Photo: Prasat Samnang Tasok.


From temples to Tomb Raider

For decades off limits to all but the most intrepid travellers, today Southeast Asia's Cambodia is a popular destination for all kinds of folks: from independent backpackers who roam far into the hinterland to luxury tourists who stay in style and see Cambodia's main drawcards between massages and exquisite French meals.

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Down to onward travel

The ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat is Cambodia's national treasure. The nearby city of Siem Reap has developed dramatically since the days when Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider here and fell in love with the nation.

Position vacant.

Position vacant. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

While some lament the discovery of Angkor by the masses, the site is still breathtaking and Siem Reap offers all of the comforts one could wish for on any budget. Those with more than a day or two to spend in the Angkor area will find a host of more obscure ancient temples and monuments which can be fascinating in their own right.

Many do simply holiday at Angkor and travel no further, but Cambodia has a lot more to showcase. Consider as well a break on the lazy white-sand beaches of Sihanoukville, a stay at a stylish resort in resurging coastal Kep, or a tour to the atmospheric, mist-shrouded Bokor Hill Station for a taste of Cambodia's 1960s heyday. Meanwhile, several of Cambodia's islands have emerged as terrific alternatives to the more developed Thai islands.

Explore the ruins of Angkor.

Explore the ruins of Angkor. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Many write off Phnom Penh, yet it's a beautiful city, with a stunning colonial heritage, a gorgeous riverside promenade featuring a glittering palace, and a great selection of restaurants and bars.

Shopping here has taken off: trawl the stalls of the Russian market for "antique" finds, wispy organza fabrics and chic ceramics, stop in a few boutiques for home-grown designer clothes and get some leather shoes handcrafted at a bargain price at one of the city's skilled cobblers.

The little-visited northeast.

The little-visited northeast. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

The reminders of the horrific genocide perpetrated by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge make for harrowing but essential viewing: do see Tuol Sleng and make a trip to the Killing Fields just outside the city for a sobering aside to your travels as you pause to remember the atrocities humans are capable of committing.

Further afield, Battambang offers travellers a taste of laid-back rural life and an increasingly captivating art scene. Stop to see Cambodia's first winery and tour isolated Khmer temples, some of which pre-date Angkor.

The incredibly moving Tuol Sleng.

The incredibly moving Tuol Sleng. Photo: Stuart McDonald

The former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng is another key stop for the more adventurous traveller, where the grave of Pol Pot serves as another reminder of the history Cambodia is struggling to overcome.

Travelfish shows you how to make the most of the popular destinations, points you in the direction of Cambodia's best-kept secrets and equips you with the knowledge you need to make up-to-the-minute decisions throughout your trip to Cambodia.

Discover Cambodia

What not to miss

Survey the World Heritage listed ruins of Angkor Wat. Take a sunset cruise off Phnom Penh. Visit the remnants of the Khmer Rouge regime. Eat fresh crab at coastal Kep. Trek through the jungle in remote Rattanakiri.

When to go

The most popular time to go is between November and February. There is little rain and it isn't too hot. The wet season runs from May to October and isn't the best time for a Cambodian beach holiday. The wet does keep the crowds at bay and Angkor is wonderful in the wet season, so it isn't all bad. April is scorchingly hot.

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