Visit Siem Reap, Cambodia
Visitors flock far and wide to Siem Reap in order to visit the Temples of Angkor. Once a small market town, the temple complex’s increasing popularity has seen it undergo one of the fastest periods of development in Southeast Asia. As a result, it has reinvented itself into a dynamic, busy town, encompassing a range of experiences that range from high-end dining to adventurous jungle trails that lead to hidden temples.
At Siem Reap’s doorstep is Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Tonle Sap, and Phnom Kulen National Park, sheltering the sacred Phnom Kulen. Wash down some fried crickets with rice wine on a guided local food tour. Or chase the sunset on a quad bike on the outskirts of town. Siem Reap hosts a blooming cultural scene which includes a performance from Cambodia’s leading contemporary circus, run by a non-profit association seeking to improve the lives of rural Cambodian communities.
Despite the modern developments of Siem Reap, traditional Cambodian life still resonates throughout the town. You can experience local history and culture through daily activities such as wandering through the markets, or by trekking through luxuriant jungle to unearth a hidden temple.
Discover the Temples of Angkor
Strewn across over 400 sq km (150 sq mi), hidden inside twisting jungle and standing amidst open rice paddies, Angkor is a staggering collection of temples. Angkor Wat is the most well-known, with such powerful cultural significance it’s celebrated on the national flag.
There are many ways to immerse yourself in Angkor Wat and its maze of surrounding temples. Arriving at an alternative time of day, or from an unusual angle can often present the temples in a different light. Our guides know Angkor intimately, and can recount the history of each monument, carving and statue.
Photographers flock at the early-morning golden hour, snapping photos of Angkor Wat’s impressive structure and murals depicting tales of Cambodian history. We suggest following suit and visiting Angkor Wat and the Bayon’s towers just after sunrise, before tours begin for the day.
You can explore Ta Prohm, a crumbling temple which has been engulfed by the jungle. The temple is cloaked in heavy, vast roots and at dawn you might see the mist eerily rising through sun-soaked trees.
Cycling between temples allows you to reach ones which are aren’t as frequently visited. Or, you can travel by car to even more remote temples such as Beng Mealea. This temple is drowning in strangling root formations, making Ta Prohm seem relatively manicured.
Travel north of Siem Reap and you can visit the secluded Banteay Srei (the Citadel of Women), a red-sandstone temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. A knowledgeable guide explains, while ducking through the low hanging doorways, how it’s locally believed that the intricate carvings are too fine to have been done by the hand of a man.
Siem Reap Beyond the Temples
Siem Reap is arguably Cambodia’s culinary heart, with a range of cooking and dining experiences. You can jump on the back of a Vespa for a guided after-dark food tour through local communities on the outskirts of town. You’ll get to sample freshly prepared fish amok (fish coated in coconut milk) or Khmer noodle soup. If you dare, try stir-fried beef garnished with tree ants.
Alternatively, you can learn to cook a traditional Cambodian five-course tasting menu at Kroya, a stylish restaurant near the centre of town serving authentic Khmer cuisine. Guided by a chef, you’ll wander through the morning food markets selecting your own ingredients. The day culminates in sampling your own Cambodian creations from a swinging lounger on the terrace, surrounded by gurgling water features and leafy plants.
Not far from Banteay Srei is Phnom Kulen National Park, where local people come to bathe in the allegedly holy water in the shadow of the one of Cambodia’s most sacred mountains, Phnom Kulen. Hike or cycle through the thickset jungle and you can find The River of a Thousand Lingas, decorated with intricate carvings and the giant reclining Buddha.
For something different, admire the flexible gymnasts, acrobats and talented jugglers of the Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus. The shows come alive with a fanfare of traditional instruments like khims (stringed instruments) and roneats (bamboo xylophones) mixed with modern flutes and drums.
Tonle Sap’s Floating Villages
One hour outside of Siem Reap lies Tonle Sap Lake. The lake is subjected to a heavy influx of flood water between October and January, when the Mekong floods. The surrounding villages live in harmony with these seasonal floodwaters, several even shifting position along the river according to the water levels. A few stilted bamboo houses spill out onto the freshwater lake all year round.
The floating village of Kompong Kheleang offers a community-led boat tour across the lake. You’ll find gold-painted pagodas, families crammed onto a wooden boat taking their children to school and may spot a painted stork’s orange face and pink tail-feathers. You’ll gain an understanding into how these communities have adapted their ways of life to the fluctuation of the water levels.
Best time to visit
For a dry, warm climate Siem Reap is best visited between November and April. Throughout the rest of the year the humidity increases, and there are frequent showers. November is a particularly good month to visit as its less humid, and not as crowded.
Suggested itineraries featuring Siem Reap
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Siem Reap, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Thailand and Cambodia
Vietnam and Cambodia
Cambodia and China
Map of Siem Reap
Places & hotels on the map
Places in and around Siem Reap
- Temples of Angkor Siem Reap
- Battambang 48 miles away
- Banteay Chhmar 71 miles away
- Preah Vihear 91 miles away
- Koh Kong 134 miles away
- Phnom Penh 143 miles away
- Kratie & Chhlong 158 miles away
- Sihanoukville 191 miles away
- Kampot 192 miles away
- Kep 201 miles away
- Ratanakiri 212 miles away
- Ban Lung 213 miles away
- Sen Monorom 233 miles away
- Mondulkiri 237 miles away
Photos of Siem Reap
Accommodation choices for Siem Reap
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Siem Reap. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
The traditional Cambodian houses at Sala Lodges have been beautifully restored to offer guests a unique and peaceful hideaway, just a short distance from central Siem Reap.
This charming, intimate hotel is set alongside its delightful sister property, the Hanuman Alaya Boutique Residence. The spacious rooms are tastefully decorated with Cambodian artefacts and the friendly staff are always willing to help in any way they can.
Located ten minutes from the majestic temples of Angkor, the Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor is a Siem Reap landmark. Its charming colonial style and high standard of service makes it a great option for your time here.
Situated on a quiet residential side street just a two-minute tuk tuk ride away from the middle of town, this charming boutique property offers excellent value for money.
This stylish, modern resort stands in a central location within walking distance of the Old Market, cafés and bars, offering the perfect location to explore Siem Reap and the surrounding Temples.
A chic boutique hotel in a quiet location just outside Siem Reap, Jaya Park River House offers stylish rooms and easy access to the Angkor temples while also supporting local charities and environmental concerns.
Exuding the air of an exclusive 1950s bolthole where diplomats and the cognoscenti might meet, Viroth's Hotel offers vintage styling and an air of understated glamour. The chic decor, large pool and quiet location make it an appealing base.
The Park Hyatt is a deluxe boutique hotel situated within close proximity to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. The art deco inspired design is complemented by strong Khmer influences that embrace the future while respecting the past.
An excellent and stylish hotel option for those who want something more refined whilst in town.
Set on the eastern side of the Siem Reap River and just a short walk away from local markets, the Maison Polanka comprises of two stilted villas set among lush tropical gardens.
Belmond La Residence d’Angkor exudes understated luxury and is definitely among the most stylish options in Siem Reap. A firm Audley favourite.
This elegant retreat is set among eight hectares of lush tropical gardens around fifteen minutes away from downtown Siem Reap. The beautiful setting, serene atmosphere and excellent facilities will allow guests to experience the wonders of Siem Reap at a truly relaxing pace.
The most contemporary option in Siem Reap, the Shinta Mani Angkor is infused with innovative design and modern art touches that make this well located hotel like no other.
Without doubt the most stylish hotel in Siem Reap, perfect for those who want to see Angkor in the lap of luxury.
Ideas for experiencing Siem Reap
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Siem Reap, and which use the best local guides.
This excursion is not only a great birdwatching opportunity but also offers a fascinating insight into life on the lake. The village of Prek Toal is one of the largest floating villages on the lake.
Travel southeast to one of the largest and least-visited villages on the Tonle Sap Lake, Kompong Khleang, about 55km from Siem Reap. It has a population of about 10,000 people, all of whom make a living from the fishing industry.
Join a Cambodian chef and go shopping at the local market for fresh locally-grown ingredients. You explore several classic Khmer dishes and enjoy tasting the end result at a traditional Khmer style luncheon. The class takes three to four hours.
Believed to be the world's largest religious building, this temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Watching the sun set, sat on one of the temples ancient walls is a magical experience.
For those with a keen interest in photography and wanting to get the best of their time at the temples in Cambodia, this trip has been designed to help you do just that. All levels of skill are welcome.
Follow your guide into the countryside immediately surrounding Siem Reap for an insight into a different side of Cambodia seeing how local people live and taking in the rural scenery.