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Grand Tour of Cambodia: Ancient Ruins, Forgotten Temples & Pristine Beaches
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Our Grand Tour of Cambodia will provide you with opportunities to explore Cambodian cultures in depth, gaining you a great insight into this stunning country. Starting in the bustling capital of Phnom Penh with its sparkling Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and relics of the Khmer Rouge era; we then venture along the Mekong to charming riverside towns of Kampong Cham and Kratie to observe the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins that inhabit the shallow pools of the Mekong river.
Once in Siem Reap, pay a visit to the magnificent Angkor Temple Complex then journey on boat across Tonle Sap Lake to the provincial town of Battambang. We also make a visit to beautiful Oudong Meanchey historical site, one of former capitals in Cambodia. Towards the end of tour, enjoy 2 days of beach relaxation in Kep or Sihanoukville which are amongst the best beaches in Cambodia.
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Day 01: Phnom Penh Arrival
Upon arrival in Phnom Penh International Airport, you will be welcomed by our local tour guide, then be transferred to your hotel for check in. Depend on your actual arrival time, some soft sightseeing for an orientation tour is suggested.
The capital of Phnom Penh locates at the junction of the mighty Mekong River, Bassac River and Tonlé Sap River. It was once considered as the “Gem” of Indochina with a nice riverside promenade and numerous beautiful Cambodian Buddhist wats, palaces and many colonial-era buildings where Asian and Western architectures meet in a fascinating way. The bustling city of Phnom Penh is the international and domestic transport hub for whole Cambodia and region.
After a short rest, we will take a sunset river cruise along the Mekong river, observe daily life of local, enjoy the sunset view on the river while tasting a delicious fruit juice or soft drink.
In the evening, have your welcomed dinner at Romdeng Restaurant which is recommended on Lonely Planet as the top choice for Cambodian cuisine in Phnom Penh. In this restaurant, you would sample some typical, tasty modern Cambodian dishes. The restaurant is located in a gorgeous colonial villa with a small pool with a beautiful garden.
Today, we will explore the most remarkable sights of the beautiful city of Phnom Penh. Begin our Phnom Penh sightseeing tour with a visit to Wat Phnom (a Buddhist temple) which is the oldest religious structure in Phnom Penh. According to legend, the first pagoda was built in 1373 to house four Buddha statues which are discovered by a wealthy widow called Penh, inside a large koki tree floating down on Mekong river.
After that, pay a visit to the Royal Palace which is a popular tourist destination in Phnom Penh. It was built by King Norodom I (ruled 1860-1904) in 1886. Then we move to Silver Pagoda (also known as Wat Preah Keo or Temple of the Emerald Buddha) which is located on the south side of the Royal Palace Complex. Inside the pagoda, you can see the collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze.
In the afternoon, we head to visit the remarkable Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which is a former high school, used as the torture, interrogation and execution center named “S-21” by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to its fall in 1979.
Then we will drive out of town to visit Choeung EK, also known as the “killing fields” where thousands of Cambodian were killed and buried in mass graves. A grim, but important visit that will allow you to dig below the surface and understand Cambodia better.
On the way back to city, we pass by the riverside park. There is a chance to walk along the riverside, observing the life of the local. You can also participate in a Khmer dance class which offers a lot of fun!
Overnight at hotel in Phnom Penh.
Double Leaf Boutique Hotel Villa Langka Hotel Samsara Villa
Day 03: Phnom Penh – Kampong Cham – Kratie – Koh Trong Island
This morning, we depart Phnom Penh for Kampong Cham which takes approximately two hours and a half. Kampong Cham is the capital city of Kampong Cham Province and an important trade and transportation hub of Cambodia.
Upon arrival, visit colonial French buildings, and enjoy the laid back atmosphere and quaint charm in this city.
Continue to Wat Nokor which is located in Khum of Kampong Siem, at a distance of 1200 meters from the town of Kampong Cham. The monument was built out of sandstone and laterite, and dates back to the last years of the reign of Jayavarman II. It is composed of a central tower surrounded by four laterite wall-enclosures. The central tower of the temple of Vat Nokor is decorated with motifs characteristic of Bayon with Buddhist scenes on the pediments. The temple complex is also believed to have been the headquarters of Jayavarman II for a time, from where he extended his influence over nearby principalities.
Afterwards, we proceed to Kratie (Krong Kracheh), the capital of Kratie Province in eastern Cambodia. Upon arrival Kratie town, we take a short 10 minutes boat ride from the town to the beautiful Koh Trong Island. Check into your hotel on island.
The rest of day is free at leisure to discover this small paradise. Maybe catch a swim off the beach on the west side while enjoying the spectacular sunset on the mighty Mekong River.
Day 04: Koh Trong Island – Watching Irrawaddy Dolphins
We drive north along the river banks to Kampi Village which is 15 km from Kratie town center. This village is one of the best places to observe the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins along the Mekong. Embark on a small local boat which will take us upstream to look for these interesting creatures. As soon as we have spotted the first dolphin, our boatmen will follows the dolphin watching guidelines provided and only use oars when near the dolphins. We will follow the dolphins silently (1 to 1.5 hours).
After that, we disembark and take a short transfer (22 km) to Sambour Village for a visit to Wat Sorsor Mouy Roy which is well-known for its history and as a place of pilgrimage for residents of Kratie. It was first built in the 16th century by King Chann Reachea to commemorate the memory of his daughter Vorakpheak. Have lunch at a local restaurant.
After lunch, we will drive back to Koh Trong Island, a sort of ecotourism paradise. Jump on a bicycle then pedal around the island for further exploration with your guide. A 9 kilometers (6 miles) loop road around the island's perimeter provides the perfect opportunity to discover villages on this island. Along the way, you could stop for rest in a village, enjoy local fruit while observing the daily rituals and routines of the traditional village life.
At the end of day, have your dinner (at your own account) with diversity of delicious Khmer food.
Overnight at hotel at Koh Trong island.
Day 05: Kratie – Kampong Thom
After breakfast, our guide and driver will pick you up at your hotel then provide you with a transfer to Kampong Thom, a picturesque town on the banks of the Stung Saen River. The drive will take approximately 5 hours.
Before entering Kampong Thom Town, we make a stop at Phnom Santuk Mountain, the most sacred mountain of Kampong Thom province, located about 17 kilometers south of town center. From the mountain foothill, we huff up 809 stairs to the top to visit a white walled temple dotted with many shrines and deities, including several reclining Buddhas made out of rock.
Enjoy the panoramic view of surrounding countryside below the Phnom Santuk Mountain, then head to the hotel for check in and rest.
Overnight in Kampong Thom.
Sambor Village Hotel
Day 06: Kampong Thom – Siem Reap
This morning, we drive north towards the rarely visited Sambor Prei Kuk, a pre-Angkorian archaeological site, 30 km north of Kampong Thom Town. The ancient city where monuments of Sambor Prei Kuk are found today was identified as Isanapura, the capital of Chenla in 7th century. In Sambor Prei Kuk, many temples were built during the reign of King Isanavarman I (AD 616- 635) in the 7th century. Enjoy a beautiful walk through the jungle with stunning views around the site.
We also stop at a typical Cambodianlocal village near Sambor Prei Kuk and experience rural life with the local residents and their simple homes. 85% of Cambodian live in the countryside and for the majority, they live from agriculture. We stroll around the village and visit a crafting workshop which is managed by the local community to preserve traditional Cambodian crafts. You also could by some crafts made of bamboo and rattan as a support for local community. Enjoy a simple but very tasty lunch which is prepared by villagers.
After lunch, continue our drive towards Siem Reap which takes you a 3-hour drive. On arrival, check in to your hotel and the remainder of the afternoon is free at leisure.
Wake up early in this morning for one of the highlights of our Cambodia tour: watching Angkor Wat Complex at sunrise. Our guide and driver will pick you up at your hotel in the early morning then take you to the ideal watching point. It is worthy to watch the first sunlight shines over the largest archaeological site in the world. Have your breakfast at a local restaurant near the complex.
After breakfast, begin our exploration with a visit to Angkor WatTemple which was built in the early 12th century by the Khmer King Suryavarman II and was originally constructed as a Hindu temple to dedicate to god Vishnu. It was constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing the Mount Meru, home of the gods. At the end of the 12th century, it was transformed into a Buddhist temple. Inside the temple, we will see the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology, the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign and more than 2000 images of Apsaras and Devatas decorating the temple.
From Angkor Wat, we move to the countryside around the Western Baray, the largest artificial reservoir of the ancient Khmer civilization. Here, you can spot water buffalos in swampy ponds, local people working on their plantations and other daily activities of Cambodian.
Visit Angkor Silk Farm then witness the process from the mulberry bushes cultivation to the production of silk fabrics and life cycle of the silkworm. After the visit, we drive back your hotel for a noon break to avoid the heat.
In late afternoon, we drive back to Archeological Park to explore the Ta Prohm Temple, built about late 12th century to early 13th century by the King Jayavarman VII. Unlike most Angkorian temples, the temple has been left untouched by archaeologists since it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, walls locked in the slow muscular embrace of vast root systems, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground.
After that, head to the pyramidal temple of Pre Rup, enjoy the panoramic view of surrounding countryside and the beautiful sunset over the forest.
Overnight at hotel in Siem Reap.
Maison Polanka Hotel Hotel Montra Nivesha Siddharta Boutique Hotel
Day 08: Angkor Thom – Tonle Sap Lake
This morning, explore the ancient city of Angkor Thom, was the last capital and most enduring of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII.
From the South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with elephants and four giant faces, we head to the inspirational Bayon Temple which locates at the heart of Angkor Thom. This 12th century is well known for its impressive giant faces carvings and wonderful wall carvings telling the story of historical battles.
After that, we take visit to the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. It would be great experience to keep walking through the maze and observing their wonderful, fabulous, intricate sculptures. Then we come to the hotel for refreshment.
After relaxing at your hotel to escape the heat of the midday, enjoy a 20-minute drive from Siem Reap to a pier where we embark on a two-hour boarding tour on the giant Tonle Sap Lake. Visit the floatingvillage of Kampong Phluk, where houses, police station, community centre, school are built on water. Learn about local life and enjoy peaceful atmosphere in this village. Continue passing through other floating houses and impressive flooded forests before disembark in the late afternoon.
Afterwards, head back to the hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Maison Polanka Hotel Hotel Montra Nivesha Siddharta Boutique Hotel
Day 09: Siem Reap – Beng Mealea – Banteay Srei
Today we go a bit adventurous into the jungles then explore the lost ancient temples.
Firstly, our guide and driver will pick you up at the hotel, then provide a transfer to the beautiful Beng Mealea Temple, (40km east of the Siem Reap Town). The temple was built in the 12th century under the reign of Suryavarman II, same period as Angkor Wat. Upon arrival, discover sweeping vines, mysterious dark chambers, towers wrapped in thick tree roots plus extensive carvings of scenes from Hindu mythology. You could also take a short walk through the lush jungle and discover the elegant structures and sculptures of temple.
Enjoy a simple but very delicious packed lunch at a local house close to the Beng Mealea Temple.
After lunch, we head to the “jewel of Khmer art”, the beautiful temple of Banteay Srei which is 25 km north-east of the Angkor main group temples. Banteay Srei which means “Citadel of the Women”, is the finest examples of classical Khmer art with wonderfully well preserved wall carvings and towers which are decorated with male and female divinities and beautiful filigree relief work. The temple was built in AD 967 and was a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva.
Following the visit, we will drive back to your hotel in Siem Reap. On the way, we will stop at a local community to visit the local villagers and learn about their way of life. Here you also witness the process of making Cambodia traditional rice paper and taste palm wine and palm sugar, which are specialty produces in Siem Reap.
Overnight at hotel in Siem Reap.
Maison Polanka Hotel Hotel Montra Nivesha Siddharta Boutique Hotel
Day 10: Siem Reap – Battambang
Following the breakfast, we will head to Battambang, second most populous city and one of most popular tourist destination in Cambodia.
Depend on your actual time of your journey, there are 02 options for reach Battambang. In rainy season (from July to December), the water level is high enough, we will embark on a private boat then take a stunning trip (6 to 7 hours) through Tonle Sap Lake and Sangker River to Battambang. In dry season (from January to June), we will take the transfer by road.
Have your lunch on boat or at a local restaurant along the way.
Battambang has recently re-opened to the outside world and the facilities have been improved to make Battambang become a great base for visitors. It is popular with tourists because of its ancient temples, colonial French buildings, Buddhist shrines and the infamous bamboo railway. Here, you will meet extremely friendly and helpful local people. They have not been exposed to many foreign visitors and they will be as interested in you as you are in them!
On arrival in Battambang in the afternoon, check in to your hotel. The remain of day is free at leisure, you could relax at hotel’s swimming pool or stroll through this charming town.
After breakfast, we will head towards Phnom Sampeau Hill which lies 11 km southwest of Battambang town. Upon arrival, take a soft trek to the top of hill. Half way up, we will visit a nice modern temple with nice graphic modern depictions of Buddhist punishment for sins and a large reclining Buddha.
We also visit the notorious killing caves which are cruel reminders of Cambodia’s troubled past. It reminds us about the reality of what happened. Continue our trek to the top to visit a small temple. Here, you will have a fantastic view over the typical landscape of paddy fields and sugar palm trees.
One of today’s highlights is Bamboo Train Riding through paddy fields, villages in countryside of Battambang. This 7 km in length line belong the train line stretches all the way down to the capital of Phnom Penh. But the track is incomplete in near future.
Note: In long-term future, the bamboo train ride could be stopped. In that case, we will arrange alternative sightseeing.
From the Bamboo Train, our guide will take you to Wat Banan, an 11th-century temple constructed on top of a hill overlooking the Sangker River. Along the way, we will pass through beautiful lotus ponds and paddy fields. Climb up 358 steps to the top and enjoy panoramic view of surrounding countryside.
In the afternoon, pay a visit to some cultural villages around Battambang where you can witness the making process of Prahoc (Cambodian fermented fish “paste”), Grolan (sticky rice stuffed in bamboo). We also visit a silk weaving and handicraft centre to observe how silk scarves are produced.
Overnight at hotel in Battambang.
Au Cabaret Vert Hotel The Sanctuary Villa Battambang Delux Villa Battambang
Day 12: Battambang – Kampong Chhnang – Oudong – Phnom Penh
Today, we will travel to Kampong Chhnang which is well-known for its traditional pottery with many famous pottery villages. The name Kampong Chhnang means “Port of Pottery” in Khmer. During our journey, make a stop at a village near the Kampong Chhnang Town, then see the making process of ceramic products and experience local rice wine which is made by local villagers.
Then, continue to Oudong Meanchey, which had played a role as the royal residence and Cambodia's capital for more than 250 years until 19th century before King Norodom moved the royal court to Phnom Penh. From afar, you would see a temple and its dozens of stupas which is located at the top of mountain. Upon arrival at mountain foot, stop at a local restaurant and enjoy a traditional Khmer lunch.
After a short break, climb the steps to the top of Oudong Mountain and enjoy the panoramic views of the plains below. Our guide will give you the information of this ancient capital and its temples as well as Cambodian religious culture while strolling around this site.
After that, we proceed to Phnom Penh. On the way, we will cross a new bridge to an island in the Tonlé Sap River. Visit Koh Chen, a riverside village which is famous for its silver products. Here, you can witness the silver making process and observe daily life of the inhabitants in this village.
Then, continue our drive to Phnom Penh where you reach at mid-afternoon. Check in to your hotel, the rest of day is free at leisure.
This morning, to your preference, our driver will provide you a private transfer (without guide) to Kep or Sihanoukville which are amongst the best beaches in Cambodia. The drive will take you 3 – 4 hour drive.
Upon arrival, check in to the hotel and free time at leisure for the remain of the day.
Enjoy your days at leisure. There are some optional activities available upon request.
Overnight in Kep/Sihanoukville.
Raingsey Bungalow The Secret Garden
Day 16: Phnom Penh Departure
Your Grand Tour Of Cambodia wraps up today. Free at leisure until our driver provides you with a transfer to Phnom Penh International Airport for your onward flight.
For more tours options, browse the Cambodia package tours on Asia Senses Travel. Also, be sure to read the reviews of Cambodia tours. If you are travelling to Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia or Myanmar, please let our travel specialists know.
Private Tour (02 Pax Up)
Tour Price Includes
15 hotel night accommodation.
Local English speaking guides.
Meals as mentioned.
Boat in Kratie, Tonle Sap (Siem Reap).
All sightseeing as specified and entrance fees included.
Bottled drinking water per touring days.
Tour Price Excludes
Visas if required.
Other meals not mentioned in the program.
Items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks, etc.
Tips for your guide and driver (discretionary).
Any camera or video fees at any sites.
When to Go
See estimated monthly temperature and rainfall for this itinerary