Off limits to all but the most adventurous of travellers for years, Cambodia is now one of the premier travel destinations in East Asia. With its ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples, dense forests and welcoming locals, a holiday to Cambodia will have you entranced by both its beauty and its culture.
If you want to get under the skin of the country you’re visiting, then Cambodia is the perfect luxury holiday destination. Tropical and hot, Cambodia offers deeply spiritual locations coupled with the pleasant heat you’d expect from the Caribbean.
Throughout the country, you’ll discover a rich variety of wildlife including macaques, tigers, bears, elephants and plenty of birds and reptiles. Some of these you’ll spot on your travels, while others will need a visit to one of the country’s many wildlife reserves. On top of this, Cambodia is also renowned for its fantastic hospitality, excellent food, and an undiscovered, authentic feel that simply can’t be found elsewhere.
Top of the list of your Cambodia holiday destinations should be Siem Reap, a trendy and fun-filled city in the northwest of the country. Here there are boutique hotels and many comfortable resorts, ranging from Self-Catering bungalows to huge deluxe hotels with spas and luxury treatments.
The one thing that you’ll experience on all holidays to Cambodia is the spiritual energy of this magical place. Its warm tropics, historic temples and incredible natural beauty will keep you thinking of its unique personality for years to come.
Waiting for you at the centre of the country is the breathtaking temple and palace complex at Angkor. These fantastically well-preserved buildings once made up the capital of the 9th century Khmer kingdom. This is one of the largest archaeological sites on earth and contains the largest religious monument in the world, the temple of Angkor Wat. Together with the impressive Terrace of the Leper King at Angkor Thom and the mysterious Hindu temple at Beng Mealea, they really give you a sense of the long history and culture of Cambodia.
There’s so much to see that it’s best to spend a day at these ancient sites, catching the beautiful sunrise in the morning and wandering till dusk. It’s easily done, as you’ll lose track of time walking between the columns and arches of these phenomenal structures.
South of Siem Reap, you’ll find the busy and bustling, but definitely alluring, capital of Phnom Penh. A hub for the culture and amazing landscapes of the country, it’s a chance to sample some of the more individual flavours of this spiritual destination. The sights and sounds of the city will reinvigorate your senses, creating a once in a lifetime experience. Seated at the banks of the Mekong River, seemingly springing forth from the jungle itself, Phnom Penh will find a place in your heart because of its unique atmosphere.
Central to its appeal are its incredible buildings. Built in the traditional Cambodian style, structures like the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and National Museum will leave you speechless at their beauty. With their sheer and tiered roofs, emphasising distinctly ornate designs, you’re left in awe of each location and its symbolic importance. Next to these are turn of the century French colonial buildings, with regal pillars and white-washed wooden frames, hinting at the deep history of this bustling city. More sombre monuments to Cambodia’s past exist here as well. Perfect for quiet contemplation, the Tuol Sleng Museum and Choeung Ek, on the edges of Phnom Penh, are destinations recommended by the Cambodian government, not shy of its turbulent past.
For a slower, more laid-back experience, head east to see some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. You’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time to the Asia of old when you see the stunningly well-preserved ancient monuments at Luang Prabang. Hike through the jungle in the Cardamom Mountains to see waterfalls and maybe even gibbons, elephants or leopards. Take a kayak or walk through the mangrove forest and you’ll find dolphins and crocodiles.
To the south, you’ll find the Cambodian coastline. If you close your eyes and imagine what a pristine, untouched beach might look like, then you’re pretty close to picturing the fantastic coastal resorts in Cambodia. At the beaches of Koh Kong or Sihanoukville, you’ll discover an untouched coast with fine white sand and palm trees growing across the shores. Here the humid heat of the inland areas breaks against the sea air, giving you one of the most wonderful beach climates in the world. The sand meets the forest almost immediately, as the bars, restaurants and accommodations are nestled within trees and flora. It’s truly tropical and exotic, perfect for thrill-seeking explorers and beach lovers alike.
If you’re somewhat of a food lover, sampling some of the local cuisine is essential. Khmer food tends to be shadowed overseas by the culinary reputations of neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. But it’s a real treat to get a chance to taste this unique offering in Cambodia itself. With the huge Mekong River running through the majority of the country, freshwater fish is a massive component of the food. Find it in the delicious fish varieties of Amok (a thick soup), Khmer red curry and the noodle dish Nom Banh Chok. A host of spices are combined to increase the sweetness of food, rather than the heat, in a range of mouthwatering dishes.
As well as traditional food, Cambodia has emerged as a leader in the field of fine dining, with chefs bringing their own special twist to elaborate styles of cuisine from around the world. Thanks to keen investment from both Cambodian and French NGOs, the cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have dozens of ‘training restaurants’ where young people learn to become chefs. The food here is consistently great, and many of their graduates go on to open more restaurants thanks to what they’ve learned. The result is a huge variety of fantastic restaurants in and around the cities, enough to tempt the taste buds of every holidaymaker.
Cambodia enjoys a warm, sub tropical climate with the ideal time to visit being between November and April. Earlier in this period is best, as the temperatures are warm but humidity and rainfall are relatively low, plus there is a pleasant cooling breeze making ideal conditions for both sightseeing and relaxing on your 5 star holiday. From April onwards temperatures and humidity start to rise, and the monsoon rains arrive in June. October is also a good time to visit Cambodia as the sites are slightly less crowded and, as a result of the ending monsoon, lush tropical foliage and beautiful flowers surround many of the temples. The annual festival of Bon Om Tuk takes place in November and Khmer New Year is in April, and it’s well-worth timing your visit during either of these colourful and vibrant celebrations.
Time difference: GMT +8 hours
Currency: Cambodian Riel, although the American Dollar is also widely accepted.
Flight time from the UK (London): Approximately 12 hours and 30 minutes.
Arrival Airport: Phnom Penh airport, Siem Reap airport. Transfers take approximately 30 minutes (Phnom Penh) or 20 minutes (Siem reap).
Entry details (for British passport holders): A visa is required and may be obtained on arrival. Charges Apply. Passports need at least 6 months validity from your date of entry. Before you depart, check the latest travel advice at www.fco.gov.uk.
A local Signature representative will meet you at your arrival airport and direct you to your pre-booked transfer vehicle. You'll receive a welcome pack containing information on the local area and all contact details.
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