Upon arrival you will be met by your guide, who will transfer you to your hotel.
Siem Reap is the base for exploring the fabled temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer empire. Over 100 temples are spread over a vast area and the site easily lives up to its status as one of the seven wonders of the forgotten world.
Siem Reap has expanded at a phenomenal rate in recent years, with another hotel seemingly opening every other month. However, the old town retains much of its original charm and there are a number of sites of interest such as museums, galleries and the local market. The town also has a wide choice of restaurants and bars, with something to suit every taste.
The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Departing after breakfast accompanied by your guide, your day will be spent travelling through a number of relatively untouched villages and learning about the day-to-day lives of the local people. This is a world away from Siem Reap, and provides you with the perfect opportunity to get ‘off the beaten track’ and gain a better understanding of Cambodian rural life, along with an insight into traditional Khmer culture; something which few visitors are lucky enough to experience.
Your first stop is the village of Krabei Real, where there is time to explore the local market and to purchase some supplies for your lunch. Continue on, this time without the benefit of air-conditioning, using a more typical method of transportation for this region. The (almost!) pollution free ox and cart is still widely used throughout Cambodia, and allows you to travel at a gentle, almost hypnotic pace along the narrow, sandy, village roads. Winding your way through the rice fields, you’ll pass houses, schools and pagodas. Many of the families in this area are skilled rattan weavers, using techniques passed down through the generations to create a wide variety of crafts and day-to-day items to sell in the markets of the nearby towns.
After around an hour, arrive at the home of a local family who have been carefully chosen by Selective Asia. Having been welcomed by your hosts, there will be plenty of time to relax and chat with the family as they prepare lunch using the produce selected at the market (with your guide acting as interpreter). If you wish to assist then you are very welcome to do so, and this is also a fantastic opportunity to further your understanding of typical Khmer cuisine. This is likely to be very different from the dishes you may have sampled in the more westerner-orientated restaurants of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh!
Having enjoyed your lunch, there is time to explore the village before returning to Siem Reap. En route, stop to visit the workshops of the Angkor Artwork - all products sold are produced using long forgotten traditional methods and the quality of craftmanship is outstanding. If time permits, make a stop at Siem Reap’s market before arriving back at your hotel. The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Away from the temples...
Phare, the Cambodian Circus is not your average circus experience: the Phare performers use theatre, music, dance and circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories. And these performers are not typical entertainers: they are all graduates of Phare Ponleu Seplak, an NGO school and professional arts training centre in Battambang that offers opportunities for disadvantaged youth. Just by purchasing tickets to their nightly show (which we can assist with), you’re helping to provide education and employment to these young Cambodian artists.
Tonlé Sap is one of the most fish abundant lakes in the world, supporting over 300 floating villages and home to thousands of waterbirds. This immense expanse of water is best explored by boat, and we think kayaks are better still - peacefully gliding through the water, they’re ideal for bird-watching, and paying polite calls on fishing villages. If you visit between August and February, you can explore the flooded forest at Kampong Phluk where, when water levels are high, only the tree tops can be seen.
An hour from Siem Reap is the sacred mountain of Phnom Kulen, understood to be the birthplace of the Khmer Empire. Aside from impressive views from the top and light trekking trails, its key attractions are the River of 1,000 Lingas, which has Angkorian carvings etched into the riverbed, and dramatic waterfalls that are a popular spot with locals at the weekends.
You will be collected just before 5am from your hotel (it IS worth it) and transferred to nearby Srah Srang – an expansive lake within the Angkor compound that was historically used by the local temples as a place for ritual washing. Here, a gourmet breakfast will be awaiting your arrival. Arranged by the renowned kitchen at the Heritage Suites, arguably the best in Siem Reap, the menu includes treats ranging from freshly baked croissants and fresh seasonal fruits, to eggs any-which-way and Cambodian fried rice, served alongside fresh juice, tea and coffee.
Having enjoyed a leisurely breakfast as the sun rises over the water, begin your exploration of the Angkor temples.
During any visit to the Angkor temples, we ensure your day(s) remain both flexible and personal. Having met with your guide, you will be able to discuss in detail what you are looking to achieve from your time at the temples. Whilst some wish to explore as many temples as they can during their stay, others like to travel at a slower, more relaxed pace.
Maximum experience, minimum crowds
Whether it’s sunrise at Angkor Wat or sunset at Pre Rup, climbing through the snake like roots that engulf Ta Prohm or swimming in the quiet waters of the West Baray Reservoir (or a combination of these), you can be sure that your visit to one of the seven wonders will not be easily forgotten. Unlike some archaeological tours, the Angkor temples never seem to lose that initial ‘wow factor’. Every site is as outstanding as the last, and it will be with a mixture of regret and excitement that you'll get back into your air-conditioned transport to visit the next site. We do still appreciate that some visitors are wary of becoming ‘templed-out’ and to combat this we can create more varied days with visits to other sites such as floating villages and flooded forests on the Tonlé Sap Lake, museums and exhibitions, cooking schools or simply time at leisure to explore Siem Reap or laze by the pool.
All our guides are highly experienced Angkor specialists, fully trained and licensed to work at the temples. Along with their exceptional knowledge of each temple and the civilisations that built them, Selective Asia’s guides know how best to avoid the bus-loads that descend on any given temple at certain times of the day, and know every trick in the book when it comes to getting the best photos and the most tranquil moments.
If you have any specific requirements or special interests, be sure to let us know and we will arrange the guide with the most suitable expertise.
You may also wish to consider visiting some of the further lying such as Beng Melea & Koh Ker, Sambor Prei Kuk or Preah Vihear. Excursions to these less-visited temples always enhance your experience however they do change things logistically and therefore visits must be arranged well in advance of your arrival.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Click for further details on the Angkor Temples
We appreciate that before witnessing the scale of the temple site for yourself it is hard to grasp what’s achievable in a day. Along with including any temples on your wish list, with the assistance of your experienced guide, you will also be able to dictate the amount of time and the hours of the day you are at the temples. This is very advantageous when you consider it can be hot work clambering amongst the incredible structures and your hotel pool is just 15 minutes away! By travelling with Selective Asia you truly have free reign of your programme whilst at the Angkor Temples.
6 temples in focus
Angkor Wat – certainly the most famous of all the Angkor temples and, some would argue the most impressive. The temple, built in the early 12th century by King Suryavarman II contains three storeys of libraries, galleries and towers surrounded by a thick retaining wall and an imposing moat. Many visitors aim to visit the temple at sunrise to capture one of the most iconic Angkor photos.
Ta Prohm - a temple left in much the same condition as when it was found - creating one of the most photogenic and atmospheric temples of the entire Angkor site. The tree roots of enormous fig trees and gigantic creepers can be seen breaking through the walls and stone carvings. Any visit is truly an adventure.
The Bayon - built in the 13th century as the state temple of King Jayavarman VII, standing at the centre of his capital - Angkor Thom. The Bayon’s most distinctive feature is the multitude of huge faces carved into large towers which rise up to form the central peak. The Bayon sits at the exact centre of Angkor Thom and roads lead to it from each of the city's cardinal points.
Beng Mealea - the size and scale of Angkor Wat but utterly swallowed by the jungle. Clambering about this titan of temples it’s easy to imagine what it must have been like for early explorers. Having travelled the 65 km’s to Beng Mealea it would be a shame not to continue a little further and visit Koh Ker. This 10th century capital, abandoned over 1000 years ago, actually consists of 96 temples spread out over a large site and many are now buried.
Due to the distance from Siem Reap both temples are far less visited than Angkor Wat and you will be able to explore the temples in more solitude.
Banteay Srei - one of the most unusual and widely recognisable temples of Angkor. Built largely of red sandstone, it is covered with elaborate and deeply carved decoration. All the buildings are miniature in scale and it is this, along with the beautiful carvings, that have made it such a popular temple.
With the crowds at the most famous Angkor temple sites often being counted in their 1000’s, many visitors are unaware that there are further lying temples where there’s more of a tranquil ambiance and less jostling for photo opportunities.
Departing early from Siem Reap and driving two hours north east, your first stop is the 10th century capital of Koh Ker. Whilst there are known to be over 200 temples within the boundaries of this ancient city, only 96 have been discovered thus far and in fact most of your morning is likely to be spent at just one; Prasat Thom, much of which is partially buried. Whilst the visitor numbers vary from one day to another they are always low, and it is not uncommon for you to have the site to yourself. At the far end of Prasat Thom there is towering pyramid, somewhat reminiscent of the Mayan or Inca architecture.
Having seen more of the surrounding temples, return in the direction of Siem Reap, stopping to explore another of the lesser visited temples - Beng Mealea, similar in size to the better known Angkor Wat (both were built by Jayavaram VII). Utterly swallowed by jungle, and with minimal restoration work, it is easy to imagine what it must have been like for early explorers discovering these temples for the first time.
Return to Siem Reap in the late afternoon.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
For a memorable experience we can arrange a 30-minute microlight flight over the temple area and the surrounding landscape. Sitting behind an experienced pilot (there’s only room for two), you won’t fly directly over the temples and pagodas as this is not permitted and considered disrespectful, but you’re still able to enjoy an incredible birds eye view, so don’t forget your camera!
Click HERE to find out more.