Destination Guide - Siem Reap and Angkor
The temple complex of Angkor is Siem Reap's main draw with thousands of visitors from near and far coming every year to see the architectural wonder. However, there are a number of other exciting activities and things to see and do whilst in Siem Reap.
A host of experiences are waiting for you in Siem Reap...!!
Use this Siem Reap destination guide to give you ideas about what there is to see and do during your stay in Siem Reap. More general information about what there is to do in the rest of Cambodia can be found in our Cambodia country guide, or check out some of the local highlights of Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville. You can also see what's on offer in Cambodia's South East Asia neighbours, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. You could also take a tour to one of the things listed below, or just around the city itself.
What could have been a sleepy little fishing village at the edge of the Tonle Sap Lake in north-eastern Cambodia, has fast become a thriving tourist destination welcoming visitors from all over the world.
Nestled between rice paddies along the Siem Reap River, only a stone's throw from the magnificent temples of Angkor, Siem Reap can be divided into several distinct areas with a little bit of something to please everyone.
Angkor Wat is an alluring site rated highly on many people's lists of things they would like to visit. Contrary to common belief, however, Angkor is not only one, but consists of hundreds of temples of different shapes and sizes. The Angkor Temple Complex was built between the 9th and 14th century AD where this region served as the capital of the great Khmer Empire. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument ever built and of the major reasons first-time visitors travel to Siem Reap and Cambodia.
To make the most of your visit to Angkor Wat and temples of Angkor, many people find it useful to have a local guide who will explain the intricacies of the temples. A good guide book can also be handy – you can bring one from back home, buy it online or purchase one at one of the local markets or just outside the temple gates.
For more information about the temples of Angkor, please also see our Angkor temples page or contact us directly for a tailor made tour to experience the spectacular Angkor Wat and the magnificent temples of Angkor. To discover alternative ways to see the temples and surrounding areas, visit our tours and activities page.
Designated as an UNESCO ecological biosphere in 1997, the Tonle Sap or the ‘Great Lake’ is also South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake. Located 30 minutes south of Siem Reap, the lake is alive with a variety of bird species and other wildlife and a number of fishing communities literally float on it.
During the monsoon season, the Tonle Sap river which connects the lake with the Mekong river reverses its flow. Water is pushed up from the Mekong into the lake, increasing its area and its depth. This leads to the flooding of nearby fields and forests. The floodplain then becomes a perfect breeding ground for fish, making Tonle Sap one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world. You can explore Tonle Sap on the various boat tours that last from two to three hours to tours that include an overnight stay on the lake.
The presence of Angkor Wat and temples of Angkor strengthens Siem Reap's position as the cultural centre of Cambodia. The majority of the population are Buddhists and throughout the year Siem Reap hosts a variety of festivals and events steeped in culture and religious history. Siem Reap's mant shops and market, including the Old Market and Siem Reap's Night Market has on offer a variety of souvenirs and handicrafts, including beautiful traditional silverwork. silks, baskets, carvings and musical instruments are also part of Cambodian handicrafts.
Even though the main attraction for many first-time visitors travelling to Siem Reap is the magnificent temples of the nearby Angkor temple complex, Siem Reap and the surrounding areas has much more to offer such as elephant rides, beautiful cycle rides in the rural countryside, traditional dance performances, museums, pagodas and shrines as well as a wide range of massage and spa treatments.
Please visit our leisure page for more information and our Siem Reap tours and activities pages for a different take on the typical tourist itineraries.
Despite its relatively small size,Siem Reap offers an impressive range of restaurants and dining venues. Most hotels in Siem Reap have their own restaurants and most guesthouses offer a basic menu of traditional local fare and western dishes including one of the all time backpacker's favourite - banana pancakes. Whilst it can be convenient to order in, we believe it is worth exploring some of the secrets of traditional Khmer cuisine and would be worth the time to see what else eating out in Siem Reap has to offer...
In short, there are many places to choose from, so please visit our Siem Reap restaurant guide to read a bit more about some of our own favourite restaurants and places to eat.
Buying locally made products is a great way to contribute to any country's local economic growth. With a plethora of local shops and local community-based initiatives, this is very much the case in Siem Reap. There are many shops and market stalls selling handicrafts, silks, silverware, jewelry, carvings and the like. Many of the shops also have a pro-active stance with regards to giving back to the local community and shopping in Siem Reap, especially in and around the local markets, can be a truly unique, fun and rewarding experience.
Our Siem Reap shopping guide provides tips and information about shopping in Siem Reap, as well as some socially responsible places to shop.
After visiting Siem Reap, many people are over-awed by the impact tourism is having on this destination and the vast difference in living condidtion people live under.
Click here to view some organisations adressing some of these issues.