The centrepiece of Cambodia is undoubtedly the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat temple complex, the world’s largest religious monument and one of the Far East’s most prominent archaeological sites. However, there are many more things on offer than just Angkor, read Cox & Kings’ top recommendations on what else to see whilst on holiday in Cambodia.
Cambodia’s capital city is a charming and busy city, a jumble of colonial buildings, temples, markets and wide avenues. The National Museum is definitely worth a visit, with its large collection of Khmer treasures and the nearby Royal Palace. The royal residence of the King of Cambodia is a fantastic example of Khmer architecture with its beautiful gardens and temples, including the Throne Hall, Silver Pagoda and dance pavilion. A cruise along the Tonle Sap river is a lovely way to spend the early evening, where you can sit back with an Angkor beer and watch the sun set behind the Royal Palace. Though it’s not for the faint-hearted, we suggest a visit to the Tuol Sleng museum of genocide and the Killing Fields, which gives a fascinating overview of the country’s turbulent history and a close account of the atrocities that took place under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
Battambang, the country’s second largest city, is home to some of the best-preserved French colonial architecture in the country. Situated on the banks of the Sangker River, the city and its surrounds are also an important area for rice production. Nearby attractions include the riverside temple of Wat Ek Phnom that features a giant stone Buddha, the hilltop Angkorian temple of Wat Banan, and the sacred mountain and killing caves of Phnom Sampeau. Primarily, a farming and trading town, it is a nice change from the more touristy Siem Reap.
Cambodia’s most south-westerly province contains some of the country’s most beautiful natural sites, including pristine rainforests, thundering waterfalls, imposing mountains and idyllic beaches. It is also an ideal base for exploring the Cardamom Mountains, considered to be the second-largest area of virgin rainforest in mainland Southeast Asia. This pristine mountain region is little explored and is home to more than 100 mammal species, including many threatened species, such as tigers and Asian elephants. The 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, an eco-friendly hotel located in the Four Rivers area of the Cardamom mountains, is an ideal base to explore the surrounding villages and relatively untouched jungles and mangroves.
Angkor Wat and Siem Reap
While we want to recommend activities other than just Angkor, no trip to Cambodia would be complete without this factored in. Angkor Wat, the largest and most famous of the Angkor temples, is simply breathtaking. Known as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, the millennium-old temple complex of the Khmer empire includes dozens of ruins, each completely unique. The Unesco world heritage site includes Bayon, Banteay Srey and the legendary Angkor Wat, which is right up there with Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. Unspoilt, despite looting during the time of the Khmer Rouge, the vast complex of ninth-century temples is remarkable and justifiably Cambodia’s biggest tourist draw.
If the above are not enough to tempt you on a holiday to Cambodia then how about the thought of seeing Irrawaddy dolphins on the Mekong River at Kratie, swimming in the crater lake outside Banlung, watching a misty dawn break over Sen Monoram, or visiting the temple at Preah Vihear? We could go on...
By Annabel Ford