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Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Cambodia

Cambodia's greatest glory, its UNESCO-listed Angkor Archaeological Park, attracts more than two million visitors a year for good reason. But all too often, the rest of this charming kingdom is overlooked by busy travelers. Don't be afraid to veer off the beaten track. Start in Siem Reap, of course—your base for exploring Angkor Wat—and while you're in town, be sure to hit the night market to sample a few Cambodian delicacies. If deep-fried tarantula isn't your thing, your guide can steer you toward tamer (and tastier) local fare: sweet and spicy noodle dishes or sticky coconut-rice pancakes. Try to catch a performance of the excellent Phare theater troupe, which features Khmer storytelling, dance, and acrobatics. Just south of Siem Reap, a lake boat tour on Tonle Sap offers a glimpse into rural life, gliding past floating villages and lush green rice paddies. In Phnom Penh, the lively capital, a day trip to Tluong Suong Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (aka the Killing Fields) reveals the country's tragic past under the Khmer Rouge—a heartbreaking but critical history that is woven into the stories of most Cambodians you'll meet. Hit the National Museum, home to a treasure trove of Angkor artifacts; tour the Royal Palace and the shimmering Silver Pagoda; and visit Wat Phnom. Adventurous types can then head southwest to colonial Kampot, touring the ghostly ruins of Bokor Hill Station by motorbike, and filling up on fresh seafood in the fishing village of Kep.
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Royal Palace
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137 Tours and Activities

Catch a performance of the Royal Dance Troupe at the open-air theater in the coronation hall or linger near the balcony, where the current king has been known to make an appearance. The private residence, built in 1866, houses an impressive collection of artwork, and the multi-purpose house of the white elephant, just outside the palace walls, is used for royal births, deaths and weddings. The current king may live in this well-known palace, but visitors can still tour most of its grounds.

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Ta Som Temple (Prasat Ta Som)
118 Tours and Activities
Known for its photogenic gateway (gopura) choked by the roots of a strangling fig tree, Ta Som is one of Angkor’s smaller temples. Jayavarman VII built the complex in the late 12th century, and it’s particularly scenic because it’s still overgrown. The inner sanctuary includes towers with faces like those at the more famous Bayon.
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Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (Choeung Ek Killing Fields)
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94 Tours and Activities

A trip to this historic spot just 15 kilometers south of Phnom Penh is not for the faint of heart. Known as The Killing fields, some one million Cambodians were murdered here by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. Nearly 9,000 bodies have been discovered—including former prisoners from Tuol Sleng.

A Buddhist stupa marks the memorial, and visitors can gaze through its clear walls at some 5,000 human skulls—all victims of the bloody regime. Dozens of mass graves are visible and it is not uncommon for travelers to find human bones, teeth or discarded clothing here—particularly after heavy rains—as a large number of people are still buried in shallow graves.

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Kampong Phluk
74 Tours and Activities

While houses on stilts can be quite common in Cambodia (you’ll often see people relaxing in hammocks strung underneath the houses, homes on stilts in a lake…well, that’s a bit more unusual. Kompong Phluk is a set of villages that are located on the floodplain of the Tonle Sap Lake, about 10 miles (16 km) from Siem Reap. The community, which consists of about 3,000 villagers, mostly live in stilted homes and depend on fishing and tourism for their livelihood. During wet season, this area will be completely submerged (hence the houses on stilts) and Kompong Phluk truly becomes a semi-floating village; in the dry season, the same stilted houses may rise up to 18 feet (about 6 meters) above the water.

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National Museum of Cambodia
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62 Tours and Activities

The National Museum is home to one of the largest collections of Khmer art in the world. Well-kept galleries display choice artifacts that pay homage to Hinduism and Buddhism. Even daily objects, like household utensils, and items used in religious ceremonies are on display. Works in the museum, which opened in 1920, are divided into four categories: stone, metal, wood and ceramics. Be sure to check out the bronze standing adorn Buddha, as well as ceramics dating as far back as the Neolithic period.

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Phnom Penh Central Market (Phsar Thmey)
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60 Tours and Activities

This giant yellow dome first opened in 1937, and today, more than 70 years later, the Central Market is remains a destination for first-time visitors to Cambodia’s capital city. Here, travelers can wander through hundreds of stalls selling bargain goods, antique coins, clothing, clocks, fabric, shoes, food and traditional souvenirs. A popular spot, heavy rains can flood the grounds, so it’s a better bet in drier seasons.

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More Things to Do in Cambodia

Kbal Spean

Kbal Spean

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54 Tours and Activities

While the decaying structures and overgrown temples of Angkor Wat remain among the most popular destinations in Siem Reap, the rare collection of stone carvings along the Stung Kbal Spean River, often referred to as “Valley of 1000 Lingas,” continues to bring art and archaeology lovers outside the city and beyond Angkor.

The impressive carvings that line the 125-kilometer riverbed pay homage to the Hindu god Shiva. During the 11th and 12th centuries, artisans chipped away at delicate sandstone leaving intricate phallic symbols, mythological creatures and religious images along the shores. Visitors must trek two kilometers up rocky, uneven terrain to spy the hand-carved statues. Some argue the hike is more trouble than it’s worth, but most agree that travelers seeking to connect with nature and explore Cambodia’s rich and colorful history will appreciate a trip to Kbal Spean.

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Phnom Penh Independence Monument

Phnom Penh Independence Monument

54 Tours and Activities

A 60-foot (20-meter) tall Angkor-style monument built in 1958, the Independence Monument was constructed to commemorate the Cambodians winning back their independence from the French in 1953. Renowned Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann designed the monument; the architecture is patterned after a lotus flower and adorned with five levels of Naga heads, which gives it a very distinctive look. Located in the heart of busy Phnom Penh, the Independence Monument attracts many visitors, not only for its unique architecture, but also for its location: it’s in the middle of a busy intersection and the eastern side features a large, open park that is a popular spot for locals to gather and jog or practice tai chi and aerobics.

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Wat Bo

Wat Bo

28 Tours and Activities
One of Siem Reap’s oldest temples, Wat Bo is known for its collection of well-preserved wall paintings from the late 19th century. Though Wat Bo is a Buddhist temple, these paintings depict the Reamker, which is Cambodia’s interpretation of the Ramayana—an epic Hindu story about the love between Rama and Shita, the strongest man and the most beautiful women of all time. There is also an impressive collection of Buddha statues.
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Angkor National Museum

Angkor National Museum

25 Tours and Activities
Opened in 2007, this modern, interactive museum showcases Khmer civilization and the Angkor era. Eight different galleries put the period in context with artifacts gathered from sites including Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Topics covered include religion and belief, the great Khmer kings, the pre-Angkor period, and ancient costume.
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Wat Preah Prom Rath

Wat Preah Prom Rath

20 Tours and Activities

Though it’s more than 500 years old, Wat Preah Prom Rath is a modern-looking temple and monastery located in the heart of Siem Reap. The front gate is the perhaps the oldest looking piece of the site, with Bayon style carvings that are similar to the ones found in Angkor Wat. The temple grounds are large, home to a university building as well as the main hall. However, the main attraction is the reclining Buddha—which is now sinking as well as reclining—and the story that explains how the statue came to reside there.

As the legend tells it, a famous monk was traveling on the nearby river when sharks attacked him and the boat broke into two pieces. The monk escaped in the prow of the boat and soon landed ashore. The remains of the boat were carved into the reclining Buddha that is housed in the Preah Vihear building. Outside of the Preah Vihear building is a statue that illustrates the monk and his boat; it’s a popular spot for photos.

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War Museum Cambodia

War Museum Cambodia

20 Tours and Activities
Refurbished in 2018, the 5-acre (2-hectare) War Museum Cambodia is devoted to the weapons of Cambodia’s many conflicts. The collection, which you’re allowed to handle, runs from tanks and fighter planes to small arms and rocket launchers. One room focuses on the landmines that have caused such suffering in Cambodia.
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Cambodia Landmine Museum

Cambodia Landmine Museum

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When Aki Ra, founder of the Cambodia Landmine Museum and School, was a child, he was recruited as a child soldier in the army of the Khmer Rouge and spent much of his formative years fighting. After the war he returned to try and remove and defuse by hand many of the thousands of mines he planted during his time with the army. In 1997 he founded the Cambodian Landmine Museum and School to care for children wounded by landmines.

Today, the facility houses more than three dozen children from throughout Cambodia who’ve endured various forms of physical, emotional and familial hardships. They’re all given an education, including English language classes, and eventually a university or trade school scholarship. While visitors aren’t allowed into the children’s home, they are encouraged to visit the museum, where proceeds go toward supporting the children’s relief center.

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Pub Street

Pub Street

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Travelers looking for cold beers and cheap food almost always find themselves in the throes of chaotic Pub Street. Local taverns, unique vendors, musicians and traditional dancers line this paved pass, giving Siem Reap’s entertainment Mecca a true party vibe.

Pedestrian-only streets mean it’s easy to wander between stalls selling traditional crafts, ice-cold beers and spicy hot soups. Food here is as popular with locals as it is with travelers. Strong-stomached visitors can sample frog legs, beetles, snake and crispy grasshoppers, while the less adventurous can head indoors to dance at bumping disco techs, or simply saddle up to one of the numerous outdoor tables and sip cool drinks while absorbing all of the city’s energy.

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Silk Island (Koh Dach)

Silk Island (Koh Dach)

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Wat Ounalom

Wat Ounalom

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Angkor Village Apsara Theatre

Angkor Village Apsara Theatre

10 Tours and Activities
A large, air-conditioned wooden pavilion on the grounds of Siem Reap’s Angkor Village Resort, the Angkor Village Apsara Theatre hosts classical Khmer dance performances with a live orchestra. Shows typically include the graceful apsara (nymph) dance and scenes from the Hindu epic known as the Ramayana, with a Cambodian-themed dinner.
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Sisowath Quay

Sisowath Quay

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Wat Athvea

Wat Athvea

5 Tours and Activities

Believed to have been built during King Suryavarman II’s reign in the first half of the 12th century, Wat Athvea (Prasat Vat Althea) is one of several Hindu temples in the area shrouded in mystery. Built from laterite and sandstone, both still in relatively good condition, the temple has no inscriptions and few carvings. It seems as though the carvings it does were abandoned before they were completed.

Wat Athvea isn’t nearly as touristy as many of the other temples of the Angkor complex, even though it’s one of the better maintained temples. Visitors looking for a peaceful place to take photos without the crowds can easily do so here, particularly in the late afternoon when it’s at its quietest.

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Angkor Night Market

Angkor Night Market

3 Tours and Activities

Open since 2007, the Angkor Night Market was the first of its kind to open in Cambodia. Today, more than 240 shops line the halls of this massive warehouse, selling handmade crafts, local silk, traditional jewelry and Khmer-style wood and stone carvings. It’s the perfect place to spend an evening wandering the stalls in search of souvenirs. And it’s also one of the best spots to sample traditional Cambodian cuisine. Travelers can explore the well-curated stalls, sip steaming hot bowls of spicy soup, relax over shisha and a cold beer or unwind with a traditional massage.

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