Cambodia is a small country part of the Indochina peninsula. Popularized by its ancient temples and sleepy coastlines dotted with glowing plankton, Cambodia has so much to offer travelers to are willing to go off the beaten path. Whether you plan on just traveling around Cambodia to see the ancient temples or Angkor or to visit its many historic museums, or even go on the many adventures to do, Cambodia has a bit of everything for everyone. As well as being an amazing historical and scenic place to behold, Cambodia also offers a vibrant adventure scene perfect for intrepid travelers. Here are our tops picks on things to do in Cambodia that you can’t miss.
- 1 Sunrise/ Sunset at Angkor Wat
- 2 Gibbon Spotting
- 3 See the Planktons Glow at Night in Koh Rong
- 4 Microlight Flight Above Cambodia
- 5 Eat a Tarantula
- 6 Explore Cambodia’s Marine Life
- 7 Have a Drink by Pub Street
- 8 Kayaking
- 9 Visit the Killing Fields
- 10 Exploring the Country by Bike
- 11 Pay a Visit to the S21 Museum
- 12 Dirt-biking Around Siem Reap
- 13 Explore the Angkor Archaeological Park
- 14 Quad Biking in the Country Side
- 15 Visit the Mondulkiri Project’s Elephant Sanctuary
- 16 Flyboarding in Otres Beach
- 17 Have a Go at Trying Khmer Cuisine
- 18 Hit the Beach in Sihanoukville
Sunrise/ Sunset at Angkor Wat
Naturally, this tops the list because despite being a bit touristy, the sunrise in Angkor Wat is a must do while in Siem Reap, Cambodia. There is something magical about seeing this ancient city come to life as you watch the sun slowly rise above it. We recommend going there relatively early to find a spot that you like. You can pre-arrange for a tuk tuk to come pick you up a day before. We recommend leaving your guesthouse around 4:45 am to give you enough time to make it to the 5 am entrance and to find your spot. Our suggestion is to scope out the area that will give you the best reflection shot possible. However, our top tip is don’t be too consumed by taking the perfect shot that you forget to enjoy the moment and the experience. Naturally, sunsets here are pretty spectacular and worth doing as well.
Apart from exploring the cultural highlights of Cambodia, if you’re looking for some fun outdoor activities to do, Gibbon spotting has become an extremely popular. Imagine trapesing through the forest with your guide, the musky smell of humidity hanging in the air and the sound of animal calls in the distance. All of a sudden, you’ll come across a family of the incredibly rare northern yellow-cheeked gibbons in their natural surroundings going about their business. Put simply, if you’re a wildlife enthusiast, passionate about animals or simply enjoy sustainable travel and eco-adventures, this activity is for you!
Where to do it: The Ratanakiri Province
See the Planktons Glow at Night in Koh Rong
In the sleepy island of Koh Rong, you can experience the magical planktons which light up at night. Have a few drinks by the nearby beach bars and when it’s dark enough, walk towards the shore in the darkest area, wading in about 1-meter deep water. If you stir the water a little bit, you will begin seeing the planktons glow at night- just like in the movie, The Beach. It is truly an incredible experience that is worth traveling to Koh Rong for. For the braver ones, you can even snorkel at night, watching the world illuminate as you move around the water.
Microlight Flight Above Cambodia
It’s one thing to experience the stunning Cambodian temples from the ground, but it is truly something else to experience them from above! The perfect way to round off a temple experience is taking to the air for the ultimate flying experience. In fact, it’s the perfect way to experience the whole of Cambodia. With the country being covered in incredible landscapes, you can fly over lush jungles, flooded forests, the floating villages, pristine beaches, even the bustling markets in the city! All you need is a Microlight Aircraft and an experienced pilot to take you.
Related: Things to do in Siem Reap
Eat a Tarantula
Now I don’t really know how the Cambodians came up with the idea that deep frying a tarantula would taste good, but hey, to each his own. For those who are adventurous, you can order “a-ping” otherwise known as a deep fried tarantula. You will often find vendors selling this along with the streets or in some restaurants by Phnom Penh. Women eat it as a snack because they believe it would make them beautiful, I guess I would just have to take my chances. In case a tarantula doesn’t tickle your fancy, they have other options for you to try.
Explore Cambodia’s Marine Life
As well as many land adventures, Cambodia also offers plenty of excitement beneath the surface of its waters! If you’ve ever been scuba diving before, you’ll know the build up of adrenaline that you get before a dive, as you never know what you may find. This excitement also stays with you throughout the dive as the sea life is so diverse and ever changing with the current. With its tropical waters that are teeming with marine life and stunning coral reefs, Cambodia has a great reputation for being a great scuba diving destination. While in Cambodia, you can head to Koh Rong, Koh Rong Saloem, Koh Kon, Koh Tang and Koh Prins to experience some awesome dive sites.
Have a Drink by Pub Street
This popular street located in Siem Reap is the equivalent of Khao San road in Thailand. Loaded with many bars, pubs, restaurants and street food, it’s worth heading here as you watch the world go by with a cold pint of beer. Enjoy your time people watching or wander around the many small stalls and souvenir shops.
It’s surprising how many places you can go kayaking in Cambodia, all you have to do is decide what’s the most exciting tour for you. Fancy kayaking down the Mekong or Tonle San River combined with some cycling or a jungle trek? Or do you want a scenic paddle in a flooded forest or to challenge yourself with some ocean kayaking? Whatever you prefer, there is sure to be a trip that suits you best. Personally, ocean kayaking is a favorite! Not only is it usually combined with a remote island stay in a rustic beach bungalow and some snorkeling, but there is nothing else that beats that feeling of being alone out on the water.
Where to do it: Sihanoukville, the Ratanakiri Province
Resources: Choose the best ocean kayaking tours with our article Cambodia Beaches: Guide to the Best Islands
Editor’s Note: Take a look at our article on the Best Places to Stay in Cambodia
Visit the Killing Fields
For one of the most eye opening experiences but equally as heart breaking, head on to the killing fields in the city of Phnom Penh. Here, you will find thousands of skulls and bones which were unearthed from the hundreds of Cambodian Killing fields in the area. Nowadays, it stands as a monument to showcase Cambodia’s gruesome past of when the Khmer Rouge terrorized and murdered their fellow Cambodians. This communist party is responsible for worst mass killings in the 20th century. It is absolutely horrific but very eye opening. The audio guide here is fantastic but be warned, take some tissues with you.
Exploring the Country by Bike
We love love love exploring a place this way! From weaving busy streets to gliding through local villages, or doing some serious off-road biking through rice paddies and jungle tracks, you can discover areas that you wouldn’t have ventured to and cover a lot of ground quickly. The trails in Cambodia can be quite challenging, but trust me when I say, that when you break through the trees to reveal a breathtaking waterfall where you can sit and have your lunch, any effort you exert will be more than worth it! If you opt to explore the cities instead, places like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are ideal to explore using two wheels.
Pay a Visit to the S21 Museum
Not to be a mood damper, but going to these museums is an important part of understanding the Cambodian history and what their people have gone through. The S21 or the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum used to be a school but was converted into a prison and torture chamber by the Khmer Rouge. The whole place is very eerie, giving off a similar vibe as when I visited a couple of concentration camps in Germany.
Dirt-biking Around Siem Reap
For a truly crazy day with a ton of adventure, try your hand at riding a dirt-bike! Again, riding is a completely different way to experience a country, plus you get the challenge and thrill of the activity itself! Cambodia offers a huge amount of biking packages, where cool and experienced guides take you out for a couple of hours to a couple of days for an adventure that will last you a lifetime! Whether a beginner or experienced rider, it’s easy to learn and you’ll ride on a variety of terrain from fine sand and grass to dirt climbs and jungle bush. Let’s just say you’ll come away from this adventure a must better rider, and most likely with a big grin on your face!
Explore the Angkor Archaeological Park
Apart from catching the sunrise at Angkor Wat, this massive temple complex is vast and is worth seeing. The temples of Angkor is a symbol representing the struggle that the Cambodians went through. Apart from the famed Angkor Wat, a visit to Bayon, Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom are just a few more places that are worth seeing. You can either choose to get a 1-day pass or a 3 day pass in order to fully explore the entire place. Be warned though, it is easy to get “templed out” so best to spread it out during your time there.
Quad Biking in the Country Side
If you love to explore a country differently but don’t want the physical exertion of mountain biking or hiking, quad biking is a perfect alternative; you get your hit of adventure with zero effort! Full of excitement and discovery, you can spend a few hours or the whole day kicking up some dust with some serious off roading. Depending on what package you opt for, you can ride through beautiful countryside and rice paddies or villages and temples. You can even choose between a variety of adventure types from a relaxing 1-hour sunset tour to a more hardcore 8 hour day package. Whatever your ideal activity, you can be sure to get a unique insight into Cambodia and for some, your adrenaline pumping!
Visit the Mondulkiri Project’s Elephant Sanctuary
All over Cambodia, especially in the main tourist spots, you will see loads of elephants walking around. You may be offered elephant rides, offered to buy bananas to feed elephants, or even watch elephant circuses and shows. Three words. DON’T DO IT. I recently spent an eye opening day in an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand where I was educated on the plight of Asian elephants and how they are beaten, tortured, and starved as babies in the name of “domesticating” them. Since then, I have been on the look out of other ethical sanctuaries where I can help rescued elephants. If you want to interact with elephants while in Cambodia, head on over to the Mondulkiri Project where you can trek, bathe, and take care of elephants that are roaming free within their sanctuary which is located 5 hours away from Phnom Penh. The folks over there are trying to convince other companies who still rent out their elephants for treks to stop this process. Apart from this fantastic experience of interacting with elephants, the province of Mondulkiri is also filled with beautiful treks, waterfalls, and various animal wildlife. Definitely, a highlight when in Cambodia.
Flyboarding in Otres Beach
Calling all water sports junkies and anyone who likes to have fun, want the ultimate flyboarding experience while in Cambodia? Of course, you do! Suitable for anyone who wants to fly high above the water and experience swimming through a dolphin’s eyes, there’s no wonder why this activity is so popular. In fact, this is one of those sports that will have you grinning from ear to ear and giggling like a little girl. Trust me when I say, that this is one adventure not to be missed!
Have a Go at Trying Khmer Cuisine
Although Thai and Vietnamese food is more popular, Khmer cuisine is worth trying out. They have unique flavors which are surprisingly good. Fish Amok is a popular dish which is baked with lemon grass, chilli, and coconut cream served with a steaming plate of hot rice. Apart from that, you also have crabs from Kep which is often seasoned with Kampot pepper. Traditional snacks such as noodles and roasted crickets are also pretty popular here.
Read: What to Eat in Cambodia
Hit the Beach in Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville is the gateway coastal area which people go to before visiting Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloam. Here, you can find many chilled out beach bungalows where people can relax and unwind. The beach of Otres, Victory Beach, Independence Beach, and Serendipity Beach are all nearby destinations which you can visit. Sit back, relax, read a book, and get a fruit shake. You can thank me later. If you are looking to do more out of your holiday than just relaxing by the beach, check out the epic tuk tuk challenges that Large Minority organizes all over Cambodia.
Apart from these things mentioned, there is naturally loads more to see and do in this beautiful country. Our suggestion is to take your time, plan ahead what you would like to see and do, but also be willing to go with the flow and be flexible. After all, word of mouth from other travelers is one of the best ways to discover a place.
Keen to explore more of Southeast Asia? Check out our other articles
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- Top Things to Do in Phnom Penh That You Shouldn’t Miss