There are many incredible things to do in Siem Reap, and visiting Angkor Wat is just one of them.
Visiting Angkor Wat is definitely among the top things to do in Siem Reap. To many travelers it is the cherry on the cake of a trip to South East Asia, and I won’t deny it was the same for me.
Despite the the 40° Celsius and the terrible humidity that made any sort of activity a real effort, I sure managed to make the most of my time in Siem Reap, and I want to make sure you do too. So, I thought I’d write a guide on the things to do in Siem Reap – just so that you know that Angkor Wat is only one of the sights.
Here you will find plenty of tips to plan your trip.
The Best Things To Do In Siem Reap
Visit Angkor Wat complex
There’s no denying that exploring Angkor Wat is one of the coolest, and unmissable things to do in Siem Reap. Once the center of the Khmer Empire – one of the most powerful in Southeast Asia – Angkor Wat was abandoned and reclaimed by nature to become what it is today: a stunning mixture of jungle and ruins.
A proper visit of Angkor Wat should as a minimum include Bayon, Ta Phrom, and Angkor Thom and will take you no less than two full days. I also recommend joining a guided tour, as there really is a lot to see, and the site is crowded to the point that only qualified guides will know how to dodge the large groups of tourists.
TIP: As Buddhist monks still use the temples, there is a strict dress code to visit Angkor Wat and you should make sure to abide by it. Wear a long dress or skirt, or long pants, and avoid tank tops.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There are one-day, three-days and seven-days passes to Angkor Wat. The one-day pass costs $37 USD ($59 USD if bought online), the three-days one costs $67 ($90 if bought online) and can be used in the course of a week; the seven-day pass costs $72 ($103 if bought online) and can be used in the course of a month.
Make sure to check out my post A Complete Guide To Visiting Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Guided tours of Siem Reap
As I have said before, I wholeheartedly recommend joining a guided tour to make the most of this enormous site. The following are the best ones you can book online:
- Angkor Wat full day small group sunrise tour
- Angkor Wat full day private tour with sunset
- Angkor Temples private full day tour with sunset
- Angkor Temples Grand Circle full day photo tour
- Angkor Wat full day private tour with sunrise
- Full day Angkor Temples bike tour
- Angkor Wat Temples provate 2-day tour with sunrise and sunset
There even are guided photo tours of Angkor Wat.
See the sunrise at Angkor Wat
One of the best things to do in Siem Reap is seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat. You will have to wake up at 4:00 am for that but I promise you it is worth it. If you hire a good guide, you can also rest assured that you won’t feel overwhelmed by the crowds.
You can book a sunrise guided tour and the guide will know exactly where to go and the exact timings for taking the best pictures.
TIP: Make sure to stay on the right side in front of the temples first. Most people go straight to the right, so that side gets crowded. Once the sun starts coming out, move to the other side for more photos. You will see the reflection on the moat and that is a lovely photo to take.
Go to Angkor National Museum
For a better understanding of Angkor Wat, consider visiting this museum entirely dedicated to Angkorian artifacts. It’s a great place to learn about the culture of ancient Khmers.
And the Landmine Museum
Cambodia has a difficult past and you may want to learn a bit more about it by visiting the Landmine Museum, which is located in Angkor Park. It will explain a bit more about the Khmer Rouge. Profits go in favor of landmine clearing, and to support children hit by landmines.
Visit a floating village
Not far from Siem Reap, Tonle Sap is the largest lake in Southeast Asia, and a fun place to visit to observe a more traditional way of living – many still live in stilt houses! These are the best guided tours of Tonle Sap Lake:
- Siem Reap Countryside Cycling and Floating Village Tour – a nice tour that takes you around the floating villages.
- Sunset Dinner Tour: Tonle Sap Lake Floating Village – similar to the one above, but you stay along for a nice sunset dinner.
The Flight of the Gibbon
If you like zip lining, make sure you try Flight of the Gibbon – it has some fun zip lines in Angkor Park. Flight of the Gibbon runs a very good conservation program, reintroducing gibbons in the area.
Read more about my zip-lining experience in Argentina on my post “Great things to do in Argentina.”
Zip-lining with Flight of the Gibbon is an amazing experience. You will get picked up from your hotel at 8:00 am and taken to Angkor Park. The base is completely immersed in the jungle.
As soon as you arrive, you are welcomed by the English-speaking guides, who help you wearing the protective gear. You will then be taken to the beginning of the trail and trained about the safety measures, on how to fly and how to stop.
There are ten zip-lines, and 4 sky bridges. At each stop, you will be given information on the length of the flight, on the hight and – most importantly – you will be all tied properly for safety. You will also get insights on the jungle surrounding you, on the wildlife and plants you see.
When you will finally make your way to the base camp, you may be able to spot one of the gibbons that live in the area.
Before being driven back to town, you will be taken for lunch at a lovely restaurant and get to try some of the local dishes. Lunch is included in the experience.
Enjoy Siem Reap bustling night life
The center of town is one of Siem Reap attractions and can’t be bypassed. It is a series of bars, restaurants (lots of them western style) and pubs, all blasting very loud music and offering happy hour deals.
Pub Street is packed with a younger crowd looking for cheap booze which can be found on the many “booze carts” selling alcoholic drinks in the street. It is fun to watch and join in the fun.
FUN FACT: I can’t quite comment on that as I haven’t tried it, but in the area of Pub Street you will find a small street vendor selling fried tarantula. You can only take photos if you eat it!
Go to Phare
Phare is the Cambodian Circus and it is nothing like what you’d imagine – or else, I wouldn’t be recommending it here. The show is more like one you’d expect from the Cirque du Soleil – lots of acrobatics, and great music. You can book your ticket here.
GOOD TO KNOW: If traditional dancing is more of your thing, you can go to an Apsara show. Book it here.
Get a massage (and support a good cause)
The center of Siem Reap is the best place to get a cheap massage – an excellent way to relax after having spent the whole day in Angkor Wat. Lots of places offer a foot rub for just $1 USD, back rubs, and all sorts of other massages, and even the fish massage where fish eat the dead skin off the feet.
If privacy isn’t an issue (customers are all sitting right next to each other in the open, passers-by curiously staring), this is one of the most fun and cheap things to do in Siem Reap. Just make sure that the people doing the massage are actually adults – I have seen lots of masseurs who looked way too young to be working till late, and I’d hate to contribute to child exploitation.
There also are various spas where the masseurs are blind people and where the profits go to support their training, employment and integration (but beware as there also are places that exploit the blinds for profits).
The Night Market in Siem Reap is packed with small stalls of local artists that sell hand made jewels, clothes and bags, some of it made from recycled material too. It’s a perfect place to shop for souvenirs.
Another great market to visit is the Old Market – it’s mostly local, and that’s what’s special about it!
Eat street food
Finally, one of the best things to do in Siem Reap is trying the street food (the best place for that is after Pub Street, on the way to the river). Stir fried noodles, fruit smoothies, fruit bars, rice cakes made with rice flour and coconut milk, filled with fruit or pumpkin, pancakes and what not. It was delicious and oh so cheap – not to mention a lot of fun. There even is a place that allegedly makes fried ice cream (which isn’t fried at all, actually – but fun to see how it is made nevertheless).
Learn how to cook Cambodian food
If you are keen on learning the secrets into a delicious Cambodian meal (take it from a picky eater: food in Cambodia is delicious), a cooking class is one of the best things to do in Siem Reap. You can sign up here.
TIP: If you are a complete disaster at cooking, consider this pottery class instead.
What Not To Do In Siem Reap
This isn’t meant to be a post on responsible travel (you can read one here). Yet, I feel compelled to comment on what I saw in Angkor Wat, because I was seriously bothered. One of the things not to do in Siem Reap (in fact, one of the things not to do anywhere in the world) is riding elephants. Yet, I saw quite a few elephants walking around the sites, and lots of them carrying tourists.
I am frankly shocked that there still are people that ride elephants in an era when information on how these animals are tortured, how their body structure isn’t apt for carrying weights, and what the consequences are is so easily available. In fact, we don’t even have to look for this kind of information, as it is provided to anybody who basically browses the web and has a Facebook account.
News such as that of the elephant that died in the 40 degrees heat after having been ridden by tourists are all over the web. The Mail Online was the first to report it.
If you are traveling to South East Asia make sure to stay away from activities such as elephant riding and the likes.
Check out my post A Quick Guide To Ethical Animal Tourism for more information.
Practical Information For Visiting Siem Reap
Where to stay and where to eat in Siem Reap
Siem Reap has a variety of good accommodation options for any taste and any budget. Make sure to base your choice of accommodation on the location. Most people opt to stay in the centre, not far from the mayhem of Pub Street.
These are some of the best places to stay in Siem Reap:
- Rose Royal Boutique Hotel – a truly lovely hotel, with large, comfortable rooms, a nice pool and a bar.
- Viroth’s Hotel – a fantastic hotel with spacious room with modern decor, and a massive swimming pool.
- Uncle Sam Villa – comfortable rooms around a beautiful garden make this one of the best guest houses in town.
Food is never an issue in Siem Reap. Chanrey Tree is lovely: delicious food in a cozy environment and great service, all for around $15 USD per person which – granted – is a lot of money in Asia.
Another place to try is The Hidden Home. It is a family run restaurant tucked away in a quiet street, where the host is super nice and the food delicious. A meal which included an order of vegetables with tofu, chicken with pumpkin, two sides of rice, a beer and a mango smoothy and a courtesy plate of fruit turned out to be $8
How to get to Siem Reap and away
Siem Reap is well connected to the rest of the country by bus, with connections to Phnom Penh, Battambang, and even Bangkok. Buses can even be booked online.
The airport is located at about 20 minutes drive from the city and has flights to various destinations in South East Asia, including Bangkok. Entry to Cambodia requires a visa that can either be obtained on arrival (but scams are very frequent – they even tried to scam me at the border) or via trusted online agencies.
Other tips to make the most of Siem Reap
DRINK LOTS OF WATER – The heat in Cambodia is unprecedented. One of the most important things to do in Siem Reap is to keep hydrated, drinking lots of water.
WEAR SUNBLOCK AND A HAT – Make sure to always protect against the sun, which is really strong at this latitude. Wearing a high SPF is necessary not to get sunburnt and in fact, make sure to get proper sun lotion as it is known that in this part of the world lots don’t actually do what they promise.
APPLY MOSQUITO REPELLENT – Siem Reap and the rest of the country (and of South East Asia, in fact) are invaded with mosquitos. The chances of getting malaria are slim, especially during the dry season. However, make sure to apply mosquito repellent, possibly with DEET too. Wear long pants and shoes so that the areas where you need to apply it are minimal.
Further readings about South East Asia
Make sure to read my other posts about South East Asia:
- 20 Fabulous And Simply Unmissable Things To Do In Bangkok
- 19 Incredible Things To Do In Chiang Mai (Plus 3 To Avoid)
- A Short Guide To Koh Chang, Thailand
- 10 Awesome Things To Do In Koh Samui
- The Best Places To Visit In Thailand
- 33 Incredibly Fun Things To Do In Vietnam In 15 Days
- How To Get The Vietnam Visa Online And The Vietnam Visa On Arrival
- 10 Things To Do In Saigon In Just 3 Days
- 17 Fun And Unmissable Things To Do In Hanoi
- 13 Great Day Trips From Hanoi
34 thoughts on “12 Amazing Things To Do In Siem Reap”
This post was very informative and I will use this information when I go visit Siam Reap.
Good to know Nathalie! Make sure that you check out all the things to do in Siem Reap and plan in advance a bit 🙂
Great post – sounds like you may have been there about the same time as me – early April? I only had 1 day at the temples, but it was a 10 hour bike tour with Viator. After that, I couldn’t do any more – the heat just about killed me! I would love to go back when it is cooler and explore more of the temples. Also, Le Meridien Angkor may be my most favorite hotel of all time – it was amazing!
Totally agree about the elephants (I had visited Elephant Nature Park in Thailand prior to Cambodia) and am so sad to see elephants lugging tourists around on their backs. Before I left, several well meaning people wanted to tell me all about their elephant riding experience and give me a recommendation – while I think it is well-known in some circles (international travelers/nomads/bloggers/travelettes/backpackers/etc) I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s widely known. So the best we can do is help to spread the word! Most of my social circle is NOT comprised of well traveled folks and I’ll bet the torture and abuse will come as news to them.
Hey Leigh. I was actually there in mid March. I think there is no way to escape the heat in Cambodia. From my understanding, it is hot year round! But I would also love to go again 🙂 And well done for enduring a 10 hours bike tour. I surely wouldn’t be able in that heat.
Also thanks for your comment on the elephant rides. People don’t mean well, I don’t think so at least. People just do not care. And you’d be surprised that there even are bloggers who just do not care. They know – they do! – and simply don’t care. I have had a long discussion with one of them just last week. Go figure!
Informative as always…..and particularly refreshing (never mind the scorching heat ) ! Great pictures indeed !
Thank you my dear. I bet you’d enjoy it there. Make sure you visit!!
Great post. I planned a visit to Cambodia two years before but eventually I could not get there because of my work. I now see once more what I had missed. Thank you for good photos and advices.
I am sure there will be other opportunities. If you like culture and a bit of adventure, it is amazing. So many things to do in Siem Reap!
Looks like you had an amazing trip to Cambodia – very informative too! Looks like you really made the most of your time there 🙂
Oh it was FANTASTIC. I enjoyed it. If you go, make sure to spend at least 3 days in Siem Reap. There are way too many things to do in Siem Reap to stay less than that!
I woke up in the night to experience sunrise over Angkor Wat and think it is one of the most enchanting travel experiences that I’ve ever had. This is definitely a place for bucket lists.
It was so so so worth it. I agree, it was enchanting!
I’m going to siem reap with my friend in a few days and your post was really helpful!
Your guide Chang sounded especially nice and knowledgeable, do you happen to have his contact? 🙂
Will definitely wish to consider him for guided tour when we are there!
Thanks for all the really helpful info in the post!
Hey there! I am glad you found my post useful. There are so many things to do in Siem Reap that deciding what to do is a daunting task. You can contact Chang via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at +855 12 21 50 39. Hope it helps and have a great time!
That was very useful as me and girlfriend are going to visit there in two months. We also found your Vietnam post very helpful. By any chance have you been to other parts of Cambodia or Loas and wrote about them? Thanks 🙂
Hi Alan, I have only been to Battambang in Cambodia, not long enough to be able to write a fully comprehensive post like the one on Siem Reap. It is a lovely place, less touristy than Siem Reap and the surroundings are really pretty – you can visit temples where you will be the only visitor, markets where there’s very few tourists and the famous bat cave! I haven’t been to Laos yet…
im happy you had such a good visit it was not my experience our guide took us on a quick tour then took us to a shop with paintings and sell sell sell we were also asked for donations at every turn by the monks for a bracelet tied around our wrist then a prayer great the first time not so good the next ten times then the kids begging no mention of that i was surprised that was everywhere with scams etc i just thought it should be mentioned
Hi Karen, I am so sorry your experience wasn’t so good. Did you try to book your guide through your hotel or hostel? We did so – and had it not worked out, we would have complained to them to get our money back. Did you also complain to the guide about that kind of behavior?
Thank you for sharing your exsperience in Cambodia. Both me and my husband have retired and wish to go to Cambodia, Vietnam January 2020, never travelled independently, this will be our first time, so excited. We are about to book our tickets and find out about visas, we are hoping to travel for 7weeks.
You will love it – make sure to read a lot about it, it can be shocking. Make sure to read my posts about Vietnam, Saigon and Hanoi for further guidance 🙂