Cambodia is a fascinating and colourful country to visit. In 18 days you’ll have time to see the best of Cambodia from the ancient temples at Angor Wat to the busy capital Phnom Penh where you’ll be dazzled by the Royal Palace and moved to tears by the tragedy of modern Khmer history. You’ll travel by riverboat to the rice farming city of Battambang, and end your trip relaxing on the palm-fringed beaches of Kep and Sihanoukville where the sunsets are truly magical.
To see the best of Cambodia you must begin with the majestic Angkor Wat. This vast and ancient temple sees millions of visitors each year. The sheer size of the Angor Wat temple complex is awe-inspiring and the history of the ancient Khmer temple is fascinating.
Of all the amazing temples in the Angkor complex, my favourites are Bayon and Ta Prohm. Bayon welcomes people from all directions with its many carved faces of the Buddha and the beautiful Ta Prohm is set in the tropical jungle. The crumbling stonework of Ta Prohm is being reclaimed by the surrounding trees and you can see huge tree roots winding their way around the temple walls.
Cambodia is a Buddhist country with resilient and friendly people. As you travel around Cambodia you’ll be confronted by the remnants of the tragic civil war that tore the country apart in the mid-1960s. The war memorials in Battambang and in Phnom Penh moved me to tears. For some travellers, visiting these memorials is obligatory in a Cambodia travel itinerary but I found that it’s difficult to avoid Cambodia’s sad and tragic past. Some of the Cambodian’s I met were personally affected by the civil war. And the aftermath is woven into the fabric of their lives and their family’s history.
Cambodia has so much to offer and is a wonderful addition to any visit to South East Asia.
The itinerary below will show you the best of Cambodia. It takes 18 days and includes much more than just Angkor Wat. I loved this trip and I think you will too.
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- See the Best of Cambodia in 18 Fascinating Days
- Getting to Cambodia
- Siem Reap
- Phnom Penh
- Sihanoukville – Otres Beach
See the Best of Cambodia in 18 Fascinating Days
Getting to Cambodia
Cambodia has two international airports in Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap.
Angkor Wat was at the top of my list of the highlights of Cambodia. So I booked return flights to Siem Reap and that’s where this Cambodia travel itinerary begins.
Buses, trains and ferries in Cambodia can be booked locally or online with 12Go Asia
4 x days (5x nights)
Day 1: When you arrive in Siem Reap, head straight to the temples in the Angkor complex on a temple tour.
On the Grand Temple Circuit Tour you’ll visit Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Eastern Mebon, To Som, Pre Rup and Sra Srong Lake. I loved riding in a tuk-tuk but you can travel in more comfort if you like on this 2-day temple tour.
Read more about visiting Angkor Wat, one of the many highlights of Cambodia.
Day 2: Visit Angkor Wat at sunrise on the smaller Temple Circuit Tour which includes South Gate Of Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, Elephant Terrace, Takeo Temple, Ta Phrom Temple, Banteay Kdei Temple and Bakheng Mountain
Day 3: Visit other temples like Bantay Srei or Beng Melea
Day 4: Spend the day in Siem Reap and choose from many things to do.
Visit the Angkor National Museum
Take a cooking class in a local village and learn how to prepare some delicious Cambodian food.
Spend some time visiting the Buddhist Temples and monasteries in Siem Reap.
Go Shopping and explore the local markets in Siem Reap. You can buy souvenirs at the market in town at the night market by the river.
Visit Artisan’s D’Angkor where Cambodian culture & traditional craft skills are taught to young Cambodians. Take a free guided tour of the workshops and enjoy the upmarket silk clothing, gifts & accessories available at the shop.
Party at the nightclubs on Pub Street
Or spend the evening at the Phare Circus in Siem Reap. The famous artists from Battambang also perform in Siem Reap.
Where to eat in Siem Reap
I enjoyed my meals at Khmer Kitchen and Le Tigre Papier on Pub Street. I loved the delicious fresh iced mango drink at Le Tigre Papier
Travel Day 5: Relax and watch life go by as you travel from Siem Reap on the riverboat to Battambang. The boat departs early in the morning & arrives in the afternoon around 7 hours later. The trip takes longer when the water in the river is low. Take plenty of drinking water and enjoy the scenic river views and get a glimpse of life by the river in rural Cambodia.
Alternatively, you can take the bus from Siem Reap to Battambang and it is a faster journey that takes around 4 hours but it’s a lot less scenic.
Accommodation in Siem Reap
Budget: A great budget option is the Onederz Hostel. With a fabulous location and a pool, it’s no wonder this hostel is so popular.
Mid-range: I stayed at The Kingfisher Angkor Hotel located away from the noisy nightclubs of Pub Street but just a short walk to restaurants, the night market and all the action on Pub Street. My room on the top floor was spacious with a huge bathroom & a balcony but the service was average. I loved the pool area but the lift was sometimes out of service & the bedrooms at the front of the hotel get a lot of traffic noise.
Luxury: For a more upmarket option try The Night Hotel It gets exceptional reviews and has a great location.
This Cambodia travel itinerary includes a visit to the rural city of Battambang. It’s a popular stopover on the overland route from Thailand. You’ll just have one day in Battambang so it’s a good idea to book a tour when you arrive. The Seng Hout Hotel arranged a tuk-tuk to collect me from the wharf when the riverboat arrived and I was able to book a local tour for the next day.
1 x day (2 x nights)
Day 6: On a tuk-tuk tour of the local villages you’ll learn about the local industries of Battambang. Discover how to make rice wine, sticky rice, banana paper, spring roll rice paper and fish paste. One of the highlights of Cambodia was the beautiful temples and the Ek Phnom Temple in Battambang did not disappoint. My day tour included a visit to Phnom Sampeau outside Battambang where I was introduced to the tragic local history at the Killing Cave. It’s a Khmer Rouge execution site and I found it quite shocking. The day ended peacefully watching millions of bats flying out of the caves to feed at sunset. I can recommend Kim Tours with tuk-tuk drivers Kim or Nani.
A lovely way to spend the evening is at the Circus. The performance includes traditional Cambodian dance and acrobatics and is fun to watch.
If you’re short of time a good alternative is to take a day trip to Battambang from Siem Reap
Travel Day 7: You’ll spend most of the day travelling by minibus to Phnom Penh. The trip takes around 6 hours so it’s good to leave early. The minibus was cramped and uncomfortable with super cold air-con so rug up for the trip.
**Consider adding an extra day in Battambang to visit the temples in town & enjoy the market if you have time.
Accommodation in Battambang
Budget / Mid-Range: I stayed at the Seng Hout Hotel. It has a great central location near the market & the river, a nice pool and good service. Reception at the Seng Hout Hotel arranged all my tours and bus tickets and a free transfer from the riverboat to the hotel. My cheap room was very old & the bathroom was mouldy so I suggest booking a better room in the newer wing.
2 x days (3 x nights)
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and lies at the junction of the Tonle Sap and the Mekong Rivers.
Day 8: One of the highlights of Cambodia is a visit to the impressive Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh. The National Museum of Cambodia next door offers more Cambodian culture and history. You can enjoy the exhibitions and relax by the lily pond in the beautiful courtyard.
Also on the riverfront near the Royal Palace is Wat Ounalom, the most important Wat in Phnom Penh and the centre for Cambodian Buddhism. I met a friendly monk here and we had an interesting conversation. He wanted to practise his English and was happy to chat and pose for a photo.
Visit the Russian Market to buy souvenirs – It takes about 20 minutes in a tuk-tuk to get there.
End the day with a sundowner and watch the sunset over the Tonle Sap River with a cocktail in your hand. I watched the sunset from the legendary Foreign Correspondents Club but unfortunately, it has closed.
Day 9: Visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum **take the audio tour to get a better understanding of the Cambodian Genocide during the Khmer Rouge Regime The museum is open from 8 AM – 5 PM
Visit the Cheung Ek Killing Fields, around 17 kilometres outside Phnom Penh.
Relax and unwind on a Sunset river cruise on the Tonle Sap
This Phnom Penh day trip includes a city tour and a Mekong River boat trip.
Travel Day 10: The next stop on this Cambodia travel itinerary is Kep on the lovely west coast of Cambodia. From Phnom Penh, you can catch a bus to Kep and it takes around 4 hours.
Accommodation in Phnom Penh
Mid-Range: I stayed at the Red Hibiscus Hotel and it was an enjoyable stay. My room was clean and spacious and the location near the Tonle Sap Riverfront was very good, just a short walk to the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda and the National Museum.
Luxury: For more upmarket accommodation try The Frangipani Royal Palace Hotel with river views, a pool & a fantastic location right next to the Royal Palace. This hotel looks amazing although I didn’t stay here.
If you fancy a colonial atmosphere, the Foreign Correspondents Club has guest rooms, a view of the river and a great location.
Alternatives: If you have a couple of extra days why not visit the elephants in the Mondulkiri Project? It’s 6 hours east of Phnom Penh in the Jungle near the Vietnamese border.
Travel to Vietnam by river ferry from Phnom Penh. It takes around 4 hours to the Vietnam border at Vinh Xuong / Chau Doc.
One of the best things to do in Cambodia is to make your way to the coast. For me visiting Kep was one of the highlights of Cambodia. The coastline was really lovely and the sunsets were stunning.
2 x days (3 x nights)
Sleepy Kep has a small shopping centre with restaurants near the beach. Otherwise, the town is very spread out.
Day 11: One of the best things to do in Cambodia is to relax under a palm tree at the beach. It’s fun to hire a bicycle and ride there. Kep has a busy fish market and eating Peper Crab at Kimly Restaurant beside the crab market is a lot of fun. The local crab is delicious but it’s also very messy to eat. Sampling the local food is a great way to experience the best of Cambodia.
There’s a National Park at Kep and there are some lovely walking trails if you like to hike.
And you can enjoy a stunning sunset with a sundowner & dinner at the Kep Sailing Club. This was another of the highlights of Cambodia because the sunsets in Kep are amazing.
Day 12: Another of the highlights of Cambodia is discovering the beautiful small islands just off the coast. Take a boat trip to Rabbit Island and spend the day exploring.
Watch the sunset from Veranda Natural Resort and enjoy a cocktail at the bar with a view.
Accommodation in Kep
Mid-Range: I can recommend the Botanica Guest House. I had a lovely bungalow with a private balcony and hammock. I enjoyed cooling off in the pool & they offer free pushbikes to help you get around.
Luxury: Alternatively, Veranda Natural Resort has more upmarket accommodation with lovely views over Kep and out to sea. I enjoyed a cocktail and the view from the bar but if you’re looking for a bit more luxury consider staying here.
Travel Day 13: The bus trip from Kep to Kampot takes only an hour and there’s a bus stop directly outside the Botanica Guest House
**If you’re short of time you can see the sights of the area from either Kep or Kampot
To Vietnam from Kep – it’s around 20km to the border crossing at Ha Tien. Kep to Phu Quoc Island (4 x hours) / Kep to Can Tho (5 x hours) / Kep to Ho Chi Minh City (11 x hours)
Kampot is a scenic riverside town and a lovely addition to a Cambodia travel itinerary.
1x day (2x nights)
Day 14: Take a Tuk-tuk tour to Phnom Chnork Cave temple, Secret Lake & the Pepper Plantation
End the day with a cocktail at the bar overlooking the river at Rikitikitavi.
Travel Day 15: From Kampot, it’s just 2 hours by bus to Sihanoukville, the next stop on this Cambodia travel itinerary.
Accommodation in Kampot
Mid-Range: I enjoyed my stay at Villa Vedici. I loved the location outside town right on the river. There was a beautiful pool & a lovely view of the river from the rooms on the upper level. I stayed an extra day here reading a book on the balcony & enjoying the view and the pool. There is an on-site restaurant but it’s a half-hour walk or a tuk-tuk ride into town.
Luxury: For more upmarket accommodation try Rikitikitavi in town. I enjoyed a cocktail at this hotel. It has a bar overlooking the river and gets great reviews for its excellent location.
Sihanoukville – Otres Beach
Our last stop is Sihanoukville, a port city on the Gulf of Thailand. Sihanoukville is named after Cambodian royalty and is also known as Kampong Som. Famous for its palmed fringed beaches and lovely sunsets, Sihanoukville makes a great addition to a Cambodia travel itinerary.
1 x day (2x nights)
Day 16: Chill out on the beach, go for a walk & take a yoga class
Day 17: For scenery and snorkelling take an Island boat trip to Ko Ta Tiev for US$15
Travel Day 18: Take a taxi to Sihanoukville airport and fly back to Siem Reap to meet your international return flight.
Otres Beach is 20km from the airport and it takes around 40 minutes in a taxi
Travel by bus to Siem Reap (11 hours) or Phnom Penh ( 5.5 hours)
Accommodation in Sihanoukville
Mid-Range: I stayed at White Moon Bungalows at Otres beach. The bungalow was new, clean & unremarkable but the location was very good near the beach & restaurants.
Luxury: For more upmarket accommodation try Naiya Resort. I didn’t stay here but it has a fantastic location right on Otres beach and gets great reviews.
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