Travel in Cambodia: An introduction

Finally becoming the complete package, Cambodia is so much more than 'just' a temple. A traveller’s dream; there's wildlife, adventure, culture on tap and a coastline just brimming with potential

The fate of Cambodia shocked the world when the radical communist Khmer Rouge, under their leader Pol Pot, seized power in 1975 after years of guerrilla warfare. The Khmer Rouge immediately abolished money and private property, and ordered city dwellers into the countryside to cultivate the fields. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians perished during the next three years - many died from exhaustion or starvation, others were systematically tortured and executed for being ‘enemies of the state’.

Cambodia owes much its speedy recovery to the wonderful temple complex at Angkor, built between the ninth and 13th centuries by Khmer kings. A day (or three!) spent at these mesmerising temples is a day you will never forget. However, many people travel to Cambodia solely to visit the temples missing out on many other wonderful experiences…travelling in Cambodia is not a one-trick pony. Alongside miles of stunning, un-spoilt stretches of coast Cambodia also boasts a wealth of fantastic outdoor pursuit opportunities as well as one of the most rich and diverse cultural heritages to be found on the planet.

Considering the turmoil that Cambodians have experienced in recent years, it is truly amazing and somewhat humbling to meet such incredibly friendly and positive a Khmer people.

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Where to travel in Cambodia?

Your point of arrival for any Cambodia holiday is likely to be either Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, in both instances you will be well advised to spend few nights in either city. Siem Reap is gateway to the Angkor Temples and a great base for exploring the world class temple site; Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, is a lively city with enough to keep most travellers and tourists well occupied for at least a day or two.

Travelling between the two cities brings up a few possibilities - you can travel by boat across the Tonlé Sap Lake or to the west via Battambang, a picturesque Colonial town situated towards the Thai border and a former Khmer Rouge stronghold. To the east of the lake are a several other possibilities and this is undoubtedly the more popular route due to shorter drive. Those with enough time, a few extra nights, should not rule out Battambang however - it's a real highlight.

Away from this central region of Cambodia there are a host of fascinating travel opportunities - in the far north east of the country there is Ratanakiri and Banlung. It's a long and arduous journey to reach the region and we always advise stopping for a night in either direction at Kratie or Kampong Thom. Ratanakiri is also just a few hours travel from the border with Laos at Don Kralor which opens up a multitude of additional travel opportunities.

In the south of Cambodia, most visitors make a beeline for Sihanoukville with its white beaches and fresh seafood. Further east are Kampot, Kep and Bokor National Park - all very much worth a visit however they tend to only fit into longer itineraries or when crossing into Vietnam at Ha Tien.