Cambodia is like a phoenix rising from the ashes of its turbulent past, and is fast becoming the South-East Asian holiday destination of choice for keen explorers to visit. Cambodia holidays offer something different, with vestiges of the once fantastically wealthy Khmer kings, who in their wake left behind vast swathes of elaborate Hindu and Buddhist temples (that await exploration) and a deep-rooted history that continues to encourage positive change and growth. Of course, countless unspoilt soft-sanded shores line the country’s edge (which are perfect spots for lounging and enjoying a well-earned beach day) and the townscapes,
as you drift further inland, continue to thrive. These bustling hubs co-exist alongside the thick forest and vegetation, with rivers and pools of water ribboning their way through the once wild Cambodian land. Of course, it’s virtually impossible to go to Cambodia without visiting Angkor Wat, the ravishing beacon of the Khmer Empire and undoubtedly the country’s star attraction. Siem Reap and the country’s capital Phnom Penh are also not to be missed. Meanwhile, the watery marvels of the iconic Mekong River and Tonle Sap offer quieter and still authentic rural scenes of traditional floating villages, farmers in waist-high paddy fields and friendly saffron-robed monks walking barefoot in prayer. Add the charm of Cambodia's people, and food that is a delicious culinary blend of French and Asian influence and you can see why Cambodia holidays offer such an alluring combination.
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Firstly we had a great holiday. Thank you for organising everything at such last minute. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip from start to finish and it all worked very smoothly (thanks!). Pace was really good too - not too hurried but never felt we were killing time.
What can you find in Cambodia that you won’t find elsewhere?
Lovely landscapes, delicious food and a rich history all rolled into one. The laidback capital of Phnom Penh is one of the country’s loveliest outposts with picturesque waterfronts, French colonial architecture and a thriving culinary scene. On a more sombre note, the Killing Fields lie nearby, a monument to the genocide inflicted by the Khmer Rouge. Stepping back further in time, Angkor’s grandiose temple complex is undoubtedly the country’s greatest man-made feat. Equally superlative is the Mekong River, where you can discover unspoilt rural life – think stilted villages, pink lotus flowers and herds of water buffalo. Visit markets aplenty serving mouth-watering dishes such as hand-made rice noodles, fused with herb pastes and fragrant spicy broths garnished with beansprouts, shallots and juicy lime wedges that are sure to make your mouth water.
Who are Cambodia holidays best for?
Those looking to live out their jungle dreams can do so at Angkor, discovering spiritual shrines and Indiana Jones-style temples when you travel here. Archaeology fans will no doubt want to spend hours inspecting Angkor Wat’s 2,600ft-long bas-relief sculptures, depicting rituals, religious practices and monumental battle scenes. Historians looking to delve further can learn about Cambodia’s tragic past by visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the infamous Killing Fields at Choeung Ek. It may surprise you that such atrocities took place in Cambodia’s tranquil landscapes, but the right guide will share insightful and personal experiences of how this turbulent history still affects Cambodia today and how the country is changing and moving forward.
What are the best ways to discover Cambodia?
For most people, the temples of Angkor will be high up on your reasons for your Cambodia holiday - so it’s important to get your exploration of them right. Start at steamy Siem Reap, the gateway to the complex, and stay in a boutique riverside retreat with elegant interiors and a tranquil pool. There are many ways of exploring Angkor Wat and its beguiling temples. Visit at dawn to watch the sun sprawl over the mystical structures. While most return not long afterwards to their hotels, we recommend fighting the fatigue and enjoying a picnic breakfast before discovering the site. Luckily for you, our savvy guides have the magical ability to bring history to life, aided by specially designed itineraries to help avoid the crowds. This way, not only can you discover the more popular temples, but you can also seek out jungle trails and crumbling shrines mercifully left off the tourist track. There’s more to Cambodia than just its temples though. Don’t miss Phnom Penh, where foodies will be spoilt for choice with creative cuisine and a cool café culture, while a stint in the picturesque river town of Battambang offers up French colonial architecture, gleaming pagodas and a vibrant artsy scene – it's not one to be missed.
Best Time to Visit Cambodia
Traditionally the best time to visit Cambodia is November through to May when the country experiences its lowest rainfall but is still warm. Of course, that's not to say the other months and the rainy season can't offer travellers keen to take a trip an equally incredible time. In fact, the Cambodian climate offers lush vegetation and colourful surroundings during the rainier months, as well as fewer crowds at major landmarks like Angkor Wat and the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Plus, you can almost always guarantee that all year round it'll be a hot and humid climate, with temperatures staying in the low to mid 30s (Celsius) for most of the time.
A special thing to do in Cambodia
Cruise down the imposing Mekong River for an authentic dose of culture. From dawn until dusk the waterways unveil visual treats of quiet stilted villages, rice barges - carting colourful produce - and buffaloes cooling off in the shallows. You might even spot the Irrawaddy dolphin, playfully rippling the Mekong River waters and crashing through the waves when you travel along this water-lined oasis. For a fun experience, take a sampan (a flat-bottomed, wooden boat) to the floating markets to feast on rice rolls and exotic fruit, and mingle with the friendly locals who no doubt have stories to tell.
Where to go in Cambodia
Phnom Penh, the capital, is a burgeoning example of modern-day life in Cambodia, peppered with French colonial influences. Want culture and history? Roof top bars? Roads streamed with markets? Phnom Penh has it all and is well under way in reinventing itself. However, Phnom Penh is also a good base to gain an insight into Cambodia's turbulent upbringing, as visitors can visit the nearby Killing Fields and S-21, otherwise known as Tuol Sleng, which are the blood-stained prison cells where Pol Pots' regime tortured many. Providing visitors with an opportunity for reflection, insight and a deeper understanding of this complex country.
Siem Reap is the epicentre of tourist life as it is conveniently located near the UNESCO World Heritage site Angkor Wat. Over 1,000 temples dating from 9th to 13th centuries are scattered throughout jungle-like terrain and invite visitors to gawp at their beauty and history (believe us, you'll be in a state of open-mouthed wonderment). While this is one of the finest ancient sites anywhere in the world, that status brings with it hordes of tourists, and we have spent the past couple of years working out itineraries designed to avoid the crowds wherever and whenever possible. Evenings here bring a cacophony of noise from the buzzing streets of Siem Reap with great night markets, restaurants and bars. Just wandering around and soaking up the culture will make a fantastic addition to your Cambodia luxury holiday.
Many visitors are still yet to explore coastal Cambodia with its stunning beach selection and boutique resorts. Until now many travellers have combined the culture of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh with the beaches of either Thailand or Vietnam. However, that is no longer necessary (unless that is your preference, of course), as the coast of Cambodia has white sandy beaches, clear blue waters and a national park with some excellent hotels on its once uninhabited islands. Cambodia holidays are the real deal and well worth the trip.