Go beyond the famous temples to uncover the rich traditional skills, peaceful countryside and wonderful welcome during this two week Cambodia holiday. In this varied itinerary you will start at Angkor to visit temples ruins partly by bike, then spend a few days with a rural family to experience their way of life. Head back to Siem Reap for some adventure, ziplining and trekking through the forest, before unwinding on the white sands of an unspoiled tropical island. The holiday finishes in Phnom Penh where you see the beautiful Royal Palace and visit the infamous Killing Fields, try your hand at delicious Khmer cuisine and enjoy a traditional massage.
Great for families and active, outdoorsy people, this holiday will introduce you to the many sides of a country that is still largely untouched by tourism.
Day 2: Head 30km north through the peaceful Cambodian countryside to visit captivating Banteay Srei, an elaborately decorated temple embellished with scenes from the Ramayana. After lunch, continue with the spectacular temples of the Grand Circuit, from Preah Khan onwards to Neak Pean's fountains and ponds, then to Ta Som and its famous strangler fig tree. Finally, arrive at Pre Rup, a great spot to experience an Angkor sunset. Enjoy a dinner show at the Phare Circus before turning in. (B/L/D)
Day 3: Today explore the core temples of the Small Circuit by bike (30km), including the huge pyramid of Takeo, jungle-clad Ta Prohm made famous by ‘Tomb Raider’ and the Royal City of Angkor Thom, where you will find the Bayon, famed for its gigantic carved smiling faces. Other important sites in this immense walled city include Baphuon, Phimeanakas, the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King.
Then it's finally time to discover the magnificent Angkor Wat itself, the world’s largest religious building. A masterpiece of decorative details and architectural style, its awe-inspiring ruins are testament to the achievements of the Khmer civilisation. After another mesmerising sunset, free evening to try out Siem Reap’s eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. (B/L)
Day 4: Leave the beaten path behind as you visit Roluos, the Khmer capital which set the pattern for the later Angkor Wat complex. Nearby you can see small cottage industries making pottery, puppets and weaving, visit the pagoda to get a monk blessing and browse a local market untouched by tourism, so don’t be surprised if they are unused to foreigners!
Afterwards, board a small wooden boat and sail through Chong Khneas, a floating bamboo village complete with homes, petrol stations, schools, hair dressers and even karaoke bars. Finally, head out into the vast expanse of the lake as you watch the setting sun disappearing into the serene waters. (B/L)
Day 5: After breakfast head north to explore Banteay Chhmar, a large temple rarely visited by tourists due to its remoteness. A community tourism project in the village helps the villagers supplement their income and you will have the chance to live with them for a few days and experience the rhythms of rural life in Cambodia. Enjoy a traditionally-prepared Khmer lunch and meet your host family, then explore the temple to discover the remains of fallen towers and walls. A local style dinner will be served in the grounds of the temple by torch light - a unique experience! (B/L/D)
Day 6: Awake to delightful views of rural Cambodia and rice paddies stretching off into the distance. Learn more about the typical village life as you visit the rice fields, stroll around the grounds of the village pagoda and visit a local organisation helping to revive the silk weaving industry. Depending on the time of year you may also assist your host family with their farm activities. Later visit Pol Pot Baray, another wonderful and peaceful ancient temple - having it to yourself as the sun sets across the baray is an extremely memorable moment. End the day with dinner prepared by your family, followed by a rice-flattening show and tasting. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Today head back to Siem Reap, en route visiting Artisans d'Angkor Silk Farm, which creates employment opportunities for young Cambodians by teaching traditional handicraft techniques such as stone and wood carving, lacquering and gilding and silk weaving. Witness the silk production process and perhaps purchase some beautiful souvenirs at the farm’s boutique shop. (B)
Day 8: This morning, take your adventure to new heights on a zipline tour inside the UNESCO-listed Angkor Archaeological Park. This treetop experience takes you up seven staircases, across four hanging bridges and along 10 ziplines that cross over the jungle canopy and part of your money goes to restoring the flora, fauna and wildlife of this spectacular rainforest. Rest of the day free. (B/L)
Day 9: Drive through endless rice fields and friendly local villages to Phnom Kulen, a large hill considered the birthplace of the Khmer empire. Trek uphill for an hour to the 'River of a Thousand Lingas'. Cambodian people believe it brings fertility and blessing to the Angkor area and you may meet Buddhist pilgrims on your way. Continue by car to the top to visit the Grand Reclining Buddha and famous waterfall, where you can swim under the 30m cascade. After you have enjoyed the stunning view of the plains, drive 50km back to Siem Reap, optionally stopping at the Butterfly Centre or the Landmine Museum, which promotes mine awareness. Mr. Aki Ra, the museum founder, was trained as a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime and is working today as a de-miner. Rest of the afternoon is free. (B/L)
Day 14: Catch a speedboat back to the mainland and proceed by car to Phnom Penh (4-5 hours). Join your guide at the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, an infamous Khmer Rouge prison and torture centre. Once you have gained an initial insight into the brutal regime, visit the “Killing Fields”, where prisoners were forcibly marched and then executed; it is now a memorial site located in a beautiful tranquil setting. Rest of the day is free. (B)
Day 15: Today you will be treated to a fun cyclo (rickshaw) tour. Trundling along in the open-sided cyclo will let you appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of Cambodia's biggest city to the full. Your first stop is the National Museum, then the nearby Royal Palace, before moving on to the Silver Pagoda, named because it is claimed that the floor contains more than 4,000 silver tiles.
After lunch explore the impressive art-deco Central Market, an iconic local landmark and a fascinating place to wander around - just be careful not to get lost! When you are all haggled out, pedal around the French Quarter and Wat Phnom before your cyclo driver returns you to your hotel. (B/L)
Day 16: Spend your last day learning some Cambodian cookery skills to take home with you. Begin with a guided tour through the local food market sampling Cambodian fruits, vegetables and spices, from the ubiquitous, smelly fish sauce to sweet, fragrant mangoes. Then under the guidance of your chef, create your own delicious lunch and desert. Finally get ready for your flight home with a Seeing Hand massage, a social enterprise that employs 9 blind therapists. Once you've relaxed and been pampered, it's finally time to head to the airport with lots of amazing photographs and memories! (B/L)
Prices from: £1685 per person
Services included: hotels on shared room basis, meals, transfers and activities as mentioned, entry fees, English speaking guide, 24 hour assistance
Services not included: flights, drinks, tips and personal expenses.
Note: stops can be extended, added or cut - just ask us!