Top attractions and activities in Cambodia
Sightseeing in Cambodia
Cambodia is home to some world-famous attractions, most notably the Angkor temple complex, which is high on the list of every traveller's itinerary for a very good reason. Angkor Wat is the logical place to start when it comes to planning a sightseeing tour during a holiday in Cambodia, with this UNESCO World Heritage Site regularly cited as being the eighth New Wonder of the World.
One thing that often surprises visitors is the sheer scale of the site - it covers some 400 sq km and encompasses a multitude of temples. The buildings date from between the 9th and 15th centuries, when the Khmer Empire was at its height - it offers a fascinating insight into this period of the country's heritage.
Another Khmer site worth seeking out is the Temple of Preah Vihear, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is remarkably well preserved thanks to its relatively remote location on the edge of a plateau on the Plain of Cambodia. The architecture is breathtaking and the temple and its sanctuaries are incredibly peaceful.
Exploring the country's cities
Cambodia's modern cities are a real delight to explore too, with a mixture of old and new present on its streets. The capital Phnom Penh is a great place to begin, with highlights here including the striking Royal Palace, the Independence Monument and Wat Phnom, one of the city's most prominent and sacred temples.
Phnom Penh is also home to several fascinating museums that can give you further insight into Cambodia's development over the years. The National Museum of Cambodia showcases relics from the nation's early history, with some of the artefacts on display dating as far back as the 4th century.
For information about Cambodia's more recent past, and more specifically the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, visit the Tuol Sleng Museum. This establishment is housed in a school that was used as a security prison during the 1970s. It is estimated that some 17,000 people were detained here, with the majority of them later being killed. Although visiting this landmark is a harrowing experience, it shines a light on this difficult period of Cambodia's history.
Siem Reap is another city well worth exploring during a holiday here - and one you will most likely spend at least one night in if you visit Angkor Wat. It was once a quiet rural town, but its proximity to the famous temples has turned it into a thriving city. The Angkor National Museum houses a staggering array of artefacts from the nation's past, including hundreds of Buddha statues, ancient costumes and items recovered from the Angkor complex.
Discovering its diverse natural attractions
As well as fascinating heritage sites and bustling cities, Cambodia is home to its fair share of natural attractions too. Three rivers - the Tonle Sap, the Mekong and the Bassac all flow through the country and converge in Phnom Penh. The Tonle Sap Lake, which is fed by the Mekong, is the largest freshwater lake in south-east Asia, covering some 10,000 sq km during the rainy season.
Approximately three million people live around the lake's shores, many in houses on stilts and some in floating villages, with these communities making a living from fishing and farming. Visiting Tonle Sap Lake is a real must during your holiday.
Travel to Kratie, meanwhile, a town on the banks of the Mekong River, and you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some of the river's most elusive inhabitants - Irrawaddy dolphins. There's a small population of these gentle mammals that lives in the waters here and seeing them is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
To really get back to nature, travel to the Rattanakiri province, a sparsely populated area that boasts mountains, forests, waterfalls, crater lakes and large plateaus where all manner of wildlife can be spotted. There are several sanctuaries within the region that protect the likes of tigers, elephants and red-headed vultures.
Rest and relaxation on a holiday in Cambodia
Round off your holiday in Cambodia with a few days spent at one of its glorious beaches. Sihanoukville is one of the country's most popular seaside spots and is where you'll find picture-perfect white sand beaches lapped by the turquoise sea.
This spot is all about rest and relaxation, with plenty of space for you to lounge in the sun and work on your tan, opportunities to go snorkelling over colourful coral reefs, and the chance to indulge in long dinners of fresh seafood within sight of the beach.
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