Everyone loves to socialize when they travel, and there is nothing wrong with doing so some of the time. However, sometimes the travel scene places a barrier between the traveler and the place they have come to discover. Travelers often end up spending most of their time socializing and partying with other travelers, as they trip through places everyone has seen, following the classic now well-worn routes. If you’re like me and you want to escape from the travel crowds (looking at you Thailand), then Cambodia offers a stunning and exciting alternative. Other than Angkor Wat you can still discover many things to do in Cambodia with very few other travelers around, from beaches to jungles to stunning temples.
And if that isn’t enough reason to go to Cambodia on your next trip, then I am sure these 10 enchanting places to visit in Cambodia will convince you otherwise.
Table of Contents
- 1. Angkor Wat – the stunning UNESCO world heritage site
- 2. Boutum Sakor National Park – wildlife and small villages
- 3. Koh Rong Island – quiet pristine white sand beaches
- 4. Battambang – a charming colonial-era city
- 5. Tonle Sap – the biggest Cambodian freshwater lake
- 6. Cardamom mountains – trekking, wildlife, jungles
- 7. Prasat Preah Vihear – a spectacular view at this UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 8. Boeng Yeak Lom volcanic waters
- 9. Mekong River – the most enchanting thing to do in Cambodia
- 10. Phnom Penh – a Royal Palace, and a Silver Pagoda
- About Ryan
1. Angkor Wat – the stunning UNESCO world heritage site
Yes, I know everyone goes to Angkor Wat, but you can’t miss this stunning archeological park! The 400 square km UNESCO World heritage site includes the most famous Angkor Wat temple, hydraulic structures (basins, dikes, reservoirs, canals) and even communication routes. The area served as the center of the Khmer Kingdom from the 9 the -14th Century and includes art from all those time periods.
Furthermore, people still live in the area, and many of them are descendants of the original Khmer inhabitants, this adds to the cultural experience of the park as the history connects to living people.
2. Boutum Sakor National Park – wildlife and small villages
The large Boutum Sakor national park includes large areas of wildlife-filled jungle, mangroves, and beaches. The whole area covers 1834 sq. km. Starting from Andoung Tuek you can explore the eastern side of the park as you venture up one of four streams by boat. Or take the rather bumpy and worn road along the east coast of the park to the village Thmor Sor.
Here the small village invites you to relax, and enjoy fresh seafood while you marvel at their houses built on stilts which stretch into the bay.
3. Koh Rong Island – quiet pristine white sand beaches
You will find this island not far from the well-known Cambodian city, Sihanoukville. To get to the best Cambodian beaches you will need to first go to Sihanoukville. Koh Rong Island has idyllic white beaches galore with crystal clear azure blue seas and all without the crowds.
The island is almost entirely undeveloped except for a few simple accommodations which have been built purely for the purpose of tourism. You catch a boat to the island from Sihanoukville and prepare for Insta-worthy beaches almost entirely to yourself. Win and more win! Go soon though because this islands reputation is growing and gaining in popularity every year. Arguably one of the best things to do in Cambodia.
4. Battambang – a charming colonial-era city
A colonial-era city this charming place has avoided much of the tacky development, and the chaos of other large cities in Cambodia. Popular with ex-pats a lively foodie and boutique hotel scene make visiting Battambang exciting and stimulating for your tummy as well as your mind.
The city is famous for the creative scene which was almost destroyed during the Pol Pot regime. These days the creative scene in Battambang blossoms again which makes for a fascinating destination. Furthermore, the beautiful countryside surrounding the city and the closeness of the Stung Sangke River mean from the city you can make lots of exploratory excursions.
5. Tonle Sap – the biggest Cambodian freshwater lake
Tonle Sap is not only the biggest freshwater lake in Cambodia but the lake is also the biggest freshwater lake in South East Asia. Perhaps, a reason to visit in the monsoon the lake quadruples in size when the rains hit. The many villages surrounding the lake have built floating homes to accommodate the rising and falling of the water.
As the lake floods, portions of the forests are swallowed up in the water until it recedes again. Around 90% of the people who live on the lake directly rely on the lake for resources. This makes the lake essential to the health of Cambodia as well as being a stunningly beautiful area.
6. Cardamom mountains – trekking, wildlife, jungles
In the South West of Cambodia the Cardamom mountains are indeed under threat but nevertheless, they remain one of the largest swathes of pristine forest in South East Asia. Furthermore, not many people know about the area. If you enjoy trekking then consider heading to the area to spend a few days or a week exploring the mountains and jungles on foot.
Many trails are very newly developed and if you are looking for unpopular things to do in Cambodia, now is the time to go there!
7. Prasat Preah Vihear – a spectacular view at this UNESCO World Heritage Site
While Angkor Wat takes the fame, Prasat Preah Vihear Hindu temple quietly waits its moment. Due to the turmoil in Cambodia and its location on land which was disputed with Thailand for many years, the area has been off-limits to travelers.
However, since 2015 the site has been deemed safe and removed from government travel warning lists. Located on the mountainside, with beautiful views across the rolling landscape, the temple is very well preserved. You have a very good chance of having the place to yourself.
8. Boeng Yeak Lom volcanic waters
In the Ratanakiri province, a remarkably circular lake and shimmering emerald green waters, surrounded by forest tempt you to swim while you enjoy the tranquil enchanting setting. Recently the lake has had its protected status renewed and I hope the lake will stay beautiful for many years to come without suffering any horrendous development.
Thought to have been a volcanic crater or perhaps formed in the crater left by a meteor many minority communities live in the area, and there are tales of mysterious creatures who live in the water… Make sure you look down when you swim!
9. Mekong River – the most enchanting thing to do in Cambodia
Cutting a path through the heart of Cambodia the Mekong River starts in Tibet and finally meets the sea from the shores of Vietnam. There are many ways to enjoy the river, and you may find you cross paths with her more than once as you explore Cambodia.
Visit the widest waterfall in the world, Khone Falls, close to the Laos border, or explore the rapids above Kracheh city, or seek the Irrawaddy dolphins to the north of Kraddie.
10. Phnom Penh – a Royal Palace, and a Silver Pagoda
Phnom Penh has certainly seen growth in recent years as a bustling metropolis has risen from the banks of the Mekong river. However, much of the old city remains, despite the path of destruction left by the Khmer Rouge. On the Southern riverfront, you can visit the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. Both of which are beautifully intricate buildings with tall spires, lush surroundings, and usually bright blue skies.
While you can’t entirely avoid the crowds here, you can certainly appreciate the beauty of the palace and the pagoda.
The world is your oyster. If you haven’t got some seriously itchy feet after checking out some of the most beautiful places in Cambodia, then you must have a heart of stone. Seriously. I can’t get enough of Cambodia and I’m definitely going to head back for another visit soon. See you there!
Have you been to Cambodia? Which were the most beautiful places you visited? Did you see any Irrawaddy dolphins? Let us know in the comments!
Ryan Smith is a full-time traveler and founder of MrAbroad.com, where he turns his passion into interesting information for travel lovers. MrAbroad focuses on travel destinations, helpful tips&tricks. It is built to inspire you to live a life full of adventure, joy, and experience. Follow Ryan on Twitter.