1. Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
It’s difficult to complete this list without this world-famous UNESCO heritage. Angkor Wat is the national symbol of Cambodia to such an extent that you can even find it on the flag. Angkor is also more than just Angkor Wat because you’ll find 71 other temples and buildings here. You should definitely not miss Bayon with its 54 towers on which a total of 216 faces can be seen.
Ta Prohm, the temple covered in trees, became famous thanks to “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and is also one of the highlights of Angkor. And then I’m not even talking about Banteay Srei and Beng Mealea, which are just outside of Angkor. Your visit to Cambodia isn’t complete without spending a few days in this unique temple complex.
2. The Killing Fields
Pol Pot was the Hitler of Cambodia and is responsible for the deaths of nearly three million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. At first, many victims were questioned and tortured by his Khmer Rouge in S-21, a once peaceful school. Intellectuals, doctors and professors, among others, suffered the most terrible torture here. The few who survived were transported to ‘The Killing Fields’ where they were mercilessly killed. Many skulls of the victims are still exhibited here. It’s not as easy place to visit, but nevertheless incredibly interesting to see. We must never let anything like this happen again!
3. Preah Vihear
This Khmer Temple is located on a 525 meter (1725 ft) high cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains and is a lot less easy to reach than Angkor Wat, but it’s well worth the trip. In terms of location it’s without a doubt the most impressive Khmer temple of the country.
Because it lies on the border with Thailand it’s not surprising that there were quite some battles here and several soldiers were killed in 2009. Since then, the hateful emotions have cooled down so that it’s perfectlt safe to travel to Preah Vihear again.
4. Tonlé Sap
Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and is of crucial importance to Cambodia. The size of the lake changes drastically with the seasons. From November to May, the dry season, the lake flows almost completely into the Mekong. But during the heavy rainfall from June to October a gigantic lake is recreated here. To give you an idea: the lake becomes ten times as large and covers 7.5% of the total area of the country! In addition, there are several Vietnamese and Cham minority groups living in floating villages around the lake.
When you take a boat trip on the lake, you’re faced with the poverty of Cambodia and you’ll soon understand why the average life expectancy is only 58 years. A real eye openerr if you want to understand this beautiful country.
5. Koh Ker
From 928 to 944 Koh Ker was the capital of the Khmer empire and during this short period some spectacular buildings and immense statues were built. The eye-catcher here is Prasat Thom, a 30 meter (100 ft) high temple pyramid that towers above the jungle. It used to be almost impossible to get to this beautiful temple, but fortunately you can now reach this the highlight of Cambodia a lot easier.
6. Koh Rong
Koh Rong can compete with the more famous beaches of neighboring Thailand. Beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise-green waters make this one of the most beautiful islands of the Gulf of Thailand. When it gets dark, mother natures treats you on a gorgeous spectacle! The plankton lights up because of the waves and creates beautiful fluorescent lighting. The island is also full of unspoiled nature and you can enjoy snorkeling and diving all around the place. Oh… And not unimportant either: it’s still relatively peaceful and not very touristy yet. A great place for backpackers and nature lovers!
Because it was occupied by the Khmer Rouge, Kratie wasn’t destroyed by them. That’s why the beautiful French colonial buildings that extend along the river were fortunately spared. Here you can still enjoy the (almost) authentic Cambodian rural life and on top of that you can catch a glimpse of the Irrawady dolphins who live in the Mekong! Only between 66 and 83 of them remain and their numbers decrease each year.
Rolling hills, jungles, waterfalls and valleys. Mondulkiri may have the best nature in the country and is therefore one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cambodia. Many endangered species have their home here, such as leopards, water buffaloes and elephants. The Bunong minority group lives here in traditional villages and they always greet you with a smile. For the best hikes in Cambodia you have to be in Mondulkiri. In terms of nature, this area belongs to the most beautiful things to do in Cambodia.
9. The Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh
The Silver Pagoda lies right next to the Royal Palace so you can easily combine these two attractions. In the Silver Pagoda you’ll find many national treasures such as golden and jeweled Buddha statues. The most beautiful part of the collection is the ‘Emerald Buddha of Cambodia’, a small Buddha statue from the seventeenth century and a life-size golden Buddha decorated with 9584 diamonds.
10. Koh Tonsay
Tourism is developing more and more in Southeast Asia and so also in Cambodia. That makes it increasingly difficult to find places where you can escape from everything and everyone. Fortunately there is Koh Tonsay, where you can perfectly relax in a hammock for a few days (or weeks) or swim in the ocean. You can perfectly walk around the island in a day, which has the shape of a rabbit. The absence of television, wifi and air conditioning make Koh Tonsay one of the last unexplored paradise islands in Southeast Asia.
There are so many other places to visit in Cambodia which make this country the perfect travel destination. With the exception of Angkor Wat, it’s by no means as touristy as Thailand, which gives it a more authentic feel. Unfortunately, the inhabitants have also experienced a lot of misery, so you’ll also be confronted with a lot of poverty. However, this has not affected the soul of the population because Cambodians are fantastic people. Tourism is developing more and more and I hope this will help them get better lives.
Tours and excursions in Cambodia
Curious about day trips in Cambodia and how much they cost? Look at these ideas:
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.