Things to do in Siem Reap… Decisions, decisions, decisions.
It can be hard to drag yourself away from the vibrant hostel and nightlife scene, and of course the inevitable hangovers that welcome you the next morning.
We’re not judging you if you want to spend all day drinking and lounging by the pool, it’s delightful. However, there’s so much more to Siem Reap than first meets the eye. Just ask Chris Pratt (a few seconds after viewing this list)…
5 Best Cultural Things To Do In Siem Reap
To make the most out your travels, you should soak up as much of the local culture and experiences as possible. Package up all 5 of your senses and launch them into new and full-bodied foreign lands.
That’s we’re here to help you do, just for you culture vulture and absorbing adventurers…
We are going to take you on a tour through all the weird and wonderful activities and things to do while adventuring through Siem Reap. Having experienced all of these ourselves, they are worth dragging yourself out of bed for.
To get the ball rolling, the first and most important cultural thing to do in Siem Reap is…
Things To Do In Siem Reap: Temples Of Angkor
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Angkor Temples…
Firstly, remove yourself from the rock that you’ve been living under and book yourself a couple of tickets to Cambodia.
These are some of the most outrageously beautiful architectural gems the world has to offer.
The temples are the lasting remains of the Khmer Empire and have been standing proud since the 9th century.
Having been abandoned many years ago, they’ve been reclaimed by the jungle in spectacular fashion and attract over two million temple hunters each year.
A one-day pass to the Angkor temples costs around $40. We’d recommend spending at least a day wandering around this ancient kingdom.
What’s the story morning glory…
This means crawling out of bed at 4am into a tuk tuk and pulling up to the temples in time to see the Angkor sunrise.
There are plenty of Angkor temples to choose from, but which ones should be at the top of your hit list…?
Exploring The Temples Of Angkor
The early morning trip to the one and the only Angkor Wat temple is the first ruin on your agenda of things to do. Words can’t nearly describe the euphoria of seeing the sunrise glowing over that temple and glistening across the lakes.
Be prepared to fight your way through the selfie stick wielding fiends to claim your spot right by the edge of the lake for an entirely unspoilt view.
Next up on the temple tour, an effortless cruise along in the tuk-tuk to Bayon temple. This fortress features an entourage of over 200 massive stone faces pulling all sorts of funky expressions.
Then, roll up roll up to Ta Prohm temple. This is without a doubt the most atmospheric ruin in Angkor Park. Fun fact for any film fanatics out there, this is the site that was used as part of Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider film.
Angelina loved it so much, she ended up adopting a local Cambodian child. Who knows what epiphanies it will give you…
Last stop on the temple tour needs to be at Phnom Bakheng. It’s a bit of a road trip away from the other temples, but so worth the ride. It’s beautifully perched on top of a hill, and the best spot in Siem Reap to chill and watch the moon come out to play.
Respect to all those of you who manage to cruise through all these temples, but there are still plenty of other gems to experience.
On to the next big thing to do in Siem Reap…
Things To Do In Siem Reap: Boat Around The Floating Villages
Sometimes the humidity gets too much, the heat stroke sets in, and the crowds are pissing you right off. This is now the time to go and unwind on the lake amongst the floating villages.
Tonle Sap Lake is an aquatic revelation located about a 15km tuk-tuk ride outside of Siem Reap.
It’s an extremely surreal floating community with unforgettable images of murky brown watery streets, boats replacing cars, floating schools, and more wildlife than Doctor Dolittle could handle talking to.
Which floating village to visit? There are a number to choose from…
Most floaters tend to go to Chong Kneas. Big mistake…
You will be hugely overcharged for your boat trip, which will then take you past a number of seemingly ‘local’ attractions, like children with snakes round their necks and unethical crocodile farms.
There’s no hiding it, these sideshows are abusing the local community just to extract money from tourists.
That being said, there are two floating villages you should definitely check out…
Floating Village Numero Uno: Kompong Kleang
Image courtesy of tour guide cambodia
This is the village we would recommend visiting above all others. It’s the furthest village from Siem Reap of the 3 mentioned, but is the most genuine and untouched floating experience.
There are loads of people to meet, and over 1800 families currently living here.
The local craftsmanship will leave you dragging your jaw along the deck of the boat, rows upon rows of stilted and floating houses, as far as the eye can see.
The most valuable thing about Kompong Kleang is the fact that the boat service is still owned by the locals, which means all the money you spend will go directly back into the community.
If you can’t reach Kompong Kleang…
Floating Village Numero Dos: Kompong Phluck
This is also good option if you’re short for time. The boat journey is indeed very scenic and enjoyable, and the village has kept a lot of its authenticity.
However, a two-hour boat ride costs around $20 which is quite steep, and the majority of what you do pay goes towards the privately owned boating company.
Kompong Kleang all the way.
Right, villages and temples have been ticked off the to do list.
Things To Do In Siem Reap: Phnom Kulen National Park
We wouldn’t put this at the top of your agenda of things to do in Siem Reap. However, if you have a spare day, Phnom Kulen National Park is definitely worth a wander.
The two best things to do while exploring the park…
Climb to the summit of the mountain to catch the view and see the sacred reclining Buddha statue which is carved into the surrounding sandstone.
Also, be sure to add a splash about in the famous and blessed waterfalls to your park itinerary.
These are regularly visited by monks as they believe the waters to be holy. Stay classy when it comes urinating or leaving any floaters behind. We certainly don’t want any curses being bestowed upon you.
Phnom Kulen National Park is about 48km outside of Siem Reap and is engulfing the most sacred mountain in Cambodia. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of mountain bike trails and also ancient ruins here.
However, the ruins don’t come close to the other Temples of Angkor we mentioned earlier.
Let’s park that thought…
The next thing on the Siem Reap is coming, and this one goes out to all you adrenaline seekers…
Things To Do In Siem Reap: Flight Of The Gibbon
The Flight of the Gibbon is conveniently located in the Angkor Park, making it a great activity to tie in with a day visiting the temples. 2 birds, 1 stone.
To be honest, as experiences in Siem Reap go, this is certainly more on the expensive side of the spectrum. A ticket costs around $99, but does includes return transport.
If your budget can handle it or if you’re feeling a spontaneous spending spree, this experience has your name written all over it.
As a starter, you’ll get to hurtle through the jungle canopy on 10 zip-lines, explore the jungle across four hanging bridges which span hundreds of metres and get a chance to see some some real life gibbons marauding about their daily business.
If you’re up for riding the Gibbon, your best option is booking right here, to avoid any of those dirty extra costs. The money you pay goes towards helping conserve the local environment and the gibbons. A pat on the back all round.
Right, last but certainly not least on my backpacker guide of things to do in Siem Reap is…
Things To Do In Siem Reap: Phare Circus
A inspiring tale flourishing from the darkness…
During the evil reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, anyone who was thought to be a circus performer or an artist was forced to either flee the country or be sent to one of the many killing fields. Dark.
However, thanks to a French charity called Phare, a school was subsequently set up in Battambang to train young people to become performing artists once again.
The legacy has spread across the country and gifted Siem Reap a breath-taking circus experience that now takes place on a daily basis.
Don’t worry, we aren’t talking about elephants getting straddled or tigers being whipped.
This school has taken the humane leaf out of Cirque du Soleil’s book and stages some outstanding entertainment including dangerous acrobatics, comedy, and musical performances.
The show will go on…
Phare Circus performs one show every night at 8pm. The big top’s doors open at 7:30pm and be sure to gear yourself up for one hell of a spectacle. Tickets are available from $18.
Check out the full schedule and ticketing options at http://pharecircus.org/schedule-rates/.
More Articles On Cultural Things To Do In Siem Reap
If our list has got your cultural vulture wings flapping, fly though the rest of these articles! We only recommend bloggers we ready often and love:
- 25 Incredible Experiences In Siem Reap by eOasia Travel Blog
- Siem Reap Things To Do Other Than Temples by Alex In Wanderland
- Best Things To Do At Night In Siem Reap by Trip 101
- Best Siem Reap Activities by Swedish Nomad
Heading off into the night? Be sure to check out our ‘Siem Reap’s Best Bars‘ piece to make sure you don’t miss out on the best parties in town!
The door is always open at our traveler haven and backpacker palace that is MAD MONKEY HOSTEL SIEM REAP. Please join us for a drink and stay the night if you’re looking for the full Siem Reap experience.
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