Itinerary: 4 Days in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Explore ancient archeological temples. Hike dense, tropical jungles. Observe life in a floating village. Indulge in sumptuous spa treatments. Sample the subtly spiced flavors of Cambodian cuisine. Siem Reap offers a wide range of treasures for the adventurous soul—but the biggest I found was the warmth and hospitality of the Khmer people.
It’s barely been 20 years since Cambodia recovered from the tyrannical rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Every Khmer I met was directly affected by the regime’s occupancy: a shop owner who could not wear eyeglasses for fear he’d be executed for looking too intellectual; a young man who lost his arm to an old landmine; and a family who escaped to France to escape political persecution. Despite the turmoil, poverty, and adversity, the Khmer spirit remains resilient. There is an ardent sense of optimism in the air. The increase of tourism has helped spur economic growth. Many families have moved back Cambodia to re-connect with their communities and rebuild their culture. There is also an large presence of ex-pats and NGOs who are dedicated to getting the country back on track. As a visitor, I could not help but admire and be inspired by the country’s pride and fortitude.
The 2000 filming of “Tomb Raider” popularized the temples of Angkor Wat as a major travel destination in Asia. Siem Reap may no longer be a hidden secret, but it is still an unbelievably affordable destination with many unique travel opportunities. Below is a general itinerary of how I spent my time there. Click here for a detailed list of general, accommodation, restaurant and shopping resources for Siem Reap»
Day 1: Arrival in Siem Reap
- Arrive in Siem Reap and check into hotel.
- Visit the food stands at the Old Market and explore the charming alleys and streets around the area.
- Stroll north along the river promenade to the Royal Gardens and Old French Quarter.
- Return to hotel and set up private sunrise tour for Angkor Wat for next morning.
- Grab dinner at one of the lively restaurants near the Passage and duck into some of the funky art galleries or pubs around the Passage.
Day 2: Angkor Archaeological Park
- Meet tour guide before dawn and enjoy breakfast as the sun rises over Angkor Wat.
- Explore the ancient walled complex with your guide.
- Discover the giant sculpted faces at Bayon and proceed to the Terrace of the Elephants and the Leper King.
- Grab lunch then visit the eerie temples of Ta Prohm, the monastic Banteay Kdei, and end admiring the intricately carved Prasat Kravan temple.
- Return to Siem Reap and enjoy a massage or foot rub before dinner.
Day 3: Banteay Srei & Green Gecko
- Grab breakfast and pack a lunch with sandwiches-to-go from Blue Pumpkin.
- Hire a driver for a trip north to visit the scenic grounds of Bantra Srey, the Citadel of Women.
- Head to Phnom Kulen for a 2km hike to the River of a Thousand Lingas—a riverbed carved with ancient, phallic symbols.
- Return back down by 1:00 pm for a guided tour of the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity near the trail head.
- Stop at the heart-wrenching Cambodian Landmine Museum on way back to town.
- Drop off donations and tour the Green Gecko Project. This amazing facility offers former street children shelter, education, and opportunities to realize their full potential.
- Return to rest at hotel before dinner in Siem Reap, with an optional visit to the touristy Night Market.
Day 4: Kompong Phluk & War Museum
- Hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day. First stop is Kompong Phluk floating village about 16 km outside of town (avoid the tourist trap Chong Kneas tour).
- Arrange tour at boat house to visit the stilted fishing village and mangrove forests in the middle of Tonle Sap – the largest fresh-water lake in southeast Asia.
- Grab lunch near Siem Reap then visit the War Museum – an old mine field full of old vehicles and weapons with guides who offer insight into the terrorizing occupation of the Khmer Rouge.
- Indulge in another massage in town – spa treatments are cheap!
- Enjoy gourmet tapas dinner at AHA in Siem Reap.
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of seeing the world. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as the Art Director for the branding firm, Belmont Inc., in Alexandria, VA. In her spare time, she instructs high-energy Zumba dance classes, contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.