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Essential Cambodia

10/Days  Flexible & Private Tour
 Phnom PenhKampong ChamKratieKampong ThomSiem Reap
Only From
$1174 $998
Designed by © Inside Travel Experts
Essential Cambodia Essential Cambodia Essential Cambodia See all 52 photos
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There’s far more to Cambodia than just the home to some of the world’s best heritage sites and attractions. This 10-day Essential Cambodia tour is a truly authentic adventure to travel lovers as it takes you deep into the Khmer ruins and history, centuries-old temples and rustic local life of the Cambodians. You will start from Phnom Penh and end the tour in Siem Reap, stopping off at all the best parts en route – explore the traditional life of Cambodian countryside, fall in love with cutest creatures, Mekong Dolphins in Kratie, walk through the lush jungle of Kampong Thom, discover the legendary temples of the Angkor Complex in Siem Reap and ride a boat on the great Tonle Sap Lake. This trip is absolutely a great chance to take in the breathtaking beauty of the Kingdom of Wonder.

Highlights

  Take a guided tour to historical sites of Phnom Penh: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Choeung Ek - Killing Fields

  Experience a Cambodian tuk-tuk ride to Japanese Friendship Bridge and a ferry trip to Mekong Island for silk weaving village visit

  Enjoy a sunset cruise on the Tonle Sap and Mekong river through the capital’s main sights

  Have a chance to see the interesting Mekong Dolphins in Kratie

  Join a community project by planting your own tree in the island of Koh Trong

  Admire Pre-Angkor styled temples in the archeological site of Sambor Prei Kuk and take a walk through the jungle to hidden villages

  Visit one of the world’s best sight: Angkor Wat Complex and outlying temples

  Embark on an interesting boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake to visit Kampong Phluck floating village

Tour Summary

By Day Transfer Destinations Activities Meals
Day 1 Phnom Penh Arrival in Phnom Penh. Free at your leisure
Day 2 Phnom Penh Visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Killing Fields. Experience Tuk Tuk... B, L
Day 3 Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Kratie Drive from Phnom Penh to Kratie. Stop to visit Wat Nokor, Wat Sorsor... B
Day 4 Kratie Get close with local life on Koh Trong Island. Join in tree-planting... B, L
Day 5 Kratie, Kampong Thom Drive from Kratie to Kampong Thom. On the way visit Phnom Santuk... B
Day 6 Kampong Thom, Siem Reap Driver from Kampong Thom to Siem Reap. Stop at Sambor Prei Kuk. Walk... B
Day 7 Siem Reap Visit Angkor temples. Witness beautiful sunset from the top of Phnom... B
Day 8 Siem Reap Take a relaxing boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake traveling Kampong Phluck.... B, L
Day 9 Siem Reap Explore the ancient Kor Ker & Beng Mealea Temples B, L
Day 10 Siem Reap Transfer to the airport to take your onward flight B
  • Transfer:
  • Activities:

    Visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Killing Fields. Experience Tuk Tuk ride & take ferry to visit Mekong Island. Enjoy sunset on Tonle Sap Lake

Your Phnom Penh tour will start with learning about and confronting Cambodia’s tragic past. You’ll take a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school that served as a Khmer Rouge torture center. Then, head out of the city to the Choueng Ek Memorial, where a pagoda made up of some 8,000 human skulls marks the site of one of the infamous Killing Fields. Afterward, make a difference to the Cambodian community by enjoying a Khmer lunch at an NGO training restaurant.

Next, on your Phnom Penh tour, you’ll travel by moto-rework (a Cambodian tuk-tuk) and head out of Phnom Penh on the Japanese Friendship Bridge before catching a ferry across the mighty Mekong River to Mekong Island. The island is famous for silk weaving, agriculture, and aquaculture (85% of residents earn their living from these industries). We’ll stop to see the silk weavers at work in the village, where you can purchase some of the local products if you wish. As you wander the village, you can explore a Buddhist temple and floating fish farms, see fields of rice and morning glory, and enjoy local Khmer snacks at a family home.

Say goodbye to the tuk-tuk and board a boat to enjoy the sunset from the water at the junction of the Tonle Bassac, Tonle Sap, and the mighty Mekong. You’ll see the distinctive architecture of Cambodia, with Khmer-influenced buildings such as Wat Ounalom, the Royal Palace, and the Silver Pagoda, as well as French colonial buildings — some renovated, some ravaged by neglect and the war.

Finally, we will close off the Mekong boat tour with a gorgeous sunset. After the cruise trip, head to the riverside area of Phnom Penh, a pleasant French style promenade that is great for people viewing. In the early evening (and morning), various activities will take place include exercise classes, Khmer dancing and plenty of snacking on local food. You can participate in a Khmer dance class which is a lot of fun for all! From here, you can either be taken back to your hotel or left to explore this bustling area independently and have dinner at one of the many great restaurants at the riverfront (dinner will be on your own account).

Overnight in Phnom Penh.

A very moving experience at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Svay Pray High School sits on a dusty road on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 1976, the Khmer Rouge renamed the high school S-21 and turned it into a torture, interrogation and execution center. Of the 14,000 people known to have entered, only seven survived. Not only did the Khmer Rouge carefully transcribe the prisoners' interrogations; they also carefully photographed the vast majority of the inmates and created an astonishing photographic archive. Each of the almost 6,000 S-21 portraits that have been recovered tells a story shock, resignation, confusion, defiance and horror. Although the most gruesome images to come out of Cambodia were those of the mass graves, the most haunting were the portraits taken by the Khmer Rouge at S-21.Today, S-21 Prison is known as the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide. Inside the gates, it looks like any high school; five buildings face a grass courtyard with pull-up bars, green lawns and lawn-bowling pitches. The ground-floor classrooms in one building have been left to appear as they were in 1977. The spartan interrogation rooms are furnished with only a school desk-and-chair set that faces a steel bed frame with shackles at each end. On the far wall are the grisly photographs of bloated, decomposing bodies chained to bed frames with pools of wet blood underneath. A must see while in Phnom Penh! Horrific but an essential part of a visit to Phnom Penh!

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A somber and emotional visit to Killing Field

Get a great educational and historical experience when in Killing Field - a deeply moving insight into Pol Pot's regime.The excursion will put a lot of things in perspective and why the Cambodian people just want peace after awful era with thousands of impact which is greater and longer lasting. The experience is like time has stopped when you quietly walk through the fields, seeing bones and items still left in the place where the massacre took place.  Visiting this places will absolutly move you and give you a mixture of emotions. 

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  • Meals:

    Breakfast, Lunch

  • Transfer:
  • Activities:

    Drive from Phnom Penh to Kratie. Stop to visit Wat Nokor, Wat Sorsor Mouy Roy. Take a boat to see Mekong Dolphin.

After breakfast at the hotel, we leave Phnom Penh for Kampong Cham (2.5 hrs driving), a former French trading post on the Mekong, visit Wat Nokor, an 11th century Angkor era Buddhist temple. Continue to Kratie Province (2 hours driving). Upon arrival in Kratie, we will first visit Wat Sorsor Mouy Roy in village Sambo. The Vihara of the so-called ‘100 Pillars Pagoda’ is an important historical and cultural building and quite famous for its legend involving a princess and a crocodile. After that we will drive to the north along the banks of the Mekong, a scenic route with great views. The village of Kampi is one of the best places to view the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins along the Mekong. Get on board a local boat that will take you to the preferred habitats of these interesting creatures. As soon as you have spotted the first dolphin, your boat driver will turn the engine off and you will follow the dolphins silently (duration 1 to 1.5 hours).

Then check in the hotel. The rest of the afternoon will be free at leisure. The Kratie stretch of the river is particularly famed for its striking sunsets.

Overnight in Kratie.

  • Meals:

    Breakfast

  • Transfer:
  • Activities:

    Get close with local life on Koh Trong Island. Join in tree-planting project. Taste local fruit and visit a Vietnamese floating village

Breakfast at the hotel. Explore the island of Koh Trong, This Mekong island displays typical Cambodian village life, where people’s livelihood largely depends on rice farming and fruits cultivation (Koh Trong is famous for its pomelo). You can decide whether you would like to take a local horse cart or pedal yourself around the island on a bicycle. You will have lunch at a local family.

Your first destination will be the island’s Wat, where a special activity awaits you: A tree-planting project initiated by a local farmer, in order to cultivate the once densely forested island. Contribute to the project by planting your own tree here and it will carry your name tag and leave a positive trace on the island. There is the option to continue by horse cart or cycling around the island, where you will be able to taste local fruit and visit a Vietnamese floating village on the southern tip of the island.

Overnight in Kratie.

  • Meals:

    Breakfast, Lunch

  • Transfer:
  • Activities:

    Drive from Kratie to Kampong Thom. On the way visit Phnom Santuk Mountain.

After breakfast at the hotel, we will leave Kratie for Kampong Thom Province (5hrs driving). On the way, stop at Phnom Santuk Mountain and climb the 980 steps to the top to visit the pagoda and for the great views over the countryside.

Upon arrival in Kampong Thom, check into your hotel and enjoy a leisurely afternoon cycling tour along the river or relax by the hotel pool.
Overnight in Kampong Thom.

  • Meals:

    Breakfast

  • Transfer:
  • Activities:

    Driver from Kampong Thom to Siem Reap. Stop at Sambor Prei Kuk. Walk through Khmer villages & visit the ancient Naga Bridge.

An early morning departure to the archeological site of Sambor Prei Kuk, which is dotted with hundred Pre-Angkor styled temples. The site, part of the Chenla Kingdom, includes an area of nearly 1000 acres enclosed by double walls, and hundreds of temples and towers, its construction predates Angkor Wat by several centuries. The road conditions are very poor, but the spectacular scenery, with a mixture of temples and forest, makes the hardship all worthwhile.

Enjoy a beautiful walk through the jungle with breathtaking views. Your visit supports a community-based tourism project. The villages around the temple complex still practice the ancient art of craft making, using materials such as bamboo and rattan. Stop at one village to observe the local production. The community runs the Isanborei Craft Hut next to the temples and sells their products there as part of a community-based tourism project. You will have the chance to visit and contribute to the sustainability of the people’s livelihood as the local community will prepare a simple but very tasty lunch for you near the temple.

After seeing this landmark, you will make your way towards Siem Reap and pass through various Khmer traditional villages. On the way, visit archeological “Naga Bridge” at Kompong Kdey.

Upon arrival in Siem Reap, do check-in and free at your leisure to take a rest. Overnight in Siem Reap.

  • Meals:

    Breakfast

  • Transfer:
  • Activities:

    Visit Angkor temples. Witness beautiful sunset from the top of Phnom Bakheng hill.

Breakfast at the hotel. This morning we will visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8m high wall, drawing a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path, a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake. Continue on to the incredible Ta Prohm temple, built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground.

Lunch at a local restaurant (on your own expense)

In the afternoon, visit the legendary Angkor Wat. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple.

We will end the day with a beautiful sunset view from the top of Phnom Bakheng hill. Once the sun has set, we’ll head back to town.

Free evening. Overnight in Siem Reap.

Splendor Trip to Religious Angkor Wat

Regarded as the largest religious structure in the world, Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia) steals travelers’ heart by the astonishing vast and amazing landscape. A wonderful experience to watch the mesmerizing sunrise and to explore the site needs tackling whilst you visit Siem Reap. Don’t forget to take water, hat, sunscreen and proper attire to maintain your energetic exploration.

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  • Meals:

    Breakfast

  • Transfer:
  • Activities:

    Take a relaxing boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake traveling Kampong Phluck. Walk through the village and local community. Enjoy seasonal fruits & fresh coconut juice

Breakfast at the hotel.
This morning you will embark on an interesting boat trip on Tonlé Sap Lake (Kampong Phluk area), where you will have the opportunity to learn about life on the lake. Tonle Sap is South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake with its size varying greatly depending on the season, as it swells to about four times its size during the wet season. Board a local boat and visit Kampong Phluck, a village where you will see houses on stilts that are submerged when Tonlé Sap Lake swells. On the way, you will pass floating houses and impressive flooded forests, portraying life on the water.

Return to Siem Reap town for lunch and to rest for a while.

In the afternoon, you will be taken on a drive through the countryside to a local village, a beautiful small farming village where life revolves around the seasons and family, located approximately 15 minutes outside of Siem Reap. Here you will be taken on an incredible walking tour through the village and local community, learning about their simple way of life, meet local people and you will probably want to chat with them or help them with gardening works or help grow vegetables in the gardens, you will be welcome by kids saying “Hello” to you. The village tour guide will explain to you about Cambodian daily lifestyle, customers, cultures, and superstitions. Then we will also stop at a local pagoda for an intimate monk blessing (water blessing), wishing you good health and a safe journey – a very special experience!

This is a wonderful village tour that provides a lot of photo opportunities and local experiences. End of the trip, we will enjoy seasonal fruits & fresh coconut juice at a host family’s house before we transfer you back to the hotel. The rest of the day you will be on your own.

Note: Today we recommend you to have proper clothes if you want to join the monk blessing at the local temple.

Relaxing in the floating experience in Tonle Sap lake

Siem Reap – one of the most popular destination of Cambodia has no shortage of unique charms — from Khmer classical ruins temples to a UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Wat— and it has been luring curious travelers more by the unique floating life in Tonle Sap Lake. Besides the quaint local boat experience, you will be welcomed by warming smiles from the humble Cambodian people and have a chance to see the real-life of local people and see how they make for a living in this fantastic lake

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  • Meals:

    Breakfast, Lunch

  • Transfer:
  • Activities:

    Explore the ancient Kor Ker & Beng Mealea Temples

Depart for a full day trip to Koh Ker and Beng Mealea both located in the beautiful rural hinterlands of Siem Reap. Travel off-the-beaten track for 2.5 hours before arriving at Koh Ker, the former capital of the Khmer Empire between 928 and 944 A.D. The style of the Koh Ker temple is different from any other temple in Cambodia and has more of a resemblance to the ancient pyramids of Egypt. Partially overgrown by the forest and inhabited only by birds, this temple and its surroundings are an exceptional experience. 

Enjoy lunch near the temple and continue to visit other ancient structures in the peaceful area. As you head back to Siem Reap, visit the spectacular ruins of Beng Mealea, which was constructed by King Suryavarman II (1113-1150). It preceded and may have served as a prototype of sorts for Angkor Wat. Contrary to Angkor, few carvings or bas-reliefs are evident. Today the temple is largely overrun by vegetation and the stone walls are crumbling which adds to its charm in a unique way. After your visit, drive 1.5 hours back to your hotel. 

Overnight in Siem Reap.

Fantastic jungle experience at Beng Mealea Temple

Beng Mealea or Bung Mealea is a temple from the Angkor Wat period. It is located 40 km east from the main group of temples at Angkor, Siem Reap, on the ancient royal highway to Preah Khan Kompong Svay. Beng Mealea was built as a Hindu temple, but some carvings depict Buddhist motifs. Its primary material is sandstone and it is largely unrestored, with trees and thick brush thriving amidst its towers and courtyards and many of its stones lying in great heaps. The history of the temple is unknown and it can be dated only by its architectural style, identical to Angkor Wat, so scholars assumed it was built during the reign of king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on September 1, 1992 in the Cultural category.Beng Mealea is largely unrestored and off the beaten path, with trees and brush thriving amidst its towers and courtyards. You can wander around a huge maze, looking at stones and columns lying in great heaps, and explored semi-collapsed tunnels. It is definitely not as many tourists as Angkor Wat!If you are a bit tired of Angkor & looking for an extraordinary place without tons of people, just head to Beng Mealea.

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Amazing Pyramid Temple of Koh Ker

Located in Preah Vihear province, Koh Ker temple is an amazing pyramid temple you should visit and you will learn more about it when you go with your guide. It is a spectacular area of ​​temples other than Angkor (120 km / 2 hours drive from Siem rep), less touristy for now and in the process of being applied to be considered a UNESCO heritage site. Koh Ker was once a thriving city with over 10.000 inhabitants and was even the capital of the Khmer Empire between 928 AD and 944AD during the reigns of Jayavarman IV and Harshavarman II. Today what is left are dozens of temples in the area which are mostly covered by dense jungle. The most important remaining structure is the complex of the double sanctuary Prasat Thom / Prang.The one of the great pyramid (very similar to that of Chichen Itza in the Mayan Riviera) and which can be climbed on wooden stairs through one side (36 meters). The coolest part is that you get to go on top of it, how many ancient pyramids can you do that on? From top of the temple you can see the east jungle surrounding the complex and it still has many engulfed temples. The view from there is awesome: no buiding, no village, no car or no man, just tree and jungle.

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  • Meals:

    Breakfast, Lunch