Cambodia Siem Reap

22nd April 2024

Siem Reap Travel Guide: History, Facts, How To Reach, Best Time To Visit (2023)

Are you planning a trip to Siem Reap? If so, we’ve got you covered in this blog post.

From our past experience of leading group trips here, we’ve gathered valuable insights and insider tips that will make your visit truly memorable. Siem Reap, known for its awe-inspiring temples and vibrant cultural heritage, offers a treasure trove of experiences for travelers seeking adventure and enlightenment.

From our last visit to this place, we learned that Siem Reap is so much more than just a destination; it’s a journey into the heart of ancient civilization. In this travel guide, we’ll take you on a captivating exploration of the city’s hidden gems, local delicacies, and captivating traditions.

Get ready to immerse yourself in the enchanting beauty of Siem Reap and discover the wonders that await you around every corner.

So, grab your travel essentials, and let’s embark on an unforgettable adventure together. Siem Reap travel guide has never been this exciting!

Why Visit Siem Reap?

Siem Reap, a captivating city in Cambodia, beckons travelers from around the world with its irresistible charm and rich cultural heritage. Here are compelling reasons why you should visit this enchanting destination.

First and foremost, Siem Reap is home to the magnificent Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most iconic architectural wonders on the planet.

Exploring the intricate temples and ancient ruins of Angkor allows you to step back in time and witness the grandeur of the Khmer Empire. The sheer scale and intricate details of these architectural masterpieces will leave you in awe.

History of Siem Reap

The history of Siem Reap is deeply intertwined with the rise and fall of the mighty Khmer Empire. Established in the 9th century, the empire reached its zenith under King Jayavarman II, who founded the city of Angkor and made it the capital. Siem Reap, located near the Angkor archaeological complex, served as a strategic hub and administrative center.

Over the centuries, successive Khmer kings constructed awe-inspiring temples and structures, including the iconic Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Bayon. These architectural marvels showcased the empire’s power, wealth, and devotion to Hindu and later Buddhist beliefs.

Siem Reap flourished as a cultural and religious center until the 15th century when the empire’s decline led to the abandonment of Angkor. For centuries, the once-mighty temples were hidden beneath dense jungles until their rediscovery in the 19th century by French explorers.

Facts about Siem Reap

  • Siem Reap is home to the world-famous Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • The city offers a vibrant nightlife scene with bustling markets, lively bars, and traditional dance performances.
  • Siem Reap is a gateway to the ancient temples of Angkor, including Angkor Thom and Bayon.
  • The local cuisine in Siem Reap is a delightful fusion of flavors, with dishes like Fish Amok and Khmer curry being must-tries.
  • Exploring Siem Reap allows visitors to experience the warm hospitality of the Khmer people and learn about their rich cultural traditions.

Things to Do In & Around Siem Reap

1. Explore the Angkor Archaeological Park

Explore the Angkor Archaeological Park

A journey to Siem Reap would be incomplete without immersing yourself in the mystical wonders of the Angkor Archaeological Park. This sprawling UNESCO World Heritage site spans over 400 square kilometers and boasts an astonishing collection of ancient temples and ruins.

As you step foot into this historical treasure trove, prepare to be captivated by the architectural grandeur and the palpable sense of ancient civilization that surrounds you.

  • Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 5:00 am – 6:00 pm

2. Visit Angkor Wat

Visit Angkor Wat

The crown jewel of the Angkor Archaeological Park, Angkor Wat, is a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the Khmer empire. This colossal temple complex, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, is renowned for its intricate carvings, towering spires, and stunning symmetry.

As you approach Angkor Wat, the sight of its iconic silhouette reflected in the surrounding moat will undoubtedly leave you in awe.

  • Location: Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 5:00 am – 6:00 pm

3. Discover the Bayon Temple

Discover the Bayon Temple

Venture into the heart of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, and you’ll encounter the mesmerizing Bayon Temple. Known for its enigmatic stone faces, this architectural marvel showcases the enigmatic smile of Avalokiteshvara, a bodhisattva embodying compassion.

As you wander through the labyrinthine corridors of Bayon, the play of light and shadow casts an ethereal ambiance, adding to the temple’s allure.

  • Location: Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 7:30 am – 5:30 pm

4. Explore Ta Prohm Temple

Explore Ta Prohm Temple

Nature and history intertwine at Ta Prohm Temple, where colossal tree roots have claimed their place amidst the ancient ruins. This captivating sight inspired by the “Tomb Raider” movie has become an iconic symbol of the Khmer Empire’s grandeur and the relentless passage of time.

As you stroll through the temple’s crumbling corridors, the interplay between the stone structures and nature’s green embrace creates an atmosphere of mystery and tranquility.

  • Location: Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 7:30 am – 5:30 pm

5. Take a boat ride on Tonle Sap Lake

Take a boat ride on Tonle Sap Lake

Embark on a serene boat journey on the glistening waters of Tonle Sap Lake, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. As you glide through floating villages, where stilted houses rise above the water, you’ll witness the vibrant daily life of the local fishing communities.

Marvel at the floating markets, schools, and pagodas that form the beating heart of this unique ecosystem.

  • Location: Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Opening Hours: Varies (consult local tour operators)

6. Visit the Angkor National Museum

Visit the Angkor National Museum

Delve into the captivating history and rich cultural heritage of Cambodia at the Angkor National Museum. Through a carefully curated collection of artifacts, multimedia displays, and interactive exhibits, you’ll embark on a journey that unravels the mysteries of the Angkor civilization.

From ancient sculptures to intricate Khmer art, this museum offers a comprehensive glimpse into the glory of the Khmer empire.

  • Location: National Road 6, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 8:30 am – 6:00 pm

7. Explore the Angkor Thom complex

Explore the Angkor Thom complex

Step back in time and wander through the monumental gates of the Angkor Thom complex, a fortified city that was once the capital of the Khmer Empire.

Adorned with intricate carvings and statues, this sprawling complex encompasses various temples, including the iconic Bayon and Baphuon temples.

Lose yourself in the labyrinthine paths, where history whispers from the ancient stones and the impressive scale of the city’s architecture leaves you in awe.

  • Location: Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 7:30 am – 5:30 pm

8. Enjoy a traditional Apsara dance performance

Enjoy a traditional Apsara dance performance

Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Cambodian culture by witnessing a traditional Apsara dance performance. Adorned in shimmering silk costumes, graceful dancers depict mythical stories through intricate hand movements and elegant gestures.

Accompanied by live traditional music, the mesmerizing performance brings to life the rich heritage and enduring traditions of Cambodia.

  • Location: Various venues in Siem Reap
  • Opening Hours: Evening performances, times vary

9. Take a bike tour around the countryside

 Take a bike tour around the countryside

Escape the bustling city and embark on a captivating bike tour through the picturesque Cambodian countryside surrounding Siem Reap. Pedal along meandering trails, passing lush rice paddies, charming villages, and friendly locals going about their daily routines.

Engage with the rural community, learn about their traditional livelihoods, and witness the sublime beauty of the countryside as you cycle through this idyllic landscape.

  • Location: Siem Reap countryside
  • Opening Hours: Tours available throughout the day

10. Visit the floating villages of Kampong Phluk or Chong Khneas

Visit the floating villages of Kampong Phluk or Chong Khneas

Embark on a unique adventure to the floating villages of Kampong Phluk or Chong Khneas, where houses, schools, and markets rest upon the tranquil waters. Glide through a maze of stilted houses and witness the resilience of the local communities who have adapted to life on the water.

Gain a deeper understanding of their way of life, observe traditional fishing techniques, and marvel at the vibrant sights and sounds that characterize these remarkable floating communities.

  • Location: Kampong Phluk or Chong Khneas, Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap
  • Opening Hours: Varies (consult local tour operators)

11. Explore the Roluos Group Temples

Explore the Roluos Group Temples

Embark on a journey to the Roluos Group temples, a cluster of ancient sanctuaries located just outside Siem Reap. These temples, including Bakong, Preah Ko, and Lolei, represent some of the earliest architectural achievements of the Khmer Empire.

Marvel at the exquisite carvings and intricate details that adorn these lesser-known gems, as you soak in the serene and peaceful ambiance away from the crowds.

  • Location: Roluos Group, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 7:30 am – 5:30 pm

12. Discover the Banteay Srei Temple

Discover the Banteay Srei Temple

Uncover the delicate beauty of Banteay Srei Temple, often referred to as the “Citadel of Women.” Known for its intricate sandstone carvings, this 10th-century temple is a masterpiece of Khmer artistry.

Admire the elaborate bas-reliefs, the meticulously crafted lintels, and the pink-hued stone that exudes a unique charm. The temple’s smaller size allows for intimate exploration, providing an opportunity to marvel at the exquisite craftsmanship up close.

  • Location: Banteay Srei, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 7:30 am – 5:30 pm

13. Take a culinary tour to taste Local Khmer Cuisine

Take a culinary tour to taste Local Khmer Cuisine

Indulge your taste buds on a culinary tour that unveils the flavors and aromas of Khmer cuisine. From savory fish amok to fragrant kuy teav noodle soup, savor the diverse array of dishes that reflect the country’s rich culinary heritage.

Engage with local chefs, visit bustling markets, and learn about the traditional ingredients and cooking techniques that make Khmer cuisine a delightful experience for food enthusiasts.

  • Location: Various restaurants and markets in Siem Reap
  • Opening Hours: Varies (consult local tour operators)

How to Reach Siem Reap

By Air – Siem Reap International Airport (REP) is well-connected with direct flights from various international destinations, including major cities in Southeast Asia. Several airlines, both full-service and budget carriers, operate flights to Siem Reap. Upon arrival, the airport is approximately 8 kilometers from the city center, and taxis and tuk-tuks are readily available for transportation.

By Land – If you’re traveling within Cambodia or from neighboring countries, buses and taxis are popular choices. Buses from Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, operate frequently and offer both standard and VIP options. Private taxis or shared taxis can be arranged for a more comfortable and convenient journey.

Best Time to Visit Siem Reap

The best time to visit Siem Reap is during the dry season, which spans from November to March. This period offers pleasant weather with cooler temperatures and minimal rainfall, making it ideal for exploring the temples and outdoor activities. However, it’s important to note that this is also the peak tourist season, and popular sites can be crowded.

Alternatively, the shoulder months of October and April can be considered for a visit. These months offer a transition between the wet and dry seasons, with fewer crowds and relatively favorable weather conditions. It’s worth noting that there may still be some sporadic showers during these months.

The wet season, from May to October, brings regular rainfall and higher humidity. While it’s considered the low tourist season, some travelers may still choose to visit during this time to experience Siem Reap’s lush landscapes and fewer crowds. It’s important to be prepared for rain showers and occasional downpours during this period.

Where to Stay at Siem Reap

1. Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor: A timeless luxury retreat, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor offers a blend of colonial charm and modern elegance. Located near the Angkor temples, this iconic hotel boasts spacious rooms, exquisite dining options, and a rejuvenating spa. Immerse yourself in the rich history and opulent surroundings of this renowned hotel.

2. Park Hyatt Siem Reap: Nestled in the heart of the city, Park Hyatt Siem Reap offers a sophisticated urban sanctuary. With its elegant rooms, upscale amenities, and attentive service, it provides a haven of tranquility. Indulge in culinary delights at the hotel’s fine dining restaurants and unwind by the pool after a day of exploring the nearby temples.

3. Sala Lodges: Experience a unique stay at Sala Lodges, a boutique hotel showcasing traditional Khmer wooden houses. These authentic lodgings have been painstakingly restored and transformed into comfortable accommodations. Set amidst lush gardens, Sala Lodges offers a peaceful ambiance, personalized service, and a chance to immerse yourself in Khmer culture.

Things to Know Before Visiting Siem Reap

  • Siem Reap is the gateway to the Angkor Archaeological Park, home to the iconic Angkor Wat.
  • The local currency is the Cambodian Riel (KHR), but US dollars are widely accepted.
  • Dress modestly when visiting temples, covering shoulders and knees as a sign of respect.
  • Be cautious of scams and touts offering overpriced services or misleading information.
  • Stay hydrated and carry mosquito repellent, as Siem Reap is located in a tropical region.
  • Bargaining is common in markets, so haggle for reasonable prices when shopping.
  • Respect local customs and traditions, such as removing your shoes before entering religious sites.

Things to avoid at Siem Reap

  • Avoid touching or climbing on the temple structures as it can cause damage.
  • Do not support or engage in any activities involving the exploitation of children.
  • Be cautious of unauthorized tour guides and use licensed guides for accurate information.
  • Avoid purchasing or supporting the sale of counterfeit goods or wildlife products.
  • Do not litter and respect the environment by disposing of waste responsibly.
  • Avoid excessive drinking or engaging in disrespectful behavior at sacred sites.
  • Be cautious of unscrupulous tuk-tuk drivers and negotiate fares before starting your journey.

Conclusion – Siem Reap Travel Guide

In conclusion, Siem Reap is a captivating destination that offers a perfect blend of ancient wonders, cultural richness, and warm hospitality. From exploring the majestic temples of Angkor to immersing in the vibrant local markets, Siem Reap never fails to enchant visitors.

With this Siem Reap travel guide, you’re well-equipped to embark on a remarkable journey filled with history, breathtaking landscapes, and unforgettable experiences. Get ready to create cherished memories in this remarkable city that will leave you longing to return for more adventures.

FAQs – Siem Reap Travel Guide

What are the must-visit temples in Siem Reap?

The must-visit temples in Siem Reap include the iconic Angkor Wat, the enchanting Bayon Temple with its smiling faces, and the stunning Ta Prohm temple engulfed by tree roots.

When is the best time to visit Siem Reap?

The best time to visit Siem Reap is during the dry season from November to March when the weather is pleasant, and there is minimal rainfall. However, the shoulder months of October and April can also be considered for fewer crowds.

How do I get to Siem Reap?

You can reach Siem Reap by air through Siem Reap International Airport, which has direct flights from various international destinations. Alternatively, you can travel by land via buses or taxis from neighboring countries.

What is the currency used in Siem Reap?

The currency used in Siem Reap is the Cambodian Riel (KHR), but US dollars are widely accepted. It’s advisable to carry small denominations for convenience.

What should I wear when visiting the temples in Siem Reap?

When visiting temples, it’s recommended to dress modestly, covering shoulders and knees as a sign of respect. Lightweight and breathable clothing is ideal due to the tropical climate.

Are there any local customs or etiquette I should be aware of in Siem Reap?

It’s important to respect local customs, such as removing your shoes before entering religious sites and being mindful of appropriate behavior. Learning a few basic Khmer phrases like “hello” and “thank you” can also be appreciated by locals.

Are there any scams or tourist traps to watch out for in Siem Reap?

While Siem Reap is generally safe, it’s wise to be cautious of scams, touts, and unlicensed tour guides. Ensure you use reputable services and agree on prices beforehand. Be aware of your belongings and avoid engaging in activities involving the exploitation of children.
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