Twelve months is a long time to spend in a foreign country. Most visitors to Cambodia stay in the Kingdom for a week or so (an average of 6.5 days, if you want to be exact), which is usually enough time for a decent itinerary of Cambodia’s tourist highlights. The first time I visited Southeast Asia, we spent just six days in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. It was a great taste of Cambodian culture and I penned Cambodia on my list of places to return to one day – little did I know I’d be moving here a few years later!
Working full-time in Phnom Penh hasn’t stopped me from compulsively researching travel in Cambodia. Meeting expats and locals who have explored the furthest reaches of the country has inspired me to look beyond the popular tourist destinations and push my limits a little. This year I have 52 weekends, 28 days of public holidays and 4 weeks of annual leave, and I want to spend as much of it as possible exploring Cambodia from top to bottom.
From Phnom Penh’s urban core to the unkempt jungles of the east, hidden border temples and off-grid beach getaways, here is my Ultimate Cambodia Bucket List…
- Play tourist for a day – visit the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Wat Phnom, National Museum.
- Watch an Apsara performance at Living Arts Cambodia.
- Learn more about the city’s built environment from Khmer Architecture Tours.
- Go inside the famous Tonle Bassac Commune (the While Building).
- Take a cooking class at La Table Khmer.
- Cruise the Mekong at sunset.
- Do a photography workshop with Cambodia Photo Tours.
- Celebrate Bon Om Touk (the annual water festival) and see the Tonle Sap river change its course.
- Document weaving at Koh Dach (Silk Island), Kandal province.
- Explore Cambodia’s former capital of Oudong, Kampong Speu province.
- Spot Irrawaddy dolphins in Kratie.
- Bathe elephants in Mondulkiri.
- Drink local coffee in Sen Monorom.
- Spend a night in the jungle in Mondulkiri province.
- Swim in Yak Lom (crater lake), Rattanakiri province.
- Visit the Stung Treng weaving village.
- Climb up to Preah Vihear temple on the Thai border.
- Ride the speed boat from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.
- Revisit Angkor Wat.
- Paddle through floating villages on the Tonle Sap.
- Run in the Angkor Marathon.
- Ride the bamboo train in Battambang.
- Visit friends in Svay Rieng.
- Experience Koh Rong province with the Chi Phat Ecotourism project.
- Trek in the Cardamom Mountains.
- Stay a night at Sok San Beach Resort, Koh Rong island.
- Walk the jetty on Koh Rong Samloem.
- Snorkel off the coast of Koh Rong.
- Sleep in a bungalow on Otres Beach, Sihanoukville.
- See Kampot’s salt flats at dawn.
- Watch a sunset over the Kampot river.
- Go caving with Climbodia in Kampot province.
- Attend the Kampot Writer’s Festival.
- Tour Bokor Hill Station.
- Eat crab in Kep.
- Visit the Phnom Da and Angkor Borei temples in Takeo.
- Stay at the Cambodian Homestay in Takeo province.
- See pottery making and the floating villages in Kampong Chhang.
- Walk across the Ko Paen bamboo bridge in Kampong Cham.
I can’t wait to start exploring Cambodia and ticking off some (hopefully all!) of the destinations and activities I’ve researched. Check back next year for a follow-up post where I’ll reflect on my favourite things to do in Cambodia to help you plan your next trip. Have you been to Cambodia? What should I add to my list?