Cambodia has something to offer for every kind of traveler and with some smart planning, you can pack a punch into your Cambodian vacation. Temple fatigue is quite common and very unfortunate, because after all, temples are the highlight of your Cambodian trip. So, the itinerary I have outlined here mixes up the temples with a few other interesting things you can do in and around the countryside.
Cambodia in One or Two Days
With so little time, focus on Siem Reap.
Visit the Angkor National Museum on the day you land. If you have more time, visit the Kampong Khleang floating village.
The next day is a very long one for you. If you would like to see the sun rising on Angkor Wat, you need to be up and out by 5 AM. In the first half of the day, visit the Angkor Wat temple and the Bayon temple (with the famous faces). After lunch, visit the Terrace of Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King (both in the Angkor Thom complex and very close to Bayon) and finally the Ta Prohm temple of tomb raider fame. After all this sight-seeing, make a beeline to Pub Street.
Cambodia in 5 days
Day 1 (Day of arrival): Assuming you are ready by about 1.30 PM, visit the Angkor National Museum in the afternoon.
Day 2: Visit Angkor Wat temple in the morning and the Rolous temple group in the afternoon. The Roluos temple group comprises of three temples – Lolei, Bakong and Preah Ko. If you are pressed for time, skip Lolei and visit the other two. Finally visit the Pre-Rup temple and catch the sunset there. After this, visit Pub street, have a drink and watch life go by. There are numerous restaurants that cater to every palate in this area.
Day 3: Sunrise in Angkor Wat and then spend the morning visiting Bayon temple and Baphuon temple. After an early lunch, see the Terrace of Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King and then go on to do a floating village tour. There are three floating villages at various distances from Siem Reap. Kampong Khleang is the farthest, but the least touristy. Finish out your evening with sunset on the Tonlé Sap lake.
Day 4: Visit Ta Prohm temple, and then go to Kbal Spean to see the underwater carvings. This one is a bit of a hike and might not really be doable for older travelers. For those people that can make it though, it is a beautiful hike through the forest to get to a small river, a waterfall and the carvings. After lunch, visit the Banteay Srei temple or the Citadel of Women, so called because of the delicacy of its carvings. This pink sandstone temple with its exquisitely preserved carvings and minute detailing is one I would place only next to Angkor Wat and Bayon on your MUST-DO list. Transfer in the evening or overnight to Phnom Penh.
Day 5: Start with the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum or S-21 prison. This is a very disturbing visit for many people, so relieve yourself with a trip to the Russian market close to the museum. After lunch, visit the Choeung Ek killing fields, a bit outside the city. Then, visit the Independence monument in the city, and top off your evening with a walk down Sisowath Quay.
Cambodia in 10 days
This is the most ideal vacation in Cambodia – enough time to experience the ruins of Angkor, the charms of rural Cambodia and the eclectic mish-mash that is Phnom Penh.
For our rural sojourn, we chose Battambang, the second largest city after Phnom Penh. But this city is in fact no more than a town. You can also choose Kampot or Sihanoukville instead of Battambang.
Day 1: Angkor National Museum
Day 2: Angkor Wat in the morning and the Roluos Temple group in the afternoon. Watch an Apsara dance at Por Cuisine during dinner.
Day 3: Take a break from temples today and visit the Kampong Khleang floating village. Enjoy a massage at one of the many excellent massage parlors. Most hotels also offer in-room massages. The traditional Khmer massage is divine after a day spent trudging through temples.
Day 4: Sunrise at Angkor Wat, and then the Angkor Thom Complex – Bayon, Baphuon, Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of Leper king in the morning. In the afternoon, visit the Ta Prohm temple, Preah Khan temple and finally the Pre-rup temple. Visit Pub Street at night.
Day 5: Visit the Landmine museum in the morning, followed by a hike to Kbal Spean. In the afternoon, visit Banteay Srei temple.
Day 6: Take a day trip to the slightly distant Beng Melea and Koh Ker temples. Transfer in the evening or overnight to Battambang.
Day 7: If you have only one day in Battambang, book a full-day trip with Bun. I promise that you will not regret it. You will see and do many things today – French colonial buildings, villages that make rice paper & sticky rice, Wat Ek Phnom, the statue of Grandfather Battambang and finally a visit to the Phnom Sampeau mountain with its tragic killing caves and bat caves. You will also ride the iconic bamboo train.
Transfer overnight to Phnom Penh
Day 8: Start with the Toul Sleng museum (S-21 prison) in the morning, then visit the Russian Market and have lunch. In the afternoon, go to the Choeung Ek killing fields, followed by a visit to the Wat Phnom. After sunset, visit the Independence monument when it is lit up and beautiful.
Day 9: Visit the Cambodia National Museum in the morning (many sculptures from the temples you visited are housed here). After lunch, go to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, Wat Ounalam (rumored to contain Buddha’s eyebrow hair) and Central market. In the evening, take a walk down Sisowath Quay and have dinner at one the numerous Quay-side restaurants while you soak up the atmosphere.
Day 10: Transfer to the airport and take your flight out of Cambodia, back home or wherever your travels take you next.
Note: If you can manage to spare one more day, include a visit to the enchanting Preah Vihear temple. In the itinerary, on the day that you visit Beng Melea & Koh Ker, stay overnight in the Preah Vihear province. Visit the Preah Vihear temple the next day and directly travel to Battambang.6