Despite Cambodia’s poverty and history of war, the country is recovering remarkably, growing into a top tourist destination. Ancient temples, colonial history, lively cities, lovely landscapes and incredible islands make up the melting pot of what Cambodia has to offer. A trip here is certain to leave you wanting more.
The best city: Phnom Penh
Capital since French colonial days, Phnom Penh was known as ‘’the Pearl of Asia’’. The prettiness of this city has waned now, due to war and revolution, but the French influence can still be found. The Mekong River runs through the city, and the major attractions run along it, including the Royal Palace and National Museum.
Just outside the city is ‘The Killing Fields’, telling the dark history of Cambodia’s Pol Pot period. There are a multitude of markets, such as the night market of Phsar Reatrey for purchasing handicraft items and souvenirs. Taking a boat trip along the river at sunset is a romantic way to see this bustling city.
The best island: Koh Rong
The town of Sihanoukville is the springboard for getting to the islands. It has a tacky feel and unimpressive beaches, so don’t plan to stay there. Get exploring those islands! There are plenty to choose from, but Koh Rong is the most popular.
This is the star of the Sihanoukville islands, with its white sands and turquoise waters. There are plenty of opportunities for snorkelling, diving, trekking, or simply relaxing in this tropical paradise. You may hear that Koh Rong is the ‘touristy’ island, but it is still remarkably pristine and undeveloped.
The best for temples: Siem Reap
A charming town in itself, Siem Reap is famous for being the town of the temples. Angkor Wat is the major attraction here, as the biggest and most impressive temple, but there are plenty of others around to keep you exploring for days. Bayon, Banteay Srei and Ta Prohm are temples not to be missed.
The city is the fastest growing in Cambodia, and is now a tourist hub. But it still retains its laid-back feel, with budget guesthouses, markets and a large selection of local and foreign restaurants. There is a street of bars for partying, and a riverside for relaxing.
The best for history: Battambang
The city of Battambang is perfect for visitors interested in Cambodian history. It was established as a trading centre in the 18th
century, and later became part of French Indochina. Colonial buildings, Angkor-style temples and Buddhist shrines create a fascinating cultural mix.
The central market is worth a visit, and exploring the streets and public places is great fun. Keep an eye out for statues of animals and gods, the most famous of which is a statue of an ancient Khmer King on the road to Phnom Penh.
The best for countryside: Kampot
Kampot is the gateway to Bokor National Park, with its famous abandoned French hill station and lush rainforest. Go boating or rafting on the river, seeing scenic waterfalls along the way, or explore the Kompong Trach caves, with their ancient ruins.
The area is also famous for its gastronomy, with the unique flavour of the local black peppercorns being used all over the world. Do not miss out on the most popular local dish: crab curry!