A journey in the heart of the Kingdom
9 Days (8 Nights)
This journey in the heart of Cambodia takes us from the Kingdom’s vibrant capital of Phnom Penh around the Tonle Sap Lake.
On the way we discover Cambodia’s unique natural beauty, visit picturesque villages, experience Cambodian country life, encounter the Mekong dolphins and explore the majestic Temples of Angkor.
- Day 1 Arrive in Phnom Penh; city tour
- Day 2 Transfer to Battambang via the former capital of Udong and the floating village of Kampong Luong
- Day 3 Explore Battambang
- Day 4 Scenic boat journey across the Tonle Sap Lake to Siem Reap
- Day 5 Discover Angkor by tuk tuk
- Day 6 Temples in depth
- Day 7 Forest temples of Sambor Prei Kuk; transfer to the Mekong town of Kratie
- Day 8 Boat trip to observe Mekong dolphins; return journey to Phnom Penh
- Day 9 Check out and transfer or start of your onward programme
Day 1: Arrive in Phnom Penh, where you are picked up by our tour guide and transferred to your hotel. Later we visit the spectacular Royal Palace complex, including Wat Preah Keo Morokat with the spectacular Silver Pagoda, decorated with a floor made up of 5,000 silver tiles, the National Museum which houses the world’s finest collection of sculptures from the Angkor period, Wat Phnom, the city’s landmark and the notorious Toul Sleng Genocide Museum.
Day 2: We leave early today to explore some of the places of interest on our way to Battambang. The first stop is Udong, once Cambodia’s capital. There are a number of stupas on the top of Phnom Udong, where former kings and queens are buried. We enjoy the magnificent views over the plains below as our guide provides us with information about the historical and cultural significance of this sacred hill, before we continue to Kampong Chhnang for lunch. Later we explore the surrounding countryside and visit a traditional pottery village, before we reach the village of Kompong Luong, one of the largest floating settlements on the Tonle Sap Lake. We take a boat and observe the goings-on in this bustling community. We continue to the provincial capital of Pursat and arrive in Battambang towards the evening. The province of Battambang is known as the rice bowl of Cambodia and is famous for a variety of agricultural produce, notably for the Battambang Orange.
Day 3: We start the day with a visit to the 12th century hilltop temple of Wat Banan, from where we enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. We then continue to Phnom Sampeu, another sacred mountain which hosts a number of interesting pagodas and stupas as well as a moving memorial to the Khmer Rouge victims that were murdered in one of the killing caves in the mountain. Perhaps the highlight of the day comes in the form of a Bamboo train ride. As the Cambodian railway railways is largely disused, small rail trolleys are used by locals to transport people and goods. We board a train and are driven through the picturesque countryside before returning back to Battambang.
Day 4: After an early breakfast we are transferred to the pier where we board a boat for one of the most scenic boat journeys in Cambodia. Following the Sanker River and crossing the Tonle Sap lake we pass floating villages, glide through protected wetlands, catching a glimpse of the spectacular wilderness and getting an insight into the lives of the local fisherman before we reach Siem Reap in the afternoon.
Day 5: Today we start our exploration of the temples of Angkor. We begin with a visit to the ancient walled city of Angkor Thom which also houses the Bayon with its mysterious four-faced towers, the royal palace and the terraces of the Elephants and the Leper King. In the afternoon we explore Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building and national symbol of Cambodia. With its perfect layout and unsurpassed bas-reliefs that depict tales from Hindu mythology, Angkor Wat is considered the masterpiece of Khmer architecture. After lunch we visit the Ta Prohm which has been left to the forces of nature by archaeologists as it was rediscovered, many parts of its structure being embraced by the roots of gigantic trees, giving the ruin a special atmosphere, as well other structures on the Small and Grand Circuit. In the evening we witness the scenic sunset over one of the temples.
Day 6: Early in the morning we head to the temple mountain of Pre Rup, before driving further north to Banteay Srei. Compared to other structures, this Hindu temple almost seems petite, but is magnificently decorated with countless elaborate carvings which are the finest found in Cambodia. The name translates as “Citadel of the Women”, due to its intricate decoration. On the way back to Siem Reap we make a detour to the less frequently visited Banteay Samre. Built by King King Suryavarman II, the same king who built Angkor Wat, the structure with its high temple tower has undergone extensive restoration. In the afternoon we visit Neak Pean, a small island temple situated in the middle of an artificial pool, which translates as “intertwined serpents” due the coiled serpents encircling the base of the structure. We then continue on to Preah Khan or “sacred sword”, a huge monastic complex which features elaborate carvings.
Day 7: Today we leave Siem Reap and travel to the Mekong town of Kratie. On the way we make a detour to the forest temples of Sambor Prei Kuk, the impressive pre-Angkorian capital then known as Isanapura. We explore the three main temples, Prasat Tao or Lion Temple, Prasat Sambor, the main temple group, and Prasat Yeay Peau, perhaps the most atmospheric structure. We then travel on to Skuon, known as “Spiderville” because of the local speciality of deep fried tarantulas. We continue to Kompong Cham and pass through some of Cambodia’s largest rubber tree plantations, originally established by the French, and along the Mekong before we arrive in Kratie for a magnificent sunset over the Mekong.
Day 8: Early in the morning we travel upriver to the natural dolphin pool of Kampi, one of the places where the critically endangered Mekong dolphins (Irrawaddy dolphins) can be encountered. Aboard a traditional fishing boat we cruise to their habitat and have a chance to observe the gentle creatures from close range. Back in Kratie we have lunch before we head to Phnom Penh.
Day 9: Time free at leisure until your check out and transfer or the beginning of your onward programme.
The above tours are therefore sample itineraries.
Cambodia’s bustling capital is situated at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. Legend has it that Phnom Penh was founded when a woman by the name of Penh found Buddha images washed up on the bank of the Mekong River. In 1373, a temple, Wat Phnom, was built on a hill to house them. With Phnom in Khmer meaning hill, Phnom Penh literally translates as Hill of Penh. Officially the city was founded in 1434 by King Ponhea Yat, following the fall of Angkor.
Today, Phnom Penh is a city of more than 1.5 million people. With continuing urban development it is fast developing into an economic hub of the region, at the same time retaining its distinct atmosphere with its wide tree-lined boulevards, French colonial buildings and an abundance of chic bistros dotted along the riverfront, bustling markets, intriguing boutiques and stylish hotels.
Places of interest include the royal palace including the Silver Pagoda with its spectacular floor made up of 5,000 silver tiles, the National Museum housing treasures from the world’s finest collection of sculptures from the Angkor period, Wat Phnom, the city’s landmark and the notorious Toul Sleng Genocide Museum.
Phnom Penh is also ideal gateway for daytrips to the surrounding countryside. Particularly attractive are boat trips on the Mekong and Tonle Sap combined with a visit to the picturesque Silk Island or a visit of Udong, once the Capital of Cambodia, and the floating villages of Kampong Chhnang.
Tourist hub of Cambodia
As gateway to the temples of Angkor, Siem Reap is clearly the tourist hub of Cambodia. Accordingly, the town offers a vast array of accommodation options, ranging from boutique guest houses to some of the best hotels in the region.
The picturesque town centre hosts many speciality restaurants, lively bars, designer boutiques and a bustling night market.
Apart from temple visits, there are plenty activities that warrant a longer stay than just a couple of days, ranging from photography courses to cycling adventures to excursions to nearby bird sanctuaries or a homestay in a floating village on the nearby Tonle Sap Lake.
Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest town and is easily reached by boat from Siem Reap across the Tonle Sap Lake and up the River Sanker. Battambang hosts much colonial architecture, giving the town a special atmosphere.
As well as being one of Cambodia’s prime agricultural regions, the idyllic countryside around Battambang lends itself well for activities such as bamboo train rides or farm visits.
Other attractions in the area include the Angkorian temple of Wat Banan, the sacred mountain of Phnom Sampeu and Wat Ek Phnom.
The picturesque town of Kratie (pronounced Krachay) is situated on the banks of the Mekong, which dictates every aspect of life in and around town.
Kratie’s main attraction are the Irrawaddy Dolphins which live a few kilometres upriver and can be observed from small boats throughout the year. Kratie also offers many boating and cycling opportunities, for example on and around one of the idyllic Mekong islands.
Another rewarding experience is a homestay with a Khmer family on one of the islands.
In this Category
On this tour you will visit the most important temples of the Angkor era surrounding Siem Reap, including Angkor Wat.
Highlights include a boat tour through the mangrove forest of Ream National Park and the white beaches of Sihanoukville.
On this journey we explore Cambodia’s fabled cultural heritage in depth.
Bird Watching Cambodia
With its wetlands and nature reserves, Cambodia provides a natural habitat for a wide variety of endangered bird species.
Discover the lifestyle of the Khmer in floating villages and visit places of interest that are not easily accessible overland.
Cambodia by Bicycle
Cycle along idyllic country roads, explore pristine riverscapes and stay in small villages on this remarkable journey.