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Top 10 Things to Do in Cambodia

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The magnificent temple complex of Angkor Wat built in the 12th century is undoubtedly going to take top billing in Cambodia’s attractions. However, apart from the awe-inspiring temple networks, Cambodia boasts a great number of top things, such as beautiful beaches and remote tropical islands, emerald wildernesses, and the ancient Khmer culture. This country packs all highlights into one bite-sized chunk that can rival anywhere else on the planet. It does live up to its reputation as “the Kingdom of Wonder” and its landscapes, food and culture are all worth deep exploration. Here we carefully select the top 10 things to do in Cambodia for you to offer more travel inspiration.

1. Pay a Visit to World’s Largest Temple - Angkor Wat

The spectacular Angkor Wat of course comes first in your Cambodia travel list and admiring the supreme artwork of Khmer genius is definitely one of the best things to do in Cambodia. The masterpiece of architecture is peppered with sprawling old temples, religious structures, and ancient relics. The temple complex was firstly built in the mid-12th century to worship the Hindu god Vishnu, nevertheless, it turned out to be a Buddhist temple in the later 13th century. The well-preserved temple networks boast a blend of spirituality and symmetry, and the extensive bas-reliefs are vivid and mysterious. As this is the most popular sight in the country, most times it is overcrowded. Try to get here early to enjoy the architectural beauty and the sunrise over the central part of Angkor Wat will leave you a deep impression.

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap
Angkor Wat

As the second-largest city of Cambodia, Siem Reap offers too much to visitors from pristine temples, and lush greens, to various bizarre markets. For better sightseeing, a cycling tour just prevails in this land. Believe it or not, the city is becoming a popular cycling destination in Cambodia, especially for backpackers. On the one hand, riding a bike to explore the awe-inspiring temples is more convenient and energy saving to cover most temple ruins. On the other hand, cycling through lush jungles to venture off the beaten path is a memorable experience. Taking a leisurely or an active ride, you can escape the crowds and explore the city at your own pace. You will also have an opportunity to communicate with friendly locals in the outside villages to experience the variety of traditions, beliefs and ways of life. That is really cool!

Cycling in Siem Reap
A Cycling Tour in Siem Reap

3. See Rare Animals in Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center

Located about 30 km (19 mi) from Phnom Penh, the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center is home to about 102 wildlife species. Covered by deciduous forests, it has a total area of 2,285 hectares. Different from general zoos, the animals here are mostly rescued from illegal wildlife trade and hunting, including endangered birds, mammals, and reptiles. With professional care, once they are healed, the wildlife will be released into vast natural forests. You don’t have to worry about the future of these wild animals. Here you can see gibbons, sun bears, elephants, tigers, deer, enormous pythons, and lions, which is one of the must-do things in Cambodia.

Bear Care in Phnom Tamao Cambodia
Bear Care in Phnom Tamao Cambodia

4. Watch a Jaw-dropping Cultural Performance in Phare Cambodian Circus

There is no doubt that watching a performance in Phare Cambodian Circus is one of the top-rated activities in Siem Reap. In fact, what it offers to you is more than an exciting acrobatic circus. You can have a chance to see brilliant performers using graceful dancing and impressive live music to tell uniquely Cambodian stories. This is perfect evening entertainment if you are visiting Siem Reap. Modern circus arts and traditional cultures are combined to create an extraordinary show on the stage. What’s more, the performers are all from the non-profit Phare Ponleu Selpak School and your entrance fee will support the young locals to pursue their dreams and learn employment skills.

Phare Cambodian Circus
Phare Cambodian Circus

5. Enjoy a Sunset on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh

As one of the mightiest rivers in Asia, the Mekong River enters Cambodia in the northeast, bordering Laos. Then it flows through the provinces of Kratie, Kompong Cham, and Kandal, and finally meets up with the Tonle Sap River in the capital city Phnom Penh. Taking a cruise to enjoy the fabulous sunset view of the Mekong River is unmissable. Apart from that, relaxing on the top deck of the cruise or boat, you can leisurely soak in the diversity and beauty of the surrounding sights, which includes the eye-catching Phnom Penh Royal Palace. Of course, the floating villages along the Tonle Sap River, offering a glimpse of locals’ lives, are also worth your exploration.

Mangrove forests on Tonle Sap Lake
Tonle Sap Lake

6. Spot Rare Birds at Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary

Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary is one of the best-known bird sanctuaries in Cambodia and the largest waterbird habitat in South-East Asia. Situated at the north-west corner of Tonle Sap Great Lake, the bird sanctuary brings you up close and personal with over 150 species of rare endangered waterbirds, such as Milky Stork, Greater Adjutant, Lesser Adjutant, Grey-headed Fish-Eagle, and Great Cormorant. For birders, Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary is a must-visit attraction thanks to its rich biodiversity. Please note that the rare birdlife is particularly abundant in the dry season from December to February and other times may disappoint you. You can also drop by the floating villages in Prek Toal, which are less crowded than the counterparts near Siem Reap.

Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary Cambodia
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary

7. Kick Back on the Beautiful Beaches of the Koh Rong Island

Situated near the coast of Sihanoukville, Koh Rong Island is the second largest island in Cambodia. Fringed by beautiful white beaches, the island just features a serene beauty. Most regions of the island remain unspoiled though it is attracting more and more visitors. It is a good place for you to go beachcombing and several fantastic beaches are alternatives. Strolling along the beaches to see phosphorescence shimmers in the aquamarine sea, you will feel relaxed while experiencing the natural charms of the island. There are also some hostels and boutique resorts on the island and a great party can be expected at night.

Koh Rong Island
Koh Rong Island

8. Explore Phnom Penh Palace

You may know Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia, but you may not know when it has become the capital city. The answer was since 1866 when the king ordered the construction of this grand royal palace near the riverfront. Designed by Cambodia’s top architects, this magnificent palace complex is a fine example of Cambodian architecture, with graceful Khmer roofs and ornate gilding. On the walls of the cloisters around the palace are the frescoes of Indian myths created by 40 artists. The grand architecture now still serves as the residence of the King so that not all the parts are open to visitors. However, you can still have a glimpse of the past royal life through open parts like the Throne Hall and Chan Chaya Pavilion.

Royal Palace Phnom Penh
Royal Palace in Phnom Penh

9. Sample Insect Snacks

One of the best things to do in Cambodia is to taste its special delicious food. It may sound weird, but eating some of the insects is really favored by local Cambodians. If you are adventurous enough, then just try some insects. The expansive creepy-crawly menu in Cambodia includes crickets, grubs, maggots, locusts, grasshoppers, spiders, cockroaches, ant eggs, and bee nymphs. No matter in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, you can easily sample these snacks on roadside stalls. They are generally deep fried and then served with a touch of salt, chili and garlic for flavor. Packed full of protein, these insects taste delicious. You cannot miss this fun local eating experience.

Cmabodia Food - Spiders
Fried Spiders

10. Swim with Elephants in the Elephant Valley Project

Sounds crazy, right? But it is real to achieve your dream of swimming with elephants in the Elephant Valley Project, possibly the best elephant sanctuary in Cambodia. Covered over 1,500 hectares of forests, the Elephant Valley Project is situated in Mondulkiri province and it is currently home to 11 elephants that were abandoned, injured, overworked, or orphaned in past years. The organization cares for elephants and helps them back to their natural habitats. Visitors can enjoy hiking or swimming with these elephants closely, but riding them is not allowed. These adorable and gentle beings will be the highlights of your unforgettable Cambodian trip.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai

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