The Top 3 Places to Visit in Cambodia

Travel Advisor Isabel Smallman walking through vineyards in an all white outfit with a tan hat.
Curated By

Isabel Smallman

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  • Cambodia

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Active Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • History

  • Sightseeing

  • Outdoors

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Curator’s statement

Many people begin their Southeast Asia trip trekking through Thailand or Vietnam, and many skip over Cambodia because well...where to begin? Cambodia is not talked about as much in the tourism community, but it is one of the most historic and heart-rending countries as you dive deep into its past while exploring its natural beauty.

For first-timers, here are the three unmissable spots that you'll fall head over heels for.

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Where to stay in Cambodia

Rosewood Phnom Penh

Ultra-luxurious hotel located in Phnom Penh's Vattanac Capital Tower with plush rooms, four restaurants and a rooftop terrace.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Complimentary one-category upgrade at booking or upon arrival.

Park Hyatt Siem Reap

An upscale option in the heart of the city, with two pools and beautifully manicured grounds.

Fora Perks
  • Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability

  • Complimentary daily breakfast for two guests per bedroom at The Dining Room

  • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit utilized during stay

The Royal Sands Koh Rong

Experience paradise on Cambodia's Koh Rong Island, where this beachfront resort offers luxurious accommodations, stunning ocean views and a tranquil escape in the lap of tropical luxury.

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Things to do in Cambodia

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Phnom Penh

If you're ready to see as much as possible, start by taking a plane straight to the capital. Phnom Penh is a city that offers both a rich and tragic history so prepare yourself for an emotional rollercoaster as you begin to fathom its dark past while appreciating its growing economy.

Top Sites to Visit

Royal Palace - The royal residence of the King of Cambodia and highlights some exquisite architecture right on the river banks. We spent about two hours here, so make sure to go early to beat the heat!

*Remember to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and shorts/skirts below knees or you'll have to buy a "Royal Palace" t-shirt like me. (but makes great use for a pajama shirt)

Choeng Ek and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - These spots will be an intense visit as you walk through the Killing Fields where thousands of Cambodians were executed. Today it serves as a memorial, for tourists and locals to learn about its devastating history.

Mekong River Sunset Cruise - Fruit buffets, soft drinks and local beer included, this boat ride was a memorable experience as we learned more about Cambodia's past and present, while taking in the sunset views on one of the world's most famous rivers.

Siem Reap

A long and scenic bus ride or a quick and easy plane ride to this small and ancient city. Siem Reap is world renown for its massive temples and ruins left behind by the Khmer Regime. I was blown away by the intricacy of these structures that have weathered the test of time. The nightlife and lively food scene was an added bonus after a long and hot day of temple touring.

Top Sites to Visit

Angkor Wat (and more) - You may not be in the mood for an "Angkor Whaaaa?!" chant on the way to the temples at 4am, but the energy of your tour guide is high from beginning to end. They'll take you to Angkor Wat for an unbelievable sunrise, and from there, visit a few of the main temples before your 12 hours are up and you're passed out in the back seat mid day. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it is an essential alarm to get up for!

Apsara Dance Show at Smile Angkor Theatre - This indigenous Cambodian performance is a memorable and lighthearted way of making new friends while indulging in a multi-course traditional meal sitting on the floor.
(Do NOT eat before this, the food just keeps on coming)

Siem Reap War Museum OR Phnom Kulen National Park - Whether you're ready to continue deep diving into Cambodia's history or go climb a mountain and take a swim by a waterfall, both of these options offer two unique cultural routes for you to continue along your Siem Reap journey.

Koh Rong

An overnight bus ride or quick plane ride down south, this island is home to a private escape of picture perfect beaches and a rainbow of coral reefs underneath the sea to explore. This is the best place to end an active trip on a relaxing note. The main attraction here is to slow down and plop yourself on any of the white sand beaches, float like a starfish through the turquoise waters, and grab yourself a $1 beer for sunset.

**Private Boat Trip- Through our hotel, we booked a boat ride that included fishing (the Cambodian way), snorkeling, lunch, and a bioluminescent plankton visit after sunset.
SO worth it!

Day Trips

From Siem Reap
Battambang - ride the iconic bamboo train, pay your respects at the Killing Cave before watching the millions of bats emerge at dusk, and appreciate the history and culture of this small town 3 hours driving from Siem Reap.

From Koh Rong
Koh Rong Samloem - a quick ferry ride away, you will find this less populated slice of paradise with hammocks to nap in the ocean and experience a beach day in solitude.

Places to eat & drink in Cambodia

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Phnom Penh

The Phnom Penh Night Market is a bustling scene of locals, live music, and a variety of local dishes to enjoy on a seated floor mat. We stuck with the simple Khmer Noodles and they were fantastic.

The nightlife scene for foreigners is very minimal, but we found a rooftop bar near the market called "Mecon Skybar" and it had a very unique design of natural lements with some excellent hand-crafted cocktails.

Siem Reap

Pub Street is lined with endless food stalls and happy will not find a difficult time finding good food and drink on this visit.

I highly recommend setting aside time for a three hour cooking class because this was such an intimate and important part of our trip as we got to learn about the cooking culture and engage with the locals.

On this tour, you'll get to indulge in Green Mango Salad, Fried Chicken with Cashew Nut, Fish Amok, Veggie Tempura, Banana with Coconut Milk, etc..... we came for lunch, and left with no room for dinner.

Koh Rong

On this island, we mainly relied on our hotel's restaurant since we did not stumble upon any markets. So this was the time to confidently try something new. Maybe some Tom Yam seafood, Sweet and Sour Fried Chicken, or a Beef Curry...whatever fancies your belly!

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, A Great Alternative to the Cape: Exploring the North Shore.

Travel Advisor Isabel Smallman walking through vineyards in an all white outfit with a tan hat.

Travel Advisor

Isabel Smallman

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Cambodia.