Are you thinking of taking a trip but don’t know what to see in Cambodia? It is true that this Asian country is a paradise for lovers of history and culture, and that it has many attractions of interest.
Cambodia is a fascinating country located in Southeast Asia, where you can find all kinds of attractions for all tastes: from cities with great contrasts to rural areas in the mountains, passing through ancient ruined temples of Angkor Wat and beautiful beaches. If you want to know which are the essential visits on a trip to Cambodia, then we reveal the 9 best places that you cannot miss.
1. Siem Reap, the best known ancient city
When traveling to Cambodia, the most common is usually to land in Siem Reap, a small city located in the northwest of the country. And it is precisely in Siem Reap where some of the essential temples to see in Cambodia are found. This is the case of the Angkor complex, the main attraction of Asian destinations that every year attracts thousands and thousands of tourists.
The buildings that can be found in Angkor are the most spectacular and a sample of Cambodian culture, since their construction dates between the 9th and 13th centuries. In fact, this region was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992. In this sense, there are some temples that you cannot miss, such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm temple and Banteay Srey.
Recommended experience: Angkor Temples Discovery
2. Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia
If you don’t know what to see in Cambodia, visiting the capital is a great idea to get an idea of the history in Cambodia. And, this has been the scene of, without a doubt, the darkest episode in Cambodia, hence the interest for many tourists.
Between 1975 and 1979, the radical left-wing political party that ruled the country – known as the Khmer Rouge – carried out an impressive number of torture and killings: the number of victims is estimated to be between 1.5 million and the three million.
As a sign of this horrible event, today you can first visit the Tuol Sleng Prison, the main place where Cambodian prisoners were held and where thousands of murders were carried out. Now, it has been turned into a museum to learn from the mistakes of the past. In the same way, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh is the Choeung Ek death camp, where more than a million murders were carried out and an essential visit to understand the serious atrocities that were committed.
The capital of Cambodia has many more attractions that you can visit on your way through the city, such as the Royal Palace, with its Silver Pagoda and the Throne Room. The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Cambodian monarchs and its exterior gardens serve as a family meeting point for the inhabitants of the capital. Some parts of the complex are open to the public, so you can visit them without problems. Also worth a visit is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (the Silver Pagoda), where the famous Emerald Buddha is located, a 2 meter tall figure made entirely of green glass and covered with more than 9,000 diamonds.
The city of Battambang is the second most important city in Cambodia and will fascinate you with its French colonial architecture. Much of the charm of the city resides in the architecture of the buildings, although over the years the constructions of the beginning of the 20th century have been affected. Many of the buildings that you are going to see serve both as homes and as a workplace for families who carry out the economic activity on the ground floor of the buildings. Nothing better to get to know Cambodian culture up close than walking through the streets of Battambang.
One of the main attractions of the city of Battambang, which cannot be missed during a trip to Cambodia is the bamboo train. Although these tracks are abandoned, a small replica has been built so that tourists can see the curious bamboo trains that the locals used as an alternative to the slow means of transport in the area.
Likewise, in Battambang, there are also other attractions to visit, such as several art galleries, Buddhist temples and the city’s markets.
4. Sihanoukville and its islands
However, there are many coastal areas in Cambodia to spend a few days at the beach. Located in the country’s south-west on the Gulf of Thailand, the city of Sihanoukville is the perfect destination for travelers who want to reach neighbors such as Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, the beautiful island in Cambodia.
Kampot is a destination that you can cross off your list of places to visit in Cambodia. Located on the coast of Cambodia we can find the small town of Kampot. Famous in the country for the quality of the pepper that is planted in its nearby fields. Kampot is one of the most preferred destinations for the backpacker public who want to know the city and its surroundings, especially the nearby Kep beach.
The city is quiet and sits on the banks of the Kam Chay River, which makes it pleasant to spend a few days touring the main attractions that the city has and especially its surroundings.
Located in the south of the country, it is a coastal region to see in Cambodia. In addition, being about 25 kilometers from Vietnam, there are many tourists who cross the border and come to this area.
Kep stands out mainly for two attractions. In the first place, for its Crab Market, a must for seafood lovers, since, being a coastal city, fresh produce is the order of the day. In addition, for a small supplement, the locals usually serve it cooked to be able to enjoy it immediately.
Likewise, the beaches of Kep are another of its essentials, perfect to enjoy a few days at sea, such as in Koh Tonsay. One of the peculiarities of this area is that the beaches are black sand since its white sand was transferred to Sihanoukville. However, these are perfect to disconnect, since they have the presence of much fewer tourists than other more crowded areas.
7. Koh Kong
Koh Kong is the border point between Cambodia and Thailand. This place has a lot to offer to those who visit it, perfect to spend a day or two. For example, nature lovers are fascinated by this area, since one of the best plans is to do one of the routes through the mountains of Ta Kiev. They tour approximately 3 hours through rice fields and traditional Cambodian houses. Of course, there are many other things to do and see, such as visiting the Tatai Waterfall and getting to know the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary by kayak, a paradise for the most adventurous travelers.
8. Mondulkiri and Elephant Valley Project
In the extreme Northeast of Cambodia, surrounded by hills, remote villages, waterfalls, and coffee plantations is the Mondulkiri region. Mondulkiri gives you some of the best scenery Cambodia has to offer. It is also famous among travelers who want to spend a day with elephants in one of its rescue centers.
Being able to see elephants up close, even interact with them, is one of the biggest attractions in all of Asia and also in Cambodia. However, it is important to choose well the place where to do it, as is the case of the Elephant Valley Project, an elephant sanctuary where care and respect for these animals are guaranteed.
9. Cardamom Mountain
The Cardamom Mountains are a mountain range located in southwestern Cambodia and eastern Thailand and cover the provinces of Kampot, Kep, Battambang, Sihanoukville, Koh Kong, Pursat, Kampong Speu and Pailin. It is one of the most extensive mountainous areas and is home to Cambodia’s vibrant ecosystem comprising deep jungles, valleys, rivers, wildlife, swamps and shores. It inhabits hundreds of thousands of people who depend on them.
The Cardamom Mountains were home to ancient Cambodian tribal life between the 15th and 17th centuries, confirmed by remains, including many porcelain jars, tombs and coffins. In the 19th century, due to the presence of the Khmer Rouge and also hundreds of landmines, the mountains remained inaccessible to the outside world. It was only after the government started setting up wildlife conservation projects for demining that tourism began to develop here.
Travelers can explore the Cardamom Mountains through one of the many wildlife conservation projects located in many cities, signing up for guided walks in the region and also kayaking.