Although best known for the stunning ruins of Angkor, the town of Siem Reap is full of temples, ruins, canals and reservoirs, making up one of the most important archeological sites in Southeast Asia! So it’s no wonder that travelers are attracted here by the thousands. With the amount of traffic coming in increasing, this town has stepped up its game and become quite the tourist destination.
Many travelers flock here to experience these magnificent ruins but then leave before exploring the rest of Siem Reap, why? This tiny town may be lacking in size, but it by no means lacks in history and entertainment. Packed with hostels and hotels, day and night tours, plenty of delicious food and night time parties, there is a lot more beyond Angkor. To help you get the most out of this tourist wonderland, here’s our top list of things to see and do.
Editor’s Note: Check out our Where to Stay in Siem Reap to see our personal recommendations on hostels and hotels.
- 1 Things to Do in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- 2 Explore the Stunning Angkor Wat
- 3 Go on a Food Tour
- 4 Take a Khmer Cooking Class
- 5 Get a $3 Massage
- 6 Visit the Floating Villages on Tonle Sap Lake
- 7 Shop at the Night Market
- 8 Eat, Drink and Dance the Night Away on Pub Street
- 9 Cycle Around Town
- 10 Take a Yoga Class
Things to Do in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Explore the Stunning Angkor Wat
You can’t have a top things to do list in Siem Reap without recommending a visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park. Full of thousands of temples, there is nothing like the feeling of walking through what used to be the center of the Khmer empire and what still is the spiritual heart of Cambodia today. Marvel at the beauty of the architecture and spend some time taking in the atmosphere. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the cultural highlight of Siem Reap and a must see during sunrise. However, apart from the famous Angkor Wat, here’s a list of the other temples worth visiting.
- The Bayon
- The Baphuon
- Ta Prohm
If you want to mix culture with outdoor adventure, there are many mountain temple hikes that you can do! It may be a bit more challenging than walking the flat plains of the archaeological park, but the panoramic views you are rewarded with will make it all worthwhile. While checking out the Angkor Archaeological Park, you can either join a tour, hire an official guide, or if you want to go local, a lot of the tuk-tuk drivers give tours themselves. As we always love to encourage local interaction, the tuk-tuk guides are our first choice. The best way to go about this is by speaking to your hotel reception and asking if they can recommend a good English speaking tuk-tuk driver. However, if you want a full explanation of the historical facts behind this stunning historical area, an official tour guide might be for you.
Insider Tips: When exploring Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples, remember to bring sunblock, a water bottle, and a fan if you have one. It can get extremely hot! While the heat is a good excuse to wear something cool, do remember that it is still a religious site so covering your shoulders and knees is a must! Bringing a light scarf to cover up would suffice. The best place to watch the sunset from is by Phnom Bakheng in Angkor Thom so make sure you get there early if you want to reserve a picture perfect spot.
Go on a Food Tour
You may not be surprised to hear that the food in Cambodia, like the rest of Asia, is amazing! Full of street food stalls and markets you will never be far from good local grub. So why take a tour? If you’re pushed for time or just want to learn about the culture, this is a great way to do it all. Choose from street food tours, fried insect tours or the ultimate foodie day tour, Siem Reap is your oyster (see what I did there?). P.S. If you dare, deep fried tarantula is a popular Cambodian specialty.
Visit the Cambodia Landmine Museum
Although there are many museums where you can get your culture fix, the Landmine Museum in Siem Reap is arguably one of the most interesting. Here you can see the collections of land mines, mortars, and weaponry that has been found on Cambodian soil, and you can learn about the amazing projects that are still going on to clear remaining mines. It might sound boring or even a bit depressing, but trust me when I say that this museum will move anyone. It is an important part of understanding Cambodian history and how they have been affected by outside forces, so take the time to hear their story.
Take a Khmer Cooking Class
What’s better than eating Cambodian food? Learning how to cook it and eating it forever! What’s even better is that you can support the local communities by taking one of the village classes. Spend the day learning traditional cooking methods with the village chef right in a cooking hut in the middle of the paddy fields! Make new friends and socialize over good food, what more could you want? Some cooking classes that we recommend are: Tigre de Papier, RiverGarden’s, or the lovely Sojourn which takes you on a special village tour prior to the classes.
Get a $3 Massage
I know what you’re thinking, cheap means rubbish, but I’m going to blow your mind! After the sun goes down, the masseuses (yeah, that’s a word!) come out and dot the busy streets waiting for us tourists. They offer anything from short or sit-down massages to full body, whatever you need. I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of a quick massage after a full day exploring temples to get me reinvigorated for dinner! And for this price, why not? If you want to know the rough prices of traveling around the country, check out this budget guide for Cambodia to help you plan. In case you’re wondering….yes, it is insanely cheap which means you can squeeze in a daily massage into your travel budget if you want.
Visit the Floating Villages on Tonle Sap Lake
You can’t leave Siem Reap without visiting what dominates the map of Cambodia: Tonle Sap Lake. This massive freshwater lake is obviously worth a visit for its picturesque beauty, but it is also worth the trip for the opportunity to see a different side to this tourist town. Explore the fascinating string of floating villages and observe the everyday life of the fishermen that live there. Take a canoe tour to discover the lake’s unique ecosystem and visit the bird sanctuary. Besides being picture perfect, the lake also provides the country with more than half of the fish that it consumes, so it’s kind of a big deal!
Shop at the Night Market
If you’re not into bars or drinking, or just want something different, you can experience Siem Reap’s nightlife at the Angkor Night Market. Once the sun sets, the neon lights come on and the bustle begins. Explore the hundreds of stalls from Khmer artwork and local handicrafts to trying yet some more delicious street food.
Other night markets worth visiting are:
- BB Night Market
- Siem Art Center Market
- Noon Night Market
Eat, Drink and Dance the Night Away on Pub Street
By day, Pub Street is full of souvenir shops, food stalls, and cafés, but by night it is transformed into the hub for Siem Reap nightlife. Full of lively bars, cocktail lounges, and vibrant nightclubs, Pub Street is the ideal place to bar-hop with like- minded travelers. With everything within walking distance and $1 drinks at happy hour, it is as if it was designed for backpackers to let off some steam! Angkor What? is a popular spot for backpackers as they have a pool table and cheap drinks.
Cycle Around Town
Our favorite way to explore a new place is to hire a bike or motorbike! Not only do you get around quicker, but you get to experience the best of scenery that you might have otherwise missed on foot. Most hotels and guesthouses offer cheap daily bike rentals, so why not plan a route and explore Siem Reap? You can follow the river for a scenic ride, dive into the busy city center, or go completely off-grid and explore the side streets or countryside. Either way, it’s a fun and active day out!
Take a Yoga Class
Get your zen on and find your inner self by taking a local yoga class. Siem Reap is full of yoga classes in a variety of styles so you can take your pick. Whether you are just interested in a weekly class or want the full on wellness and yoga retreat, it’s important to take some time to recharge and rejuvenate. Peace Cafe is a vegetarian restaurant which has regular classes 2-3x a day. So if you want to get your Ohm on, definitely check them out. See, and you thought there wasn’t much to do in this little resort town! Now all that is left to do is to go and experience it for yourself. Absorb as much of the Khmer culture as you can, eat till your heart is content and drink until you fall over. Enjoy!
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