When it comes to Siem Reap, Angkor Wat may be the first thing that comes to your mind. And yes, this Cambodian landmark and one of the greatest archeological sites in the world is surely a reason to visit this laid back Cambodian city. However, Siem Reap truly offers much more than this. Amazing food, amazing people and loads of fun will make your stay in Siem Reap unforgettable!
What’s the best time to visit Siem Reap?
The best months to visit are November-January. The weather is dry and sunny, and the temperatures are still bearable. April may be the hottest month to visit, but still pretty dry. The rainy season starts in May and lasts until October, which means daily showers and, at times, hurricanes.
Khmer New Year, the most popular festival in Siem Reap, takes its place in April and lasts for three full days. This Buddhist festival and a national holiday features lots of traditions, dance and games and it’s, without a doubt, the most exciting celebration in Cambodia.
a Few facts about Siem Reap
Siem Reap attracts tourists from all over the world because of Angkor Wat in the first place. More than half of the tourists who visit Cambodia make their trip to Angkor Wat, which means 2 million visitors annually. As of 1992, the lost city of Angkor, including Angkor Wat, is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Over time, it has become a symbol of modern Cambodia, and it’s featured on their national flag. It gained even more popularity after the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed there.
One Day in Siem Reap Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Siem Reap.
Visit the Angkor Temples
Even though it gets super crowded, you definitely shouldn’t miss Angkor Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Cambodian landmark. Wake up early because the dawn is the time of the day when the magic happens. It may seem too early, but it’s really a spectacular experience.
What you need to know is that the Angkor site is huge. There are temples spread out over a vast 100 square kilometer jungle site. It takes days to properly explore each part of the complex, so it’s important to get a great guide, map or a guided tour.
Angkor Wat may be the most famous among temples and it’s the best representation of the classical style of Khmer architecture. It was built as a Hindu religion temple, but was later turned into a Buddhist one. Numerous Buddha statues that can be seen all over the temples are clearly additions to the temple which later replaced the statues of Hindu gods in the late 13th century.
There are temples which are covered in greenery, as well as temples that are bound by the massive roots of huge trees. One of the Angkor temples, Ta Phrom, is one of the temples with trees growing over its ruins. It became widely famous after the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed there.
When the Angkor complex was discovered, it was decided that the giant trees, such as ficus and silk trees (whose roots were merged with the ancient temple walls) won’t be removed because they have became a one with the buildings.
Try Fish Amok
There are a few restaurants on the Angkor site that offer traditional Khmer dishes. Take a lunch break and order Fish Amok, a traditional Khmer meal – spicy fish soup with vegetables and coconut milk. The flavor may be a bit unusual at first, but it’s definitely super tasty.
Have a tuk-tuk ride
While in Siem Reap, you shouldn’t miss on a tuk-tuk ride. An engine-powered rickshaw is an essential form of urban transportation in many Asian developing countries, and those in Cambodia are called tuk-tuks.
The ride and the traffic may be chaotic, but quite charming. Make sure to arrange a price in advance, and make sure to bargain, as they always try to charge you a fortune at first. It’s also possible to hire a tuk-tuk for an Angkor day trip. It costs 20 USD and it’s one of the most convenient ways to reach the site.
Try some street food
In Siem Reap. the street is where the greatest bites can be found. For 2$ you can get beef in sweet and sour sauce, vegetable noodles, grilled chicken sticks or any other Cambodian dish. Make sure to try their fresh fruit juices and milkshakes, as they are way more delicious than those you can find in the stores. Another great thing to try are roti pancakes. It looks almost like a banana pancake, but surely is the most delicious dessert in the world. Of course, don’t forget to try some fresh coconut water straight from the coconut.
Take a cooking class
You’ll easily fall in love with Cambodian cuisine, so it would be a shame not to take a cooking class and learn how to prepare all those delicious dishes. There’s an abundance of cooking classes, and it may even be a bit hard to choose from. Check out the Cooking classes on Tripadvisor to choose the one that fits you best.
Have fun at the Night Market
The Night Market that runs each night is the most exciting market in Siem Reap. It’s not just a place for some bargain shopping but also a place where you can have loads of fun. Make sure to get a 2$ foot massage while watching a ladyboy show. You can also get a 1$ fish massage. It may not be that pleasant at first, but after you get used to tiny fish bites it gets quite fun.
Spend the night at Pub Street
The most famous street in Siem Reap and the best place to spend an amazing evening is Pub Street. This lively street lined with bars and restaurants may be a bit crowded and packed with tourists, but it’s still the best place for a night out. There are some insanely cheap deals on drinks – you can find a pint of beer for as little as 0.50$, as well as whiskey coke pitchers for just five dollars.
Taste the Cambodian BBQ
There is an abundance of restaurants in Pub Street, where you can try some Cambodian specialties like Khmer BBQ. Instead of usual BBQ meat, you’ll get a chance to try crocodile, snake and frog meat, and they will grill it right in front of you. It’s definitely worth trying. They call it Phnom Pleung, which is literally translated as “Fire Mountain”.
Where to stay in Siem Reap?
La Rivière d’ Angkor Resort
Riverside avenue, Old French Quarter areas, Siem Reap
La Rivière d’Angkor Resort is a beautiful, tropical-style resort located on the promenade of the Siem Reap river. There is a wide range of restaurants, shops and bars around the area. The resort also features an outdoor pool and sauna as well as a fitness center.
FCC Angkor Boutique Hotel
Pokambor Ave, Siem Reap, Cambodia
FCC Angkor Boutique Hotel combines Cambodian tradition with modern designs in a tropical atmosphere which ensures relaxing moments after exhausting sightseeing. The hotel features an outdoor pool and a beautiful lounge area around it. It’s located in Downtown Siem Reap area and therefore great for those interested in sightseeing. Great location and amazing interior make this hotel one of the best in Siem Reap.
Shinta Mani Angkor
Junction of Oum Khun, Street 14th Mondul 2, Siem Reap
Shinta Mani Club, an upscale boutique hotel, showcases contemporary designed rooms and public spaces such as a pool and a lounge area in an Angkorian-inspired design. This exceptional hotel enjoys a tranquil and leafy setting and still feels very luxurious.
Pool Party Hostel
#0568, Group 5 , Vihear Chin Village , Svay Dangkum Commune, Siem Reap
Pool Party Hostel offers modern rooms, a large free-form pool and khmer style restaurant serving khmer and western food. It is a great place for young people, including backpackers, to meet other travelers. It’s centrally located, only 15 minutes’ walk to the Old Market and Pub Street.
Extra tips for visiting Siem Reap
– Bring some comfortable shoes and leave your flip-flops at home because the Angkor site really is a huge and you’re surely going to walk for hours.
– Bring some modest clothes or at least cover up. Otherwise, you won’t be able to enter some temples.
– Don’t forget to bring some sunscreen and a hat. The sun is very strong, and you’ll easily get exhausted if you don’t use sun protection.
– Don’t forget to bargain. Especially with tuk-tuks and market vendors. Even if something seems cheap to you, it doesn’t mean it’s their final price.
– The USD are widely accepted in Cambodia and almost everywhere in Siem Reap.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).