Over the years, Cambodia has slowly been growing into one of Southeast Asia’s leading destinations to visit. A few decades back, the small, dusty country was still bouncing back from the country’s internal turmoil, and a handful international travelers had their eyes on the temples of Angkor, and nothing more. Despite the country’s great variety in landscapes and attractions, the kingdom’s offerings were still little known, and even less developed by domestic travel companies. Thankfully, as time rolled on and tourism in the Southeast Asia region began increasing, Cambodia’s development and popularity has skyrocketed. The star of the show? The ancient temples of Angkor.
The star of Siem Reap, the temples of Angkor stretch on for kilometers, representing the former capital of the Khmer Empire. Sitting at the heart of the sprawling temple complex is Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious complex in the world. Visitors come from far and wide to gaze at these towering religious monuments, which vary greatly in size, style and layout. While this UNESCO-protected complex is certainly worth all the hype (and more), travelers are finally discovering that Cambodia’s travel offerings reach well beyond the walls of Angkor.
Siem Reap, the gateway to the Angkor complex, has developed into its own fascinating tourist destination, with Khmer architecture, cuisine, culture and hospitality giving the Angkor Complex a run for its money. World-class hotels, restaurants and boutique shops can be found in this bustling city, introducing first-time visitors to Cambodian charm and alluring repeat travelers to return again and again.
Further southeast from Siem Reap sits Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh, which boasts its own unique attractions and appeals. While the city once sat as the headquarters for some of the Khmer Rouge’s worst atrocities, the city is slowly inching away from its dark days (and dark visits such as S-21 and the Killing Fields), and attracting travelers with its array of accommodation, restaurants, tranquil riverside visits and more. From markets and dazzling architecture to lush green boulevards and mesmerizing Buddhist temples, Phnom Penh has a great deal to offer visitors beyond the sites of the Khmer Rouge.
For those who are ready to get a bit off the beaten path, Cambodia’s lesser known sites are also well worth a visit. Destinations such as Battambang, Banteay Srei and the Tonle Sap Lake region offer their own unique appeals and attractions, offering visitors a glimpse into a more rural Cambodia. Ancient temple ruins, stilt-houses combatting seasonal flood waters and unique modes of transport make visiting some of the area’s alternative destinations well worth the trek out. Furthermore, Cambodia also has a southern coastal area that gives both Thailand and Vietnam a run for their money.
Travelers seeking some sun and sand will love the Kampot, Sihanoukville and Koh Rong areas, where wonderful resorts, clean beaches and great food/beverage outlets are slowly popping up, making for a wonderful tropical retreat. On top of the beautiful landscapes, Cambodia’s coastline also offers the country’s freshest seafood offerings, which get served fresh from the ocean to the plate on a daily basis.
Whether you’re looking for a family getaway, a solo excursion, honeymoon retreat or backpacking adventure, Cambodia has got it all. No longer just a brief, add-on destination, Cambodia has a condensed version of what many other countries in the region have to offer, with its own fascinating culture, history, cuisine and customs. Travel well beyond the temples of Angkor and discover everything the Kingdom of Cambodia has to offer!