Cambodia is considered the jewel of Southeast Asia and has a rich heritage due to the rule of the Khmer dynasty between the 9th and 15th centuries. There are many wonderful and inexpensive destinations for you to visit here. Especially fascinating are the breathtaking temples and the untouched nature of the tropical rainforests.
The country should definitely be on your bucket list! Cambodia is also called the Kingdom of Wonders. There are many unforgettable views and experiences here that will surely leave a lasting impression on you. We present you the 16 best places to visit in Cambodia.
Exotic forms rise from the jungle and fascinate visitors from all over the world: Angkor Wat is one of the largest and probably the most famous temple complex of all Southeast Asia. Created in the heyday of the Khmer, Angkor Wat was built in such a way that viewers get a particularly good view of the complex from all points.
Still many backgrounds for the construction of Angkor Wat lie in the dark. But one thing is certain: the temples in the tropical jungle of Cambodia are an experience in themselves and cannot be compared with any other sight in the region. Visit the mystical seat of the gods, which is located in the center of Angkor Wat and immerse yourself in the history and culture of Cambodia!
The history of Angkor Wat is directly linked to the story about the Khmer’s heyday, as it was the Khmer’s wealth that made the construction of this fascinating temple complex possible in the first place. On the tropical river plain in Cambodia, there is a rainy season only once a year – but two irrigations a year are needed for productive rice cultivation. For this reason, Khmer specialists developed a technically advanced irrigation technique early on, which led to a greater amount of food and associated wealth.
This flourishing of the Khmer people led to the construction of Angkor Wat between 1113 to 1150 A.D. The builder of the gigantic temple complex was King Surayavarman I. In the construction of the temple complex, the perfection and artistic talent of the culturally highly developed people can be seen. By the way, Angkor can be translated as city or royal city.
In a tropical climate, wonderful moments on the beach cannot be missing during a trip – Sihanoukville on the Gulf of Siam is just the right place to spend some time relaxing on the beach. Sihanoukville is not for nothing the most popular seaside resort in all of Cambodia: here you will find various beaches worth seeing, a really pleasant climate all year round and many opportunities to recharge your batteries for everyday life. Explore Sihanoukville, the seaside resort of the rich and beautiful, and discover the special magic of each beach, which is a sight in itself.
As early as the French colonial period, Sihanoukville was a popular coastal resort in Cambodia and was not infrequently referred to as a kind of Cote d’Azur of the country. In former times, however, the name of Sihanoukville was Kompong Som – today you will still see many villas from the French colonial period during your visit to Sihanoukville.
Today’s city was officially founded in 1960, even though the region was already known for its beautiful beaches and pleasant climate. The name giver of Sihanoukville was King Norodom Sihanouk, who is known as the father of the nation. In addition, Sihanoukville is now the fifth largest city in Cambodia and has about 200,000 inhabitants. Economic importance has been gained mainly by tourism in the popular seaside resort, as the beaches are widely known and are an important attraction in the region.
14. Phnom Penh
With more than 1.5 million inhabitants, the lively metropolis of Phnom Penh is the economic center of Cambodia and also has much to offer culturally. Really worth seeing in Phnom Penh is, for example, the Royal Palace, but also the Silver Pagoda and especially the sanctuary Wat Phnom are worth a visit. Explore the glamorous and sometimes very dark past of Phnom Penh and immerse yourself in the lively hustle and bustle of the city. In Phnom Penh’s tropical climate, you can visit numerous historical sites and exotic markets that exert a charm all their own.
In 1372, the sanctuary of Wat Phnom was built on a hill in what is now Phnom Penh, thus giving the city its name. It was not until much later, after the Ayutthaya conquest of Angkor, that the king’s residence was moved to Phnom Penh. This was done at the insistence of the French, who made Phnom Penh the seat of the French colonial administration in 1867.
The French re-planned Phnom Penh – for example, they created a canal system that drained the swampy areas around the city. Apart from a small but influential minority of Chinese and Vietnamese, there are significantly more Khmer living in Phnom Penh today than in the past. In Phnom Penh you will learn a lot about the culture and the way of life of the people in Cambodia and learn a lot about the exciting history of the country.
On the east bank of the Mekong River, you’ll find a laid-back place that has now established itself as a backpacker hotspot in Cambodia. This is because Kratie offers cheap wooden huts and charming guesthouses as accommodation. Some of the best sights are the ancient ruins of Sambor and the traditional craft markets on the water.
The town is also becoming increasingly popular with travelers because they often get to see Irrawaddy dolphins here. These magnificent animals can best be seen during one of the daily trips on the river.
12. Siem Reap
Like a journey back in time: not far from Siem Reap are the famous temple complexes of Angkor, which combine beauty and elegance. Not for nothing are the temple complexes of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom or Banteay Srei unforgettable highlights of any trip to Cambodia. But in Siem Reap you will also discover the present: let yourself be enchanted by the impressive city scenery and immerse yourself completely in the local culture and way of life with the exotic smells and dishes.
Because Siem Reap offers you more than excursions to the incomparable temple complexes – visit the lively city in Cambodia and discover colonial flair, historic and modern buildings and get to know the hospitality of the inhabitants.
Today’s Siem Reap is located just 10 kilometers from Tonle Sap Lake, the largest lake in all of Southeast Asia and still one of the most fish-rich inland waters in the entire world. This explains the settlement in this area, which is conducive to life, and despite the tropical climate, the lake provided a good habitat. Historically, Siem Reap is actually an amalgamation of various villages.
The city became significant mainly due to the flourishing of tourism and has grown continuously since then. Nevertheless, Siem Reap is a rather small city, but it is well worth seeing due to a rather western flair and many colonial buildings. Today’s importance of Siem Reap, however, refers much less to this victory over the Siamese, but rather to the proximity to the world-famous temple complex Angkor Wat.
11. Koh Ker
Although smaller and less famous than Angkor Wat, this once important Khmer city is well worth a visit. Koh Ker is located in the deep jungles of northern Cambodia and was the capital of the powerful empire for nearly 20 years. You’ll therefore see elaborate stupas jutting from the canopies and tiered Prasat Thom temples here, hovering more than 30 meters above the ground.
Other sights include the numerous fortresses dating back to the 10th century and the many ruins of shrines that you should definitely visit.
10. Koh Rong
The last thing that probably many associate with Cambodia are dream islands like from a picture book. But they do exist! Islands far away from any big city hustle and bustle, where time seems to stand still when you lie on the sandy beaches under swaying palm trees.
However, anyone who has studied Cambodia as a travel destination or has even been there knows that both Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem are no longer the insider tips they were a few years ago.
On the powder-white dream beaches there are more and more hotels and bungalows, which at the moment still results in a well-balanced mix of infrastructure and idyll.
In a few years, so fear locals and backpackers of the first hour, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem but could suffer a similar fate, such as the Indonesian Gilis or Koh Lipe in Thailand: Too many tourists for too little island.
However, the island is still one of the most beautiful destinations in Cambodia and you can still enjoy an island on Koh Rong, where you can really relax during the day and party pretty well at night.
Banlung, the provincial capital of Ratanakiri, is a small town with only a few thousand inhabitants. Life goes on in a quiet way. For most visitors, Banlung is the starting point for excursions into the surrounding area: on foot on trekking tours through the jungle, motorized in a boat on the waterways or even on the back of a pachyderm riding over the vast hilly landscape.
Ratanakiri is home to numerous hill tribes, which differ among themselves in dress, customs and language. Settlements of these tribes can be visited during organized day tours. In Banlung, too, you may encounter members of these ethnic minorities offering their products in the town’s local markets.
Just a few minutes outside of town is the circular lake Boeng Yeak Lom. This lake, filled with crystal clear water and overgrown by jungle, is a unique natural phenomenon that can be traced back to a meteorite impact about 700,000 years ago.
Or visit the zircon mines in the area or the Chinese cemeteries along the Tonle San River and the impressive waterfalls.
Kampot is for us the most beautiful city in Cambodia and a place that enchants its visitors. Not least because of its fantastic location directly on the river Teuk Chhou. Along its promenade stretches the French Quarter with all its colonial buildings. Even if their beauty can only be guessed at, they bathe the city in a fairy-tale light at sunset.
The very special flair of Kampot is also created by the numerous small cafés. Many of them have their own roasteries, whose delicious aroma wafts through the alleys of the city.
And while you enjoy a really delicious coffee in peace and quiet, you simultaneously look at the Teuk Chhou, watch the passing fishing boats and in the distance the elephant mountains of the Phnum Bokor National Park are reflected in the water…
If you are looking for more action, the area around Kampot offers fantastic excursions to pepper plantations, the nearby coastal town of Kep or a road trip to Bokor National Park & Bokor Hill Station.
Mondulkiri province is located in Cambodia’s “wild east,” off the beaten track. However, since the expansion of the road to Phnom Penh and Banlung, the number of visitors is increasing. This area is highland with grassy hills, rainforests and pine forests, where more wild animals have their home than anywhere else in Cambodia.
The capital of Mondulkiri is Sen Monorom. Sen Monorom itself has no special sights, but there are beautiful waterfalls to discover in the surrounding area. A popular tourist destination is the Mayura Zipline for daredevils. This is a 300-meter long zipline stretched over the Bou-Sraa waterfall. Another excursion destination is the Buddhist temple Wat Phnom Doh Korom and the Seima Forest Reserve.
The Seima Forest Reserve is about 3700 km² in size and also serves as a habitat for Bunong elephants, Bateng cattle and many bird species. Such rare specimens as the black-legged dress monkey and the southern yellow-cheeked crested gibbon also live in the Seima Forest Reserve. Both primate species are on the IUCN Red List and are threatened with extinction.
The city is located in the northwestern part of Cambodia and is surrounded by rice fields and small villages. It has a quiet rural atmosphere and is home to many historical riches. Battambang is therefore the perfect place for all history lovers. You can take a day trip here to magnificent temples like Phnom Sampeau, Phnom Banan and Wat Ek Phnom.
The highlight is the single track railroad line where carriages made of bamboo and wood travel between the eastern bank of the city and the small village of O Srav. You can also use Battambang as a good base for exploring the rest of the country.
Kep is located about 160 km south of Phnom Penh on the edge of the Kep National Park. The city has about 29,000 inhabitants. It is about half an hour drive to Kampot. Kep was one of the first seaside resorts in the country during the French colonial period. Today you can still see many dilapidated villas from that time, but slowly life is being breathed back into this former seaside resort. The first hotels and guesthouses have sprung up, and there are some excellent restaurants.
The beach of Kep is about 1000 m long and therefore rather manageable compared to Sihanoukville. There is a much quieter atmosphere. At the harbor, crab lovers get their money’s worth. From here, day trips can be made to the offshore islands such as Koh Bou or Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island).
In the surroundings of Kep you can visit fruit and pepper plantations. The karst mountains are worth a visit, as there are very interesting caves.
4. Koh Thonsay
In the southwest of Cambodia, about 4.5 kilometers southwest of Kep is Koh Tonsay, also called “Rabbit Island” after its shape, a small island that can be reached by a half-hour boat ride from Kep. Still untouched by mass tourism, you will find beautiful beaches surrounded by palm trees, which are wonderful for relaxing. Coral reefs, colorful fish and marine vegetation invite you to explore the underwater world with mask and snorkel. Explorers can explore the forested hinterland on their own. Since the island is only two square kilometers in size, no one needs to fear getting lost.
There is no distinct tourist infrastructure on Koh Tonsay, which makes it a gem for those seeking tranquility. Here you will find only a few local restaurants and simple bungalows with shared bathrooms for overnight stays, where there is no electricity. If you want to relax away from hotels and clubs and escape the stress of the cities, this is the place for you. The hinterland invites to one or the other small hike. You can walk around Koh Tonsay in about three hours. Beautiful beaches invite you to swim, snorkel and relax. In the local restaurants you can get simple but delicious Cambodian dishes, with which you can strengthen yourself for the next snorkeling tour or for a small hike.
3. Koh Kong
The region belongs to Koh Kong province in the border area between Cambodia and Thailand, which was almost inescapable until the construction of a road to Phnom Penh. The last Khmer Rouge found shelter in the dense rainforests and swamps, then smugglers and traffickers. Today, tourists are increasingly discovering the paradisiacal beauty of Ta Tai. Waterways in the hinterland, offshore islands, clear rivers and an impenetrable jungle make up the charm of the tropical idyll.
In the 1990s, Pailin was still regularly in the headlines of the Asian media at the beginning of the dry season. Because then the government troops tried again and again to bring down this bastion of the Khmer Rouge. They never succeeded, so the rebel stronghold was finally pacified by an amnesty in 1996.
Even though former Pol Pot cadres still call the shots here today and stone bunkers on the Phom Yat temple hill tell of an unfortunate past, the city of around 35,000 inhabitants makes a rather harmless impression, appearing like a spartan Wild West version. It lives from agriculture, from the casinos on the nearby border with Thailand, and still from the gemstone business, although the mining grounds are almost exhausted.
A last piece of virgin forest can still be found around the five-tiered, year-round rushing waterfall at Phnom Kliu Mountain, which is well worth a trip.
1. Banteay Srei
The citadel of beauty – so aptly the name Banteay Srei can be translated into English and thus already captures the essence of the famous sight in Cambodia. Artistic decorations such as magnificent ornaments make the Banteay Srei an eye-catcher and testify to the artistry of the Khmer. Learn more about Khmer history during your visit to Banteay Srei and be enchanted by the expressive temple, located just a few kilometers away from Angkor Wat. Even today, the citadel, built in the 10th century, with its finely crafted bas-reliefs and numerous decorations, still possesses a beauty all its own that captivates visitors.
Banteay Srei was built as early as the 10th century, during the reign of Rajendravarman II, who ruled from 944 to 968. The inauguration of Banteay Srei finally took place in 967. Banteay Srei was built in honor of Shiva, one of the most important gods in Hinduism. Originally, the Banteay Srei had a different name, referring to the manifestation of Shiva in the Hindu world, but today the name Banteay Srei is commonly used. This name can be translated as “citadel of beauty” on the one hand, and another translation is “citadel of women”. Over the centuries, Banteay Srei continued to fall into disrepair until the temple complex, which was only rediscovered in 1914, was restored starting in 1931.