song-saa-cambodia

Top 8 things to do in Cambodia besides Angkor Wat

From private island escapes to birdwatching, cooking classes and more
Written by
Ellie Khoury

Published on: August 9th, 2019

Last modified: July 27th, 2023

Often overlooked by travellers in favour of nearby locales like Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia shines as an exceptional destination all on its own.

The capital city of Phnom Penh spoils visitors for choice with cuisine and cultural hot spots, and the major metropolitan jaunt of Siem Reap boasts close proximity to the legendary temple of Angkor Wat.

While a visit to Angkor Wat remains a must for your trip to Cambodia, this diverse country offers travellers so much more to explore.

Whether you’re looking to achieve that perfect state of honeymoon bliss while abroad, or seeking family-friendly excursions for explorers of all ages, activities abound to meet the wants and needs of all travellers in your group while in Cambodia.

1. Kayak on the expansive freshwater Tonle Sap Lake

Kick off your Cambodia adventure with a glide along Tonle Sap Lake near Siem Reap. Considered the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, the Tonle Sap connects travellers with rural daily life, with many local fishermen of Vietnamese descent. Spend time kayaking along the waterways around the margins of the lake.

Chong Kneas Floating Village, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Local wildlife and floating villages greet you while kayaking, boating and stand-up paddle boarding along the pristine waters. You’ll discover that the communities living around the lake cope with huge seasonal variations in water levels by building their homes on floating bamboo rafts or 10m stilts. Kayaking is the perfect way to take in the scenery and learn about day-to-day life here. 

2. Relax on an island paradise at Song Saa

While Asia is known for its luxury hotels, Cambodia certainly doesn’t disappoint. If you’re looking to surround yourself with luxury while taking in the country’s stunning coastline, a visit to the tropical paradise of Song Saa Private Island Resort is a must. 

Nestled across the islands of Koh Bong and Koh Oen, the island of Song Saa features its own sewage and irrigation system, making all waste water 100% recyclable.

In its own right, the resort is one of many sustainable hotels making a positive environmental impact while offering a secluded escape for guests. 

Built by locals using reclaimed timber and other materials from the mainland, the resort’s two-bedroom Royal Villa features its own pool, kitchen and indoor dining space for up to 12 guests.

3. Taste Cambodian cuisine in Phnom Penh

Foodie-inspired travellers, can indulge all their senses by sampling Cambodian fare in the country’s capital of Phnom Penh. 

A real foodie hub with lots of different experiences from high end restaurants to street food tours, many of the country’s best dishes date back to the pre-Khmer Rouge era.

traditional Cambodian khmer fish amok curry meal

You certainly won’t go hungry while exploring Cambodia, think traditional charcoal grilled chicken, bahn sung (caramelised pork), and rice noodle salad. 

For a truly one-of-a-kind experience, indulge in a private dining session at a chef’s home, or take a cooking class to discover how to make some of Cambodia’s most loved dishes.

Chef making traditional cambodian meat dish at cooking class

4. Go birdwatching in Wild Cambodia

With appetites satiated, it’s time to get out and explore the depths of Wild Cambodia. As you move away from the coast and head inland, lush rainforests and pristine pockets of untouched land give way to some of the best nature excursions the country has on offer. 

Depending on when you visit Cambodia, you might catch the brief but beautiful butterfly season. Birdwatching is always a must when visiting rural Cambodia, with colourful displays from tropical birds like kingfishers and yellow-bellied warblers.

Consisting of 15 luxury tents situated along the Tmor Rung River, Shita Mani Wild is the brainchild of world-renowned designer, Bill Bensley, and the ideal accommodation for exploring Wild Cambodia. Upon purchasing the land, he set forth with a mission to protect this remote area of the country from poaching, mining, and logging. 

Having partnered with Wildlife Alliance, the camp has a rangers station on-site, further enhancing conservation efforts for local wildlife. The secluded nature of the camp also means every guest experiences the best views while ensuring everyone has their own little section of the forest to enjoy.

shinta-mani-wild-tent-exterior-2

5. Explore Cambodia’s other temples, starting at Banteay Srei

In addition to Angkor Wat, there are literally thousands of temples dotted around the country for you to explore, especially Banteay Srei. Widely regarded as one of Cambodia’s most significant temples, the structure is dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva. Built in the 10th century, its walls are decorated with elaborate carvings.

Banteay Samré Temple

There are also other lesser known temples still well worth a visit.  Ta Prohm was built without any kind of mortar and as a result, once it was abandoned, trees took root in its loosened stones. Another notable site is Angkor Thom which was established in the late twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII. Siem Reap serves as a good starting point for many cycling tours around forest temples.

Temple ruins cambodia 2

6. Delve into Cambodia nightlife in Phnom Penh

A delve into the wonderfully colourful experience of Cambodia nightlife is another must-do while visiting Phnom Penh. Start with a round of cocktails at the Rosewood Phnom Penh, home to its spectacular sky bar perched 188 metres above the city.

For a more grounded jaunt, travelling around the city by tuk tuk not only lets you see the capital city in style, but also discover hidden-gem restaurants preferred by locals. Round off the evening perched for a bevvy among one of the many bars found on the riverfront.

7. Support local causes in Siem Reap at Phare circus

For a night of entertainment that also supports local initiatives, one of our top picks is the Phare circus. Featuring incredible shows put together by students and graduates from Battambang’s Phare Ponleu Selpak vocational training centre, the circus not only delights travellers and locals alike but also provides opportunities for young people living in poverty.

Daring athleticism is combined with stories that speak powerfully to Cambodia’s not-too-distant history. More than simply a circus, Phare is an amazing blend of traditional and modern theatre, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion beautifully choreographed and performed in a story about Cambodian lives and society.

phare-circus-fire-cambodia

8. Learn about Cambodia’s past in Phnom Penh

Finally, a trip to Cambodia is not complete without experiencing the country’s sombre history, first hand. Understand Cambodia’s turbulent past and the atrocities committed under the rule of the Khmer Rouge with a visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Cheung Ek, or ‘Killing Fields’. 

tuol-sleng-genocide-museum-cambodia

While sensitivity is required around such subjects, these new tourist attractions focus on the strength and courage of the Cambodian people who have rebuilt their beautiful nation.

Our Top Cambodia Accommodation Picks

There are many incredible places to stay in Cambodia. Here are some of our favourites, handpicked by our travel designers:

Feeling inspired? Get in touch to start planning your Cambodian adventure.