Your Private Tour of Cambodia
Where to go depends on what you like!
The vibrant resort town of Siem Reap is the top destination in Cambodia for luxury travelers—and for good reason. It’s the hub for exploring the outstanding Angkor Archeological Park, the ultimate cultural destination in Southeast Asia. However, beyond the ancient temples, there is so much more to Cambodia.
Along the Mekong River, the capital city of Phnom Penh offers a delightful mix of history and hipster, proving how far the country has come since its darkest chapter in the 1970s. The small, sleepy city of Battambang is the perfect place to get off the beaten path and cycle through villages, see crumbling French colonial architecture, and ride the quirky bamboo train. The Cardamom Mountains are an eco-tourism wonderland where you can explore the rainforest and visit wildlife-rehabilitation projects. Cambodia even has pristine white beaches along the Gulf of Thailand, inviting you to wind down your journey at a relaxing resort.
Whatever adventures you partake in, Cambodia is a singular and unique country. It’s full of irrepressible charm, irresistible appeals to the senses, and surprises around every corner.
Siem Reap is the cradle of the ancient Khmer Empire, which dominated most of Southeast Asia a millennium ago. The kingdom began as Hindu and transitioned to Buddhist; the imagery of its temples reflects the religious change. Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are the most famous of these UNESCO World Heritage sites, but dozens of exquisite temples lie nearby in various stages of restoration. The evocative Ta Prohm temple, with tree roots snaking through the structure, is a favorite for many.
A few hours west, the Banteay Chhmar temple complex is still being excavated and reassembled after being untouched for 800 years. It’s far from the tourist route in an undeveloped part of the country.
Apart from the astonishing architecture of the Angkor-era temples, French colonialism made its own mark during the colonial period that began in the 1860s. In both Battambang and Phnom Penh, hotels, markets, police stations, and other institutional buildings have endured. The grand former Governor’s Residence in Battambang (unmissable in bright yellow) is one of the most impressive and best-preserved.
Nature & Adventure
Kulen Mountain near Siem Reap provides an active break from temple touring. Its hiking trails wind through a tropical jungle complete with waterfalls.
The Wildlife Alliance runs a successful ecotourism project in the gorgeous Cardamom Mountains, where you can hike or bike to see rare wildlife and exotic flora. Another highlight is a floating lodge that can be reached only by boat.
While neighbors Thailand and Vietnam are famed for their beaches, Cambodia has beautiful beaches as well. The Koh Rong Archipelago off the coast of Sihanhoukville hosts the country’s first luxury resort, on a private tropical island.
The charming seaside resort town of Kep is being revitalized. Besides swimming and sunning, you can visit a Kampot pepper plantation and hike the trail through the nearby national park.
In Siem Reap, you will be spoiled by choice: Trendy boutiques can be found around the town, along with an ever-growing assortment of night markets. Our two favorite shopping spots are the Made in Cambodia Market at King’s Road, a tidy outdoor market that sells accessories and gifts made by local artisans (many supported by NGOs) and the shopping arcade at FCC Angkor, with galleries and hip boutiques such as Tiger Lily.
Street 240 in Phnom Penh has several boutiques selling fair-trade clothing, jewelry, and decorative items made by local artisans (many of whom are disabled) or by members of indigenous minority groups. Also in the city: The Central and Russian markets are treasure troves of souvenirs and inexpensive clothing.
Many restaurants in Siem Reap offer Khmer cooking classes, most of which begin with a market visit to select fresh ingredients. Vegetarian Khmer classes are offered as well.
In the thriving restaurant scene in Phnom Penh, you will find chic eateries in renovated villas and gourmet French restaurants exhibiting the influence of the former colonial rulers. The fabled Foreign Correspondent’s Club is a lovely spot for pre-dinner drinks.
Phnom Penh’s riverside area yields a bustling collection of bars, including the fabled Foreign Correspondent’s Club, palaces, museums, temples, and monuments. On a somber note, the best place to learn about the country’s gruesome past under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime can be found at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.
The Landmine Museum in Siem Reap was founded by a former child soldier; it provides a stark overview of the explosive scourge that still plagues the country.
Cambodia Travel Tips
Cambodia combines very well with trips to neighboring Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. Most flights arriving from North American and European airports connect via the larger hubs in Asia: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, or Taipei.
What to Pack
For Cambodia, as in most of Southeast Asia, the outdoors will be warm and humid, while indoors may be strongly air-conditioned, making clothing layers helpful. A light cardigan or long-sleeved, button-down shirt can be useful among chilly interiors and on cool early mornings, as well as to provide protection from the sun and cover when visiting holy places. In many temples and palaces, it is required that visitors keep shoulders fully covered (e.g., no tank tops or merely a scarf over a tank top), avoid anything too low-cut, and dress more conservatively (knees covered, with a long skirt or sarong, or at least capri pants). Shoes must be removed to enter some temples, so sturdy sandals or slip-ons are convenient.
For walking around in the evenings, casual dress is suitable for night markets and more casual eateries. Some restaurants, bars, and clubs require closed/dressy shoes (no flip flops, beach shoes, or sneakers; nice sandals are OK for women), as well as trousers for men.
Seaside resort areas are quite casual, so shorts and tank tops are fine, though swimwear should be used only at the beach or by the pool.
Cambodia’s climate is warm and tropical, with two distinct seasons: dry (November–April) and wet (May–October).
The first part of the dry season (November–February) is the most popular time to travel in Cambodia, with average temperatures ranging from 72°–87°F (22°–31°C). Hotel prices are higher and attractions more crowded during this time. From March through early May, visitor numbers drop with rising humidity and temperatures. It can sometimes reach 100°F (38°C) during these months.
We affectionately call the wet season the “green season,” as the rains foster rich, lush greenery and high water levels in lakes and rivers. You’ll find fewer travelers and lower prices. In general, the rains come in the form of one or two brief, intense rain showers per day, with the rest of the day being clear. This can be a very pleasant time to travel, if not for getting beach time or traveling off the beaten path. (Dirt roads can be flooded.)
The weather is notoriously difficult to predict, so the actual conditions during your trip may vary.