Cambodia is going to need some planning first. One recommendation is to pick up a hard copy travel book like Lonely Planet for before and during your trip. Internet can be patchy especially if you are on the road, so sometimes it is nice to have hard copy info at your fingertips. If you have limited time, here is a rough sketch of a quick itinerary: 1-3 days around Phnom Penh on your way in and out; at least 2 full days in Siem Reap, but you can push that closer to a week if you explore a few nearby sights; and 2 days at the beach.
In and around Phnom Penh
Tourists say they would rather skip the city because of reviews dating back a few years, but if you know where to go you will be pleasantly surprised. The hipster bar and restaurant scene is something that can rival venues in any other city. Try Long After Dark (#86, St 450 Russian Market), Zeppelin Cafe (#13 St 278), Bar Sito (32EO, Street 240, down the alley), and BattBong (132 Z13, 51 St 55), pictured above, to get started but between now and next month I am sure a handful of other cool places will open their doors.
There is a short list of sights to see in town from a temple or two, the Grand Palace, museums, and some cool parks. Check them all out on a day-long walking or tuk-tuk tour. Just remember comfortable shoes and an umbrella if you are approaching rainy season.
Outside of Phnom Penh you will discover nature like you have never seen before. Jungle, rivers, mountains, beaches, and everything in between. You will have the opportunity to get up close to wildlife but please please do your research first. Cambodia is a hotbed for wildlife trafficking. One organization I love that does some fantastic work is the Wildlife Alliance where you can do a day long behind the scenes tour of the facilities where they rehabilitate and release injured animals (commonly caught in snares or injured through poaching). From gibbons to elephants you can see your favorite animals up close and leave a lasting tribute to an organization that does so much good.
The five best beaches in Cambodia
Development has been sparse and sporadic in Cambodia – and Thailand has attracted more of the big box hotels – which offers you a much more unique experience where you get to discover your own little piece of vacation paradise. Maybe a home-stay or stretch of beach that no one has ever even written about before.
Our favorite beaches in Cambodia are:
- Long Set Beach, Koh Rong
- Southwestern Beach, Koh Rong
- Sokha Beach, Sihanoukville
- Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Saloem
- Koh Thmei beach, Ream National Park
Research a little before you go just in case there is some new crazy development but to make everything easier: Just head to Koh Rong (pictured above by Aaron Bradford). It is absolutely stunning with mile after mile of uninterrupted white sand.
Siem Reap has everything you might be looking for
With Angkor Wat one of the most unique tourist attractions in the world, nearby Siem Reap has evolved to cater to the influx of visitors. From high-end boutiques to dive gay bars, you will find it all. Still with the rustic charm of unpaved roads and tropical foliage growing out of cracks in the buildings.
The food is absolutely amazing so be sure to try it all. The markets have souvenirs at prices you will not be able to imagine – and if you have the space, by some handmade furniture to take back with you.
You can definitely spend a whole day or two or three in Siem Reap but Angkor Wat and surrounding temples are likely going to grab your attention. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world measuring 162.6 hectares (402 acres). It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire then transforming into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. I recommend getting a guided tour no matter how much you like to explore on your own. A tour will get you to some lesser known corners and the occasional tuk-tuk ride will really be welcomed when you have been on your feet all day.
Pack your water, sunhat, and a camera. This is one of the most marvelous places you will ever set foot in.
That is just scratching the surface
As you can imagine there are reams of agendas you can follow and so many far off places to go explore in Cambodia. This is just the tip of the iceberg to get you started. Whether you like backpacking and discovering along the way or having each day planned out, do some basic research so you know you are travelling in the most sustainable and responsible way.
Giacomo Abrusci, Executive Director, SEVENSEAS Media
Advertisements so SEVENSEAS Media can remain a free resource for you:
Get a weekly email of new job listings by subscribing here.
Click here to learn more about the SEVENSEAS Media Global Marine Community jobs list.
Check out our conservation calendar so you don’t miss out on upcoming events.
Find the latest articles on SEVENSEAS Media here.
Want to get in touch with questions or a submission? Contact us here.