Cambodia has magic: enchanting landscapes, a moving history, and an innate culture and hospitality of the locals that keep visitors coming back for more.
However, most travelers only spend a few days in this destination to tour the wonderful temples of Angkor Wat, not knowing that Cambodia has some of the most beautiful islands in all of Southeast Asia.
If you are planning a visit, we are going to tell you some reasons why this destination should be on everyone’s wishlist:
1. The Angkor Wat
We already know that Cambodia’s greatest attraction is undoubtedly Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. The religious structure dates back to the 12th century and was once at the center of the glorious Angkor Empire.
The sprawling temple complex is an architectural feat and home to a number of impressive religious structures and monuments.
Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple and one of the most impressive archaeological treasures in the world, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
There are two circuits to explore Angkor: the small circuit one, which has an extension of 17 kilometers and the grand circuit one, 26 km. Visiting all the temples takes time, the complex is huge, so take the time to avoid wanting to see more.
If you are short on time, the temples that you have to visit are Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. Angkor Thom is a temple that is made up of many figures with human faces that look like something out of a movie. At Ta Prohm, you will find trees embedded within the stones or trees that grew around the temples.
Related post: Guided Angkor Wat Tour by Jeep
2. Your remote Islands
While the masses flock to the neighboring islands of Thailand, Cambodia’s alternatives are often overlooked by tourists.
Koh Rong holds the crown as the party island, with nearby Koh Rong Samloem boasting pristine powdery sands flanked by tropical flora. Other remote gems include Koh Thmei, Koh Ta Kiev, and Koh Totang.
Until not long ago, Koh Rong was just an almost virgin island, covered with jungle-fringed by white sands and turquoise waters. However, today, it has become one of the most popular destinations for backpackers to enjoy a few days in paradise.
3. Meet the friendly Cambodian
Cambodians are famous for their hospitality, and upon entering the Kingdom, visitors will be overwhelmed by the abundance of warm welcomes and smiles.
The gentle nature of the locals can be found in the tuk-tuk drivers, tour guides, stall owners, and passersby on the street. Visitors should note that anger does not bode well in Cambodia, and a little patience goes a long way.
4. The street markets
Local markets are central to Cambodia’s neighbors and are packed with people early in the morning as people clamor for the freshest food of the day.
The Russian Market and Central Market in Phnom Penh whip up everything from clothing, souvenirs, music, and DVDs to food, household items, and vehicle parts. In Siem Reap, Angkor Night Market and Old Market are also very popular centers. Get ready to haggle!
5. History that moves
History buffs will be in their element in Cambodia, with the great Khmer Empire at the center of national pride. From wandering around the ancient temples of Angkor Wat and discovering more about the kings who created them to the country’s shift from Hinduism to Buddhism and its recent violent past, the Kingdom has a strong and fascinating history.
Cambodia’s history was marked by armed conflict until the 1990s when the UN temporarily assumed command of the country and imposed a negotiated solution.
Elections were held in 1993, although Cambodia continued to be weighed down by political instability and violence in subsequent years. Since the beginning of the 21st century, tourism has been the main engine of its economy.
6. The magical Siem Reap
The city of Siem Reap is full of life and movement, with flea markets, minor temples and loads of travelers.
You can explore it on foot or take a jeep to watch the sunset from the surroundings, visit the “Pub Street” or the Wat Preah Prom Rath, the main temple of the city.
But a must in Siem Reap is the Tonle Sap Lake, the most freshwater reservoir in Southeast Asia. In this lake, there are more than 180 floating villages, such as Kampong Phluk, Kampong Khleang, Chong Kneas or Mechery among others, which can be visited to learn about their lifestyle, based mainly on fishing although increasingly on tourism.
7. An experiential experience
Today’s travelers are looking for authentic experiences for a couple of weeks lounging in the sun, and Cambodia has it deep.
You can stay with homestays, spend a few days hiking through the jungle soaking up the flora and fauna and taking a jeep tour through the unspoiled countryside to learn how to cook Cambodian food and immerse yourself in the abundance of festivities that are on the calendar.
8. Dream landscapes
In Cambodia you will find it all: from tranquil views of a turquoise sea with white sandy shores, emerald green rice fields, Cambodia is full of breathtaking landscapes that will make any visitor stop to admire its natural surroundings.
If you travel to Battambang, you will be amazed by its surroundings with landscapes full of rice fields. One of the star activities in this area is to take a ride on the bamboo train…original and fun!
9. The artistic tradition
The Kingdom of Wonders is accompanied by a rich culture and heritage that runs through the veins of Cambodians. From magical Apsara dancers, traditional music, elaborate ceremonies, and stage shows, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in the vibrant local scene.
10. A wild fauna
Cambodia is home to an abundance of wonderful wildlife. The Phnom Tamao Rescue Center, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, houses a number of creatures that they have rescued from the clutches of poachers and the illegal trade, and rehabilitates the animals before releasing them back into the wild.
Sam Veasna Center offers a variety of bird and wildlife watching tours in Siem Reap province, and visitors will find Elephant Sanctuaries in Mondulkiri. Additionally, various hikes through the Cardamom Mountains showcase the country’s unique flora and fauna.
Related post: Guide to the wild animals in Cambodia