Discovering the beauty of the exquisite temple complex of Angkor Wat is on every tourist’s list of top things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia. You have to see the temples in person to understand why the extensive Angkor Archaeological Park is so famous.
The incredible Khmer architecture and intricate design of these Hindu and Buddhist temples draw people from all over the world. Various temples, big and small, including Bayon, Preah Khan, Ta Prohm, and Banteay Srei located in the archaeological park are famous Siem Reap tourist attractions.
While the temples are the highlight of any trip to this area, there are other exciting places to see in Siem Reap as well. Fascinating museums that reveal different facets of history in Cambodia include the Landmine Museum, Angkor National Museum, and War Museum.
For those interested in birds or wildlife conservation, there are two wonderful Siem Reap attractions – the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, and Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity. After all the tours and explorations, you can relax on Pub Street with a drink or go shopping for nice knick-knacks at the Angkor Night Market.
Here’s a list of what to see in Siem Reap, a must-visit destination in Cambodia.
Why should you visit Siem Reap?
Siem Reap is the capital city of Cambodia and became one of the popular and famous tourist destinations in Southeast Asia for Angkor Wat. Angkor Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the top attraction of Siem Reap as well as in the entire country. Angkor Wat is the main temple of this heritage site and other must-visit temples are Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple. The unique architectural beauty of Angkor Wat temple draws every year many tourists to visit around the world. Several cultural sites and museums are also worth to explore in Siem Reap. You might like the nightlife of Siem Reap on Pub Street. And don’t miss to go for a street food tour as well in the evening during your trip to Siem Reap.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Practical information and Siem Reap travel tips
- 2 Where to stay in Siem Reap?
- 3 Experiences and top things to do in Siem Reap
- 3.1 Angkor Archaeological Park/Angkor Wat
- 3.2 Angkor Thom – Bayon Temple and other highlights
- 3.3 Ta Prohm
- 3.4 Banteay Srei
- 3.5 Beng Mealea
- 3.6 Preah Khan
- 3.7 Museums of Siem Reap
- 3.8 Angkor Night Market/Pub Street
- 3.9 Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary
- 3.10 Angkor Silk Farm
- 3.11 Phnom Kulen National Park
- 3.12 Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity
- 4 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Practical information and Siem Reap travel tips
When is the best time to visit Siem Reap?
- Peak/dry season (November to March)
- Expect a lot of tourists visiting around this time of the year
- Popular destinations like Siem Reap will be crowded
- Expect occasional rainfall around November
- The average temperature is around 30°C
- You can witness Bon Om Touk Water Festival in November
- Prices will be higher everywhere around this time, as well
- Summer (April to May)
- There will be fewer tourists around this time of the year
- May is the hottest month so come prepared!
- The average temperature is 30°C but the humidity is going to be high thus it will feel terribly hot during the peak of the day
- Low/wet season (June to October)
- Some tourist prefer visiting around this time of the year because the weather is cooler but the temperature does not go below 20°C
- Expect fewer tourists and crowds
- Come prepared for the excess rainfall and possible stormy nights
- There will be fewer excursions and tours
- Prices will be lower compared to the high season
Do you need a visa for Siem Reap?
It does require a visa to enter Cambodia, however, most ASEAN member countries do not a visa. That said, other countries do require a visa and they can obtain this upon arrival at Cambodia’s main airports and it will cost you 30USD to get a 30 days valid tourist visa. You can also apply online and if you’re unsure if you need a visa to enter Cambodia, read this post.
Where to book your flights to Siem Reap?
Check our handy-dandy guide on how to find the cheapest flights around the world – read it here.
Do you need an insurance?
Remember this: anything can happen! Read ourtake on why you need a travel insurance and how it can save you money when things go unplanned – read it here.
Where to stay in Siem Reap?
Seam Reap is known for its many beautiful luxury and boutique hotels and here are some of our recommendations: Phum Baitang, eOcambo Village, and Jaya House River Park. These hotels start from €30 per night and you’ll get amazing quality service and access to their luxurious facilities.
If you’re on a more budgeted side, we recommend you staying at hostels where you’ll be paying about €7 per night. Here are our recommendations: Onederz Siem Reap, Lub d Cambodia Siem Reap, Funky Flashpacker.
Experiences and top things to do in Siem Reap
Angkor Archaeological Park/Angkor Wat
You will find the Angkor Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on every list of what to do in Siem Reap. It is so extensive that depending on your interest; you can take either the one-day, three-day or seven-day pass to see the temples on the site.
Built during the time of the Khmer Empire, the Angkor Wat is the most famous and also the most well-preserved of the temples. Initially dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu in the 12th century, it later became a Buddhist religious site.
There are several guided tours to give you in-depth details. You can even opt for a tuk-tuk tour of the temples to cover all the main areas. A sunrise tour of Angkor Wat is also very popular among visitors.
Angkor Thom – Bayon Temple and other highlights
A former capital of the Khmer empire, Angkor Thom too has some magnificent sights. Situated close to Angkor Wat, Angor Thom’s most significant attraction is the Bayon Temple.
It is one of the best things to see in Siem Reap. More than 200 massive calm and smiling faces made of stone on the towers of the temple are among its most striking features. Bas-reliefs showcasing various themes and stories are other highlights of the temple.
Also of interest in Angkor Thom are the Baphuon Temple, Terrace of the Elephants, and the Terrace of the Leper King.
While many temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park are restored, some are overgrown with jungle vegetation. These, too, have a beauty of their own. One such temple is Ta Prohm, among the most interesting Siem Reap tourist attractions.
Trees intertwine with the stone structure, and you can see massive roots in individual sections. It looks quite mysterious! Fans of action-adventure movies will recognize this temple from the Angelina Jolie starred Tomb Raider.
In this atmospheric place, you almost feel like a jungle explorer in search of an ancient site. Take a tour of the compound to see stone reliefs and other features of the temple.
A small but pretty temple made of red sandstone, the Banteay Srei is located more than 30 km from the leading group of Angkor temples. Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the Banteay Srei has beautiful intricate carvings that distinguish it from other temples.
This 10th-century well-preserved temple should make it to your list of what to see in Siem Reap. You can see the stunning carvings depicting various stories of gods and goddesses on the temple walls and almost everywhere in the temple.
Looking at the temple, you can only marvel at the skill of the artisans who worked on its design. Spare half a day to travel and see this temple either on a guided tour or a tuk-tuk ride to the site.
Sometimes to see good things, you need to make an extra effort. While the ruins of Beng Mealea temple are located around 60 km from Siem Reap, it is a must for those who like temples like Ta Prohm where trees and vegetation have blended with the temple structure.
In fact, at Beng Mealea, the wilderness of the jungle is even more prominent making it one of the fascinating things to do in Siem Reap. The broken ruins with huge tree roots covering them make for beautiful photographs.
Tourists are less here compared to the main temples so you can explore this site in an unhurried manner.
Once a thriving temple site of the 12th century that combined a university, city, and temple, Preah Khan had thousands of people who lived and worked in the area including teachers, attendants, dancers, and others.
Today, it is deserted, but the beautiful ruins of the Hindu-Buddhist site give a glimpse of the bygone glorious era. Although the temple has trees and vegetation surrounding the structures, it is still quite well-preserved. You can see the gopuras and towers, library ruins, and beautiful carvings with images of garudas, nagas, and devas.
Located just a couple of kilometers from the Bayon temple, Preah Khan is one of the fabulous Siem Reap attractions.
Museums of Siem Reap
Do you know what to do in Siem Reap to get a better understanding of its history especially war-related? The Landmine Museum is one such place that deserves to be on every list of what to see in Siem Reap.
It is among those places that are not only worth seeing, but also very moving. It was established by a Khmer man Aki Ra who would clear landmines left over from the times of war, defuse them and store them in a house. This eventually resulted in the setting up of the Landmine Museum that also cares for orphaned children.
One more interesting place is the War Museum that has a collection of war vehicles including battle tanks and a helicopter, and weapons used in Cambodia’s civil war.
You can also pick up and see some of the weapons. The Angkor National Museum is another good museum that has galleries with Angkor artifacts.
Angkor Night Market/Pub Street
As night descends on some of the top attractions in Siem Reap, the streets come alive with locals and tourists heading to the Angkor Night Market. You can find all kinds of products here from regular stuff to interesting knick-knacks.
Shop for handicrafts, clothes or bags, and put your bargaining skills to good use. Grab a bite when you are hungry. At the neighboring Pub Street, life’s a party with cheap beer at various bars popular with the young crowd.
Also, enjoy good food at restaurants that serve Khmer, and international cuisine. So, relax with food and drinks at one of the most fun places to visit in Siem Reap.
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary
Take a boat trip from the Chong Kneas dock to visit the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, located in a section of the Tonle Sap lake. It is among the most interesting Siem Reap activities, especially for bird lovers.
The best time to visit is from December to February as a large number of birds flock to the sanctuary. These include the large greater adjutant storks, pelicans, and other rare species.
Take a boat tour on a day trip to see the creatures. If you are passionate about these winged creatures, you can also stay at a basic accommodation here overnight to look at the birds at dawn the next day.
Angkor Silk Farm
Have you always admired silk fabrics or have a weakness for silk stoles or scarves? Go on a free guided tour of the Angkor Silk Farm where you can see the entire production process for silk.
The Angkor Silk Farm produces clothing and accessories. You can see the plantation with mulberry trees where silkworms eat the leaves as they grow. Take a look at the spinning mills and the weaving process.
Every step contributes to the smooth, shiny, and silky final fabric. Products are available for sale too. You now know where to go in Siem Reap to increase your knowledge of silk.
Phnom Kulen National Park
Enjoy the outdoors at the Phnom Kulen National Park, an integral part of Siem Reap sightseeing, located around 50 km from the central city. A mountain area with Buddhist statues, carvings, rivers and waterfalls, the park makes for a good day trip.
Chup Preah is a lovely valley here while Kbal Spean that can be reached with a jungle trek has several carvings on its shallow riverbed rocks. Another attraction is the Preah Ang Thom temple site. The waterfalls at Phnom Kulen are in full flow during the monsoons.
Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity
Located inside the Phnom Kulen National Park near Kbal Spean, the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity is one of the unique places in Siem Reap.
It is involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of Cambodian wildlife including mammals and birds. They are released on rehabilitation. Breeding of certain species also takes place here.
You might see wildlife including langurs, gibbons, turtles, peafowls, eagles, storks and other creatures at the center. Daily guided tours are available where you can look at the animals and learn about conservation efforts.
There are so many places to go in Siem Reap including stunning temples and other attractions. Put this on your bucket list and plan a trip to enjoy all the things to do in Siem Reap.
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