Cambodia is a Southeast Asian nation whose landscape spans low-lying plains, the Mekong Delta, mountains and Gulf of Thailand coastline. It’s busy capital, Phnom Penh, is home to the art deco Central Market, glittering Royal Palace and the National Museum’s historical and archaeological exhibits. In the country’s northwest lie ruins of Angkor Wat, a massive stone temple complex built during the Khmer Empire.
Ascend to the realm of the gods, Angkor Wat. Descend into hell at Tuol Sleng Prison. With a history both inspiring and depressing, Cambodia delivers an intoxicating present.
Contemporary Cambodia is the successor state to the mighty Khmer empire, which, during the Angkorian period, ruled much of what is now Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. The remains of this empire can be seen at the fabled temples of Angkor, monuments unrivalled in scale and grandeur in Southeast Asia. The traveler’s first glimpse of Angkor Wat, the ultimate expression of Khmer genius, is sublime and is matched by only a few select spots on earth, such as Machu Picchu or Petra.
Despite having the eighth wonder of the world in its backyard, Cambodia’s real treasure is its people. The Khmers have been to hell and back, struggling through years of bloodshed, poverty, and political instability. Thanks to an unbreakable spirit and infectious optimism, they have prevailed with their smiles intact. No visitor comes away without a measure of admiration and affection for the inhabitants of this enigmatic kingdom.
Just as Angkor is more than its wat, so too is Cambodia more than its temples, and its urban areas can surprise with their sophistication. Chaotic yet charismatic capital Phnom Penh is a revitalized city earning plaudits for its gorgeous riverside location, cultural renaissance, and world-class wining-and-dining scene. Second city Siem Reap, with cosmopolitan cafes and a diverse nightlife, is as much a destination as the nearby iconic Angkor temples. And up-and-coming Battambang, reminiscent of Siem Reap before the advent of mass tourism, charms with graceful French architecture and a thriving contemporary art scene.
Siem Reap and Phnom Penh may be the heavyweights, but to some extent, they are a bubble, a world away from the Cambodia of the countryside. This is the place to experience the rhythm of rural life and timeless landscapes of dazzling rice paddies and swaying sugar palms. The South Coast is fringed by tropical islands, with just a handful of beach huts in sight. Inland from the coast lay the Cardamom Mountains, part of a vast tropical wilderness providing a home to elusive wildlife and a gateway to emerging ecotourism adventures. The mighty Mekong River cuts through the country and is home to some of the region’s last remaining freshwater dolphins. The northeast is the world unto itself, its wild and mountainous landscapes a home for Cambodia’s ethnic minorities and an abundance of natural attractions.
Visas (Dull but essential passport)
A one-month tourist visa costs US$30 on arrival and requires one passport-sized photo. Easily extendable business visas are available for US$35. Passport holders from Asean member countries do not require a visa to visit Cambodia. A tourist visa can be extended only once and only for one month, and does not allow for re-entry. Not only is a passport essential, it needs to be valid for at least six months or Cambodian immigration will not issue a visa. It’s also important to make sure that there is plenty of space left in the passport, as a Cambodian visa alone takes up one page.
Best time to go (Hit the ground at the right time)
Low Season (May–Sep)
The rainy season means emerald-green landscapes and awesome cloud formations. Big accommodation discounts and protective cloud cover make this a great time to visit the temples. South Coast can be busy as Western visitors escape for summer holidays while school is out.
Shoulder (Apr & Oct)
In April and May the mercury hits 40°C and visitors melt. October and November are an excellent time for exploration as rains taper off while the dusty dry season has yet to begin.
High Season (Nov–Feb)
Cooler and windy, with almost Mediterranean temperatures. Book accommodation in advance during the peak Christmas and New Year period.
Money and costs (Budgets, currency rates and on-the-ground costs)
For Cambodia Journeys Holidays please contact us on email or call us.
Capital: Phnom Penh
Dialing code: +855
Currency: Cambodian riel