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Best attractions in Cambodia: Top 15

In the south of the Indochina peninsula there is an unusually beautiful country, which has a unique historical and cultural heritage - it’s sunny Cambodia. Many centuries ago, travelers from the Middle Kingdom noted that the territory of Cambodia resembles a giant bowl, formed by 4 mountain ranges - Cardamom, Elephant, Dangrek and Kontum. And only from the southern side the territory of Cambodia opens to the surrounding world. Here the great river Mekong with a fan of streams of different sizes connects with the Fresh Sea, also known as Lake Tonle Sap. Cambodia’s attractions attract millions of tourists every year. What is it that attracts travelers? What to see in Cambodia if you come here for the first time? In this review we have selected for you the most interesting sights of this country.

What to see in Cambodia first

Before exploring the main attractions, let us note that there are its own rules and traditions, so it is much wiser to travel around the country with an escort. Guides in Cambodia offer their services at reasonable prices, and you can hire a guide for a single trip, as well as for the entire period of stay at the resort.

1. Angkor Wat Temple (5 km from Siem Reap)

The Angkor Wat Temple is a large temple complex in Cambodia

The temple complex of Angkor Wat is considered the main attraction of Cambodia and the great treasure of the country - the image of the temple is on the national flag and on the coat of arms of Cambodia. Needless to say, many consider this temple one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Discovery of the temple complex hidden in the jungle, which was built in the 9-14 centuries AD, occurred only a century and a half ago. In 1868, a traveler from France, Henri Muyot, wandering through the jungle, found the stone structures and soon realized that he had made a major historical discovery. So in the history of Cambodia appeared a great stage - the era of the Angkor civilization. Many centuries ago the Cambodian state was ruled by Jayavarman II, this ruler and is attributed to the creation of the Angkor Empire. During this era and was created Angkor Wat temple, dedicated to the god Vishnu.

The largest temple of Angkor Wat is located in the center of a vast temple complex, which includes about two hundred temples. Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat that fills during the rainy season and a wall, and you can get inside the temple through the main portal. Of great interest to visitors and researchers alike are the carvings on the walls of the temple. On the walls are carved images, reaching a length of many kilometers, and telling both about episodes of Indian mythology and about real historical events.

2. Royal Palace (Phnom Penh)

Throne room of the Royal Palace complex in Phnom Penh

For those whose route takes them through Phnom Penh, there is something to see in Cambodia, specifically in the heart of its capital city. This is the Royal Palace of Phnom Penh, which serves as the residence of the head of state. Today, the Royal Palace is the first and main attraction located in the capital. The kings of Cambodia have lived in the palace since its construction, that is, since 1866.

Today, you can visit the palace any day from morning to evening, with a break for lunch.

The Royal Palace was actually erected twice - the first time was in 1434, but when the capital of Cambodia was moved to Phnom Penh, a new palace building was laid out by order of King Norodom.

The entire palace complex is located on the banks of the Tonle Sap River and covers an area of 402 by 435 meters. It is surrounded by unusual gardens - in addition to the usual lush green lawns, there are glades in which various trees, bushes and flowers planted in tubs can be moved anywhere in various combinations to create a new landscape.

As for the interior of the palace, only a few of them are open for viewing. The Throne Room, Banquet Hall, Pavilion for the preservation of royal regalia, the Elephant Pavilion, the Reception Hall, and the Villa for Foreign Guests are accessible to visitors.

3. National Museum of Cambodia, Phnom Penh

National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh

Not far from the Royal Palace sits another important attraction in Cambodia, the National Museum of Cambodia. The museum displays the most complete collection of cultural, historical and archaeological artifacts representing the most significant periods of Cambodia from pre-Angkor times to the 15th century AD. The museum is a bright terracotta building in the classic Cambodian style, built at the beginning of the last century.

Construction of the National Museum began in 1917, and in 1920 its doors opened to the public. Four years after its opening, in 1924, two wings were added to the museum on the east façade to expand it.

As for the exposition of the museum, there is a large number of sculptures - ancient statues of deities, demons, heroes of folk legends. But the central place in this vast collection, no doubt, is given to Angkor statues - these are bronze statues of Vishnu, Shiva, Rama, Ganesha, the sculpture of Jayavarman. In total in the museum there are about 5000 statues, by which the development of Khmer culture is well traced.

In addition to countless statues, the museum displays Khmer household items such as textiles and utensils.

As for the grounds, the museum has a picturesque courtyard with a variety of vegetation and beautiful man-made ponds pleasing to the eye.

Official website:

Check out the beautiful places of Cambodia in this great video!

4. Silver Pagoda (Phnom Penh)

Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh’s wide selection of sightseeing programs leaves no doubt - visitors have plenty to see in Cambodia, especially if your journey takes you through its capital. Silver Pagoda or Emerald Buddha Pagoda - the name given to the temple of the Cambodian ruler thanks to the unique floor covering consisting of several thousand silver plates, and a large emerald Buddha statue seated in the center of the temple.

Inside the pagoda, along its walls, are valuable gifts to the kings of Cambodia, who ruled at different times, from the rulers of other states. In addition to the main statue of Buddha, cast in bakkara crystal, in the hall sits several other statues of Buddha, including - 90-kilogram statue of solid gold, decorated with more than two thousand diamonds. In all, the walls of the pagoda contain more than 1,500 different valuable artifacts, and on the walls are carved frescoes telling stories from the epic Ramayana.

Silver Pagoda was built in 1892 by order of King Norodom, and originally the building was wooden. In 1907 the statue of Buddha was cast in gold and at the monarch’s bequest the gold was melted down at the stake during his cremation. In 1956 the ashes of the Buddha’s body were brought to the pagoda, and in 1692 a total reconstruction began, when the wooden building was completely replaced by reinforced concrete.

In addition to the pagoda itself, its complex is worth visiting the tomb of the kings, the repository of texts, see the statue of King Norodom, see the imprint of the Buddha’s foot and the bell tower.

5. Wat Banan Temple (20 km from Battambang)

Wat Banan Temple in Battambang Paul Arps

Twenty kilometers south of the town of Battambang is a semi-abandoned, overgrown with lush vegetation, but thus a particularly attractive landmark in Cambodia: the Wat Banan temple. This is one of the best-preserved temples of the 11th century, in fact, he is a scaled-down copy of the temple of Agkor Wat - it also has five towers, arranged in staggered order, and the walls are decorated with frescoes and ornaments. Many of the galleries of the temple today have been severely destroyed and inside the towers grow trees, but nevertheless, this makes the temple even more impressive.

The building stands on a hilltop with a beautiful view of the river Sangkar and the surrounding area and in order to get to the temple, you have to overcome a staircase of 358 steps. The slopes of the hill are now thickly forested and may conceal mines left over from war times, so it is not advisable to walk off the beaten paths.

The vendors who sell drinks nearby will be happy to show the temple. Below the entrance to the temple, almost at the foot of the hill, there are caves that are also worth seeing. However, note that the entrance to the caves there is so small that you will have to crawl or even lie on your stomach.

6. Angkor Temple Complex (Siem Reap)

Angkor Temple Complex (Siem Reap) Steve Jurvetson

In addition to unforgettable natural landscapes and numerous historical monuments, Cambodia has some truly colossal structures that testify to the existence of special civilizations. Angkor Temple Complex - a unique landmark of Cambodia, which is a complex of temples made of stone, designed in the same architectural style, but different in form. The complex of structures has a rich historical past and was built during the Khmer civilization, in the period from 9 to 12 centuries. The main gem of the temple complex is undoubtedly the biggest temple of Angkor Wat, the area is about 2.5 square kilometers. And all the temples of Angkor occupy a huge area - about 200 square kilometers, so to get acquainted with the territory of the archaeological park for the modern travelers will need a few days.

The temples of Angkor are ceremonial structures, but each of them in its own unique. There are several types of temples:

  • Mountain temple - a structure in the form of a multistage pyramid, typical of the heyday of the Khmer civilization, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva;
  • Earth-level temple - a structure dedicated to the ancestors, whose main features include large and massive platforms and foundations, rich sculptural decoration, and elaborate stone carvings;
  • Mountain temple at ground level - this type emerged as a result of the development of Khmer engineering and embodies the previous two forms of temple;
  • Temple-monastery - a huge ceremonial structure surrounded by numerous buildings and richly decorated with sculptures and bas-reliefs.

7. Phsar Thmei Market (Phnom Penh)

Phsar Thmei - Phnom Penh Central Market Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

It is simply impossible to come to Cambodia and not visit a single local market. The markets of Cambodia are full of oriental coloring and are definitely worth visiting, because only here you can see the real life of Cambodian people, how they communicate and what they do in their spare time without any restrictions. In this case, you can also buy many souvenirs for your family and friends.

The main market of the Cambodian capital - market Psar Tmei, or the Central Market of Phnom Penh. Dark yellow building in the Art Deco style was erected in 1935-1937. The structure has a cruciform shape when viewed from above and a tall central dome. From the dome in different directions run four wings of the building, where there are numerous stores selling valuable little things - antique coins, jewelry, watches - copies of famous brands and much more.

In the main buildings of the market, located under the central dome, they sell checkered scarves - kramas, household goods, flowers, stationery, fabric for traditional Cambodian outfits - sarongs, as well as clothing “second hand” brought from the United States and Europe. At the west end of the building is a market with fresh and quality food products.

Getting to the market is easy - there is a cab stand on the northwest side of the market, and a bus stop on the southwest side.

8. Tonle Sap Lake (10 km from Siem Reap)

Lake Tonle Sap in Cambodia UnorthodoxY

The largest body of water on the Indochina Peninsula is Lake Tonle Sap, which translates from Khmer as “Great Fresh Lake. This is a very valuable and in its own unique landmark of Cambodia, and there are several reasons for that.

  • First, the lake is very rich in fish, so it has always been attractive to neighboring countries, several states fought over it for many centuries.
  • Secondly, the nature of the lake is unique - in different seasons the lake area increases and decreases 5-6 times. For example, during the rainy season the area of the lake reaches 16,000 square kilometers, and its depth is 10 meters, and during the dry season the area shrinks to 2.5 square kilometers and the depth decreases to 1 meter. The fact is that the Tonle Sap River, usually flowing out of the lake and flowing into the Mekong River, with the onset of the rainy season changes its direction to the opposite, constantly replenishing the lake. Because of this peculiarity, the lake has no permanent shore, and locals live in floating houses throughout their lives.
  • Thirdly, due to the unique natural characteristic of Tonle Sap Lake, which is able to change its area and depth, when the water goes away, fertile and muddy soils are available for growing rice and other agricultural products with great success.

When you come to Tonle Sap Lake, it is as if you are entering a special world. There are whole floating villages with a population of about 200 thousand people on the water. Here there are schools, stores, cafes, police stations and even the local administration.

9. Bokor Mountain (Elephant Mountains)

Bokor National Park in the Elephant Mountains Phil Whitehouse

Cambodia’s 23 national parks, rich in natural and historical attractions, are further proof - there’s plenty to see in Cambodia. The largest and richest park, covering a large area, is Bokor Park, located in the Elephant Mountains. Its area is about 1,400 square kilometers. Kamtiai Peak (Bokor) is the highest point of the mountain plateau, its height above the sea is 1.076 km.

Bokor National Park is considered the most picturesque place in southern Cambodia, and is on the list of the most important excursions in the country. Climbing up overgrown trails to the top of Mount Bokor is like being on a thrilling adventure. The places here are abandoned, which gives them a kind of mystical aura. There used to be a small town in the mountains of the park, but today there are a few abandoned buildings.

The first building you come across is the former Bokora Casino. After visiting its abandoned rooms, you can also climb on its roof, which offers a wonderful view of the Gulf of Siam.

Moving along the slopes, you can meet many of the local fauna - monkeys, parrots, bears, jaguars, sometimes even lions. In the morning you should be extremely careful, because during this period, many predators go hunting.

Higher up is the dilapidated Black Palace, once the residence of King Sisowat Minowong.

And on your way to the summit, you’ll encounter the park’s most beautiful attraction, the two-tiered Popokwil Falls.

10. Bayon Temple (the ancient city of Angkor Thom)

Bayon Temple in the ancient city of Angkor Thom jokertrekker

Near the Angkor Wat temple complex sits another of Cambodia’s oldest landmarks - the majestic Bayon temple, located in the heart of the ancient city of Angkor-Thom and stands out for its impressive size - its area is 9 square kilometers.

We can say that Bayon rivals the temple of Angkor Wat in the rank of the favorite architectural monuments of travelers. Both temples undoubtedly make a strong impression, but their design, external architecture and interior decoration are different.

Based on archaeological excavations, Bayon Temple dates from the late 12th century. The shape of the temple, the symbolism of its architecture, and the monumentality of its structures all lend a certain mystical mystique to the image of the temple.

On the 54 towers of Bayonne are carved more than 208 faces, embodying the omnipresence of the ruler. The wide forehead, drooping eyes, mouth with slightly raised corners, flared nostrils - this combination creates the characteristic “Angkor smile”. On each of the towers are four human faces about 2 meters high, facing in different directions. The number of towers corresponds to the number of provinces of medieval Cambodia, the central tower among them represents the ruler and his power.

The bas-reliefs decorating the walls of the temple on the inside symbolize the life of the kingdom in the Middle Ages and reflect all the spheres of life of the people of that era - the characteristics of life and entertainment, work and leisure. In general, the art of the time reached an unprecedented dawn and later became known as the “Bayonne Era”.

Cambodia sights: what else to visit while in Cambodia

It is not necessary to stop at the above tourist sites, because unforgettable excursions in Cambodia to many other places, no less unique and fantastically beautiful, await you. Take advantage of our list of the best places to visit and make the trip you’ll remember for the rest of your life!

11. Bokor Hill Station (Mount Bokor)

Bokor Hill Station on Mount Bokor Damien @ Flickr

Mount Bokor is home to another Cambodian landmark, Bokor Hill Station, once established by French colonists as a resort town. Today the buildings of the town have long been abandoned, and you can get here only by climbing an overgrown trail to a height of 1081 meters above the sea.

Construction of Bokor Hill Resort began in 1921 with the addition of houses, stores, a church and the Bokor Hill Hotel, the pride of the town. In general, if you trace the history of Bokor Hill, it seems that these places were cursed from the very beginning. After all, already in the first years of construction in this remote area about 900 people died. And the town did not exist for long - in 1940, during the First Vietnam War, the French left it. Until 1972, the city remained empty until it was taken over by the Khmer Rouge. During this time, when the bloody Pol Pot regime took over, many people were killed here, either shot or simply thrown into the abyss. The horrors that took place within the walls of the town during the Khmer Rouge years were forever imprinted on its walls. Until the early 1990s, these walls were a haven for radical builders of communist society.

Since 2012, the Bokor Highland Resort opened not far from these places, and the mysterious ghost town is now visited only by tourists as part of guided tours.

12. Preah Vihea Temple (Dangrak Mountain Range, border with Thailand)

Praahvihea Temple Complex ខន វាសនា

Even on the fringes of the state you will find something to visit in Cambodia, and the Temple of Preahvihea is proof of that. Right on the top of the Dangrak mountain range, on the very border between Cambodia and Thailand, sits an ancient Cambodian landmark, a temple complex built in the 11th and 12th centuries AD in honor of the Hindu deity Shiva. For the Khmer civilization was characterized by the widespread construction of temples, most of which have survived to this day. Preah Vihea is the center of all temple complexes - such a high status the temple was awarded because of the superior architectural skill with which the temple was executed, including its elements of skilled stone carving.

Because of its location on the border between Cambodia and Thailand, Preah Vihea has been the subject of intense territorial disputes between these countries for centuries. It was not until 2008 that the International Court of Justice determined that the temple and its surroundings are part of Cambodia’s sovereignty.

The sanctuary is accessed by a long series of 800 meters of stairs. Stone statues of lions and serpent-like mythical beings, the nagas, sit on the stairs. In the central room of the temple are statues of the main deities.

Today, the Preah Vihea temple can be visited from both the Cambodian and Thai sides. This historical and cultural site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

13. Ream National Park (18 km from Sihanoukville)

Ream National Park Stefan Fussan

A relatively short distance east of Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s most beautiful attraction is the Ream National Park, spread over 200 square kilometers. The park is unique in that its territory is bordered by several ecosystems - pristine mangrove forests, tropical jungle, sea coast, a couple of islands, and a river delta.

It is home to a wide variety of fauna - wild animals and birds, which are protected by the state. For example, the local bird population includes 200 different species of birds, among which are such rare representatives as the Javanese marabou and the milkvetch. The park is also famous for its large population of monkeys and the Tonle Sap Lake is home to a rare species of freshwater dolphin. The world of insects will amaze you with a large variety of bright, unusual butterflies.

There are several options for a walk in the park.

  • A guided hike is easy - there are hiking trails throughout the park.
  • Jeeping - driving off-road vehicles will allow you to get to the most inaccessible, fabulously beautiful places of the park, which cannot be reached on foot.
  • Perhaps the most interesting way to travel through Ream National Park is by boat on the river Prek Tuk Sap: along the banks of the river stretch evergreen mangrove forests, where trees grow right in the water, and periodically here and there are piled houses of local residents.

Official website:

14. Sihanoukville (229 km from Phnom Penh)

Sihanoukville Resort City Kiensvay

On the coast of the Gulf of Thailand, 229 kilometers from the Cambodian capital, is the resort city of Sihanoukville. Tourists who prefer active travel to exotic places, surely have something to see in Cambodia - they should definitely visit here. Even in high season in Sihanoukville is quiet, there is no usual crowds and bustle for the resorts, and the beaches are clean, beautiful and sparsely populated.

Sihanoukville - a small town and relatively young - it was founded in the middle of last century and in 1955 he lived his measured life, when the construction crew built here the first and only one in all Cambodia sea port. The city itself was named after King Sihanouk, during whose reign it was founded. And Sihanoukville is widely known for the only actively developing resort. Here are probably some of the most beautiful places on the planet. City-province framed by clean sandy beaches, small islands near the coast, so Sihanoukville itself is a landmark in Cambodia. Its beaches can compete in beauty with the famous beaches of Thailand, but here you can relax much more quietly, and cheaper.

Among the remarkable places Sihanoukville is especially worth mentioning the following:

  • Bamboo Island - one of the many beautiful islands coastal zone, which can be reached only by motorboat, so the way to the island itself is already interesting and impressive;
  • The old pier - a protruding structure on the city coast, where you can endlessly admire the sunsets and take extraordinarily beautiful photos;
  • Ream National Park - an area of pristine and very rich nature, including islets, mangroves, jungle;
  • Monkey Island is also a picturesque area with dense jungle, beaches and waterfalls. It is believed that the world’s largest monkey once lived here.

15. Banteaisrei Temple (25 km from the Angkor temple group)

The Temple of Banteasrei

For everyone who would like to see a fairy tale in person - to get into the fabulous clutches of a vast and dense forest, full of mysteries and riddles, to wander through the ancient majestic structures, there is something to visit in Cambodia. At the foot of Mount Phnom Dai, 25 kilometers from the Angkor group of temples is a truly fabulous place. Here, in the bushes of huge tropical trees, is ancient, but this has not lost its amazing beauty, the temple of Banteasrei.

The citadel of a woman, that is how the name of the temple is translated. The citadel was built of beautiful and durable pink-terracotta sandstone and amazes with skillful carvings made many centuries ago. The temple, built in the distant 10th century AD, is very well preserved. In excellent condition have survived and skillfully made bas-reliefs and sculptures, and extraordinarily beautiful carved pediments.

A road paved with stone of the same pinkish-brick color leads to the Banteaisrei temple itself. The temple is enclosed by a traditional wall with a ditch dug in front of it and filled with water. At first glance, the miniaturization of the structure surprises, due to which it stands out against the other shrines of the Angkor complex. The temple was built by the royal dignitary Yajnavaraha, not a monarch. On one of the structures of the temple it is written that Yajnavaraha was known as a philanthropist, helping the poor, the sick and the suffering. Also read about Vietnam’s Best Sights and get inspired for your next trip to Southeast Asia!