The Kingdom of Cambodia is home to the world famous Angkor Temples and stunning French buildings, which have been the country’s main draw. But the majestic temples are just the beginning, elsewhere in this mysterious land you will find a softer side to Southeast Asia such as sleepy coastal nooks, forgotten inland crannies, and great swathes of wilderness. Incense Travel introduces the 5 best places to see in Cambodia, you can treat them as ideas for an itinerary to Cambodia.
1. Siem Reap
Located in Northwestern Cambodia, Siem Reap city is the gateway to the mysterious Angkor temples. This temple complex was originally constructed by the Khmers as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, and gradually transformed into Buddhist temple at the end of the 12th century. The UNESCO listed a complex of more than 400 ancient temples in Siem Reap as World Heritage Site, in which the magnificent Angkor Wat is the focal point – which is pictured on Cambodia’s flag.
Angkor Wat, or literally translated as “city of temples, built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II stretching over 248 square miles (400 square kilometers), the largest religious monument in the world. Now you see why Siem Reap is always at the top of every list of best places to see in Cambodia, as you just can’t miss this visiting the country.
Beside mysterious temples, Siem Reap is also famous for French colonial and Chinese style architecture. There are also museums, Cambodia cultural village, traditional Apsara dance performances, handicraft shops, silk farms, fishing villages, and rice paddies in the countryside.
2. Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, was considered one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina in the 1920s. Located on the confluence of the three major rivers, the Tonle Sap, Tonle Bassac, and the Mekong rivers. Phnom Penh is the heart of Cambodia, offering a scenic location largely responsible for its nickname the "Charming City."
When in Phnom Penh, you should not miss out the Royal Palace which was made up of many grandiose buildings featuring the impressive gilded throne hall. Or the Silver Pagoda, in which the statues of Buddha are jewel encrusted.
One of the most famous site in Phnom Penh is the Choeung Ek, known as the site of the mass killings during the Khmer Rouge regime. If you want to see a museum, then you will be impressed with the National Museum of Cambodia, where you will explore exhibitions that delve into the past of the former French colony through interactive exhibits, archaeological finds, and more.
3. Tonle Sap Lake
Tonlé Sap Lake, commonly translated to "Great Lake", refers to a seasonally inundated freshwater lake. This largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia is one of Cambodia’s most famous tourist attractions.
If putting the temples aside, you should not leave Sieam Reap without exploring the fascinating string of lakeside villages on the nearby Tonle Sap lake. It is the massive freshwater lake dominating the map of Cambodia.
The majority of the lake’s inhabitants are fishermen, mostly stateless ethnic Vietnamese who have been here for decades, despite being widely distrusted by the Khmer. Head to the floating villages near Pursat and Kompong Chnnang on the opposite side of the lake for authentic view of the Tonle Sap.
Located in the southern most of the country, and named after one of Cambodian’s king, Norodom Sihanouk, the Sihanoukville is the most popular beach resort on the Gulf of Thailand. This region was the last battle where the US fought in the Vietnam War, it now offers both sandy and rocky beaches, help bring life back to local people.
Sihanoukville ranks the 4th on our list, but it is actually one of the best places to visit in Cambodia after visiting all the Khmer temples. The place is popular with both backpackers staying in the beach’s huts and high-end travelers who prefer luxury hotel accommodations.
Make sure you have time to see Koh Rong Island, which is just off the coast of Sihanoukville. This is the second largest island of Cambodia, the island is famous for its serene beauty, often described as an ‘island paradise’ by visiting tourists.
Ratanakiri, meaning "Mountain of Jewels", is a province located in the remote northeast of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge built its headquarters in the province in the 1960s, and bombing during the Vietnam War devastated the region. Today, rapid development in the province is altering traditional ways of life.
Ratanakiri is now one of Cambodia’s most remote and pretty provinces. It’s home to Virachey National Park, one of the largest protected areas in Cambodia, and this is serious trekking area.
Possible animal encounters here include elephants and gibbons. Swimming is popular too, with jungle waterfalls and a beautiful crater lake within striking distance of provincial capital Ban Lung.