Nature, adventure, street food, Khmer culture – Siem Reap, Cambodia’s spiritual capital, has it all. This guide to the best Siem Reap tours covers Angkor Wat tours, offbeat city tours, and itineraries tailored for every budget and interest.
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Planning a trip to Cambodia? Here are some of the resources and tools I personally use to organise my travel plans in the Kingdom.
– Find affordable flights to Cambodia on Kiwi.com, a booking site that mixes and matches airlines to find the best route (there’s a money back guarantee if you miss a connection).
– Use iVisa to check if you need a tourist visa for Cambodia and apply for an expedited visa online.
– Pre-book your hotel transfer from Phnom Penh Airport or Siem Reap Airport.
– Find the best hotel deals in Cambodia on Agoda, book a Cambodia hostel, or find a unique Airbnb (sign up here and get $55 AUD off your first Airbnb booking).
– Buy your Cambodia bus tickets online in advance through 12GoAsia or organise a private car and driver through BookMeBus.
– Download Pass App to book tuk-tuks and taxis on the go.
– Find the best cooking classes and foodie experiences in Cambodia.
– Find the best city tours and day excursions in Cambodia.
– Try an alternative tour or DIY experience with social enterprise Backstreet Academy.
– Pick up a copy of the latest Lonely Planet guidebook for Cambodia.
Why book a tour in Siem Reap?
There are hundreds of independent and DIY things to do in Siem Reap – so why bother booking a tour?
I’m the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of guided tours. I generally prefer to do things my own way, with the flexibility to take as much time as I need in each place.
Siem Reap is one place in Cambodia where I usually sign up for a tour or two, simply because there’s so much to discover beyond Angkor. Having access to a tour guide’s local knowledge is invaluable in a place like Siem Reap, where the history runs deep and the culture is complex.
Whether you have a particular interest in food, culture, dance or art – or you just want to do something adventurous – a Siem Reap tour is a fantastic way to go deeper. If you’re visiting Siem Reap with kids, a hands-on tour can be a fun and valuable learning experience for littlies.
Most Siem Reap tours are incredibly good value for money, too. Supporting small tour companies and independent guides is a great way to channel the proceeds of tourism into the hands of the local community.
Things to look for when choosing a Siem Reap tour
There are literally hundreds of tour companies in Siem Reap. It can be really hard to tell which tours are legitimate and worth your money versus tours that will leave you feeling like you wasted your precious holiday time.
These are some of the things I recommend looking out for when choosing a tour. I’ve considered all these factors when shortlisting my favourite Siem Reap tours below.
- Is the company locally run? Believe it or not, but Siem Reap is one of Cambodia’s poorest provinces. That’s because a lot of tourism businesses are run by foreign companies who send their profits straight out of the country.
- Group size: Do companies cap the number of participants? Are tours intimate, or could it turn into a huge group?
- Additional fees: What’s included in the price and what’s not? Not all companies are up front about this. For example, Angkor tours usually don’t include admission to the temple complex, so you’ll need to take care of buying your own pass.
- Flexibility: Is there room to move in the itinerary, or is it packed full? If the weather turns bad, is there a Plan B in place?
- Pick up/drop off from your accommodation: It is included? Not all tours offer this. If the itinerary starts some distance away from your accommodation, you’ll have to factor in the extra time and cost to get to the meeting place.
- Vehicle type: If transport is included, is it in and air-conditioned van, or will you be riding en plein air in a tuk tuk? If you’re travelling in summer, the former is preferable.
Heading to the capital next? Check out my top Phnom Penh day tours.
What to wear on your Siem Reap tour
Loose, lightweight clothing is the way to go. If you’re visiting temples or sacred areas, or just villages, it’s best to cover your shoulders and knees (both ladies and men). Cambodian culture is quite conservative, so you’d do well to dress appropriately if you’re visiting local markets or rural villages. Long sleeves will help keep the sun and the bugs off, too.
I always recommend carrying a lightweight cotton scarf (ladies) or a buff (men) in Cambodia. This can come in handy for covering your shoulders in temples, covering your mouth if the road is dusty – and a million other uses. If you forget to bring one from home, you can pick up a krama – a traditional checkered Cambodian scarf – at the Made in Cambodia Market on Kings Road.
A wide-brim hat is absolutely essential at any time of year, and especially if you’re going to be out in the middle of the day. Closed-in shoes are preferable for Angkor and any tours that involve cycling, climbing or hiking.
What to bring with you
- Your camera! Siem Reap is incredibly photogenic.
- Reusable water bottle & re-hydration tablets. Don’t contribute to Cambodia’s plastic waste problem. Bring an insulated water bottle and consult your guide about where you can re-fill it throughout the day.
- Snacks. If your itinerary is long enough, it will usually include breakfast or lunch. However it’s always a good idea to have some non-perishable snacks on hand in case you get the munchies halfway through.
- Small change (preferably riel). This will come in handy if you stop by a local market or a local temple, where it’s customary to leave a small donation.
- Insect repellent & sunscreen. Essential if you’re going to be spending time outside as part of your tour. If your tour extends to dusk, you’ll need repellent with deet to keep the mosquitoes at bay.
- Rain jacket & fold-up umbrella for the rainy season.
Tipping your guide & tour etiquette
Tipping is not mandatory, but it is much appreciated. Gratuities are not normally included in the price of a pre-organised tour. If you’re satisfied with the service, it’s good practice to tip your guide. 10% is a reasonable benchmark, but it’s really up to you.
Don’t forget your driver! A small tip ($2-5) for your tuk tuk/van driver or boat captain is also appropriate. You may also choose to tip at any restaurants or cafes you visit as part of the tour as well. You can ask your guide for advice.
Best Siem Reap tours
Angkor Wat tours
Angkor is the reason most people visit Siem Reap. I’ve been to the temples three times now – once on a tour, once on a tuk tuk, and once DIY. I can tell you firsthand that you get so much more out of the experience if you have a guide to show you what’s what.
A popular option is to organise a DIY tour with a tuk tuk. Usually the driver can give you some basic information, but unless they are a certified guide (which 90% of the time they’re not), they won’t be able to accompany you inside any of the temples.
If you really want to come away with an understanding of the significance of Angkor, I highly recommend organising a tour with a professional English-speaking guide.
Angkor Wat Full Day Sunrise Tour
Siem Reap’s pièce de résistance is sunrise over Angkor Wat. If this features on your bucket list, it’s a good idea to let someone else take care of the logistics (including the timing and finding the best place to position yourself) so you can have the best experience possible. I tried to do this DIY once and failed miserably – I was still in the queue at the ticket office when the sun came up!
This award-winning full-day Angkor tour starts with sunrise and hits all of the major highlights – Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon and Ta Prohm. Groups are limited to just 10 people, and local guides narrate each temple in detail.
Hotel pick up and AC transport are provided, but note that the price doesn’t include the cost of entry to the park (you can pay extra on the day to secure your temple pass) or lunch.
Angkor Wat Temple Hopping With Sunset
Not a morning person? This 10-hour tour follows a similar program but you skip sunrise and catch sunset at Pre Rup temple instead. It starts at 7.45am with hotel pick up. AC transportation and an English speaking guide are included, but again, you’ll have to pay extra to secure your Angkor Park Pass if you don’t have one already.
Angkor Sunrise Bike Tour with Jungle Breakfast & Lunch
Perfect for active travellers, this 9-hour mountain bike tour is run by socially responsible Grasshopper Adventures. After sunrise at Angkor, a traditional Khmer breakfast is served just outside the temple area. Then it’s off down the back trails to visit Ta Phrom and Bayon before a lunch stop at a restaurant overlooking a reservoir. Transfer to and from your hotel to the Park is included; pick up your Angkor Pass in advance or on the day for an extra fee.
Angkor Temple Tour and Gastronomic Experience
Temples + Khmer food = an excellent day out in Siem Reap. This foodies tour covers Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm, giving you a good overview of the central temples. A four-course lunch or breakfast at a classy lakeside restaurant inside the temple complex is built into the itinerary. Choose from either a sunrise or sunset tour depending on your preference.
You’ll need your own Angkor Park Pass, but as usual, transport, pick up and an English-speaking guide all come included.
Alternative temple tours
While you should definitely prioritise The Grand Circuit, if you have more than a day, it’s worth venturing beyond Angkor to check out some of the farther-flung temples around Siem Reap Province.
An organised tour with vehicle transfer and a professional driver is just about the only way to discover these more remote sites safely and comfortably. Remember you’ll need to cover your own entrance fees as they’re not included in the tour price.
Banteay Srei Temple Small-Group Tour
Pink-stone Banteay Srei (‘Women’s Citadel’) is one of the most beautiful structures in the area. But because of its far-flung location north of Angkor, a lot of tourists miss it. This full day tour from Siem Reap gives you an up-close look at Banteay Srei’s incredible bas reliefs. Pre Rup, a laterite Hindu temple, and Preah Khan temple also feature on the itinerary.
There’s a lunch stop at Banteay Srei, but you’ll have to cover the cost of your meal. Note that entry to Banteay Srei is included in the Angkor Park Pass.
Koh Ker and Beng Mealea Temples Tour
More remote again, Koh Ker (120km north of Siem Reap) and Beng Mealea (65km north-east) are almost impossible to get to without a car and guide. This epic 11-hour itinerary takes you from your hotel in the city into the heart of Siem Reap province – and back in time to the origins of the mighty Angkorian Empire.
Nestled deep in the forest, the sacred sites of Prasat Thom, Prasat Pram and Prasat Chrap that make up the Koh Ker complex are fascinating and well and truly off the beaten track. A Khmer lunch is provided at a nearby restaurant. Temple entry fees (roughly $15) are not included and must be paid on the day.
Best Tonle Sap floating village tours
Tonle Sap lake is a 45-minute drive south of Siem Reap and a popular day trip option if you want to see a slice of rural Cambodian life. Families live on the lake in floating villages – extravagant set ups where houses, fish farms, schools and police stations all balance on the water’s surface.
Chong Khneas is the closest floating village to Siem Reap and extremely popular. The only downside is that it’s very touristy and overcrowded during the day.
Most villages also charge a separate entry fee, which can be up to $20 per person.
Sunset Dinner Tour
If a floating village is something you’re interested in seeing, I highly recommend opting for this sunset tour alternative. It’s a good way to avoid the crowds, and everything (including entry fee to the village) is rolled into the price – so no nasty surprises.
An AC van will pick you up from your hotel at 3.30pm before driving you down to the lake, On the way, there is an opportunity to stop for a photo of the incredible lotus fields that dominate this part of Siem Reap’s waterlogged landscape.
Once aboard the boat, an experienced captain will take you around various points of interest, including the main floating village. An English-speaking guide will narrate the journey and can act as an interpreter if you want to chat to anyone. You then transfer onto a larger boat, the Queen Tara, for a buffet dinner and inclusive drinks. Once the sun has set, it’s back to your hotel in the AC van.
Siem Reap food tours
Khmer cuisine is massively underrated. Siem Reap has some of the finest restaurants in the whole country – so where better to get an introduction to local ingredients and cooking methods?
Cambodian Cook-Out with Local Guide and Chef
Run by Urban Adventures, this 3-hour afternoon cooking class is hosted in an idyllic local village outside the city centre (transport is provided; pick up is at the Old Market). It starts off with a walk through the village, where your guide will explain different farming techniques, introduce you to locally grown fruit and veg, and let you peek inside a few houses for a look at a typical Khmer kitchen.
By sunset, you’ll arrive at the cooking venue. Each person gets their own cooking station, so you can be sure it’s very hands-on. The tour concludes with a sit-down three-course meal (the fruits of your labour) and a cocktail or herbal tea. You get to take home a recipe card and a box of spices.
Fried Insect Cuisine Adventure
You’ve probably heard that fried creepy crawlies (crickets, locusts, tarantulas) are haute cuisine in Cambodia. This fun short tour by socially responsible company Backstreet Academy is the perfect chance to try a few of the country’s more adventurous snack foods.
Choose from a morning or afternoon departure (make your own way to the meeting point north of town) and learn all about the origins of insect cooking. You’ll see how different bugs are prepared with spices, crisp basil leaves and fried garlic. The tour includes a Fear Factor-style challenge, where your stomach will be put to the test.
After Dark Foodie Tour on a Vespa Scooter
Vespa Adventures run some awesome scooter-powered itineraries in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and other cities across the region. Their After Dark Foodie Tour of Siem Reap is always a hit among food lovers.
Guests ride pillion behind skilled drivers, freeing you up to overindulge on street food and maybe a few cocktails (although you should probably save yourself for the next tour on this list if beverages are your priority!). As you dart between food stalls and night markets, a local guide will show you all the best street delicacies and how to order them. Don’t be shy – all-you-can-eat is included in the ticket price. A sit-down dinner is then served picnic-style with Cambodian rice wine to accompany.
I love that this tour concludes with a visit to a special evening shrine, where you can join locals in making an offering. The tour runs for about 5 hours, and includes helmets, insurance, rain jackets, and pick up/drop off from your hotel.
Boutique Cocktail Tour by Tuk Tuk
Five hours, five bars, five premium cocktails. That’s not the tagline for this unique Siem Reap tour, but it should be! If you haven’t heard, Temple Town has a reputation for its raucous nightlife, especially around Pub Street. If that’s not your scene, this is your chance to experience some of the city’s more refined boutique cocktail and wine bars.
This cocktail tour kicks off at 6pm. With a long-term expat as your guide, you’ll be whisked around by tuk tuk between five of the city’s loveliest (and classiest) venues, stopping at each one for a tipple and a chat about life in Siem Reap.
Siem Reap tours on wheels
One of the best ways to get off the beaten track in Siem Reap is to explore the countryside outside the city on two wheels. These Siem Reap tours involve cycling, riding easy-rider as a motorbike passenger, or travelling by tuk tuk around the area’s green zones.
Secrets of Siem Reap
Responsible tour company Ayana Journeys runs several completely unique half and full-day itineraries in Siem Reap. ‘Secrets of Siem Reap’ focuses on the lesser-visited corners of the city – quiet temples, local markets and rural villages. It’s all done on bicycle, with the option to upgrade to a tuk tuk if you prefer.
Siem Reap Countryside Cycling & Floating Village Tour
This full-day Cambodian countryside tour visits Kampong Khleang floating village, a more authentic and less-touristy alternative to other villages on the Tonle Sap. Cycling through villages via the local fish market, you’ll eventually board a boat to discover the incredible floating forest.
Following a traditional Khmer lunch in a stilted house, you’ll then take a walk though a pagoda and visit another floating village. Bike hire, the boat tour, lunch, and transport to and from Siem Reap are all included in the price. If you’re not confident on a bike, you can sit easy rider on a moto or take a tuk tuk instead for an extra fee.
Quad Bike Countryside Tour
Siem Reap Quad Bike Adventure offers 1, 2 and 3-hour guided tours on their fleet of Polaris Trailboss 330 bikes (safety gear and a user’s demonstration included). You’ll be surprised how quickly the city fades to green as you set out through the villages on the fringe of the city. All tours include a mandatory water buffalo sighting (just kidding, kind of); longer itineraries also visit monasteries, temples and local markets.
I recommend the 4pm tour, which ends with sunset over the glistening paddies. It’s actually a lot more fun to do the quad bikes in the rainy season, when the ground is soft and you can kick up a bit of mud.
Siem Reap Easy Rider Motorbike Tour
With the freedom of a motorbike, you can really go places. This 6-hour easy rider tour (if you’re not familiar with the concept, it just means riding pillion behind an experienced driver) traces the red clay roads around Siem Reap to remote Chai Village monastery, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold. Markets, pagodas and rice paddies also factor into the day. Lunch, safety gear and all entrance fees come included.
DIY & creative Siem Reap tours
There are plenty of experiential Siem Reap tours available for anyone who prefers hands-on learning. These DIY tours focus on different aspects of Khmer culture and are particularly great for kids. Keep one of these indoor tours up your sleeve in case of a rainy day!
Classical Apsara Dancing Class
Apsara is one of Cambodia’s most distinctive and beautiful traditions. This short tour with Backstreet Academy pairs you with a professional dancer and an English-speaking guide to show you the basics of the art form. As you come to grasp the moves, you’ll learn all about Apsara’s cultural significance and just why so many carvings at Angkor bare the flicked wrists of a majestic Apsara dancer. The class is open to adults and kids aged five and over.
If you prefer to be a spectator, this alternative tour allows you to watch an Apsara performance while enjoying a Khmer dinner (tuk tuk transfer also included).
Cambodian Pottery Class
The social enterprise behind this hands-on tour supports young Cambodians with hearing impediments by providing them with training and employment in the ceramics industry. Over the course of this 2-hour masterclass, a tutor will show you how to throw and decorate a bowl using Khmer clay.
Your creation is then fired overnight and available for pick up (or delivery to your hotel) the following afternoon. The price includes tuk tuk transfer from your hotel to the workshop and back.
Copper Metal Bracelet Workshop
Become a coppersmith’s apprentice for a few hours in this hands-on jewellery making workshop hosted by Backstreet Academy. Chisel, hammer and shine your way to a truly bespoke Cambodian souvenir.
Siem Reap tours for mind, body & soul
If it’s inner peace you’re searching for, try a tour designed to help you connect with Cambodia’s zen Buddhist traditions. These tours will help you gain a deeper understanding of Siem Reap – and learn mindfulness skills you can take back home with you.
Morning Meditation Practice, Village Tour with Angkor Wat
One of my favourite tours on the list, this full-day itinerary takes a very different approach to experiencing Angkor. After an early morning wake-up call, guests are transferred to a meditation site in the hills overlooking the Tonle Sap. Monks offer a brief introduction to the basics of Buddhist meditation before launching into their morning routine. You can observe or join in as the sun rises over the lake.
Breakfast follows, then a trip down to the floating village before riding in an ox-cart (traditional village transportation). After a midday break at your hotel, the tour picks up again in the afternoon for a visit to Angkor Wat (BYO Park ticket). You might just see the temple with fresh eyes after a morning of pure zen.
Cambodian Buddhist Water Blessing
I couldn’t think of a better way to end your visit to Siem Reap than with a traditional Buddhist ceremony to bid you good luck, safe travels and a long life. This 90-minute tour takes you to the ancient Wat Arang Pagoda in rural Siem Reap where monks perform two different types of blessing: one involving a light sprinkle, and the other a proper soaking. Sarongs are provided to change into, and temple donations are included in the price.
Where to stay in Siem Reap
Rokkhak River Resort is a leafy property halfway between downtown Siem Reap and Angkor. Modern, eco-friendly and locally owned, it’s my top choice of accommodation in the city. Check out more options for all budgets in my comprehensive Siem reap accommodation guide.
More Cambodia travel resources
- How to travel between Bangkok and Siem Reap by bus
- How to use PassApp to book a tuk tuk in Cambodia
- 51 Free things to do in Phnom Penh
- The best tours in Phnom Penh for history, culture & food
- Phnom Penh accommodation guide
- Resort style swimming pools in Phnom Penh
- The best restaurants in Phnom Penh
- The best cafes & the best breakfast spots in Phnom Penh
- 41 things to do in Kampot
- Where to stay in Kampot
- My guide to Kampong Cham