With three days in Siem Reap, not only do you have enough time to get an overview of the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site, but you can do so much more. Meet local people, savor street food, watch a circus, enjoy a sunset cruise, and hike through the jungle to a waterfall. Read on to find out how.
Day 1: Temple Trio
Prebook a 1-day pass to the Angkor Archaeological Park and start your Siem Reap visit with the Khmer Empire’s “big three”: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm. Catch sunrise over Angkor Wat, then grab some breakfast and beat the crowds to Ta Prohm, the Tomb Raider temple. Spend the middle of the day exploring the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Don’t miss the Bayon Temple, with its many mysterious faces, and the Terrace of the Elephants. Head back to Angkor Wat once the crowds start to die down to soak up masterpieces such as the Churning of the Ocean of Milk carving. Finally, get a taste of Khmer cuisine on a street-food tour of bustling Siem Reap.
Day 2: Cambodian Countryside
Despite the horrors of the Khmer Rouge era, Cambodia’s countryside remains unspoiled, and the people are warm and friendly. Spend today exploring traditional Khmer life. Learn to cook with a family in their village home; take a bike ride through the countryside to get a feel for the ancient rhythms of life; or get hands-on with old-fashioned Khmer crafts and farming techniques. Come evening, explore the floating villages, stilt houses, lotus ponds, and mangrove forests of Tonlé Sap lake on a sunset cruise.
Day 3: Waterfall Wanderings
Get a taste of the jungle that once covered so much of Cambodia on a trip to Phnom Kulen National Park. Hike through forest strewn with tangled vines to a scenic waterfall; see contemporary Cambodians worship Buddha; and make like Indiana Jones as you discover a wealth of Angkor-era ruins, from riverbed carvings to giant elephants. You might want to add a stop at the nearby jungled temple of Beng Mealea. Head back to the city in good time to enjoy a typically Cambodian evening. Phare: The Cambodian Circus is Siem Reap’s answer to Cirque du Soleil, but with a social conscience too. Otherwise, savor a buffet dinner as you watch the delicate Apsara dance. Wrap up the night by soaking up the crazy energy of Pub Street.