What to Do in Siem Reap Cambodia
There’s way more to Siem Reap than temple trekking, with the town and wider province swimming in culture, history and stunning scenery. Here’s our guide to what to do in Siem Reap.
One-, three- and seven-day passes (US$37, US$62 and US$72) are available. The most popular option is one day, which is enough time to take in the well-trodden triangle. This traditionally starts with sunrise at 12th century Angkor Empire capital Angkor Wat, before soaking up Bayon temple’s giant smiling faces and following in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie at root-riddled Ta Prohm, famous for featuring in the 2001 Hollywood hit Tomb Raider: Lost Temple.
Avid explorers can invest in a multiple-day pass and steer well off the well-trodden trail at many of the more remote temples that dot the park. For example, 10th-century Banteay Srei temple sits a 35km drive through pristine rural landscapes. It boasts intricately-carved dusty pink sandstone structures that look like they’ve been plucked straight out of a fairy tale. Banteay Kdei dates back to the mid-12th to early-13th centuries, and 10th-century Prasat Kravan has an impressive facade of red-brick symmetrical towers to admire.
Explore the Countryside around Siem Reap
Cambodia’s travel industry is also pinning hopes on visitors spending more time in the country than pre-pandemic when traditionally visitors spent three days exploring the temples and Siem Reap after or before heading to Thailand or Vietnam. And away from the temples, Siem Reap’s signature countryside scenes and sprinkling of artisan and rural communities are tempting travellers to extend their stay in the province.
While Kulen National Park, home to Cambodia’s most sacred mountain Phnom Kulen, has always been a hit with the local crowd, it is picking up in popularity with foreigners. The sprawling park boasts a string of historical spots, including Kbal Spean or the River of a Thousand Lingas and ancient temples – Phnom Kulen’s peak is where the Angkor Empire was founded in 802 when King Jayavarman II declared himself chakravartin (universal ruler). Gushing waterfalls provide the perfect spot to refresh, while tracks snake through jungle.
There are plenty of opportunities to get a glimpse into authentic local life. Floating villages dot the edge of Tonle Sap Lake – Southeast Asia’s largest body of freshwater. For example, Kampong Phluk sits about 25km from the town centre, and is home to about 3,000 people the community live in stilted houses flanked by flooded mangroves. During dry season, when water is low, villagers can live their lives on land. During wet season, when the lake rises in places tenfold, the six-metre-high stilts are submerged in water, with boats used to access the seemingly floating shops, schools and community centres.
Off-the-Beaten Track in Siem Reap
Get off the beaten path and take a rugged jungle jaunt to Chang Kran Roy Community Forest. Located about 70km from the city centre, Changkran Roy is one of the last remaining evergreen forests near Siem Reap. It is a protected area that is guarded by the community and local authorities, and ecotourism activities are overseen by residents of the village nestled amidst ancient trees. Activities, such as camping, trekking to waterfalls and bird watching are popular.
What To Do in Siem Reap – Silk Weaving
Cambodia’s rich artistic history can be explored during a visit to weaving communities at the Institute of Khmer Traditional Textiles.
Launched in 1996 with the aim of reviving the Khmer art of silk ikat, which was under threat after the Khmer Rouge reign led to artisans quitting their trade combined with the rise of cheaper contemporary techniques, IKTT trains locals in this highly-revered silk weaving craft. What started with five people and two looms has today grown to a social enterprise that employs 250 people. To sustain business, IKTT bought land in the forest to carry out a reforestation programme. This has grown into a 23-hectare site that also houses a self-sustaining textiles village of 160 people.
Take a Trip to the Circus
Of course, no trip to Siem Reap is complete without a trip to the circus. Award-winning Phare: The Cambodian Circus is famous for its jaw-stopping shows that use incredible acrobatics, circus antics, dance and music to retell Khmer legends.
And this is just a brief introduction to what to do in Siem Reap. So, extend your stay and explore what the province has to offer beyond the majestic temples. We also have many more ideas for things to do in Siem Reap on our Cambodia map.
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