Cambodia was my home for almost one and a half year. I lived in Siem Reap and from there travelled all over. Now that I’m back in Europe, I can truly say that I’ve left a little bit of my heart back in Cambodia.
From the gorgeous nature, fun activities, friendliest locals and best food. This country has surprised me more than I ever thought it could. So, here I am, giving you all my best tips for this beautiful place.
I know that most people don’t have the time to be away from home as long as I was. So I’ve put all my knowledge and best destinations in Cambodia into a
When should you visit Cambodia?
Having experienced Cambodia through the hot and the rainy I’ve learned how important it is to come to Cambodia at the right time.
Dry season runs from November to May, this means that it gets hot and there is no real rain. Rainy or wet season goes from June to October, and it gets wet guys, really wet!
The most popular time to visit Cambodia is from November to February when it’s hot, but not too hot. You really don’t want to be in the country from March to May as temperatures go up to 35 to 40 degrees Celcius! It’s just too hot to really do anything, and the country turns from tropical paradise to dusty and dry.
Suggested 3 Week Cambodia Itinerary
Three weeks is more than enough to see al you want in Cambodia. Be aware that you will have quite a packed schedule to be able to see all there is and truly enjoy Cambodia’s wonders.
This itinerary starts and ends in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. It is easiest to fly into from almost any International destination and a lot cheaper than some of the other cities in Cambodia with international airports.
If you are travelling from Thailand you can just keep the same itinerary. This only means that you’ll start in Siem Reap and add the Phnom Penh days to the end of your stay in Cambodia. For everyone else, I highly recommend this Cambodia itinerary.
Day 1 – Phnom Penh
Day 2 – Phnom Penh
Day 3 – Travel to Siem Reap
Day 4 – Siem Reap
Day 5 – Siem Reap
Day 6 – Siem Reap
Day 7 – Siem Reap
Day 8 – Travel to Battambang
Day 9 – Battambang
Day 10 – Travel to Sihanoukville
Day 11 – Koh Rong
Day 12 – Koh Rong
Day 13 – Koh Rong
Day 14 – Koh Rong
Day 15 – Koh Rong Samloem
Day 16 – Koh Rong Samloem
Day 17 – Koh Rong Samloem
Day 18 – Travel to Kampot
Day 19 – Kampot
Day 20 – Kep
Day 21 – Travel to Pnom Penh
These are some of the highlights you’ll get to see on this
- The Killing Fields & S21 Prison. Here you can learn about the brutal history of Cambodia during the Khmer
rougewhen a quarter of the population was killed.
- Angkor Wat. This temple complex belongs on the list of largest and most famous temples in the world.
- Floating village. Experience what life is like living on a floating house in the middle of rural Cambodia.
- Bamboo train ride. Go on a ride on the only bit of train track still in use in all of Cambodia.
- Visit paradise. The islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and are not to be missed.
Day 1 – Arrival in Phnom Penh
Arriving in Cambodia is usually easiest, and cheapest at Phnom Penh International Airport. You’re probably going to be a little jet lagged today. So for today
After your arrival
There are three main sights that you should see when in Phnom Penh, the two most popular ones we’ll do on day 2. Today, if you have time and you’re up for it, you could head over to the Royal Palace, which is right in the middle of town.
Day 2 – Explore Phnom Penh
Killing Fields and the S21 Prison
The killing fields are located about 12 kilometer outside of Phnom Penh. For today, you’ll want to hire a tuk-tuk. You can do this at your accommodation or you can just get one from the street. Make sure that you don’t pay more than $15 to $20.
This day will be filled with horror and heartbreak as you learn more about the history of Cambodia. During the Pol Pot Regime between 1975 and 1979 also known as the Khmer Rouge, one in four Cambodians was slaughtered. At the Phnom Penh Killing Field (Choeung Ek), over 9000 bodies were found in mass graves. At the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, better known as the S21 prison, over 12,000 people were tortured and kept captive during the 4 years of the Khmer Rouge. Only 7 survived.
At both these locations, you’ll be able to take an audio tour that will walk you through different stops and tells you what happened there. I’d very much recommend listening to these audio tours. They’re super informative and will give you the option to walk through both places at your own pace. Plus they also have the option to listen to extra segments that teach you more about the history of the Khmer Rouge and you’ll hear some stories of survivors.
Day 3 – Travel to Siem Reap
Today we are travelling to Siem Reap, this can be done by bus or by plane. I myself have done both, by plane is of course a lot faster as it only takes about 45 minutes. By bus
This gives you some time
Day 4 – Explore Siem Reap
Siem Reap is really only famous for one thing, Angkor Wat. However, today we won’t be visiting the temples just yet. There are a few things to see and do around Siem Reap that are also pretty incredible. But you could also use this time to relax and enjoy the pool some more. Here are some of the things you shouldn’t miss out on in Siem Reap town.
- Visit APOPO, this is an NGO that trains African giant pouched rats to save lives by detecting landmines and tuberculosis.
- Visit the Landmine Museum.
- Take a yoga class. There are lots around town, but I personally enjoy the one at Peace Cafe most.
- Have a traditional Cambodian meal, there are lots of good restaurants in and around pub street!
Day 5 – Visit Angkor Wat
The day has come! We’ll be visiting Cambodia’s most famous landmark, the Angkor Wat temples!
When visiting Angkor Wat you can opt for a 1, 3 or 7-day pass. I would recommend going for the 1-day pass, as the temples, we’ll be seeing tomorrow don’t fall under the prices of the main ticket. The one day pass is at time of writing $37, it , at the start of 2017 for the first time in decades, so it shouldn’t go up again any time soon!
The best time to go see Angkor Wat is at sunrise, not just because it’s beautiful, also because it is the coolest time of day. Make sure to arrange your tuk-tuk the day before, so that they can pick you up from your hotel around 4 am just in time for you to get your ticket and enjoy sunrise at the main Angkor Wat temple. Your tuk-tuk should cost between $15 and $20 for the entire day. After this, you’ll have the opportunity to see whichever temples you like, but in general, your tuk-tuk will take you to Angkor Wat first, Bayon second and Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider) Temple last. Be sure to check this out to have all your questions answered about Angkor Wat!
Day 6 – Find the hidden temples
Hidden temples, yay! Today I want to take you to temples that no one really knows about, but are so worth visiting. Best thing is, no one really goes there so you’ll highly likely only have to share the temples with some locals and other tourists that are in on the secret. I’m talking about Beng Mealea and Koh Ker.
A ticket to these two temples only costs $5, the only thing is that they are a little further out of town, about 1,5 hour ride by tuk-tuk or a 45 min ride by minivan. Koh Ker is located about 110 km away from Siem Reap while Beng Mealea is 75 km away. To visit you have the option to just get a tuk-tuk from the street and go there yourself (costs $35 to $45), or go via a tour company by minibus (costs $40 to $140 depending on how many people). Make sure to arrange this a day beforehand as the tours often start around 8 am.
The main temple at Koh Ker is a 7-tier step pyramid that you can still climb on. The temple is magnificent and definitely worth the long ride. Beng Mealea is my personal favorite out of all Angkor Wat temples I’ve seen. It exists of tumbles of ruins and small
Day 7 – Lotus fields and the floating village
The floating village is also one of the big activities when it comes to Siem Reap, the only thing people don’t know is that there are lotus fields on the way to the village. Just ask your tuk-tuk driver to stop at the lotus fields before you arrive at the floating village or on the way back to town.
The lotus fields are especially gorgeous when the flowers are in bloom, but also when they aren’t it is fun to have a look around. It only costs about $1 per person to enter the fields, you pay this to the family that owns the land. Sometimes you’ll even have a chance to see them in action when harvest comes around, but mostly they’ll just be sitting around!
So the floating villages, how does it work! There are several but my personal
Make sure to tell your tuk-tuk driver to go to this specific village. As they will take you to one of the other two if you don’t. This one is furthest away, so they won’t automatically go there. The boats that take you to the village are also still locally owned, this means that all the money you spend on it will go back into the community, yay!
Make sure that when you do decide to go via a tour company that you ask which floating village they go to, and just shop around until you find one that goes to the place you like! Don’t forget to book your tour 1 to 2 days in advance to make sure you have a spot. I like the Triple A Cambodia tour to Kompong Khleang as it is budget friendly at $49 per person, and they take you to the best places.
Day 8 – Travel to Battambang
Today we travel to Battambang, home to the bamboo train. You can go here by boat or bus. I’ve never taken the boat but have heard that it takes all day and isn’t the safest option. The bus only takes about 2 to 3 hours so this leaves you plenty of time to either explore Siem Reap some more or Battambang, up to you!
Day 9 – Explore Battambang
There are two main activities in Battambang that can easily be visited in one day.
The Bamboo train is a train with no real destination, just a bumpy ride that goes up and down 12 km of tracks. This train is some of the last parts still standing of the former Cambodian railway network. As you might have noticed, Cambodia doesn’t have any trains as all tracks are overgrown by weeds and most transport is done by boat or bus.
Day 10 – Headed to Paradise
Last night and today we’ll be travelling to Sihanoukville, which is all the way to the south and our gateway to paradise, Koh Rong island.
There are two options when it comes to transport to Sihanoukville. You can go all the way by bus from Battambang. Or you can get a bus back to Siem Reap and take a flight from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville.
Taking the bus all the way means that you’ll have to get an overnight bus. It will take you about 12 hours to get from Battambang to Siem Reap. There are many ways of getting to Sihanoukville, but you’ll highly likely take a night bus from Battambang to Phnom Penh. From there you’ll take a minibus to Sihanoukville. No need to worry about transfers though, just book your bus ticket for the whole way at a travel agent and they’ll set it all up. Tickets should be between $16 and $25 depending on which bus company you travel with.
The other option is to take a bus from Battambang to Siem Reap, this costs $4 to $8. From there you can take a quick domestic flight to Sihanoukville,
Sihanoukville to the island
Once we are in Sihanoukville you’ll have to make your way to the pier. It is located next to Serendipity beach and well known among locals and tuk-tuk drivers. At the pier you can buy a ticket onto the fast ferry to Koh Rong. It is also possible to book your boat ticket from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap or Battambang.
Over the years Sihanoukville has become a worse and worse place to visit. You can read more about why Sihanoukville is ruined here.
Day 11 to Day 14 – Koh Rong
Welcome to one of the islands with the nicest beaches you have ever seen. The island is a true paradise, with long white beaches, blue waters, snorkelling spots galore, and glowing plankton at night! Find out all you need to know about this gorgeous island here.
Day 15 to Day 17 – Koh Rong Samloem
Life on Koh Rong Samloem is basic, but sometimes basic is all you need. Especially if it’s on an idyllic little island that is close to heaven. Find out all you need to know on heaven on earth, Koh Rong Samloem here.
Day 18 – Travel to Kampot
To get to Kampot you’ll first have to make your way back to Sihanoukville on the mainland. You can do this with the retour boat ticket you bought way back before you went to the islands. From Sihanoukville you then take the bus that will take you to Kampot. You can book your bus at your accommodation on the island or at the pier once you arrive. Make sure that when you book your ticket in Sihanoukville, that there is a chance you’ll be waiting for your bus a while.
Kampot is the sleepy town of the south. With the river going straight through the city and an actual mountain next to it there are lots of activities to be done. It might even be an option to leave the island a little earlier and make your way to Kampot earlier.
Day 19 – Explore Kampot
There’s a bunch of activities to choose from in Kampot. I’ll put my favourite ones in a list below. Up to you which one to choose!
- Teuk Chhou Rapids
- Sunset river cruise
- Bokor Mountain by motorbike (or car)
- The caves of Kompong Trach
- The trekking trains
- Visit the famous pepper plantations to find out where the famous Kampot peppers come from. They’ve got some great restaurants around there where you can enjoy some great Kampot pepper dishes.
Day 20 – Day trip to Kep
Back to the beach for a day! Once upon a time, Kep was the holiday spot for rich Cambodians. This was way before the Khmer Rouge era. Kep 10 years ago was abandoned. Today they are rebuilding and slowly tourism both international and domestic is coming back to Kep.
My favourite spot in Kep is the crab market. Here you can buy fresh crab that’s pulled right out of the sea for you and cooked on the spot. You won’t find it any fresher anywhere else.
Day 21 – Back to Phnom Penh
The end of our Cambodia itinerary
This is the last day of our adventure in Cambodia. We’ll make our way back to Phnom Penh. From here you can fly to any destination you’d like!
Have more time?
So you have some more time! It’s super easy to extend your time in Cambodia. There is so much still to see and do in this gorgeous country. Just extend your stay in certain cities for a few days to really explore in depth. This way you just design your own Cambodia itinerary.
There is also a secret little island that no one knows about, so let it be our little secret. Just off the coast of Kep