13 Best Places to Visit in Cambodia in 2024
This post was last updated on 12/22/2023.
For a small country, Cambodia’s got diverse landscapes and activities for all interests. Of course there’s Angkor Wat and many other temples, but there’s also lush jungles, bustling cities, white sand beaches, crowded markets, and serene islands. If you don’t know where to go or you’re looking to get off the beaten path, here are 13 of the best places to visit in Cambodia. Whether you put all or some of them on your travel itinerary, you’ll discover the most beautiful, exciting, historically significant, and culturally rich places that Cambodia has to offer.
The Cardamom Mountains run from southwest Cambodia to eastern Thailand. The dense rainforests are one of the best untouched places in Cambodia and perfect for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and anyone who wants to get off the grid.
Go trekking to see the incredible animals and birds that live there, including Asian elephants, tigers, gibbons, and sun bears. You can also motorbike, swim in waterfalls, kayak, and see hundreds-of-years-old burial jars.
Although the Cardamom Mountains haven’t been developed much for tourism (and that’s the beauty of it), it’s not difficult to get there. You can take a minivan/bus from Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville to the nearest town, Koh Kong, for less than $20 USD. The ride takes between four to six hours, depending on where you’re coming from. From Koh Kong, your accommodation can help arrange transportation to the mountains.
No list of the best places to go in Cambodia would be complete without Angkor Wat. But since everyone knows about it already, it’s getting second place on this list. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, and the complex contains thousands of temples. Visiting Angkor Wat feels like you’re Indiana Jones or Laura Croft, stepping back in time and discovering a long lost civilization.
I recommend taking a guided tour of Angkor Wat to get the full experience. But if you decide to do a self-guided visit, you’ll still have a fantastic time wandering around the ruins, spotting ancient carvings, and peeking into all the nooks and crannies. Make sure you take in Angkor Wat during sunrise and sunset. Both are magical moments where the temples are silhouetted against the colorful Cambodian sky.
Kampot is one of my favorite places I found during my one-month trip to Cambodia. The quiet, laidback riverside town is known for its salt fields, high-quality pepper farms, and pungent durian (there’s actually a durian roundabout in town). Surprisingly, there’s a large amount of things to do in Kampot. And thanks to its expat community, a global food scene.
From Kampot, you can take a day trip to Bokor Mountain, bike around the countryside, go kayaking, and visit a pepper farm. Culture, history, and nature – there’s a bit of everything in Kampot.
Siem Reap is best known as the home of Angkor Wat. Because of that, it’s the most developed for tourism. You’ll find a strong backpacker scene, luxurious boutique hotels, night markets, and mouthwatering food.
Although I spent a few days in Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat and check out the city, I wish I had stayed longer. There’s a variety of activities in Siem Reap, aside from Angkor Wat. You can learn about landmines at the Cambodia Landmine Museum, hike through Phnom Kulen National Park, try your hand at Khmer pottery, and go out on Pub Street.
I consider Koh Trong to be one of the best kept secrets of Cambodia. I didn’t expect much from this 8 km long island. So while it doesn’t pack in as many activities as Siem Reap, Koh Trong over delivers in a few ways. There are pristine beaches with barely anyone around, and the lack of development has allowed wildlife to flourish.
Very few tourists stay on Koh Trong, but there are a few homestays if you’d like to truly experience local life. I think the island is best done as a day trip from Kratié. Plus, you’ll get to see the sunset as you catch the last boat of the day back across the Mekong River.
Mondulkiri is a province in eastern Cambodia, next to the Cambodia-Vietnam border. Aside from the Cardamom Mountains, it’s one of the best places to see wildlife in the country.
With dense forests, rolling hills, and beautiful waterfalls, the main activity in Mondulkiri is trekking. NGOs like the Mondulkiri Project, Elephant Valley Project, and Jahoo promote ecotourism and conservation while offering treks, wildlife spotting, and visits to elephant sanctuaries.
Expect barebone accommodations when visiting Mondulkiri, but surrounding yourself in nature and learning about the indigenous communities that live there is worth it.
Preah Vihear Temple
Located on a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, Preah Vihear has the most spectacular view of all the temples in Cambodia. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is in northern Cambodia, right on the Cambodia-Thailand border.
To see the temple’s beautiful Khmer architecture and surrounding dramatic landscape, you’ll need to drive about four hours from Siem Reap. You can either hire a private driver or join a tour. Tours usually combine Preah Vihear Temple and Koh Ker Temple.
If you want to experience a Cambodian city less hectic than Phnom Penh and more authentic than Siem Reap, you should head to Battambang. Even though it’s the second largest city in Cambodia, it doesn’t feel like it. You’ll find many quiet streets, and the high rises of Phnom Penh have been swapped for French colonial architecture. Rural Cambodia is also right outside the city, so you can easily explore it by renting a bicycle.
Battambang is known for a few things. You can ride the famous bamboo train, see bats swarming at sunset, and learn about the Khmer Rouge at sites like the Killing Caves and Well of Shadows. There’s many more things to do in Battambang, but you can hit up most of them within two days.
Koh Ker Temple
Koh Ker was once the capital of the Khmer empire. Like Angkor Wat, it’s a complex that contains many temples. But unlike Angkor Wat, it receives a lot less tourists, even though it’s only about a two-hour drive from Siem Reap.
The most unique thing about Koh Ker is Prasat Prang. The seven-tiered pyramid is the complex’s largest building and resembles Mayan temples.
You can visit Koh Ker on your own by hiring a private driver. Otherwise, there are tours that will take you to Koh Ker and Beng Mealea (also known as the “Jungle Temple”). Some tours will also include Preah Vihear Temple.
Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s hectic capital and while it’s not for everyone, it is worth experiencing at least once. Tuk tuks and motorbikes rule the busy roads, and very few traffic lights means very few rules. The city is filled with historically significant sights, markets, restaurants, and bars.
I admit Phnom Penh was my least favorite place in Cambodia, but it’s a must-visit to learn about a significant event in Cambodian history – the Khmer Rouge. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields are two popular but somber attractions that teach visitors about the Khmer Rouge and memorialize their victims.
The small town of Kratié mostly attracts travelers who want to see the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins that swim the Mekong River. But that’s not the only attraction here. Kratié is the best place to stay if you want to explore Koh Trong as a day trip, and it’s the starting point of the Mekong Discovery Trail.
My favorite part of Kratié is the sunsets. They’re unreal and were hands down the best sunsets I saw in Cambodia. The colors blanket the entire sky, as if someone had layered reds, oranges, yellows, and purples into a paint can and poured it across town.
Kep is the beachside cousin of Kampot. The two are only a 30-minute drive away from each other. Kep is a sleepy town that’s perfect for slowing down. Or you can make Kampot your homebase and visit Kep as a day trip.
In Kep, you’ll find fresh seafood, beaches, and nature. The Crab Market is a fun exercise in haggling. Even if you’re not good at negotiating, you’ll still walk away a winner. Because how can you lose when you get a delicious seafood meal that’s caught right out of the ocean and cooked in front of you? Kep Beach is the perfect place to nurse your food coma or take an afternoon nap. But if you’re looking for something active, walk off your full belly in Kep National Park.
Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem
Cambodia isn’t usually thought of as a beach destination. But along with Kep, the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem are changing this.
While both islands are meant for disconnecting from your everyday worries, Koh Rong is the larger and more lively island of the two. Relax on the beach all day. Then, party the night away. You can also stay on Koh Rong Sanloem or do a day trip to see its beaches.