Its name may mean ‘Siam defeated’, but this city has let go of old grudges in favor of an international obsession with Angkor Wat. The UNESCO-honored temple complex is the crown jewel of Cambodia’s tourism market.
- Worth it?
- Angkor Wat is one of Southeast Asia’s jewels and easily justifies a stay in Siem Reap.
- What to do
- Exploring the ancient temples on elephant back, touring the backcountry by dirt bike, watching traditional Khmer performances, visiting the silkworm farm, launching a grenade at the firing range, relaxing on the banks of Southeast Asia’s largest reservoir.
- Best Time to Go
- December and January are cool and dry, ideal for touring the temples.
- How Long?
- Allow at least three days for Angkor Wat and another day or two for the rest.
- Angkor Wat was built in the 1100s and covers nearly 35 square miles.
Tourists can purchase passes to Angkor Wat for one, three or seven days. Don’t even think about seeing everything in a day as you’ll find yourself scrambling from temple to temple clicking off photographs and forgetting to enjoy yourself. Travel agents recommend at least three days, which gives you enough time to splurge and ride an elephant through the ruins or book a hot-air balloon ride over the complex.
Every tourist has their own limits though some could spend weeks on end exploring Angkor Wat. Once you’ve had your fill of temple-hopping, you’ll find a few other local attractions that wouldn’t warrant a visit alone but are worth checking out since you’re already here.
The most popular side attractions are monuments and museums dedicated to the tragedies brought on by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. The Killing Fields are a mass burial ground where visitors can ruminate over shallow graves. The Landmine Museum is somber and full of reminders of the unsavory legacy that undetonated landmines leave behind.
But it’s not all gloom and despair. Visitors can give their social conscience a vacation and fire off a few rockets or AK-47 rounds at the local shooting range. There’s nothing like this back home so you might as well indulge during your visit. Those with an aversion to big armaments can visit the silkworm farm or Tonlé Sap Lake.
Travel to Siem Reap - Getting there
Angkor International Airport connects to prominent cities all across Asia. The local carrier, Angkor Airways, is internationally owned so passengers can rest assured that they’re flying safely. Flights to Phnom Penh and Bangkok both take about an hour, while buses from Phnom Penh take between 5 and 6 hours.
Siem Reap Attractions
- Angkor Wat
- Vast, tantalizing and every bit as magical as you imagined, Angkor Wat is the cornerstone of Cambodia’s tourism industry. Spend as many days as you can spare here.
- Landmine Museum
- A telling collection of exhibits that bring home the plight of Cambodia’s unexploded ordinance. This museum is staffed by victims of landmines.
- Tonlé Sap Lake
- Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater reserve grows substantially during the monsoon season, which is the best time to visit the stilt-house villages at Kampong Phluck.
- Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary
- The lake hosts flocks of migratory birds that can be viewed by hikers and boaters during the dry season.
- Outer Temples
- Take a break from the crowds and visit these remote temples on the fringes of the Angkor Wat complex.
- Bayon Temple
- This 12th century temple is covered with carved stone faces and scenes from the region’s history.
- Killing Fields
- Another poignant tribute to the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge, this monument marks the spot where thousands were buried in the late 1970s.
- Shooting range
- An unlikely holiday sport, tourists have a once in a lifetime chance to fire rocket launchers, grenade launchers and AK-47s at the range near Banteay Srei.
- Angkor National Museum
- This modern facility houses more than 1,000 Buddha statues along with other valuable finds from Angkor.
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