Siem Reap is fast becoming one of the best exotic destinations to travel. It may not be Cambodia’s bustling capital, but Siem Riep continues on the traveler’s route. Siem Reap is a vibrant, fast growing city. Do not rush and label it ‘Too Touristy’. Give yourself more time in it and you will realize that it has a lot to discover. So read on and take note, because there are 9 places you should visit while you are in Siem Reap.
1. Angkor Wat Temple
There is no single order to explore the rich ensemble of temples at Angkor Wat (very close to Siem Reap), but they can be visited in a certain order to avoid the crowds of tourists. It starts at sunrise because the view is truly majestic. Stand in a corner outside the temple, or inside its famous lake if you want to capture its fascinating skies (from this point you take a photo of the reflection that everyone wants to take home).
2. Angkor Thom City
It is the great attraction present in the Angkor Archaeological Park (along with Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm). Its name already indicates it “great city”, the last great capital of the Khmer Empire. It is a walled city, in which a large number of temples are housed, including the enigmatic Bayon Temple, with its huge stone faces looking into eternity. Drawing an almost perfect square plan, the city is surrounded by a wall 8 meters high and 12 kilometers long, with five gates (two on the east side), flanked by statues of gods and demons which are the best prelude to an interior enclosure that, in addition to the Bayon temple, includes that of Baphuon or that of Preah Palilay, and among others.
3. Ta Prohm Temple
Also located within the archaeological site of Angkor, it is not possible the most famous temple, but it can boast of having been part of the seventh art since some of the most significant scenes of the film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was shot here. This temple was built by Khmer King Jayavarman VII in honor of his mother and characterized by being covered with trees, where giant roots are twisted between sandstone structures. It’s truly unique amongst the Angkor Complex.
4. Visit temples outside the official temple circuit
Those who want an extra temple exploration without wasting time should head straight to Banteay Srei and the jungle of Beng Mealea, located an hour from the city (admission costs now included with the Angkor ticket). For those who are more adventurous can take our jeep tour through the dirt road, countryside, and jungle villages along the way.
5. Landmine Museum
If during the visit to the temples of Angkor you also arrive at the temple of Banteay Srei – which you should, because it is a gem. We advise you to stop at the Cambodia Landmine Museum, the museum of landmines of Cambodia. A tough visit, but necessary to understand the contemporary history of the country. Its founder, Aki Ra, was deported to one of the Khmer Rouge labour camps at age 5 and forced to plant landmines. Since the 1990s, he has dedicated himself to clear his country of mines. His story, which we discover in the museum, is truly moving as well as inspiring.
6. Phnom Kulen National Park
Phnom Kulen is primarily a place of recreation for Cambodians, but of course, tourists are welcome too. Phnom Kulen literally means “Lychee Mountain” and it is a place where you will certainly have a wonderful day of its natural wonder.
The main attraction is the waterfalls at the top of Kulen Mountain which is also an excellent place for picnics, but Cambodian style, with hammocks in wooden huts with a palm tree roof to keep in the shade.
Located an hour from the Siem Reap city, it is essential to arrive early, since the road that goes up to the top is one-way and nobody wants to find traffic in the opposite direction.
7. Visit the Floating Villages
Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Many come here to marvel at the livelihoods of its fishermen, with their houses built on sturdy wooden pillars, and with villages that live off the trade that attract the waterways to which they are connected.
Recommended Tour: Floating Village & Sunset Boat Tour
8. Watch the sunset at the rice fields
Siem Reap is surrounded by an infinity of rural landscapes that allow you to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of this small city. The latest adventure in fashion here is driving a jeep down dirt roads, past the endless canvas of green fields, and enjoying a sunset over the rice fields.
Although you can also watch the sunset from Tonlé Sap Lake, our favourite place to watch the sunset in Siem Reap is from the Phnom Krom temple overlooking the lake. Also, you will not meet almost anyone. It is on the way to Tonlé Sap Lake from Siem Reap.
Recommended Tour: Just Ride: Countryside Sunset
9. Phare Circus
Phare the Cambodian Circus is so much more than a conventional circus, with an emphasis on performance art and a subtle yet striking social message behind each production. Cambodia’s leading circus, theater, contemporary dance, live music and performing arts organization. It’s one of the best things to do in Siem Reap was go see a circus show. Phare Ponleu Selpak opened its big top for nightly shows in 2013, and the results are unique and must-see entertainment.