Don’t know what to do in Siem Reap? This tranquil all-year travel destination boasts mystical ancient temples, amazing restaurants and a host of outdoor adventures.
Travelling from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap cuts out the city noise and takes you to a land of myth and legend. Here is a guide to “reap” some of the best things that this north-western resort town in Cambodiahas to offer.
Angkor Wat: Siem Reap’s Jewel
Every Siem Reap travel guide will recommend a visit to Angkor Wat, which means “City of Temples” in Khmer. This temple was constructed by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Nearby, the 54 towers of Bayon, the royal grounds of Elephant Terrace, and the jungle-entwined Ta Phrom, featured in the movie Tomb Raider, are also among the most stunning reasons to visit Siem Reap.
Make the most of this UNESCO Heritage monument; hop on a tuk-tuk and hire an English-speaking tour guide to tell you the stories behind the Buddhist scenes engraved on the temple’s bas-relief.
Head out early to Pnohm Bakheng to catch a breathtaking sunrise. To avoid the crowds at dusk, we’d recommend the serene Prasat Phom Krom where you can enjoy a panoramic sunset.
Culture and Art in Siem Reap
Immerse yourself in Khmer culture through Buddhist-inspired lacquer art at Angkor Artwork E&T Stocker and striking Cambodian photography at the boutique McDermott Gallery. Be inspired at Theam's House, where you’ll find a lush garden within the atelier and home of Cambodian artist and designer Lim Muy Theam.
The Cambodian Landmine Museum may appeal to history buffs curious about the country’s turbulent past and how it has continued to affect generations. The museum’s admission proceeds go towards good causes, like building schools and educating the disadvantaged.
For more art for good, stop by Artisans Angkor, which seeks to revitalise traditional craft forms while providing fair employment.
Things to Do in Siem Reap
You’re never short of attractions to visit in Siem Reap, from the city to the countryside. Be awestruck by the unusual at the Phare Circus, where dance and circus performances fuse Cambodian tradition with theatre. The troupe was founded in 1994 by a group of former Khmer Rouge refugees and promises an energetic evening of enjoyment.
Tired of covering Siem Reap on foot? Grasshopper Adventures offers guided tours that will have you cycling through the countryside or kayaking in Tonle Sap, a freshwater lake and floating village community by the Mekong River.
Or stay indoors and spice up your culinary repertoire — sign up for a cooking class at Lily’s Secret Garden, where you can learn to create Cambodian food classics like red curry and lort-cha, a local take on stir-fried rice noodles.
Food in Siem Reap
Treat yourself at one of Siem Reap’s best restaurants, Cuisine Wat Damnak, where you can enjoy French master chef Joannès Rivière’s take on Cambodian cuisine. Praised by The New York Times for his use of locally sourced seasonal ingredients, Chef Joannès refreshes his tasting menus every fortnight, with divine six-course tastings for about US$30.
More fusion eats offered in the garden setting of Mie Café contain elements of both the familiar and exotic, serving dishes like Krill Ravioli, a squid ink ravioli topped with traditional Cambodian yellow curry.
If authentic traditional food is more to your taste, head over to Chanrey Tree for a national favourite: amok, a succulent dish of fresh fish with a spicy coconut custard steamed in a banana leaf. For the adventurous, opt for the frog-leg version of char khroeung, a meat stir-fry with exotic Khmer spices such as lemongrass, turmeric and lime leaves.
Once the sun sets, Siem Reap offers a vibrant nightlife too. Those looking for a nightcap should seek out Miss Wong cocktail bar or Asana, Old Wooden House in the old market district, the latter of which serves some unusual herbal cocktails. Both offer exceptional drinks amid enthralling interiors with a nod to yesteryear.