Dubbed the rice bowl of Cambodia, Battambang province is predominantly a fertile patchwork of paddies. The north-western province is also home to Battambang city. While this is Cambodia’s second-largest city, it has a real laid-back vibe. Regardless, there is plenty to do and see. Here are our top five things to see and do in Battambang.

Phare Circus

Cambodia’s award-winning Phare Circus has its HQ in Battambang and is the perfect opportunity to see performers on home turf. Headed by NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak, which trains underprivileged youth in circus skills and other arts, the shows feature a mesmerising mix of acrobatics, gymnastics, juggling, tumbling and other circus skills to retell ancient Khmer folklores – all to the backdrop of live Khmer music.

Bamboo Train Battambang

Bamboo trains – or noris – were a traditional mode of transport used by Cambodians to transport goods when the roads were mainly too rough to travel on. The “trains” are made from bamboo platforms equipped with small motors that run on disused train lines. Recent years have seen a new line constructed next to Phnom Banan specifically for tourists and can be combined with a trip to the temple.

Battambang Caves – Phnom Sampeou

If you like sprawling views, bats and hilltop temples, then this is a great afternoon excursion. Phnom Sampeou is a small mountain – more like a hill – that has a quaint temple perched on its peak, boasting splendid views of Battambang’s quilt of rural landscapes. This makes it the perfect spot for sunset. The mountain is also home to killing caves where the Khmer Rouge soldiers murdered many victims. Alternatively, you can skip sunset and head to caves at the foot of the mountain for about 6pm, when hundreds of thousands of bats can be seen streaming into the sky.

Discover the Countryside around Battambang

Battambang’s flat rolling rural scenes make it perfect for cycling, and this is a great way to explore the province and get a glimpse into the authentic way of life. Soksabike is one company that specialises in delivering sustainable and educational bike tours. These tend to focus on showcasing local grassroots industries, such as weaving, rice growing and food producers. Don’t forget the sunscreen and some riels to sample the tasty treats being produced.

Get Arty

Battambang is also known as Cambodia’s artistic hub and the city is dotted with independent galleries and studios. Romcheik 5 Art Space is located on the other side of the river and is a breeding ground for some of the country’s established and upcoming contemporary artists. Sangkar Gallery is another stalwart. The community art space showcases works from local artists and Phare Ponleau Selpak art school students.

Travelling from Phnom Penh to Battambang

Battambang is approximately 300 kilometres from the capital Phnom Penh. The road currently isn’t in a great condition so travel time can take up to eight hours. To get there you can get a taxi for about $80 or there are several buses from the capital. For more information about travelling around Cambodia, read our Travel in Cambodia Guide.

Discover more things to do in Battambang on our Cambodia map. Or for even more inspiration visit Tourism Cambodia.