A decade ago – and until recently, in fact – tourists were drawn to Cambodia purely to visit the stunning temples of Angkor. Indeed the temples are incredible and must be visited, but there is much more under the skin of this fascinating country. Off-shore islands, pristine beaches and an almost perfect year round climate, the forests, hills and jungles offer much to explore. The rich heritage and natural beauty is vast.
Most tourists begin their visit with a couple of nights in the cosmopolitan capital, Phnom Penh. Unlike many South-East Asian cities, Phnom Penh has retained much of its charm. Buildings do not reach high and the roads are of high quality thanks to Western aid. The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda provide an insight into the depth of culture and the vibrant riverside with pavement cafes and bars is a great place to shop and watch the locals go about their daily life.
The world-famous temples of Angkor are the predominant reason for visiting. Well geared towards visitors, Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei, Ta Prohm and Bayon - with its hundreds of carved faces - could be marvelled over for weeks, but don’t linger for there is more to see. Heading south to the Gulf of Thailand allows visitors to soak up the relaxed atmosphere of long, white sandy beaches. Heading north from Phnom Penh, the Mekong River near Kratie is home to large populations of dolphins. To the east lies the most scenic and naturally dramatic part of the country.
When it comes to activity, there are plenty of elephant rides and trekking opportunities through much of the northern parts of Cambodia. The best time to visit is during the dry season, which itself can be subdivided into 2 seasons: the cool, dry season from Nov – Feb or the hot, dry season from Mar – May. During the rainy season from June to Oct, river levels rise dramatically and can not only be dangerous but also hinder travel, hence why it’s better to stick to the dry season.
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