, and has been aptly called the "Nile Valley of Asia."
From the river, palm trees and pagoda spires of Khmer royal buildings rise over French-era shop houses and villas, the ochre buildings, squares, cafes, and frangipani-lined boulevards resembling a French provincial town. Situated at les Quatre Bras (the Four Arms), where two arms of the Mekong meet the Bassac and Tonle Sap tributaries, the city is now lesser a French creation of wide boulevards and stately mansions and more an important commercial capital.
Witness city's incredible and bizarre history, from French occupation, Vietnam War, to the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror while taking in the pockets of charm and traditions.
No longer simply a base for exploring the nearby Angkor temple complex, Siem Reap has within recent years become an enjoyable small town worthy of a stopover all in itself. New luxury hotels have opened up while older ones have undergone extensive renovation, including the famed Raffles. Complimenting its exotic night markets, a new and renowned "street circus," world-class dining, and shopping boutiques have sprouted up.
After a morning exploring the temples, Siem Reap offers a pleasant, walkable town only a short stroll from most hotels. Siem Reap is also one of the most kid-friendly destinations in Southeast Asia, with fascinating attractions, including a "bug restaurant" and street fish spas. We will plan your dining here, as there are new venues you should not miss and if you enjoy cooking, there are a couple of delightful classes offered in the town.
Battambang, a tranquil town about three hours drive from Siem Reap offers a glimpse of local life in Cambodia. More than a weigh point, Battambang features well-preserved architecture and a delicious dining. Less known is that is at the cutting edge of an emerging art scene. The arts school teaches visual, applied and performing arts to almost a thousand students. The impressive street circus troupe in Siem Reap come from the visual arts center here, Phare Ponleu Selpak. We can arrange a visit, with a circus troupe performance twice a week. The art school's graduates are now opening their own art galleries, studios, and workshops, such as artist-curator Mao Soviet who runs Make Maek, and the newly opened artist-collective space called Studio Art Battambang. It’s a cavernous old shop house that exhibits large, bamboo sculptures and huge canvases. We pop next door to refuel at Kinyei, a social enterprise cafe with probably the best coffee in Cambodia (try a piccolo or a “Cambodian street latte” with palm sugar and orange essence).
Of course, we always recommend cycling where it's good in the region and here there is a half-day cycling tour for about 20 miles, looping around the villages and gives us a glimpse into the various agricultural industries – rice paper production, dried fruits, rice liquor and prahok (fermented fish paste) are some – that support Battambang’s economy.
North along the Mekong from Phnom Penh is Kratie, a small fishing and logging town. The Mekong is navigable year-round from Phnom Penh to Kratie and a cruise is possible when the river runs high from September to January. The town has a smattering of attractive rustic French buildings and small cafes, and some 30 kilometers north of Kratie is the site of the ancient capital of Sombor, which lies close to the Mekong. Crocodiles inhabit the river in this area but Kratie is well known for its dolphins—the Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins, which are highly endangered with only about 80 said to remain.
Kratie is a pleasant base for exploring the area, of which Koh Trong is a highlight, a small island facing the town across the Mekong. The island is one of Cambodia's loveliest destinations, a virtual tropical paradise, explorable by bicycle.
Cambodia's first and premier beach resort. Song saa, or "The Sweethearts", is just off the southern coast from the coastal city of Sihanoukville.
The Song Saa, along with the Nam Hai and Amanoi, now offers three properties to compliment travel in Vietnam and Cambodia, rather than the longer trip down to the Thai islands. This resort offers a setting similar to Maldives properties. The resort is located on two small, private connecting islands in the middle of a marine reserve of the clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The resort features luxurious Over-Water, Jungle and Ocean-View villas built with sustainable materials with respect for maintaining the natural environment.
The Cardamom Mountains is a vast range in southwestern Cambodia stretching from the border of Thailand across the country to Vietnam. The area features Cambodia’s highest peak—Phnom Aural— at nearly six thousand feet and one of the last primitive rainforests in Southeast Asia, home to an enormous variety of plant and animal life and where wild elephants still roam free. Once a rebel holdout from the Khmer Rouge period and off-limits until recently, the Cardamoms are now a national park ever more popular for outdoors exploration.
From a base in the town of Chi Pat, we can arrange a variety of eco-adventures, including treks and river cruises into the Cardamoms National Park, overnighting within the forest. If you have interest, ask about volunteering opportunities on conservation projects within the park.
Tonle Sap or "sweet water" is the remarkable inland sea in northwest Cambodia, and the name of the river linking it to the Mekong. Tonle Sap is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and one of the richest inland fisheries in the world, accounting for more than half of Cambodia’s protein intake. An area on Tonle Sap around Prek Toal village is the gathering ground for a variety of bird species, many of whom are endangered and is not a national sanctuary.
Tonle Sap is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, recognized and protected for its social, cultural and scientific significance. The best time to cruise and witness life on Tonle Sap is during high water levels from October to February. For bird watching, the dry season is best.
Cambodia Family AdventuresEverything you've heard is true — Japan is the ultimate culinary destination.
The 1,000 Year-Old City
If you can only visit one city in Vietnam, it should be Hanoi. To visit Hanoi is to steep yourself in history, tradition, and legend in a capital that has been inhabited continuously for a millennium. Hanoi's present architecture is mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries, and the stately French-built section of town is largely intact. Hanoi is cleaner, leafier, and quieter than other big cities in Vietnam — in a word, it's "cooler."
There's cooler weather, more drizzle, less traffic, less hype; the streets seem quieter, with few large billboards. There's a cooler mentality here, too-prouder, more prudish. Hanoi is a magnet for intellectuals and artists, while Saigon seems to attract entrepreneurs and hustlers. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city boasts the country's only world-class museums and artists prefer the city, their galleries and studios have recently enjoyed global attention.
If you've come this far to the region, you will not want to miss the "Prize of Southeast Asia" — the Temples of Angkor — short one-hour flight from Danang or Bangkok or ninety minutes from Hanoi or Luang Prabang. Angkor what? Many people have heard of the main temple Angkor Wat, but Angkor consists of over 70 discovered ruins spread over 200 square kilometers. Angkor Wat itself is a kilometer-wide and the greatest Buddhist monument ever constructed. There are astounding structures of equal impact surrounding it. This density of ruins is unparalleled anywhere else in the world, and has been aptly called the "Nile Valley of Asia."
Experience the very best luxury travel in Indochina. Our trips not only canvas the very best of Indochina from Hanoi, Halong Bay aboard a private charter, tranquil Luang Prabang, and the magnificent ruins at Angkor, but fill in all the special touches-including visas, expedited arrival, concierge and guides on call, the very best dining, and exclusive, insider people encounters and activities.
Combine Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Angkor over a week-long journey to unlock the rich history and contemporary culture of Cambodia. Those with a deeper interest in the arts, will enjoy a side-trip to Battambang, center for the premier art's unversity in the country.
The legendary Raffles in Phnom Penh provides an elegant base for exploring the many splendors of the capital city.
Unique attractions of Phnom Penh include the notable National Museum, which houses rare relics and statues from Angkor and provides an ideal introduction to the temples and Khmer empire, the well-preserved colonial quarter, and colorful traditional markets that are the largest in the country. Enjoy continued luxury in Siem Reap, which now also feature world-class dining at venues such as Cuisine Wat Damnak, and exclusive private touring of the temple complex before and away from the crowds.
Experience the romance in the elegance of French Indochine. Cambodia has become an ever-popular destination for honeymoons and anniversaries, with world-class properties and resorts, fabulous dining, magnificent ruins, and special activities just for couples.
Siem Reap and Angkor are one the top Asian destinations we recommend for families. Siem Reap has become much more than simply a base for exploring the nearby temple complex and is now a family destination unto itself, with exotic night markets, street circus, kid-pleasing cuisine, and adventures within and outside of the temples.
Enjoy a half-day market exploration and private cooking class, learning to prepare hands-on with a talented chef several of Cambodia’s traditional dishes.
An arts-focused trip through Cambodia features fine hand-crafted sculptures and prints, local home galleries, and traditional and comtemporary dance and music performances.
While any trip to Cambodia is adventurous in itself, there are also several unique outdoors adventures to enhance your trip. Come hike the verdant Cardamom Mountains, explore the Prek Toal biosphere by boat, hike into the mountains near Angkor to view ancient sculptures, exploring Angkor by bicycle, and enjoy a thrilling zip-line through the jungle.
We have arranged group and private photography trips since the 1990s, typically in conjunction with Vietnam. Enjoy private access to spots in the temples complex away from the crowds, during ideal times for shooting, along with the facilitating of portaits of locals.
Few countries have the remarkable and tragic history of Cambodia. Learn of the magnificent Khmer empire, which spanned Southeast Asia and erected the temples of Angkor, through the French colonial era, the dark rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge, and subsequent Vietnamese occupation.
An art deco mansion built for a Cambodian princein 1962. Following war, it was restored and re-opened in 2002. Amansara reflects the Aman's austere design throughout, with exceptional service. However, the property is not our top recommendation in Siem Reap for several reasons.
The Khmer-style La Residence d'Angkor is situated within pleasant lush tropical gardens. Built of wood and furnished in the local style, the addition of modern comforts and luxurious touches create a welcoming but understated atmosphere. Hotel location is ideal, upon the river, within a short walk of all the small town's attractions, including night market and all finer restaurants which lie just across or a couple of blocks down the river.
The hotel has 54 spacious king-bedded or twin rooms and 10 suite rooms. All have large bathrooms with with large signature free-form baths, a bit outdated in our opinion and you should consider the modern suite rooms for more convenient walk-in showers. All rooms also offer individually-controlled air conditioning, IDD telephone and free wireless internet connectivity available in all guest rooms. The hotel complies with World Bank environmental standards and has a policy to protect the environment and promote sustainable development in Cambodia.
Siem Reap's legendary Grand Dame. Stylish and beautifully restored landmark colonial-era resort-hotel surrounded by a 15-acres of French gardens, less than five miles from Angkor Wat in the city's most prestigious location—at the beginning of the Road to Angkor. Stylish and beautifully restored, all 131 accommodations feature country-style furnishings and deluxe baths. The Landmark rooms and Personality Suites are richly decorated with pieces of the French colonial period. The pool is the country's largest, offering a refreshing break after a morning exploring the temples. Ask about private villas for families or honeymooners, managed by the Raffles.
Arguably Indochina's finest luxury hotel. Located on a quiet street on embassy row, the renowned historic property with 170 guest quarters divided among an Old World main building and low profile wings overlooking a tree-lined courtyard and 80-foot swimming pool. The Landmark Room and the Personality Suites (actually junior suites), are more atmospheric and named after the hotel's famous guests and distinguished by period artworks and antique furnishings.
The most exciting addition to the Siem Reap aged luxury hotel scene in awhile. Called Phum Baitang (Green Village), it is very much in the same style as the Six Senses hotels. Designed by the same team responsible for the renowned Nam Hai and Six Senses Con Dao. We think of it like a 5 star+ version of authentic, local style Sala Lodges. The elegant hideaway is set within eight acres of lush gardens and paddy fields, Phum Baitang or "green village" offers the first Six Senses style resort in Siem Reap. The architectural design has been inspired by traditional Cambodian wooden housing, comprising forty-five spacious villas, twenty-five with private terrace and twenty with private plunge pool. The wooden and stilted villas and interiors are reflect traditional Cambodian design, offering guests a unique experience in Siem Reap.
During the day, guests can enjoy a light meal or sample a refreshing homemade juice at the Pool Bar. For elegant dining, Phum Baitang’s two restaurants, one locally-inspired and the other offering international cuisine, serve delicious meals using fresh organic herbs and vegetables from the resort’s own gardens. At the Cigar/Cocktail Lounge, guests can sip a cocktail while watching the sun set over lush paddy fields. A luxurious and tranquil Spa Temple offers seven treatment rooms, a sauna, steam room and relaxation area. A yoga pavilion, fully-equipped fitness room and 50m outdoor infinity pool complete the resort’s leisure facilities.
Impressive, stunning villas on islands situated in a bucolic marine national park. Cambodia's first world-class beach resort has opened off the southern coast from the city of Sihanoukville (thirty minutes from the airport, then another forty-five minutes by boat). The resort's 27 one- and two-bedroom villas, perched overwater, on the beach or in the jungle, all provide uninterrupted views of the dramatic sunsets, seascapes and starry evenings that are commonplace for the region. In addition, all villas feature king-sized beds, exquisite bathrooms complete with twin basins, oversized baths, indoor and outdoor showers, private pools and natural finishes which seamlessly bring the outdoors in. For those guests in search of a discrete island hideaway, the two-bedroom Royal Villa offers exceptional privacy with its own jetty for arrivals and departures.Song Saa is an everything is 'on demand' in the resort, including unlimited in-villa fine dining.
The Song Saa, along with the Nam Hai (now Four Seasons), now offers two world-class beach properties to compliment travel in Vietnam and Cambodia, rather than the typical side-trip south to the Thai islands. The Song Saa offers a dramatic setting similar to Maldives properties. Getting to the Song Saa can be a bit out of the way, but once on the island, it is hard not to be impressed by the stylish villas, stunning setting, and the general atmosphere.
Note: Consider if you travel falls within the wet season which may have an impact on your visit when daily rainstorms are a regular feature of the wet season (during the months from May to October). Downpours the sea can get pretty rough, making for an uncomfortable crossing, particularly for families with young children. And once on the island, heavy rainstorms can dampen the spirits and limit the choice of activities available.