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8 Exciting Cities To Visit In Cambodia Every Backpacker Must See
If you are visiting Cambodia, you likely have Angkor Wat on your list of things to do, but did you know that there is SO MUCH more to see in Cambodia? These are the best cities to visit in Cambodia for your next trip!
If you are thinking about visiting Cambodia, I hope you are considering visiting much more than just Angkor Wat. This country has some of the kindest people and some beautiful scenery we never expected from Cambodia. These are the best cities to visit in Cambodia and hopefully, you will be able to visit them all!
We will talk all about the best cities to visit and the top things to do in each city!
This post is all about the best cities to visit in Cambodia!
Best Cities to Visit in Cambodia:
1. Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia and certainly has that big city feel that you come to expect with capital cities in Southeast Asia. This rapidly growing city has all the hustle and bustle that is a perfect change from the slow-moving pace of the rest of the country. From plenty of nightlife and shopping to rooftop pools and vegan cafes, this city has it all.
Best Things to Do In Phnom Penh:
- Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda: The main attraction in Phnom Penh is the massive Royal Palace right on the river. From the beautiful gates to the massive Silver Pagoda, be sure to bring your camera.
- Independence Monument at Night: This honestly doesn’t sound like a show-stopper, but let me tell you, it really is. Seeing this monument on a round-a-bout all lit up with lit fountains and cars surrounding it is truly something special.
- The Killing Fields & S21 Prison: Since Phnom Penh was the capital city in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over, they directly took over Phnom Penh. Visiting the Killing Fields and S21 Prison taught us so much about this horrific time period in Cambodia. Both of our guides were survivors and it was humbling to hear their stories and walk through these museums.
2. Takéo Province
This day trip from Phnom Penh is well worth the $35 Grab (Cambodia’s Uber) we took out for the entire day. Technically these are two different cities in one province but work so well together for a one-day trip.
Best Things to Do In Takéo Province:
- Chisor Mountain Temple: This mountain temple boasts incredible views of the Cambodian countryside. Apart from the stunning views, this ancient temple is completely overrun by beautiful wildflowers and tons of colorful butterflies. Magical.
- Ta Prohm Temple: Although the same name, this is different from the one in Angkor Wat. This ancient temple sits on a small piece of land but is still used today and is filled with locals performing their daily offerings.
- Tonle Bati Resort: The true gem of this day trip. This resort/restaurant sits on the lakefront and has bamboo huts over the water. Each hut comes with a floor pad and hammock for relaxing. It truly was a relaxing end to the long day exploring temples. They have a restaurant you can order food from or bring your own and pay a small fee to rent it for the day (or a few hours).
Kampot is a growing hub of ex-pats and backpackers alike. The food scene here is incredible and we truly had some of our favorite meals in Cambodia here (Ciao). The very laid-back town of Kampot is a perfect spot to refresh and explore on a motorbike or bicycle.
Best Things to Do In Kampot:
- Pepper Plantations: Known around the world for the best pepper in the world, Kampot has many pepper plantations to tour and taste the many different kinds of pepper they grow. We took a free tour and grabbed a Cambodian lunch with some fresh cracked Kampot Pepper.
- Bokor Hill: This mountain top retreat was once a resort town for the French in the early 1900s. Since then there have been many abandoned buildings atop the mountain and exploring them is part of the fun. There is now lots of growth in Bokor so you can even stay here but we recommend riding upon a motorbike for the day (just try for a non-rainy day, unlike us).
- Adventure Water Sports: With the beautiful Preaek Tuek Chhu River running through town and plenty of resorts setting up shop alongside it, adventure sports have become much more popular. Whether you are looking for a relaxing day on the water with a paddleboard or kayak or something a little more intense like jet skiing, they will have something for you.
Kep is a small seaside town only a 30-minute drive from Kampot. It makes for a fine day trip but we recommend coming for at least a few days to really settle into the slow-paced, quiet lifestyle of Kep.
Best Things to Do In Kep:
- Crab Market: Kep is most well known for their crab so it is an absolute must to visit their Crab Market. With a great spot overlooking the water, it makes for a great afternoon strolling through the market and ending with a delicious crab dinner on a patio over the ocean.
- Rabbit Island: Only a 30-minute ferry ride from shore, Rabbit Island is a very small but lush tropical island, perfect for a day trip. With little to no electricity and certainly no Wi-Fi, this island makes for a great day in the water, completely unplugged from it all.
- Kep National Park: Located right in town, this National Park is covered in hiking trails and beautiful viewpoints of the coastline. Just be on the lookout for millipedes!
5. Koh Rong Samloem Island
Cambodia has beautiful tropical beaches just off the coast. Koh Rong Samloem is an utter paradise from the moment you step off the ferry into your hotel’s boat taxi. Every property is beachfront and there are no roads on the island, only boats or walking.
Best Things to Do on Koh Rong Samloem Island:
- Saracen Bay: This is where many of the top resorts and hotels are located but be sure to get out on the water for sunrise or sunset. The colors here with the clear blue water are just mesmerizing.
- Koh Rong Samloem Lighthouse: The lighthouse is a good one-hour hike through some jungle from the Bay but the views are worth it. You can see the entire island from the top.
- Lazy Beach: Located on the west side of the island, this beach is a relaxing stop away from the beachfront bars. Be ready to kick back and enjoy the tranquil waters for the day. And look out for monkeys!
6. Koh Rong Island
The more popular of the two tropical islands, Koh Rong is a bit more developed and bustling than its sister, Koh Rong Samloem. You’ll find more bars and restaurants and larger resorts here but it really does have quite a bit more development to do. Get there before it grows too much!
Best Things to Do On Koh Rong Island:
- Sok San Beach: This beach may have been one of the most stunning that we have ever seen. The neon turquoise waters were unbelievable against the Snow White sand. Be sure to stay for sunset as the colors just explode in the sky!
- Sok San Waterfall & Koh Rong Forest Waterfall: There are two waterfalls on Koh Rong (that they know of). Sok San Waterfall is a quick 20-minute trek from the ocean and an easy one to visit, although busier. The second is unnamed and was only recently discovered! It’s definitely required to take a tour guide out because it’s a 45-minute trek through a very unmarked path in the jungle, but it is GORGEOUS!
- Preaek Svay Fishing Village: Not exactly the first thing you think of when visiting a beautiful tropical island, but seeing the local culture on this island is unforgettable. This village is located just on the coast and has a small river running through it. Perfect to pick up some fresh seafood or just a stroll along the main road.
A constant recommendation by locals and ex-pats throughout the country was Battambang. Located just 4 hours from Siem Reap, it makes for an easier visit than other cities in Cambodia. If you are looking for more of an authentic view of Cambodian culture, this is definitely the place for you.
Best Things to Do In Battambang:
- Bat Cave at Phnom Sampov: One of the most incredible animal sightings we have had the pleasure of witnessing. Each night at sunset, thousands (and I mean thousands) of bats come flying out of the cave perched on the mountainside for the night. It lasts over an hour of bats pouring out flying altogether.
- Bamboo Train: One of the main attractions in Battambang and for good reason! We loved riding on the makeshift bamboo train car to the next station. It may seem like a tourist trap but we did see locals riding it to get between towns as it is the most direct way.
- The Killing Caves: Learning about the Khmer Rouge regime during our time in Cambodia has been utterly heartbreaking. The Killing Caves were no exception. We find it difficult to see these things but important to learning about histories that we never knew about. The Killing Caves were emotionally difficult but worth the trip.
8. Siem Reap
Obviously, we can’t finish this post without the most popular city to visit in Cambodia, Siem Reap, the home to Angkor Wat. It truly is a remarkable city to visit in Southeast Asia and should certainly be on everyone’s list. The low-key atmosphere in Siem Reap is coupled with plenty to do and to eat! You may be coming to Siem Reap (or Cambodia) for the expansive Angkor Wat, but Siem Reap holds so much more than just ancient temples.
Best Things to Do In Siem Reap:
- Angkor Wat: The sprawling ancient temple complex could easily entrance you for weeks but with a 3-day pass you will be able to see all the highlights and experience a bit of the country.
- Kulen Mountain: An hour outside of Siem Reap, this National Park is nothing short of incredible. Be sure to go down to the bottom of Kulen Waterfall!
>> Book your Kulen Mountain Jeep Tour here!
- Pub Street: After a busy (and hot) day at the temples, what better way to try some delicious food and drink $0.50 draft beers with a side of live music.