Known for its dense jungles, low-lying plains, mountains and diverse geographical terrain, as well as some of the most renowned historical monuments, the small country of Cambodia have much to offer. Size doesn't count, at least in terms of what it has to offer, and that is a surfeit of sights, sounds and activities that will fire up your enthusiasm as you venture on a Cambodia tour. From sunset at beaches to sunrise at Angkor Wat, the options that comprise Cambodian tourism are numerous.
While the country's primary source of income is the textile industry, Cambodia's tourism is second in bringing money to the country as people from all over the world converge for various reasons. Some popular destinations include Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Battambang. People are also fond of dwelling in Kampot and Kep.
It's hard not to think of Angkor Wat when you think of Cambodia. This historic temple with its decorated design is said to be the largest religious monument in the world. It's one of the critical elements of every Cambodia tour. It's always filled with people who have come to see this magnificent monument for themselves. Hundreds of temples and religious structures are strewed through the 400 km site. One of the most popular things to do here is to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat as the sun appears from behind the temple's spires.
Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat, is no stranger to Cambodian tourism. The city has much to show the interested visitor although there are many things to explore in the open countryside around the city. The Phnom Kulen National Park is an ideal spot to visit with waterfalls, wildlife, and holy monuments galore. Banteay Srei has several adventurous elements for nature-focused activities that should satisfy the explorer in you.
With its rapid modernisation, the capital city of Phnom Penh is nothing like Cambodia you would have come to expect. With its tall buildings and focused population going about their work, it's hard to reconcile this image of Cambodia for most people who can only think of Cambodia with its dense jungles and temples. Nevertheless, it's a beautiful city to explore, and it's a delight for foodies with numerous cuisines, restaurants and bars.
Kampot, the riverside town, is classically Cambodian with its freewheeling charm, but it has become a tourist magnet in recent times and is quite famous for the Kampot pepper. Plenty of boutiques, wine bars and coffee shops have elevated its status. The nearby Bokor Mountain is wonderful for a day trip where callers can see the heart of rural Kampot.
Kep is another coastal town famous for its crab, which perfectly accompanies the Kampot pepper. Kep used to be reserved for the rich and famous when the French colonised Cambodia. But now, it's a quiet and peaceful destination for those seeking a break from the crowds.
This temple city is the number one tourist place in Cambodia. Accessed from the town of Siem Reap, the temples of the Angkorian period are so ambitious in scale and the majesty of their construction that Angkor Wat is rated as one of the world’s must-see ancient sites. Built between 802 and 1432, this was the largest city in the world during the medieval age and the vast powerhouse of the Khmer kings who endeavoured to outbid their predecessors in the beauty of their construction.
As the city's wooden dwellings were encroached on and then decayed by the surrounding jungle, what remains today are just those mighty temples.
The temple of Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious building, is only one sliver of the site in total. The sprawling circuit of temples deserves three days to study if you want to understand the content of the Angkorian period's architectural achievements.
For those short on time, though, the main highlights after Angkor Wat is the tree-root grabbed temple of Ta Prohm, and the Bayon Temple for its 216 stone-carved faces.
Cambodia's capital is the frantic heartbeat of the nation, a city of cluttered streets abuzz with motorbikes and car horns that can frazzle at first glance. Deserted entirely during the Khmer Rouge rage and left to wither and decay, Phnom Penh has bounced back to become one of Southeast Asia's most dynamic cities.
For visitors, this is Cambodia's most sophisticated destination, with a café and restaurant set unrivalled in the rest of the country. It's also home to a scattering of important historic sites that help unravel Cambodia's modern and ancient history.
The National Museum is home to a swag of Khmer sculptures that traces the nation's history from the pre-Angkorian age to the phenomenal majesty of the god Kings of Angkor.
The Royal Palace provides gorgeous examples of traditional artistry, while the Tuol Sleng Museum and the killing fields of Choeung Ek speak of the horror and brutality the people of this country suffered under Khmer Rouge rule.
Travellers usually see Siem Reap as among Cambodia's top places to visit because it is the base for Angkor Archaeological Park. Still, the town itself offers more things to do beyond the mighty temples. This is the country's major activity centre, with bundles of tours, from cycle trips around the lush countryside just outside town to Cambodian cookery tours.
Shoppers will also find a bunch to keep them occupied, as central Siem Reap is brimming with options to browse traditional crafts. Make sure to see Angkor National Museum before heading to Angkor Wat itself to dose up on the history of the site. The shows here explore the range of culture and artistry of the Khmer empire. Don't miss Phare The Cambodian Circus for evening entertainment while in town. This internationally-renowned circus troupe and social enterprise put on dazzling shows where performers combine theatre, acrobatics, and music.
The consolidated central district is a joy to ramble around, full of surviving shop-house architecture, some of which has been tenaciously restored. Kampot's charm lies in its exceedingly chilled-out atmosphere, and many travellers find themselves waylaid here longer than they expected, having succumbed to its easygoing pace. For the more dynamic, though, this is also an excellent base for discovering the surrounding views of the south. The old French summer getaway of Boker Hill Station, with its ditched church and eerie, empty shell of a once-grand hotel, is an easy day trip from town, as are the limestone caves of Phnom Chhnork and Phnom Sorsia, both with ancient temples inside.