- Angkor Temples
- Phnom Penh
- Cambodia´s south
- Beach in Sihanoukville
This route follows the southern trails of Cambodia, along a little explored coastline, with quaint traditional villages, beautiful scenery and off the beaten track located temple sites. Moving from the capital of Phnom Penh, the short drive to Kep is very scenic and allows exploring away from the crowds with two amazing temples tucked away deep in Cambodia’s countryside.
Once arrived in Kep, you will find yourself surrounded by peace and relaxation. Once the beach destination for the Cambodian elite, it nowadays is a quiet fishing town with exceptional accommodation and beautiful offshore islands and national parks. Visit Kampot, the small provincial capital and soak in the colonial atmosphere, wander through its remarkable streets and explore the mangroves and palm islands further up the river. The south of Cambodia will captivate you!
DAY 1: PHNOM PENH
Arrive in Phnom Penh and meet with your guide and driver. Be transferred to your hotel for check and enjoy some free time before a first introduction to Cambodia and visit Wat Phnom located on a man-made hill of 27m high. It is believed that Daun Penh, a wealthy widow, found four Buddha statues in a Koki tree floating in the river. She built a small pagoda in 1373 to house the statues after which in 1437 King Ponhea Yat ordered the construction of Wat Phnom, what eventually lead to the city’s namesake: Phnom Penh.
DAY 2: PHNOM PENH (B/L/-)
Today we venture into Cambodia’s recent troubled past and learn more about the Khmer Rouge period. When on 17 April 1975 Phnom Penh fell, the Khmer Rouge evacuated the city with force leaving and left the capital as a ghost city. Pol Pot turned the former High School of Chao Ponhea Yat into the S-21 (Tuol Sleng) prison camp where “enemies of the regime” were tortured and later killed. All of its prisoners were registered and photographed and nowadays these pictures deck the narrow halls of the Genocide Museum of Tuol Sleng. It is believed that over 17.000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng, all of them but seven known survivors, eventually found their death. Prisoners who did survive the torture of Tuol Sleng were brought to Choeung Ek, which is known as “The Killing Fields”. This seemingly peaceful area located 17km from Phnom Penh was for everyone entering the site the end of the line. Nowadays it is home to a memorial stupa. In the afternoon you visit The Royal Palace, which was built by the French in 1866. The main buildings on the compound are the Throne Hall and the Silver Pagoda. The Pagoda’s floor is comprised of more than 5000 silver tiles, which together weigh nearly 6 tons. The pagoda houses a magnificent 17th century Emerald Buddha statue and a 90kg gold Buddha studded with 9584 diamonds. Right next to the palace, the National Museum of Phnom Penh was designed by French historian George Groslier also following traditional Khmer architecture. The museum itself is a landmark and masterpiece in the capital. It houses some of the most valuable Khmer Art and is home to a permanent display of Post-Angkorian Buddha statues. Original statues from Angkor have a permanent home at the National Museum, while they have been replaced by replicas at Angkor itself.
DAY 3: PHNOM PENH - KEP (B/L/-)
In the morning transfer to Kep. Kep used to be the main beach retreat for the French and Khmer elite between the 1920’s and 60’s. The town quickly fell in despair after the Khmer Rouge took over power in the mid 1970’s and it was only until very recently that Kep started to attract investors and tourists again, making it a quiet and very peaceful retreat for people seeking a haven away from the crowds. On the way to Kep visit a small but beautiful Angkorian style temple named Tonle Bati. The temple grounds are well taken care of and colourful flowers around the temple give the place a real attractive sight. Continue the transfer to Kep where in the early afternoon you check into your hotel. Enjoy after lunch a boat trip to Rabbit Island, which is home to white sand beaches. Relax on the island and enjoy sunbathing, swimming or ask your boat driver to help you out with snorkelling gear (against a small surcharge). Leave the island just before sunset and enjoy on the boat a real beach-like sunset over the Gulf of Thailand. Once back on the mainland, transfer to the hotel for a free evening in this quiet little town.
DAY 4: KEP - KAMPOT -SIHANOUKVILLE (B/L/-)
In the morning depart for Kampot. This laidback provincial capital is a perfect place to absorb the real local life style and take in the beauty of the country. Kampot is famous for its colonial style buildings, the relaxing atmosphere and the beautiful riverside that provides a stunning view of the Elephant Mountains. Visit Kampot town and step into a small local boat to explore the palm fringed canals along the foot of the Elephant Mountains. Pass by local homes and take in the real rural scene. Return to shore for a local lunch at one of the riverside restaurants and continue afterwards to Bokor Hill. This plateau is located on top of the Elephant Mountain Range and provides a stunning view over the Gulf of Thailand. The French colonial rulers build their own retreat on the plateau with villa’s, a church and a casino. The Casino these days has been renovated and is back in business where the church, retreat villa’s and other structures remain untouched, standing mysteriously on the plateau overlooking the forest and sea below. Continue later in the afternoon the transfer to Sihanoukville where you arrive in the early evening and remain free.
DAY 5: SIHANOUKVILLE (B/-/-)
Enjoy a day on your own in Sihanoukville. Visit around town or relax on the beach or enjoy the facilities of the hotel.
DAY 6: SIHANOUKVILLE - SIEM REAP (B/-/-)
Remain free until after lunch. Leave the beach for the airport of Sihanoukville for a short 50 minutes flight to Siem Reap. Siem Reap is the gateway to the majestic temples of Angkor and is famed all over for its excellent hotels and restaurants. Arrive in Siem Reap and meet with your guide and driver. Be transferred to your hotel for check in and enjoy a free evening to prepare for one of the highlights of this trip; Angkor Wat.
DAY 7: SIEM REAP (B/L/-)
Put on your adventurous boots and start in the early morning with a tuktuk ride to Ta Prohm. Constructed in the Bayon style between the late 12th and early 13th century, Ta Prohm was left pretty much untouched by archaeologists. The trees that grow out of the ruins allow for a mysterious feeling filled with photogenic opportunities. Leave the temple at the backside and hike through the craftsman village to Sras Srang where a refreshing drink awaits. Continue with a beautiful walk of 30 minutes from Sras Srang to Batchum temple. Pass through a typical Khmer village with its wooden houses on stilts and observe the daily activities of its people. The tuktuk waits at this small temple that dates back to the middle of the 10th century. An early picnic lunch is served at a local home near Batchum before the tuktuk transfers you to the East Gate of Angkor Wat. King Suryavarman II constructed this magnificent temple and built it to become the largest religious monument in the world. This temple is an expression of Khmer art at its highest point of development. The temple’s bas-relief is considered to be the greatest known linear arrangement of stone carving and describes beautiful scenes of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata epics. Leave Angkor Wat through the West Gate and return to the hotel for a rest. Later in the afternoon drive south of Siem Reap towards the Tonle Sap and board a local boat at the port of Chong Kneas. This floating village is primarily inhabited by Vietnamese traders and reminds people of scenes in the Mekong Delta. Observe families of fishermen setting fish traps and laying nets, school children making their way to or from school in small rowing boats and small business owners selling their goods from one floating house to another. When the sun starts to set, head back to the port and climb Phnom Krom where on top a beautiful ancient temple allows for a relaxing sunset experience. Take in the tremendous size of the lake and study the arrow-shaped fish traps that are clearly visible from above while the sun seemingly disappears into the Great Lake.
DAY 8: SIEM REAP (B/L/-)
Start the day with a transfer to the South Gate of Angkor Thom. Take the opportunity to photograph the impressive entrance to Angkor Thom, which translates to “Great City”. Be dropped at a small temple, beautifully overgrown with trees called Palilay. From here walk through the forest to the Phimeanakas and the Baphuon, both structures built in the pyramid style in the 11th and 10th century respectively. Continue to the centerpiece of the city; the Bayon, which served as a Mahayana shrine dedicated to Buddha. Its most distinctive features are the 216 serene stone faces that seemingly face all directions. Visit the Terrace of the Elephants, which is a 300 meters long terrace. The south stairway is framed with three-head elephants gathering lotus flowers with their trunks. The central stairway is decorated by lions and garudas in bas-reliefs in a stance of support for the stairways. Likewise, the Terrace of Leper King was constructed in the 12th century. The curious name of this terrace refers to a statue of the Leper King that is on the platform of the terrace. Finally, visit the Victory Gate from where a short hike brings you to the East Gate, also known as the Gate of the Death. Lunch is served at a local restaurant in the area before visiting Banteay Kdei, which is known also as the “Citadel of Monks”.hat close to 80.000 people resided at the temple. Sunset at Pre Rup.
DAY 9: SIEM REAP (B/L/-)
One of the jewels in the Angkor area, Banteay Srei, dates back to the late 10th century. The enchanting temple is nearly everyone's favourite site. The special charm of this temple lies in its remarkable state of preservation, small size and excellence of decoration. It was built by a Brahmin of royal descent who was a spiritual teacher to Jayavarman V, which is unique as this makes Banteay Srei the only major temple built by a non-King. A special feature of the exquisite decoration was the use of hard pink sandstone. Continue north towards Kbal Spean, at the slopes of the Kulen mountains. Before visiting the “River of a Thousand Linga’s”, enjoy lunch and an extraordinary visit to the Angkor Centre for Conservation and Biodiversity. The ACCB is the first nature conservation center in Cambodia and is home to an incredible amount of rare animal species, all rescued from illegal hunting and trade. Mammals such as Gibbons and the Leopard cat, rare bird species and reptiles such as the Burmese Python and different rare turtles are cared for at the center. A guided tour through the center by an appointed qualified guide will teach you much more about Cambodia’s wildlife. A donation in your name is left at the center before you start a 1500m hike uphill through beautiful forest. The stunning carvings in the sandstone river bed and river banks are identical to the ones found at Phnom Kulen. A small waterfall and the serene environment invites for a refreshing shower. Return afterwards downhill and transfer to Siem Reap.
DAY 10: SIEM REAP (B/-/-)
Remain free until the driver and guide transfer you to the airport for your flight out of Cambodia.