Aimed at busy people who have only a few days to spare, this very compact five-day itinerary takes in all of Cambodia’s essential sites. Starting in the modern and vibrant capital city of Phnom Penh, it will include visits to key attractions, including some reminders of Cambodia’s tragic recent past. Then it’s back in time to the glories of the great Khmer empire and the magnificent temple ruins of Angkor, near Siem Reap.
- Ride a colonial-style cyclo through old Phnom Penh.
- Walk through the Royal Palace and visit the famous Silver Pagoda.
- Talk with a former S21 prisoner and learn about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge genocide.
- Discover the magnificent temples of Angkor, including Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the famous overgrown sanctuary of Ta Prohm.
- Visit floating villages and learn about the daily life of Cambodian fishermen on the Tonle Sap Lake.
Day 1: Arrival Phnom Penh - City tour by cyclo - Royal Palace (L)
You will be welcomed on arrival in Phnom Penh by our tour guide and transferred to your hotel for check-in. Once considered the “loveliest French-built city” in Indochina, Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located at the confluence of the three rivers, the Bassac, the Mekong and the Tonle, it is the country’s political and economical hub. The afternoon tour starts with a cyclo ride around Phnom Penh, weaving through the busy traffic, experiencing all the sights and sounds – a great introduction to this vibrant city. Next is a walking tour through the grounds of the Royal Palace, built in 1866 by King Norodom, where you will visit the Throne Hall, Wat Phnom Mondap with its Buddha footprint, and the magnificent Silver Pagoda. Then you’ll return to your hotel before heading out for more exploration of the riverfront area, with its bars and restaurants of all kinds.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 2: City tour - Wat Phnom - National Museum - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - Cheuong Ek Killing Fields Memorial (B,L)
This morning you’ll resume your city tour, visiting Wat Phnom, the historical cradle of Phnom Penh, after which you’ll get the chance to view one of the finest collections of ancient Khmer artefacts anywhere in the world at the National Museum. Sadly, Cambodia is still often remembered for the excesses of the Khmer Rouge government which held power between 1975 and 1979. As a result of the genocide conducted by the Pol Pot regime an estimated 1.5 million people are believed to have lost their lives. After lunch you’ll visit two reminders of this terrible period of Khmer history. First you will visit the notorious Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (a former high school building which the Khmer Rouge turned into the S21 prison), where you can meet with one of the very lucky five survivors and hear his very touching story of living through that tough time. Then you will travel to the Cheuong Ek Killing Fields Memorial on the outskirts of the city, located in an area of land where some 17,000 men, women and children are believed to have been executed.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 3: Phnom Penh - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat (B,L)
Today you will take the morning flight northeast to Siem Reap, capital of Siem Reap province and gateway to the Angkor World Heritage Site, which contains over 100 temples and other structures built by successive Khmer kings between the 9th and 14th centuries. You will be welcomed by our guide as soon as you come out of the airport building and transferred to your hotel for check-in. After lunch you will visit the famous 240-hectare Angkor Wat, considered one of the great wonders of the world. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, it is visually, architecturally and artistically breathtaking, with a massive three-tiered pyramid crowned by five beehive-like towers which rise 65 meters from ground level. This temple is the centrepiece of any visit to the temples of Angkor. Return to the hotel to freshen up before exploring the night life in Siem Reap, which has numerous restaurants (Asian and western), bars, cafes and shops.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 4: Siem Reap - Angkor Thom (Baphoun - Bayon - Terrace of the Elephants - Terrace of the Leper King - Pimeanakas) - Ta Prohm - boat ride on Tonle Sap Lake (B,L)
Your second visit to the Angkor complex starts in the morning with a visit to the 900-hectare walled city of Angkor Thom, built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries by King Jayavarman VII, whose face adorns several of the city gates. Starting at the South Gate of the city, you will view the spectacular 12th-century Bayon, the 11th-century Baphoun, the intricately-carved bas-reliefs of the Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King and the Pimeanakas royal temple. Next you will visit the famous Buddhist monastery of Ta Prohm, another of Jayavarman VII’s construction projects, parts of which have been photogenically overgrown by jungle and were immortalised by Hollywood movie star Angelina Jolie in the action movie “Tomb Raider 2.” In the afternoon you will take a boat trip on the Tonle Sap Lake, visiting interesting floating fishing villages and experiencing the beautiful sunset over South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 5: Depart Siem Reap (B)
This morning you will have some time at leisure to enjoy last-minute shopping in the old market or the upscale Artisans d’Angkor handicraft centre before you transfer to Siem Reap airport for your departure.