When is the best time to visit Cambodia?
The climate in Cambodia is warm all year round, with temperatures rarely dropping below 23 degrees. The last week in January is far enough away from peak season to be a lovely combination of near perfect weather without the excessive crowds.
The best time to visit Cambodia is in late January or early February. Between late May and early September, green season is a wonderful time to visit. Although it's rainy season, mornings are almost always sunny and bright and rain clouds don't gather until the late afternoon.
Get out early - ahead of the midday heat - to explore when Cambodians are most active and you’ll enjoy far fewer crowds and vibrantly green rice paddies. Plus, you can spend the money you save on shoulder-season hotel rates on massages, world-class golf and fine food.
The dry season in Cambodia runs from October to April, with many guidebooks recommending a visit between November and March. In early January, parties take place, mainly in Phnom Penh, to celebrate victory over the Khmer Rouge. My favourite night of the year is the Giant Puppet Parade! Held in Siem Reap in February, giant glowing puppets are made by children and then carried through the streets.
Between March and June, temperatures can climb to around 35 degrees. However, this is not unmanageable as long as you stay hydrated and do not stay out in the heat all day. International Women’s Day on March 8th is gathering more momentum and Cambodia is keen to promote equality across a male dominated region. To mark the start of the rice-growing season, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony takes place in mid-May. In this Groundhog Day-esque ceremony, sacred oxen are presented with plates of food representing Cambodia’s crops. The crops for the year ahead are predicted depending on what offerings the oxen choose.
Although the rainy season is typically identified as August and September, it can also be very hot and humid. For keen runners, the Angkor Marathon takes place in August. September is particularly quiet, with the lush scenery providing a stunning backdrop. Around 20th September, Pchum Benh takes place. Also known as Festival of the Dead or Ancestor’s Day, this is one of the most important festivals in Cambodia - wear white.
Not typically considered cold per se, Cambodia’s cooler months are October, November and December, with the average temperature reaching 24 degrees. For some, this may be plenty warm enough. In October The Paris Peace Agreement takes place, with many viewing this day as a celebration of the end of Cambodia's tragic recent past. Every year, at the start of November, the important three-day Water Festival takes place in Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh to celebrate the reversal of the water flow between the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. If you’re feeling brave enough, take part in the Angkor Wat Half Marathon or the Charity Bike Ride in December.
When to avoid
The Khmer New Year is celebrated in mid-April, usually 13th or 14th of the month, lasting almost a week. At this time, people go home to see their families, meaning many places are closed and towns and cities are deserted. If you decide to visit at this time, you may encounter celebrations in remote villages. In the cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, it can get very busy in the peak months between November and January.
“The whole experience was not just unforgettable, it was a week of new sights, new sounds and new feelings. From our greeting at the airport, we were made to feel so welcome. Our visits were enhanced by our knowledgeable guide, who educated us in the best possible way about Cambodia’s rich history. All this wonderful attention to detail is, I believe, a hallmark of Jacada Travel’s service. There were lovely little touches, from the beautifully presented Travel Guide and itinerary, to the champagne on arrival, and thoughtful extras, like a sunset boat ride, a luxurious candlelit dinner, a visit to a local family for Cambodian snacks and fresh coconut juice and even a ride in a bullock cart. The whole week, culminating in our departure at the airport when we bade farewell to our guide and driver, went seamlessly.”
Terry, 5 Stars
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