Angkor Wat is the world's largest religious monument, and certainly deserves all the attention it gets! But a holiday in Cambodia offers far more, with evocative landscapes, hidden luxury, excellent light adventure, and island beaches that are blissfully free from crowds.
The rural landscapes are diverse, ranging from floating villages and jungle-flanked rivers to an almost Amazonian vibe. A gentle spirituality is intrinsic to Cambodian daily life, and the towns and cities buzz as modern Asia inspires a creative people who are eager to thrive.
Ancient city ruins in the jungle
The abandoned city of Angkor covers hundreds of square miles around the famous temple of Angkor Wat, and archaeologists uncover more of it each year. Although the iconic central site is very popular, it’s also incredibly impressive, and a must-see on your first trip to Cambodia. If you can spare the time, we can also take you to other grandiose jungle-clad ruins in more remote areas, without the crowds that flock to Angkor.
Cambodia’s offshore islands are a joy, with soft sandy beaches and thoughtful resorts that are all about low-impact luxury and barefoot R&R. The islands of Koh Rong and Samloem are delightful places to relax alongside Cambodians who’ve sought some leisure time by the sea. There are several private island resorts that are well worth looking at — speak to one of our Cambodia Specialists for our latest recommendations.
For inland R&R, head to the Koh Kong and Tatai river region. Sheltered by the Cardamom Mountains, this valley of forests, rivers and waterfalls is ideal for a few days of river kayaking and jungle treks. If conditions are right, you can also kayak through the flooded forests of Tonle Sap, keeping an eye out for the many birds that depend on the area.
Communities & conservation
Our favourite resorts and experiences in Cambodia have been designed to support local people and habitats. The community-based accommodation ranges from homestay initiatives to astonishingly luxurious jungle camps, but all consult and involve local people in their creation and upkeep. There are inspiring experiences, too, from Phare, the circus in Siem Reap which works to address social deprivation, to elephant conservation efforts in the country’s north-east.
Things we love in Cambodia
What to do in Cambodia: discover our hand-picked experiences & highlights
Welcome to the Tatai River region, with its welcoming communities, engaging scenery and diverse wilderness activities that range from waterfall swimming to trekking in nearby nature reserves. There’s also the small matter of some very exciting lodges, with exclusive floating safari tents and beautiful rustic lodges.
There's glamping and then there's the Shinta Mani Wild. Two recent visits by members of the SA team have made similar impressions: eyes wide, jaw on the floor. A zip-wire arrival (yep, that's a thing), leads you to what must surely be the first true 6* camping experience. Another masterful contribution to the Bill Benlsey Collection, again with clear focus on combining luxury travel with sustainability and conservation.
Putting the herds welfare absolutely front and centre, your participation is a distant second by which we mean that you walk well behind the elephants, not interfering with the herd and allowing them to be... well wild elephants. The Elephant Valley Project is a shining beacon in elephant conservation and reminds us that tourists and wildlife can co-exist in a responsible and non-exploitative manner.
Whilst we've certainly enjoyed the arrival of many of Asia's finest hotel brands in Cambodia, nothing quite beats going back to basics, especially when that entails setting up camp next to rarely visited Angkor-era temple buried deep in the jungle. Often experienced in complete solitude, you’ll sleep just metres away from an ancient temple, exploring the ruins by torchlight.
Discover your Cambodia
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Perfect straight ‘off the peg’ or as a source of inspiration allowing us to start with blank canvas. You decide.
The Selective difference
With us, you are taken care of from enquiry until your reluctant homecoming. Your holiday is designed by a specialist who knows your destination first-hand. Throughout your travels, you'll have expert personal guides where requested & our full logistical support. And, it goes without saying, we'll be waiting to hear all about it once you're home.
Our Brighton-based Destination Specialists spend each day working closely with colleagues and partners across Asia. This ensures we stay several steps ahead when designing inspiring holidays, staying up to date and overcoming obstacles, which means your holiday will be crafted using both local and international expertise.
The welfare of our destinations and their communities is incredibly important to us. We are focused on ensuring that your money makes a positive impact, as often as possible, by supporting communities and wildlife conservation through dedicated initiatives and by very carefully choosing our partners in Asia.
We may be partial to the occasional bad pun, but we don’t joke around when it comes to designing first class travel experiences. Over 90% of our clients rate us 5/5 after their holiday, and we're not ashamed to crack a proud grin on behalf of our award-winning teams in the UK and Asia.
We know your time is precious, before and during your trip. We want you to have a smooth and relaxing experience so that your main concern on holiday will be whether to order noodles or rice. There will be no hidden extras, and your holiday will be orchestrated seamlessly by your Destination Specialist plus our local guides and behind-the-scenes crews in your destination.
Explore Cambodia's highlights
Cambodia's new jewel
Just a short speedboat ride from the mainland, the island scene once so dominated by the magnificent Song Saa, has seen plenty of change. The Royal Sands is certainly among the team's favourites, with the Alila Villas Koh Russey not far behind.
If the budget doesn't quite stretch this far, there are a number of mid-range lodges to consider - after all turquoise waters and an idyllic island vibe should be accessible to everyone.
Top of everyone's wish-list for Cambodia is of course Angkor Wat. The entire temple complex covers a vast area and was the capital city of the old Khmer empire from the 9th century to around the 15th. Luckily for us, more of Angkor's ancient districts are being discovered under nearby jungle every year, as archaeology techniques grow more sophisticated. For the more intrepid we love to mix things up with camping experiences and rides to little visited temples.
Lazy living in Kep
Kep–sur-Mer was once a welcome waterside retreat for the French in the early 20th century, before becoming a popular weekend getaway for the Khmer elite in the 1950s. Kep suffered more than most of Cambodia during the 1970s, witnessing some of the most ferocious fighting between Khmer Rouge and government forces. Today, a (sea-)foodie's delight and home to some wonderfully characterful private homes and resorts.
Responsible Travel in Cambodia
Levels of poverty have, in recent times, thankfully decreased in this once war-torn nation, driven in part by significant foreign investment. However, through the gaps that are left in this approach to social-economic advancement have fallen tens of thousands of street children that live in extreme poverty.
The prevalence of children that are sleeping on the street is startlingly high. Sadly, this situation has led to the growth of ‘voluntourism’ experiences that instead of helping these children, does in fact further perpetuate their situation. We do not condone any visits to orphanages or schools, and advise you to be aware of them when visiting Cambodia.
Thankfully, tourism can - and is - playing a positive role. Hotels, restaurants and operators across Cambodia contribute in a variety of ways, driving awareness and supporting meaningful projects that are helping ensure children and the most needy lead safer lives. At the most impressive ends of the spectrum are projects such as the Shinta Mani Hotel Group, who provide education, vocational training, seed funding and job opportunities through their foundation.
Away from the streets, their are numerous lodges shining a light on the many conservation challenges. We always favour including these, and the most responsible focused hotels, in your holiday ensuring that a good percentage of your spend reaches the people, the wildlife and the environments that need it most.
Despite enduring decades of tragedy & poverty, the Khmer people possess a seemingly unbreakable spirit, & humble us with their infectious smiles.
From floating safari tents to eco-friendly enterprise, Cambodia's years of poverty have brought forth all manner of ingenious ideas.
The largest pre-industrial city in the world, now ruined & hidden in the jungle - with more being discovered every year. Best seen by microlight!
A major export, served fried, steamed or as noodles in most meals, and mixed with fruit & coconut for desserts and sweet treats.
Don’t be surprised to find some exotic snacks on the menu when travelling around Cambodia. Fancy tucking into a deep fried tarantula or baked bee larvae? Cambodia’s the place to give ‘em a try...
No Maccy Ds
Along with Yemen and Ghana, Cambodia is one of the few countries in the world that has never allowed this fast food behemoth to open.
A sad legacy
Millions of landmines, left by all sides during the Civil War, are still strewn across the country, and will take until 2020 to fully clear.
Garments are Cambodia's biggest source of income, and make up 80% of its exports, while tourism is its fastest growing industry.
The Tonle Sap River is the only river in the world that reverses its flow once a year.