Luxe Adventures in Siem Reap, Cambodia

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Advisor - Tania DoCarmo
Curated By

Tania DoCarmo

  • Cambodia

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • Boutique Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Luxury Travel

  • Sustainable Travel

  • Wellness Travel

  • Sightseeing

  • Religious

  • Green Spaces

light and trees reflects of puddles in a walkway
Curator’s statement

Known for its proximity to the majestic Angkor temples, arriving in Siem Reap feels like stepping into a mysterious distant past - filled with culture, arts, and beautiful architecture. While living down the road in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh for many years, Siem Reap became a slow, laid back respite away from the city for me and my family - whether relaxing in one of Siem Reap's luxurious spas, attending cultural performances or venturing out to explore the complex of temple ruins.

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Where to stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia

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Things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia

ancient city of temples on a still shallow lake

Visit the Angkor Temples

This UNESCO World Heritage site is often the main draw for tourists to Siem Reap. Once the capital city of the Khmer Empire, the temples are a massive archaeological complex stretching across over 400 acres. For this reason, do not expect to visit the entire complex or all of the temples with a quick visit. While it’s certainly possible to visit the most popular and picturesque sites in a day or two, visiting temples and areas of the complex that are off the beaten path requires much more time.

  • What to See - Many tourists will begin their day visiting the famous Angkor Wat first, and then visit neighboring sites from there. To be a few steps ahead and avoid the crowds, I recommend doing the opposite - saving Angkor Wat for the end. Start early in the morning and begin with Angkor Thom. Then see Bayon, Ta Prohm and end with Angkor Wat. Be sure to tell your tuk tuk driver that you are planning on doing a different route than what they are likely used to.

  • Getting Around - If you’re interested in understanding the history, symbolism and cultural significance of the temples I strongly recommend going on a guided tour, or at least getting a good guide book. If you choose to do a tour, arrange it ahead of time, before you arrive - those offered on site and or on the street are typically rushed and have very large groups. If you choose to navigate on your own, speak to the front desk of your hotel about arranging a tuk-tuk to take you around the temples for the day. It is likely your driver will know their way around the complex, will take you from temple to temple and can take you back to Siem Reap for lunch or an afternoon rest if/when you need a break.

  • Tips - Pack plenty of water for the day and keep in mind that the temples continue to be a place of worship. Be mindful of wearing modest clothing, covering your shoulders and knees.

  • See the Temples by Air - You can also admire the Ankor temples from above. For a grand and thrilling view of the Angkor complex, see them by helicopter or from a tethered helium balloon that goes as high as 200 meters in the air.

What to do in town

  • Tour the Angkor National Museum - While you may think that visiting the museum may be a repeat of what can be seen at the Angkor temple complex, making a visit will help you understand more of the Khmer Empire’s history and culture. Exhibits include signage and information in English.

  • Visit the Landmine Museum - Founded by a former child soldier, the Landmine Museum tells the story of how Cambodia became one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, during and after the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese Wars. Proceeds from the museum fund an organization that continues to clear landmines in Cambodia’s countryside.

  • Relax and unwind at an upscale spa - There are numerous spa options in and around Siem Reap, catering to all budgets. Besides spas at my recommended Siem Reap hotels, For the most luxurious treatments and opulent massages, I recommend visiting Bodia Spa by the Old Market (sister property to my favorite spas in Phnom Penh), and Sokkhak Spa on the Riverside. My recommended Siem Reap hotels, such as Raffles and Residence d’Angkor, also offer excellent spa services.

  • Enjoy an action-packed evening with Phase, the Cambodian circus - Founded by an art school started by nine returning Cambodian refugees in 1994, Phare is much more than a traditional circus. Rather, performers tell traditional, folk and modern Cambodian stories through theater, music and dance. Proceeds support local Cambodian dancers and artists to earn a decent wage.

  • Shop the local markets - For such a small city, Siem Reap offers numerous outdoor markets for tourists. Each one offers fairly similar items, including t-shirts, scarves, Kampot pepper, and metal statues. My personal favorites are the traditional Old Market in the heart of the historic district, the original “Angkor Night Market,” and the unique “Made in Cambodia” market, which offers crafts and goods made only in Cambodia.

A note about ethical tourism & sustainability

As described in my Phnom Penh guide, I strongly recommend that tourists educate themselves about ethical tourism and sustainability prior to visiting Cambodia and the surrounding region. Steer clear of offers to visit Cambodian orphanages (i.e., “orphanage tourism”) as this practice goes against Cambodian laws designed to protect children from exploitation and these organizations - even when seemingly legitimate - typically exploit children for tourism profits. Always seek tour operators that highlight child protection as well as eco-friendly travel practices. I am happy to answer clients’ questions about sustainable practices and work with those interested in ethical travel.

Places to eat & drink in Siem Reap, Cambodia

restaurant covered in potted plants
  • Little Red Fox Espresso - A cute little cafe tucked into the city with good coffee and a friendly staff. Also a great atmosphere to do some work if you need to catch up on emails.

  • The Sugar Palm - Female chef Kathana returned to Cambodia in 2002 after being away during the war, and opened The Sugar Palm as a way to reinvigorate the loss of Khmer cooking skills that occurred during armed conflict. The menu offers classic Cambodian cuisine including citrusy salads, gentle curries and pepper garlic stir fries. Try the Pomelo Salad and Beef Lok Lak.

  • Chanrey Tree - Serving up traditional Khmer cuisine, Chanrey Tree is located in a beautifully restored traditional wooden house and offers al fresco dining in a lush and beautiful courtyard overlooking the Siem Reap River. Try the Amok Curry.

  • Lum Orng Farm to Table Restaurant - Located in a village on the edge of the city, Lum Orng is one of Cambodia’s first farm-to-table restaurants. Local owner and chef, Sothea Seng, worked as a chef in luxury hotel kitchens in Dubai and the Caribbean before making his way back to Cambodia. In addition to offering dining, Lum Orng is now offering morning cooking classes for visitor interested in Cambodia’s culinary traditions.

  • Haven - Set up as a social enterprise to assist disadvantaged Cambodians learn cooking and vocational skills, Haven is a high quality restaurant offering traditional Asian and international cuisine with fresh ingredients.

  • Wild Creative Bar and Eatery -Popular among expats and tourists alike, Wild offers a casual atmosphere, fresh ingredients, delicious finger foods and hand mixed cocktails. The restaurant is also committed to being an eco- and socially-responsible business by using eco-conscious materials, offering fair employment and supporting local charity organizations.

  • Blue Pumpkin Angkor Cafe - With several locations around the city, Blue Pumpkin is a French bakery and longtime favorite for coffee, pastries and sandwiches. It is also one of the only places to catch a bit to eat close to the temples, with their new cafe located across from the Angkor Wat.

  • Il Forno - If you’re growing tired of local cuisine, Il Forno offers excellent Italian food including wood-fired pizza, fresh pasta and imported Italian wines. They also offer delivery to your hotel.

  • Miss Wong Cocktail Bar - A popular spot for late-night drinks, Miss Wong is an intimate cocktail lounge designed in the way of 1920s speakeasies. It is conveniently located close to the Siem Reap River, away from the noise and activity of Pub Street.

Advisor - Tania DoCarmo

Travel Advisor

Tania DoCarmo

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Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Arts, Culture & Good Eats in Phnom Penh. This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Cambodia.