Cambodia has started to become increasingly popular in Far East tour itineraries, often combined with Thailand and Vietnam. This rural country, nestled among rice fields along the Tonle Sap River, has gained even more mystique by opening the doors to the historical heritage of the Khmer Empire. If you have an interest in history, culture, and diverse geographical locations, Cambodia is a must-visit country.
You will learn about the must-see places in Cambodia, general information about the country, Cambodian visa requirements, transportation options, weather conditions, historical structures, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and much more.
Where is Cambodia?
Cambodia is a country located in Asia, with an area of 181,035 square kilometers. It is the 90th largest country in the world and shares borders with Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
Bangkok to Siem Reap: 399 km
Bangkok to Phnom Penh : 658 km
Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh : 280 km
Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap : 461 km
To travel by road from Cambodia to Laos, you would need to allocate at least 24 hours for the journey. Similarly, you can reach Cambodia from the neighboring countries of Thailand and Vietnam by bus, or you can travel for the more comfortable option of flying.
To obtain a visa for Cambodia, you will need a passport with a minimum validity of six months and a 4×6-sized photograph. These are the requirements for obtaining a one-month tourist visa. You can obtain your Cambodian visa either from the Cambodian Consulate in Turkey or upon arrival at the border. Another option is to apply for an e-visa. The visa fee is $30 USD. For more information, you can read our article on “How to Obtain a Cambodian Visa.
Transportation in Cambodia
The most commonly used airports in Cambodia are located in the capital city, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap. If you are coming from Thailand, you can fly to both of these cities using Air Asia. If you are coming from Vietnam or Laos, you can use Vietnam Airlines.
Siem Reap International Airport is located 6 km away from the city center and takes approximately 15 minutes by car to reach.
Within the country, you can travel from Phnom Penh or Battambang to Siem Reap by river. The pier is located in the Krom area, south of Siem Reap, and it is approximately 15 km away from the city.
Another transportation option is by bus, which is the most commonly used method. You can take a bus from the city center of Siem Reap to Chong Kov Sou Bus Station, which is a few kilometers away.
Cambodia experiences four seasons. The country has a tropical climate with an average temperature ranging from 28 to 33 degrees Celsius. The ideal time to visit Cambodia is during the months when there is no rainy season. The best months for comfortable exploration of the country are between November and February.
December to February: Cool and dry climate
March to May: Hot and dry climate
June to August: Hot and rainy climate
September to November: Cool with less rainfall
General Information about Cambodia
Official Name: Kingdom of Cambodia
Local Name: Kampuchea
Capital: Phnom Penh
Official Language: Khmer, but English and French are also spoken in the country.
Population: 15.76 million (2012)
Major Cities: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Battambang, Kampong Cham
Major Rivers: Tonle Sap, Mekong, Bassac
Bordering Countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Laos
International Airports: Siem Reap (REP) and Phnom Penh (PHN)
Religion: Theravada Buddhism, Islam, and Animism
Currency: Riel (KHR) 1 USD = 4,015.90 KHR (Click here to calculate currency)
Phone Code: +855
Time Zone: GMT +7
Internet TLD: .kh
There are two important cities to visit in Cambodia. These cities are Siem Reap, known for its cultural attractions, and the capital city of Phnom Penh. If you are visiting only Cambodia, allocate at least 6 days to explore these two cities. However, if you are combining it with a tour of Vietnam or Thailand and not planning an in-depth exploration, 4 days would be sufficient. Now, let’s look at the places to visit in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Regardless of which city you start from, you can travel between these two cities comfortably by intercity buses. The distance between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is 320 km, which takes approximately 5 hours by bus and 40 minutes by plane.
Places to Visit in Cambodia – SIEM REAP CITY
Also known as Phsar Chas, this area is the liveliest and most crowded part of the city. The tourist street called Pub Street and the night markets are located in this area. It has become increasingly popular since bars opened in this street in 1998. It is the center for shopping, tour agencies, dining, and entertainment.
Angkor Wat has become the symbol of Cambodia and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest temple complex in the world. We recommend reading our article on Angkor Wat.
Tonle Sap Lake
Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. If you want to take a break from the temples and relax, you can take a boat trip on the lake or observe the lives of the local people in the floating villages.
The three best villages to visit along the river are:
Chong Khneas: Located in the Phnom Krom region, this village is easily accessible and one of the most popular villages to visit. You can spend about two hours exploring the village, including its church, school, clinic, and houses built on the water. There are also two tour options available from the village. One is a lake tour that visits local markets, and the other is a tour of the Gecko Environment Centre (open from 08:30 to 17:00).
Kompong Phluk: Although not a highly touristy village, it is definitely worth a visit. Located 16 km outside the city, the houses in this village are built 6 to 7 meters above the ground. During the rainy season, the lower parts of the houses are completely covered with water.
Kompong Khleang: This village has the largest community living on the lake. The houses in this village are built even higher than those in Kompong Phluk, with an elevation of 10 meters from the ground. The people here make a living from fishing. Despite being located 35 km outside the city, we recommend making the trip to see it.
If you want to see the lives of Buddhist monks, visiting the pagodas in Siem Reap would be the right choice. If you wish to listen to their lives from the mouths of monks and have them guide you through the pagodas, here is a list of pagodas you can visit:
Wat Damnak: It is the largest pagoda in Siem Reap, and many monks live in this pagoda. It is located on the other side of the river, opposite the Old Market.
Wat Bo: Built in the 18th century, it is the oldest pagoda in the city. The wall decorations not only consist of religious content but also depict the lifestyle of Cambodia. Although it is quite neglected, it is still worth seeing and exploring with monks among the pagodas in its garden.
Wat Preah Prom Rath: This pagoda is located by the river, very close to the Old Market, and it is the most beautiful pagoda in the city. The wall paintings and the sculptures inside are exquisite. It is the newest pagoda in the city, built in 1915.
Other pagodas include Wat Thmei, Wat Kesararam, Wat Po Lanka, Wat Athvea, and Wat Preah Inkosei.
Phnom Kulen National Park
Located on Kulen Mountain, the National Park is 50 km outside of Siem Reap. The best time to visit is in the afternoon after you have completed your temple or city tour. It is a place where Cambodia’s culture and natural beauty come together, and you will thoroughly enjoy your visit. This place holds special significance for the Cambodian people because it is where the king was crowned in 802 AD and declared the independence of Java. As a result, it is a place of great importance and is celebrated on weekends and special occasions. You can visit the area where the Buddha statue lies, as well as enjoy the coolness of the cascading waterfall amidst the hot Cambodian weather. The entrance fee to the park is $20, and the round trip transportation cost from the city center is $50.
If you make it a point to visit museums wherever you go, Siem Reap has something to offer as well. There are three museums you can visit within the city: Angkor National Museum, Cambodia Landmine Museum, and Siem Reap War Museum.
After getting lost and mesmerized among the temples of Angkor, wouldn’t you like to see this historical city, which once served as the capital of a great empire, from hundreds of meters high! We were unable to do it due to bad weather conditions, but if the weather permits, don’t miss out on this experience!
Things to Do in Siem Reap:
- Watch the sunset at the Angkor Wat temple complex.
- Explore the ruins.
- Attend a performance by the Cambodian circus.
- Shop at local stores.
- Watch an Apsara Dance performance.
- Take a hot air balloon ride.
- Go ziplining.
Places to visit Cambodia – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is not only the economic, commercial, and political center of Cambodia but also the country’s capital. Situated at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac rivers, Phnom Penh is a city that, 40 years ago, witnessed the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime. It is a place where 2 million people lost their lives, a site of immense tragedy. Therefore, when visiting Phnom Penh, you will embark on a somber journey that delves into the painful past rather than focusing on temples, nature, and similar attractions. We recommend reading our article on Phnom Penh for more information.
Visiting a museum is the best way to understand the history and past of a city. While you’re in Cambodia, take at least 10 minutes of your time to visit the National Museum.
Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
The Royal Palace is renowned for its silver-covered floor, which has made the Silver Pagoda particularly famous. With 5,329 silver tiles, each weighing 1.125 kg, the pagoda holds significant value.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
This former school building was converted into a prison by Pol Pot. It is said that Cambodian people were detained and interrogated here before being taken to the killing fields. The conditions of detention and interrogation are unimaginable, and witnessing them leaves a profound impact. You can read more details and see photos in the Phnom Penh link provided above.
The Killing Fields
These are the fields where millions of people were exiled from cities to work under the Pol Pot regime, resulting in their death. They were forced to work tirelessly for a handful of rice. The Killing Fields are located about 15 km southwest of the city, so it is recommended to rent a vehicle or motorcycle to visit.
Built in 1373, this Buddhist temple is the tallest in the city, standing at 27 meters high. The city derives its name from the legend associated with this temple. According to the legend, a widow named Daun Penh discovered a statue of Buddha in a pit in her garden. She immediately protected and preserved the site, and the surrounding area became inhabited as the people considered it sacred. In the Khmer language, “Phnom” means hill and “Penh” is derived from Daun Penh’s last name, giving rise to the name of the capital city.
Shopping in Phnom Penh:
Kandal Market: Located near the riverside on Street 13, this open-air market offers a wide variety of goods. You can find almost anything you’re looking for here, and the food stalls offer delicious and affordable options.
Psar Thmei/Central Market: Established in 1937 by the French, this market is a large and organized place where you can find everything you need. It is known for being cleaner and more orderly than Kandal Market.
Tuol Tom Pong Market/Russian Market: This is the liveliest market in the city, worth visiting for both shopping and exploring. You can find a range of items, from antiques to wooden products, woven goods, and traditional objects. The market is located at the corner of Mao Tse Tung Boulevard and Streets 440 and 163.
Sihanoukville – Must-Visit Places:
Located in the south of Cambodia, Sihanoukville is a small province known as Cambodia’s beach paradise. After temple visits and cultural tours, many tourists flock to Sihanoukville for relaxation and enjoyment. With its pristine beaches and beautiful tropical islands, Sihanoukville has become an attractive destination. It is located 232 km away from Phnom Penh and covers an area of 868 square kilometers. Its neighboring provinces are Koh Kong to the north, Kampot to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the south and west.
To visit Sihanoukville, every month of the year is suitable, but it’s important to consider the monsoon season. The temperature remains around 28 degrees Celsius throughout the year. The coolest period (20-28 degrees) is between November and March, the hottest months (26-35 degrees) are March to May, and the rainy season (24-34 degrees) is from May to October.
It’s good to know that December and January are the coldest months, while April is the hottest month.
Along the coastline, you can relax under palm trees on beautiful beaches and swim in the turquoise waters. If we list the beaches and national park:
Ream National Park
Located 29 km from the city center, this park is one of Cambodia’s seven national parks. Inside the park, you can embark on nature and safari tours and explore the waterfalls.
It resembles a fishing village, and the numerous boats along the shore might surprise you. It’s normal for it to be crowded because it serves as the starting point for island tours. We don’t recommend this beach for swimming.
This 1.5 km long beach is exclusive and only allows access to hotel guests.
Located on the slope of Victory Hill, this beach is a tourist spot. Although the beach is not very wide, it is one of the beaches we highly recommend visiting.
It is located to the west of the city and can be reached by motorcycle in five minutes. It is 2 km away from Serendipity and O’tres beaches. Along the beach, there are cafes and restaurants, so you can rent their sunbeds or simply sit and enjoy your time when you get hungry. The beach may be narrow due to these establishments, but the water is crystal clear!
Actually, it’s not entirely a beach. It is lined with Western-style bars, restaurants, and small shops of tour agencies, focusing more on shopping than leisure.
O’tres Beach: This beach is located outside the city and is quite spacious. The sea here is not as calm as the other beaches.
Getting to Sihanoukville:
From Phnom Penh, you can reach Sihanoukville in four hours by comfortable buses. This is the most common method used by tourists. If you want to explore and make frequent stops along the way, renting a motorcycle from Phnom Penh and traveling by road is an option.
From Koh Kong, you have options such as high-speed boats (taking 4 hours), taxis, and public buses.