Siem Reap is probably best known around the world for being home to the stunning temples of Angkor Wat.
Millions of visitors flock to Cambodia every year to visit Angkor Wat. And there’s really no doubt that these beautiful temples are one of the absolute best thing to do in Siem Reap.
But, while this should definitely form part of your Siem Reap itinerary, there is so much more to do here besides Angkor Wat!
We recently spent an unforgettable five days in Siem Reap and easily fell in love with this small but bustling market town.
Whether you’re planning on spending two or three days here or a full week, read on for my take on the best things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
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Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. You can’t come to Siem Reap without visiting the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat.
It is practically synonymous with Siem Reap, and certainly one of the top things to do in all of Cambodia. You’ll be hard pressed not to fall in love with the magnificent temples which have been painstakingly restored here.
The Angkor complex is one of the most important archaeological sites in all of South-East Asia. And, it is rather enormous! You can easily spend numerous days here if you’re that way inclined.
My personal favourite temple at Angkor was Ta Prohm. The way nature has reclaimed this particular temple just blew my mind!
Read More: Check out my full guide on visiting Angkor Wat for all the details you’ll need
Tonle Sap Floating Village
Whether you visit during the dry or wet season, a trip to a Tonle Sap floating village just outside Siem Reap is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Siem Reap!
I highly recommend booking a tour with Community First, who focus on responsible tourism. We had a wonderful experience with them and found the tour to be very educational. Primarily, this is because Community First’s tour guides all come from the village you visit, so they are extremely knowledgable.
We paid $35 per person, and the trip was well worth the money. What’s even better is that all profits from the tours are donated to the Bridge of Life School. This is a not-for-profit that funds education, clean water, and other community projects in Cambodia.
The Community First tour takes you to Kompong Khleang. This is the largest floating village in Siem Reap although perhaps surprisingly, it’s not too touristy.
The tours change a small bit based on the season as water levels change significantly between dry and wet season!
For the most part though, it includes;
- A couple of road-side stops to try Khmer sticky rice, some traditional donuts and other local snacks
- Visiting the floating village including an informative stop at the local stilted school
- A boat ride out to the Tonle Sap lake to see an ethnic Vietnamese floating village at sunset
The trip starts at 2pm and is advertised as a half-day tour. But, it was action packed and lasted around 6 hours in total! Be prepared to return to your Siem Reap hotel after dark, feeling tired but fulfilled after an exceptional day out!
Phnom Kulen National Park
Phnom Kulen (literally meaning Mountain of the Lychees) was one of my favourite things to do and a great day out from Siem Reap.
Kulen mountain is one of Cambodia’s most holy religious sites, and the national park is popular with locals as well as tourists, so it can get busy on nice days.
Plan to head away early as it takes about two hours to get to the top of Mount Kulen by car from Siem Reap. The roads are somewhat narrow so they have put a one-way system in place meaning you can only go up Kulen mountain until noon, and head back down in the afternoon.
If you’re in a group, you can rent a car and driver for about $70. Our hotel helped organise this for us. Your driver will drive you between sites at Phnom Kulen and keep you cool with air conditioning and iced water.
Alternatively, you can join a group tour to discover Siem Reap’s holy mountain.
Either way, these prices don’t include your tickets to enter Phnom Kulen National Park. Tickets cost $20 per person and can be bought in town or at the gate. Either way, it’s the same price.
As part of your day trip to Phnom Kulen, you’ll get to see the beautiful Thousand Lingas. These are ancient symbols carved into the stones of the riverbed and are tributes to the Hindu God, Shiva.
Following this, you’ll visit the impressive reclining Buddha, at Preah Ang Thom, the main temple at Phnom Kulen. You’ll need to take your shoes off to enter the temple!
Pro Tip: Remember to dress modestly for the temple, with clothing that covers knees and shoulders
Finally, you’ll head to Kulen waterfall, which was the highlight for me. Plan for a picnic lunch here and bring your swimwear with you for a refreshing dip in the natural pool at the base of the waterfall!
Beware of the cheeky fish that will nibble on your toes!
If you have the time and energy after your day on Phnom Kulen, and you’re not quite “templed out” you can opt to visit Banteay Srei on the way back to Siem Reap.
Pro Tip: The ticket you purchased for Angkor Wat will give you entrance to Banteay Srei as well, so make sure you bring it along!
Go Shopping At The Old Market
Immerse yourself in the local Siem Reap life and head to the old market right in the heart of town. This is where you’ll find locals shopping for food and household items. But, don’t worry! There are plenty of wonderful souvenirs to buy here too.
You’ll find everything from clothes to jewellery to handicrafts at the market. We bought a couple of beautiful paintings here, as well as some sarongs (always handy!)
Make sure you haggle though, as the vendors will start with a high price. Shop around and make sure you’re happy with the price you agree on.
Shopping at the old market is a great way to experience Cambodian culture and is one of my top things to do in Siem Reap.
Check Out The Food And Drink On Pub Street
If you’re looking for a refreshing beer after a hot day of exploring temples, head to Pub Street for 50 cent draft beers!
Pub Street is the hub of Siem Reap’s nightlife. But it’s worth a visit just for the atmosphere even if you’re not planning on partying late into the night.
Feeling hungry? And brave? You can buy scorpions, spiders and other fried critters on sticks from street vendors all along Pub Street! If you’re hoping for a quick photo opp though, most will charge you a dollar for the privilege!
For those feeling less adventurous, there are plenty of restaurants as well as bars along Pub Street, so you definitely won’t go hungry.
A word of warning; Prices on Pub Street are pretty inflated (with the exception of the aforementioned 50 cent beers). For a more authentic Siem Reap food experience, head a little further afield.
Our absolute favourite restaurant in all of Siem Reap was Sambo. A small family run restaurant serving wonderful Khmer and Thai food, it’s run by cheeky Sokha who always has a bright smile ready!
Pro Tip: Make a reservation if you’d like to eat at Sambo – it’s small and was packed every single night!
One of the best cultural things to do in Siem Reap is to visit Phare Circus. It’s not really a circus in the traditional sense (no animals!) Instead, it’s more a mix of theatre and acrobatic gymnastics focusing on telling stories about the Cambodian culture.
Phare is a project run by a non profit and provides education, training and jobs for young adults in Cambodia. So you’ll be contributing to a good cause by enjoying the show. Win, win!
They perform various shows in rotation throughout the month. If there is a specific story you’re interested in, check out Phare’s own website to see which production is scheduled when.
Tickets start from $18 per person. Your hotel can help arrange tickets for you, or you can book them yourself online.
Eat At Haven Restaurant
In keeping with the ongoing theme of sustainable tourism in Siem Reap, and giving back to the Cambodian community, enjoying a delicious dinner at Haven restaurant is my final recommendation for great things to do in Siem Reap.
This is a training restaurant for disadvantaged young adults, teaching them professional work as well as important life skills.
The restaurant is located in a peaceful setting away from Siem Reap’s main hustle and bustle. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner in the tranquil courtyard of the traditional Khmer house. It was especially lovely to chat to one of the founders, Sara, about how Haven came about and how the training restaurant is run.
Haven restaurant serves wonderfully fresh food. They have great vegetarian and vegan options, but offer plenty of meat dishes as well.
Definitely make sure you stop by to support this deserving cause!
So there you have it! These are truly the very best things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Have you been to Siem Reap? What did you enjoy most? Did you discover any other beautiful places?
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