Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s most intriguing destinations and the top Cambodia destinations are unforgettable. Still overcoming a brutally difficult past, the country is a few years behind the rest of the continent. A slow pace of life, quiet countryside and laid back capital city isn’t something to scoff at though. Many travelers, in fact, cite this country as their favorite in all of Asia. If you’ve never been to the country and don’t really know where to start, you may be asking the question:
Where to go in Cambodia with your family?
Here are some of the country’s absolute must visit locations, best seen with knowledgeable local guides. Fortunately, English, French and Spanish-speaking guides are easily arranged at most sites or by local travel agencies.
Angkor Wat and the Angkor Complex
Angkor Wat is synonymous with the Kingdom of Cambodia. One of the largest temple complexes in the world (and the largest religious monument in the world) with endless architectural styles, monuments, carvings, galleries and hallways, this massive, ancient, Hindu/Buddhist site is an experience unlike any other. Among the top of the top Cambodia destinations, Angkor is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Not to be mistaken with the entire temple grounds, Angkor Wat is a major site within the massive Angkor complex. Travel Guides are absolutely essential for visits to this massive Hindu/Buddhist complex, as information about the area is almost as extensive as the grounds itself. Tours around this complex could last weeks, with many sites equally as stunning as Angkor Wat, such as the Bayon, a 12th-13th century temple whose intricate Buddhist faces carved into the pillars of this temple make it a tourist (and historian) favorite. Another 13th century temple located within Angkor, the Ta Prohm Ruins are an extraordinary site with various trees growing inside and out of the temple ruins. Left mostly untouched by preservationists and restoration, this temple truly shows its age.
Siem Reap is One of the Top Cambodia Destinations
The town just outside of the Angkor ruins, this dusty, tourist capital somehow keeps a laid back, low-key profile, despite having millions of foreigners passing through each year. A great place to try some local Khmer Cuisine, buy some interesting souvenirs or explore via bicycle, Siem Reap is about as convenient as Cambodia gets!
Tonle Sap, Even When Dry, Is an Impressive Cambodia Destination
One of Cambodia’s most important bodies of water, this “Great Lake” is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and has played a crucial role throughout most of Cambodia’s history. Home to a plethora of wildlife (crocodiles, catfish, various birds), endless acres of rice paddies and connecting the Mekong River/seacoast to Cambodia’s inland, Tonle Sap is the life water of a nation. A visit to Tonle Sap gives visitors a chance to peek into the daily lives of the ethnic communities that inhabit the floating villages on the lake.
Capital of Phnom Penh
The capital and largest city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is a must stop along the Cambodian tourist trail. It’s one of Cambodia’s top destinations because of the variety of things to do there. Filled with sites, monuments, museums and history, the capital city is a world ahead of the rest of the country. The best way to reach Phnom Penh from Siem Reap is by car or bus, so visitors have the chance to experience some of Cambodia’s countryside.
Though a melancholy start to touring the city, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum & the Killing Fields must be experienced. Giving visitors a glimpse into the far-too recent atrocities that plagued Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge Regime, both sites help raise awareness about the genocide and encourage that it never happens again.
A more uplifting visit in the capital, the Royal Palace gives a glimpse into the country’s royal heritage. With a stunning pavilion, throne hall and the amazing Silver Pagoda (home to the Emerald Buddha), this royal destination is another top visit in the capital.
Of course, many other sites and activities should definitely be experienced. Visit during the April Khmer New Year for a spectacular treat for all the senses. Tour like a real local by shopping the central market. Visit Independence Monument, ride through the dusty streets in a TukTuk and taste all the local Khmer cuisine flavors.
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