When planning any trip, there are bound to be places that feature firmly, and immovably, on your ‘bucket list’. We’d agree that it’s downright impossible (in fact, it should probably be illegal!) to visit Cambodia without spending a few days gazing in awe at the spectacular Angkor Temples and savouring the sights and street food of the lively riverside capital, Phnom Penh. Still, we’d really love to tempt you away from those superstar spots for a few days, and give you a chance to discover the true breadth and depth of Cambodian culture.
In search of something different, head west from Phnom Penh to the lush forested hills, mangroves, plains and tranquil rivers of the Cardamom Mountains. Covered with some of Southeast Asia’s most pristine wilderness, this remote area is home to a number of endangered species (which tend to stay well hidden in the dense forest), a small scattering of settlements, and a handful of eco-conscious lodges.
Finish your trip in barefoot beach bliss by following the coast back east and striking out on the water towards the relatively undeveloped sands of one of Cambodia’s tropical islands. Angkor, Phnom Penh, the Cardamom Mountains and the southern islands: with a few bespoke ‘Selective’ touches, this route can be tailored as an ideal first trip to Cambodia, an exciting family adventure, an uber-luxurious honeymoon, and anything and everything in-between.
Arguably Cambodia’s headline act, Angkor certainly has its star performers, including the benevolently smiling faces of the Bayon Temple, the root-entwined Ta Prohm, and the phenomenal Angkor Wat itself. However, a longer three- or four-night stay around Siem Reap gives you the option of side-stepping the sunrise crowds in favor of enjoying a gourmet breakfast picnic in front of temple silhouettes, or meandering around lesser-visited temples by bicycle, glimpsing local life along the way.
Let your guide introduce you to some Selective Asia ‘must-sees’ a little further out from Siem Reap: the pyramid-like structures of Koh Ker, the romantically tumble down stones of Beng Mealea, and the magical landscapes of Phnom Kulen. This last site is a sacred pilgrimage spot, offering walking trails, swimming in hill-top waterfalls, and motorbike treks to the impressive remains of the lion and elephant temples buried deep in the jungle. Having explored your heart out, return to Siem Reap to enjoy the lively restaurant scene. Tuck into a hearty helping of classic amok curry, or make the most of your evening by eating your starter, main and dessert in three of Siem Reap’s top restaurants, being whisked from one to the other by tuk-tuk between courses!
Another must-see for many is the vibrant capital city of Phnom Penh, which inspires and humbles in equal measure. Devote a couple of days to discovering the city’s historic side at the glittering Royal Palace, the exquisite Silver Pagoda, the National Museum of Cambodia, filled with local art and sculpture, and Wat Phnom, which is said to have been the founding place of the city. If you choose to, you can explore the sobering history of the Khmer Rouge years at the Tuol Sleng Museum and the extermination camp at Choeung Ek. If you’ve got an extra day to spare, allow us to recommend one of our absolute favourite activities: riding through the countryside around Phnom Penh on two wheels, taking in the scenery of small villages, local markets, rice-fields and fruit plantations en-route to the ancient Cambodian capital of Phnom Oudong, or the traditional weaving villages on Koh Dach (Silk Island).
With miles of rolling hills, dense forests, wide plains, shady mangroves and slow-flowing rivers, the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor is an extraordinary landscape. As well as being home to several rarely-seen endangered species, such as the Indochinese tiger and clouded leopard, it was the location of one of the last bastions of the Khmer Rouge regime. Covering the Cardamom Protected forests, the mangroves of Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary, the beaches of Koh Kong and the currently inaccessible Botum Sakor National Park, this region is unlike any other part of Cambodia, and offers the perfect antidote to some of the countries busier highlights. It’s somewhere to breathe out and embrace the peace and solitude.
If you’re craving a little adventure, opportunities abound for trekking, kayaking, river trips and swimming in the impressive Tatai waterfall. Whether you’re staying in a rustic but welcoming eco-lodge or a luxurious floating tent, the accommodation options we recommend work closely with local communities, providing them with a viable alternative income in an area where illegal poaching and logging remain real issues.
Since the very first Selective Asia trip to Cambodia, we’ve been searching for that elusive combination of idyllic beach and top-notch accommodation, and now several options have come along at once! By-pass the overdeveloped port of Sihanoukville in favor of the uber-stylish resorts that have started to spring up on the beaches of Koh Rong and Koh Russey. Alternatively, check out the laid-back beach bungalow scene on Koh Rong Samloem, ideal for those looking to relive the ambiance of their backpacking years. Along with the ultimate barefoot luxury of the Royal Sands, there are more places than ever to relax and kick-back on these tropical sands.
Talk through all the options with your Destination Specialist to make sure you choose the right fit, and when the time comes you can spend your days lounging, swimming, snorkeling and mellowing out in the spa in your ideal surroundings. If you happen to be in the right place on a moonless night, you can watch the magical spectacle of bioluminescent plankton sparkling in the shallow waters just offshore...
The guide price of £2,590US$2,990 is a per person price (not including international flights) staying 4 nights in Siem Reap, 3 nights in Phnom Penh, 2 nights on the Tatai River and 3 nights at Koh Rong Island; all in our favourite mid-range hotels & resorts.
How yours looks is up to you, our tailor-made specialists work with you to create your perfect journey.
Jumping straight in at the awe-inspiring Angkor temples, this journey allows for the perfect blend of Cambodia’s iconic locations and classic highlights, all with a bit of a Selective Asia twist and plenty of time to let it all soak in.