Rising from its turbulent past with resilience, energy and a welcoming smile, Cambodia has arrived on the holiday scene as a destination that offers a plethora of experiences for families, combining an extraordinary historical past with a glittering future. Part of the magic of this ancient kingdom is that many parts remain largely untouched and unexplored, a refreshing throwback to days of travel before the crowds.
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Siem Reap and the Temples should be firmly at the top of any traveller’s bucket list. The astounding legacy of Khmer temples and monuments in fabled Angkor Wat rivals most in scale and grandeur. Deep in the jungle outside bustling Siem Reap, the temples are spell-binding, the pinnacle of achievement of this mighty empire. We take an “Indiana Jones with a cultural tilt” view of the temples when travelling with kids – it can be hot and tiring so finding adventure is key, whether that be exploring on horseback, by Vespa or jeep, or even an exciting treasure hunt.
While the temples are foremost in the mind of most visitors, there is much more to Cambodia. Siem Reap is now a destination in its own right, with vibrant markets and cosmopolitan cafes in the lovely French quarter. Further afield, swathes of glimmering rice paddies dotted with sugar palms stretch over the countryside. The southern tropical wilderness includes the Cardamon Mountains (a haven for eco-tourist wildlife adventures); in the north, Cambodian villages with stilted houses offer a glimpse into an older, simpler, way of life. For wildlife enthusiasts, we recommend a visit to the Irrawaddy dolphins of Kratie. These precious creatures can be easily seen in the river here and a quiet afternoon on a long boat watching them arc through the waters is utter bliss.
Shinta Mani Wild, a 3 hour drive from Phnom Penh, is a destination within itself. This luxury tented camp strung along a river valley, within a 865 acre private nature sanctuary can be reached by 4×4 or a zip line for the intrepid! Your stay here will make a real difference in protecting this phenomenal setting and all the endangered and unique species that live within it.
Phnom Penh, despite its harrowing recent history, has become a sophisticated, charismatic capital city with wide tree-lined boulevards, a lively riverside scene, and world-class dining. Visit the National Museum and the hilltop temple of Wat Phnom, before heading to Tuol Sleng Museum and the infamous Killing Fields to learn about Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge history.
A popular half or full day experience with more positive connotations is a visit to the Free The Bears sanctuary for rescued sun and moon bears, which includes preparing and hiding treats for them!
Coastal Cambodia is perfect for those after a beach flop. The southern peninsula of Sihanoukville offers white powder sands, and turquoise waters and is the gateway to hazy tropical islands off the coast such as Koh Krabey, Rong and Russey.
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When to go
Cambodia is a destination that works at any time of year. Warm year-round, its dry season runs from November-May and peak season is during the cooler months (November-February). March until May tends to be hot, while the wet season (really just a short spell in the afternoon) runs May-October and is a great time to see the temples because of the stunning water reflection and fewer crowds.
Flights: There are no direct flights to Cambodia from the UK (at time of writing) and unless you fly from London Heathrow or Manchester you'll need to make at least two stops before you land in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. It works very well with a city stopover in Singapore or Bangkok or as a multi-destination itinerary. Airlines with connecting flights include Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines and Vietnam Airlines taking around 16 hours if you fly straight to Cambodia via their hubs.
Typical carbon emissions for a return flight (Economy) per person: 800 kg.
FCDO travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/cambodia
Time Zone: GMT+7
Reil (But US Dollar widely used)
Capital City: Phnom Penh
Where to Stay in Cambodia
The Royal Sands, Koh Rong - Coastal Cambodia
Anantara Angkor Resort, Siem Reap - Siem Reap and The Temples
Shinta Mani Angkor, Siem Reap - Siem Reap and The Temples
Saem Siem Reap Hotel - Siem Reap and The Temples
Park Hyatt Siem Reap - Siem Reap and The Temples
Shinta Mani Wild - Coastal Cambodia
Six Senses Krabey Island - Coastal Cambodia
Koh Russey Villas and Resort - Coastal Cambodia