Must see attractions in Cambodia

  • Top ChoiceSights in Angkor Thom

    Bayon

    At the heart of Angkor Thom is the 12th-century Bayon, the mesmerising, if slightly mind-bending, state temple of Jayavarman VII. It epitomises the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia’s most celebrated king. Its 54 Gothic towers are decorated with 216 gargantuan smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara, and it is adorned with 1.2km of extraordinary bas-reliefs incorporating more than 11,000 figures. The upper level of Bayon was closed for restoration when we visited and is not scheduled to reopen until 2022.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Banteay Srei District

    Banteay Srei

    Considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art, Banteay Srei is cut from stone of a pinkish hue and includes some of the finest stone carving anywhere on earth. Begun in 967 CE, it is one of the smallest sites at Angkor, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in stature. The art gallery of Angkor, this Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva is wonderfully well preserved, and many of its carvings are three-dimensional.

  • Sights in Temples of Angkor

    Koh Ker

    Abandoned to the forests of the north, Koh Ker, capital of the Angkorian empire from 928 to 944 CE, is within day-trip distance of Siem Reap. Most visitors start at Prasat Krahom where impressive stone carvings grace lintels, doorposts and slender window columns. The principal monument is Mayan-looking Prasat Thom, a 55m-wide, 40m-high sandstone-faced pyramid whose seven tiers offer spectacular views across the forest. Koh Ker is 127km northeast of Siem Reap.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Temples of Angkor

    Beng Mealea

    A spectacular sight to behold, Beng Mealea, located about 68km northeast of Siem Reap, is one of the most mysterious temples at Angkor, as nature has well and truly run riot. Exploring this Titanic of temples, built to the same floor plan as Angkor Wat, is the ultimate Indiana Jones experience. Built in the 12th century under Suryavarman II, Beng Mealea is enclosed by a massive moat measuring 1.2km by 900m.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Northwestern Cambodia

    Banteay Chhmar

    Beautiful, peaceful and covered in astonishingly intricate bas-reliefs, Banteay Chhmar is one of the most impressive temple complexes beyond the Angkor area. About a two-hour drive from Siem Reap, these remote ruins are also the site of a superb community-based homestay and tourism program. If you're looking for an opportunity to delve into Cambodian rural life and spend some quality time amid a temple complex far from the crowds, you could hardly find a more perfect spot.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Temples of Angkor

    Angkor Wat

    The traveller's first glimpse of Angkor Wat, the ultimate expression of Khmer genius, is matched by only a few select spots on earth. Built by Suryavarman II (r 1112–52) and surrounded by a vast moat, Angkor Wat is one of the most inspired monuments ever conceived by the human mind. Stretching around the central temple complex is an 800m-long series of bas-reliefs, and rising 55m above the ground is the central tower, which gives the whole ensemble its sublime unity.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Temples of Angkor

    Ta Prohm

    The so-called 'Tomb Raider Temple', Ta Prohm is cloaked in dappled shadow, its crumbling towers and walls locked in the slow muscular embrace of vast root systems. Undoubtedly the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor, Ta Prohm should be high on the hit list of every visitor. Its appeal lies in the fact that, unlike the other monuments of Angkor, it has been swallowed by the jungle, and looks very much the way most of the monuments of Angkor appeared when European explorers first stumbled upon them.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Preah Vihear Province

    Prasat Preah Vihear

    The most dramatically situated of all Angkorian monuments, Prasat Preah Vihear sprawls along a clifftop near the Thai border, with breathtaking views of lowland Cambodia 550m below. An important place of pilgrimage for millennia, the temple was built by a succession of seven Khmer monarchs, beginning with Yasovarman I (r 889–910) and ending with Suryavarman II (r 1112–52). Like other temple-mountains from this period, it was designed to represent Mt Meru and dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva.

  • Sights in Temples of Angkor

    Preah Khan

    The temple of Preah Khan is one of the largest complexes at Angkor, a maze of vaulted corridors, fine carvings and lichen-clad stonework. It is a good counterpoint to Ta Prohm and generally sees slightly fewer visitors. Like Ta Prohm it is a place of towered enclosures and shoulder-hugging corridors. Unlike Ta Prohm, however, the temple of Preah Khan is in a reasonable state of preservation thanks to the ongoing restoration efforts of the WMF.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Sen Monorom

    Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary

    The 3000-sq-km Keo Seima (formerly called Seima Protected Forest) hosts the country’s greatest treasure trove of mammalian wildlife. Besides unprecedented numbers of black-shanked doucs and southern yellow-cheeked crested gibbons, an estimated 115 wild elephants – accounting for around a quarter of Cambodia's total population – roam the park, along with bears and cats. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) helps to manage the forest, and there are a range of ecotourism initiatives under way, including primate spotting in Andong Kroloeng.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Churning of the Ocean of Milk

    The southern section of the east gallery is decorated by the most famous of the bas-relief scenes at Angkor Wat, the Churning of the Ocean of Milk. This brilliantly executed carving depicts 88 asuras on the left, and 92 devas, with crested helmets, churning up the sea to extract from it the elixir of immortality.

  • Sights in Angkor Thom

    Angkor Thom South Gate

    The south gate of Angkor Thom is most popular with visitors, as it has been fully restored and many of the heads (mostly copies) remain in place. The gate is on the main road into Angkor Thom from Angkor Wat, and it gets very busy at peak times.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Phnom Penh

    Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

    In 1975 Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot’s security forces and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21); it soon became the largest centre of detention and torture in the country. S-21 has been turned into the Tuol Sleng museum, which serves as a testament to the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Siem Reap Region

    Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary

    Prek Toal is one of three biospheres on the Tonlé Sap lake, and this stunning bird sanctuary makes it the most worthwhile and straightforward of the three to visit. It’s an ornithologist’s fantasy, with a significant number of rare breeds gathered in one small area, including the huge lesser and greater adjutant storks, the milky stork and the spot-billed pelican. Even the uninitiated will be impressed, as these birds have a huge wingspan and build enormous nests.

  • Sights in Temples of Angkor

    Kbal Spean

    A spectacularly carved riverbed, Kbal Spean is set deep in the jungle to the northeast of Angkor. More commonly referred to in English as the ‘River of a Thousand Lingas’, the name actually means ‘bridgehead’, a reference to the natural rock bridge here. Lingas (phallic symbols) have been elaborately carved into the riverbed, and images of Hindu deities are dotted about the area. It was ‘discovered’ in 1969, when ethnologist Jean Boulbet was shown the area by a hermit.

  • Sights in Kompong Thom Province

    Sambor Prei Kuk

    Cambodia’s most impressive group of pre-Angkorian monuments, Sambor Prei Kuk encompasses more than 100 mainly brick temples scattered through the forest, among them some of the oldest structures in the country. The attraction was recently named Cambodia's third Unesco World Heritage site. A 40-minute drive from Kompong Thom, the area has a serene and soothing atmosphere, with the sandy trails between temples looping through the shady forest. A community-based tourism initiative employs local guides, organises activities and sets up homestays.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Preah Vihear Province

    Preah Khan of Kompong Svay

    For tantalising lost-world ambience, this remote temple complex about 90km south of Preah Vihear City can't be beaten. It's wrapped by vines and trees, and thanks to its back-of-beyond location, the site is astonishingly peaceful. You'll very likely be the only visitor, although you’ll need private transport to get here. Preah Khan of Kompong Svay is the largest temple enclosure constructed during the Angkorian period, quite a feat when you consider the competition.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Phnom Penh & Around

    Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre

    This wonderful wildlife sanctuary for rescued animals is home to gibbons, sun bears, elephants, tigers, lions, deer, enormous pythons and a massive bird enclosure. They were all taken from poachers or abusive owners and receive care and shelter here as part of a sustainable breeding program. Wherever possible, animals are released back into the wild once they have recovered.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Phnom Penh

    National Museum of Cambodia

    The National Museum of Cambodia is home to the world’s finest collection of Khmer sculpture: a millennium’s worth and more of masterful Khmer design. It's housed in a graceful terracotta structure of traditional design (built from 1917 to 1920) with an inviting courtyard garden, just north of the Royal Palace.

  • Sights in Kep

    Koh Tonsay

    If you like the rustic beachcomber lifestyle, Koh Tonsay's 250m-long main beach is for you. This is a place to while away hours or days doing little but lazing on the beach, napping, reading, sipping cocktails, eating seafood and stargazing before retiring to your threadbare bungalow and drifting off to the sound of the waves. Scheduled boats to Rabbit Island (US$8 return, 20 minutes) leave from Rabbit Island Pier at 9am and 1pm and return at 3pm or 4pm.