Cambodia travel is increasingly popular today, from independent backpackers to luxury tourists who spend their holiday in Cambodia in the lap of luxury, experiencing Angkor Wat between massages and exquisite French meals. And while it’s true that Angkor Wat and the surrounding UNESCO World Heritage Site are essential highlights, Cambodia tourism also includes outstanding tropical islands, a budding ecotourism scene, and historical and elegant Phnom Penh hotels.
Most tourists will fly into Phnom Penh or Siem Reap to start their holiday in Cambodia, here are just a few of the most beautiful places to visit once your Cambodia travels have commenced. Cambodia’s Angkor Wat is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest historical sites on the planet and at the top of the list on every visitor’s Cambodia travel itinerary.
Just five km. south of Angkor Wat is Siem Reap, a Cambodia tourism destination in its own right which has exploded from a small backwater town into the fastest growing city in the country. Siem Reap has a lot going on these days and has surpassed even Phnom Penh for its Khmer performing arts scene. Cambodia travel shouldn’t miss the islands off the coast of Cambodia, which have become a big Cambodia tourism draw. New accommodation is being built on nearly all of them, along with bars, restaurants and dive shops.
Sihanoukville is Cambodia travel’s premier beach destination, located on a peninsula ringed by sandy beaches and surrounded by a smattering of attractive islands. No holiday in Cambodia would be complete without fresh seafood from Sihanoukville.
A holiday in Cambodia should include Battambang, whose rich architectural heritage and thriving art scene provides a base for much of Cambodia’s top artistic talent. Battambang’s lush countryside provides a tranquil moment of Cambodia travel after the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Cambodia tourism delves into the ecotourism realm with a trip to Kratie, a charming and cheerful little town on the Mekong River best known for the endangered Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins who live off the village of Kampi, 20 kilometres north of town.
Cambodia tourism has reached to the farthest reaches of the country in Banlung, one of Cambodia’s loveliest provinces. If your holiday in Cambodia takes you to Ratanakiri, its capital, it is truly worth the effort, and now easier to get to than ever before.
Overlooking the peninsula that links Cambodia to Thailand and accessed by an almost two-kilometer long bridge, is Koh Kong, a pleasant sea-breeze laden town that you can base your Cambodia travels from while exploring the south-west corner of the country. Cambodia tourism includes national parks for dedicated nature lovers, including Virachey N.P. in the remote northeast, Ream N.P. and Bokor N.P. along the coast, and close to Phnom Penh don’t miss Cambodia’s first national park, Kirirom N.P.
And then there’s, Phnom Penh, a veritable crossroads of cultures, eras and peoples. International visitors range from tourists on a package tour holiday in Cambodia to NGO workers helping the country’s more impoverished citizens. This tempestuous throbbing city blends Cambodian, Chinese and French influences in a vibrant and friendly collage of infectious energy.
There is so much to see and do in Phnom Penh that most people are surprised by the array of historical, cultural and environmental Cambodia tourism attractions the city has to offer. It’s not all about the Khmer Rouge or Cambodia’s dark past. Khmer era temples, artistic performances and museums abound as Phnom Penh’s charm peaks out from every boutique Phnom Penh hotel, bistro and back alley. The Khmer temples and monuments found in Phnom Penh are some of the most stunning examples of Buddhist architecture and art that exist today.
The best Phnom Penh hotels are scattered around the charming city center along the mighty Mekong that snakes its way through the city. Over the past few years, Phnom Penh has welcomed a host of new luxury villas and international brands onto the scene, which have transformed the Phnom Penh hotel landscape of the city.
One of these luxury Phnom Penh hotels is the well situated Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, a family-friendly hotel on the river close to AEON Mall, Tuol Tom Pong Market, and Orussey Market. Also nearby are Kandal Market and Sorya Shopping Center. This 5-star Phnom Penh hotel has a full-service spa, 2 outdoor swimming pools, outdoor tennis courts, and a health club. Complimentary wireless high-speed Internet access is available in public areas and a computer station is located on site. Business amenities at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra include a business center and meeting rooms, making it one of the most popular Phnom Penh hotels for business executives and diplomats.
Central Market is one of the major Cambodia tourism landmarks in Phnom Penh. Whether you’re a shopping enthusiast, a tourist on holiday in Cambodia just wandering for the day from your Phnom Penh hotel room, or want to explore some of the amazing architectural wonders of the city, then Central Market is a place not to be missed during your Cambodia travels. Designed in Art Deco style, Central Market was the largest of its kind in Asia when it was constructed in 1937 during the French colonial era. It underwent renovation with funds from the French Developmental Agency and was reopened to the public in 2011.
Most of Phnom Penh’s most beautiful and interesting places are a short moto ride from Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra and the other international brand Phnom Penh hotels located near the river. Here are a few savvy travelers’ favorite forays from their Phnom Penh hotel rooms.
Phnom Penh’s Independence Monument, which was built in 1958 to memorialize Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953. It stands on the intersection of Norodom Boulevard and Sihanouk Boulevard in the center of the city. Wat Langka, situated near Independence Monument, is one of five pagodas founded by Ponhea Yat in 1442. This colorful shrine was established as a library for Buddhist scriptures as well as a meeting place for Cambodian and Sri Lankan monks, it was also used as a storehouse during the Khmer Rouge years.
The National Museum of Cambodia is Cambodia’s largest museum of cultural history and the country’s leading historical and archaeological museum, a compulsory visit for any cultural holiday in Cambodia. Housed within an imposing red sandstone building, The National Museum of Cambodia’s building itself is a fine illustration of traditional Khmer architecture. With over 14,000 fascinating exhibits to its credit, the museum is a treasure trove of artifacts portraying Khmer or Angkorian culture and history.
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia (if a blue flag is flying, the king is home), visitors can explore several buildings within the palace grounds. The river in front of the palace used to be used for watching boat races during the Water Festival. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Cambodia is located in this district. The quay is a 3km strip filled with vendors, locals and tourists, and is lined with hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes and shops.
The Silver Pagoda is located on the south side of the Royal Palace. This Phnom Penh national treasure houses many gold and jeweled Buddha statues. Most notable is a small 17th century baccarat crystal Buddha (the Emerald Buddha of Cambodia) and a life-sized gold Maitreya Buddha decorated with 9,584 diamonds. The internal wall of the Silver Pagoda courtyard is decorated with a richly colored and detailed mural of the Ramayana myth, painted in 1903–04 by 40 Khmer artists. The Silver Pagoda has more than 5,300 silver tiles that are used to cover the floor, collectively weighing over six tons.
Wat Phnom is an intricately detailed Buddhist temple located on the capital’s only hill at the center of a small park near Sisowath Quay. It was built in 1372 and stands 27 meters tall, the tallest religious structure in the city. The well-manicured park doubles as a roundabout and marks the official center of the capital, offering a welcome respite from Phnom Penh’s heat.
Tonle Bati is a small lake and a popular picnic spot for locals, about 30 km south of the capital and accessible within an hour’s drive from your Phnom Penh hotel. Ta Phrom Temple at Tonle Bati is similar in style to Angkor Wat and dates back to the late 12th century. It features well-preserved stone carvings and bas-reliefs of Hindu mythology.
A number of the performing arts colleges in town are available to the general public, allowing people the chance to observe Khmer dancers. One of these is the must-see Sovanna Phum Art Association Launched in 1994 with a group of pupils, shows are staged every Friday and Saturday night. These include classical Apsara dances, shadow puppet theater, and mask and folk dances. The shadow puppets made from leather, musical instruments and much more can be purchased at its gallery. Another nice theatre to see is the Chatomuk Theatre near some of the city’s finer Phnom Penh hotels at Sisowath Quay.
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