Beyond Angkor Wat: A perfect tour of Cambodia

Despite what you might think, Cambodia isn’t just about Angkor Wat. No, this country is far more than just a one-trick pony…
View of bars and restaurants on the beach of Koh Rong Island near Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
View of bars and restaurants on the beach of Koh Rong Island near Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Photo: Shutterstock

View of bars and restaurants on the beach of Koh Rong Island near Sihanoukville, Cambodia. 

There’s no doubt that Angkor is a massive part of Cambodian national identity: but there's plenty more to see on your holiday

The stunning complex of ancient temples appears on both the Cambodian flag and currency, highlighting its importance. However, Cambodia has much more to offer than just Angkor Wat, from uninhabited islands to large, sweeping lakes with floating communities. Of course, we wouldn’t expect anyone to visit Cambodia without seeing Angkor Wat (read this online guide for more information), but here are our suggestions for a perfect tour that captures the essence of the rest of this stunning, exotic country...

Kep Province

You might be surprised to learn that Cambodia is home to some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. The south coast is littered with hundreds of tiny islands and pristine white-sand beaches, many of which are much quieter than their Thai counterparts. The tiny province of Kep, for example, is on the eastern coast near the border with Vietnam and is home to a number of idyllic beaches. The area was originally founded as a resort town for wealthy French merchants in the early 20th century. When you see it, it’s easy to understand why. The elegant feel of the area has stood the test of time. Kep is renowned for spectacular sunsets, sandy shores and sumptuous seafood. Koh Tunsay, or Rabbit Island, is just a few miles off-shore and can be easily accessed by boat, which is included in your trip with Insight Guides. Aside from a handful of luxury resorts, Koh Tunsay is completely deserted, so exploring this remote island makes the perfect day trip.

Kompong Som

Heading west from Kep, Kompong Som, also known as Sihanoukville, is a popular coastal city (and province, of the same name), with several great beaches. The most popular, Occheuteal, is a long, lively stretch of sand, lined with cafes and bars. There are plenty of other, quieter beaches in the area, which can be explored on your tailor-made holiday with Insight Guides, either by foot, bicycle or taxi. Serendipity Beach is a good option for those who enjoy peace and quiet.

Amazing view of Wat Leu in Sihanoukville. Photo: ShutterstockAmazing view of Wat Leu in Sihanoukville. Photo: Shutterstock

Exploring Siem Reap’s countryside by bicycle

When you’re all beached out – if such a feeling exists – head inland and to Siem Reap and rent a bicycle. The flat, quiet and unpaved roads surrounding the city make this one of the best places to cycle in Cambodia. Cycle out to Cham village, where there is a picture-perfect mosque. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and then continue to the golden Wat Tschor Pagoda, which is not far from Cham, and well worth the ride. Let one of Insight Guides’ local experts guide through the Cambodian countryside. Although close to the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap, it’ll feel a million miles away when you’re cycling alongside serene rice paddies.

Travel by boat to Tonlé Sap Lake

From Siem Reap, travel along the Sangker River by private boat. Here, you will get a unique glimpse into traditional, rural Cambodian life. There are several places you can stop along the way, including the pagoda at Cheur Khmao and the floating village of Prek Tuol. After enjoying a lunch at a traditional village, continue to Tonlé Sap Lake, which is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. As your boat carries you across, you’ll be amazed by the infrastructure of the floating villages that inhabit the lake: there are pagodas, mosques, hospitals, libraries, shops and schools that float perpetually on water. Experience the wonder of Tonlé Sap Lake with Insight Guides’ Unseen Cambodia trip.

Try your hand at Cambodian cooking

Cambodian food is heavily influenced by Thailand and China, making it a glorious fusion and celebration of Asian flavours. Fish, particularly amok, is used extensively in Cambodian cuisine, because of ready availability from the Mekong Basin. Angkor Village, which is included in Insight Guides’ Siem Reap Family Adventure tour, offers a four-hour Cambodian cooking experience that includes going to the market to gather all the ingredients, and being taught by a Khmer chef how to cook three dishes of your choice. Afterwards, of course, you will have the opportunity to sample the fruits of your labour.

Amok chicken, Cambodian Khmer food. Photo: ShutterstockAmok chicken, Cambodian Khmer food. Photo: Shutterstock

Ready to take your own adventure? Browse Insight Guides' best trips to Cambodia online now

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If you do visit Angkor, here's how to dress respectively

Making a trip to the capital city? We guide you through the best ways to spend 48 hours in Phnom Penh

Cambodia features as one of our must-see destinations for 2016; find out why here