Cambodia is a captivating kingdom, with an unrivalled wealth of history and architecture. Nowhere is this better symbolised than at the majestic temples of Angkor, a timeless testament to the ingenuity of the Khmer people. Beyond Angkor lies the vibrant capital of Phnom Penh, gateway to the remote north-east, a land of hill-tribes, wildlife and bold landscapes, and the south coast with hidden beaches and empty islands.
Since the election of a democratic government in 1993, Cambodia has welcomed tourists with open arms. In the last few years, the country has opened up with the coming of peace and it is now possible to visit many more attractions than in the past. Many of these destinations are unknown to the outside world, helping the visitor feel as much an explorer as a tourist.
This is just one of many trips we run in Cambodia, and especially popular as a school or family tour.
Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh >> Arriving in Phnom Penh you’ll be welcomed by your World Horizons guide and transferred to your hotel. It’s then time for a shower and rest, or a swim in the pool before lunch and then a very leisurely tour of the city for a little sightseeing, changing money and shopping.

Day 2: In Phnom Penh >> This morning we explore the stunning Royal Palace complex, home to the Cambodian royal family and a symbol of the nation. We begin amid the beautiful royal gardens, landscaped with tropical plants and studded with gleaming spires. We enter the Throne Hall where the royal receptions are held and the Cambodian king’s coronation took place. After lunch we face the reality of the crimes of the Khmer rouge as we come face to face with the horrific crimes of the Khmer Rouge with a vsist to Tuol Sleng, a former high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a centre for interrogation, torture and death. Today it is a museum of torture and serves to remind visitors of the terrible atrocities that came to pass in Cambodia. 17,000 people passed through the gates of this prison and only seven lived to tell the tale. We then travel out of town to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Prisoners from Tuol Sleng followed this same route to their fate. An old Chinese cemetery, Choeung Ek was turned into an extermination camp for political prisoners. The remains of 8985 people were exhumed from mass graves and are kept in a memorial stupa here. Despite the horrors of the past, it is a peaceful place to go and a tranquil spot to reflect on the tragic events that engulfed Cambodia and its people.

Day 3: New Hope for Cambodian Children Village >> We drive for about 40 minutes to Kompong Speu province to stay at the New Hope for Cambodian Children (NHCC) Village. The Mission of NHCC is to work with NGOs and the Royal Government of Cambodia to assist children living with HIV/AIDS and their families. It isis also building a “Village” to care for 200 orphans and abandoned children with HIV/AIDS. (There are very few orphanages in Cambodia that will accept HIV infected children). The siblings of these orphans will also live with the children although they might not be HIV infected. During our stay we will join in activities with the children, eat with the children and help out with ongoing programs such as painting or gardening or helping out around the village. New Hope is very experienced in hosting visits, with separate overnight dormitory accommodation for boys and girls, as well as teachers and parents. This will be a very special part of the tour and for many the highlight of their time spent in Cambodia.

Day 4: Kampot via Phnom Da >> We leave Phnom Penh and travel south on National Highway 2 towards the south coast. We stop at Tonle Bati to visit the beautiful 12th century temple of Ta Prohm. Built by King Jayavarman VII, this temple is surrounded by flourishing flowers and is a tranquil sanctuary. We continue to Takeo where we enjoy a local lunch overlooking the water. We then travel by speedboat along an ancient canal to Phnom Da, an 8th century temple atop a small mount. An island in the wet season, when this area is inundated with water, it is surrounded by a sea of green rice fields. We explore the brick temple on top of the hill and take in the magnificent views. We then follow a forest path to Asram Moha Russei, a curious hermit’s shelter carved from sandstone. Later we return by speedboat to Takeo and transfer to our vehicle for our onward journey to the riverside town of Kampot.

Day 5: Cycling, Cave visit & Countryside >> We take to the roads on our bicycles and head for the cave complex of Phnom Chhnork, a large cave that contains a 7th century brick temple in remarkable condition. This hidden temple is a very sacred place for local Khmers. We can continue our cycling expedition to other cave temples or the nearby Cham fishing village. In the late afternoon we will take a sunset boat trip on the river and then be treated to a performance by the local Kampot Music School for children.

Day 6: Rabbit Island >> We travel to the seaside town of Kep and board a local boat for the journey to Koh Tonsay or Rabbit Island. We journey across calm waters to this beautiful palm-fringed island, home to a small community of fisher folk and farmers. We leave some time free here for you to enjoy the white-sand beaches that ring the island. After a lunch of fresh seafood, there is more time to enjoy the sun, sea and sand before we travel back to Kep by boat and then onto Kampot for the night.

Day 7: Kratie >> We leave behind Kampot and head north back towards Phnom Penh. The road passes through some beautiful rural areas . From Phnom Penh we travel northeast to the bustling provincial city of Kompong Cham and then continue northeast to Kratie, a sleepy Mekong port and gateway to an encounter with the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins that inhabit the upper reaches of the Mekong in Cambodia. We check into our hotel and have time free to soak up the atmosphere of this charming town, with its well-preserved colonial-era architecture.

Day 8: Around Kratie >> After breakfast in Kratie, we travel to Kampi, one of the many deep pools where the rare Irrawaddy river dolphins gather to feed. We board a local boat and cruise out into the mighty Mekong for a chance encounter with these gentle creatures. In the afternoon we head for Koh Trong Island, opposite Kratie, by local ferry, with our bicycles. This is a beautiful island and we enjoy a leisurely cycle ride, stopping to meet locals and sample the local produce such as the delicious pomelos, for which the island is famous. This is seeing rural Cambodia at its best. We’ll also visit a floating Vietnamese fishing village at the southern tip of the island before we head back to Kratie for the night.

Day 9: Kompong Thom >> Today we travel south to the bustling provincial city of Kompong Cham, nestled on the banks of the Mekong. We pass through Cambodia’s rubber country on the way, vast plantations that were originally established by the French and are once again being redeveloped. There may be the opportunity to stop along the way and learn about how the rubber is tapped. In Kompong Cham, we see the ‘fusion’ temple of Wat Nokor, an 11th century sandstone temple with a colourful modern wat set in its central courtyard. There are some intricate carvings at this temple and the kitsch contrast between the Hindu past and the Buddhist present is almost unheard of elsewhere in Cambodia. After lunch, we continue on to the provincial capital of Kompong Thom, our base for the night. En route, there is the chance to pause at Skuon, affectionately known as ‘Spiderville’, where it is possible to sample the local delicacy of deep fried tarantula. We can also call into the Santuk Silk Farm to experience the silk-making process from start to finish. We stay overnight in a comfortable local hotel in Kompong Thom.

Day 10: Koh Ker >> We leave Kompong Thom after breakfast, stopping to explore the impressive pre-Angkorian capital of Isanapura, known today as Sambor Prei Kuk. The first major temple city in South-East Asia, the brick temples of Sambor Prei Kuk are a peaceful contrast to their more illustrious relatives at Angkor. This also offers us a wonderful chronological insight into architectural development over time, as these structures are some of the earliest temples in Cambodia. We explore the main temples here, including Prasat Tao with its elaborately coiffured lions and Prasat Sambor, with its crumbling sanctuaries. We then head towards Siem Reap, stopping to examine the largest man-made Angkorian bridge in the country at Kompong Kdei, before reaching Siem Reap and relaxing at our hotel.

Day 11: Beng Mealea to Kompong Pluk and Siem Reap >> We travel to the lost temple of Beng Mealea this morning, the titanic of temples, a slumbering giant lost for centuries in the forests of Cambodia. It is the most accessible of Angkor’s lost temples, a mirror image of Angkor Wat, but utterly consumed by the voracious appetite of nature. Constructed by Suryavarman II (1113-1150), the builder of Angkor Wat, the forest has run riot here and it is hard to get a sense of the monument’s shape amid the daunting ruins. Here it is possible to enjoy an Indiana Jones experience clambering about the vast ruin. For those who want a more gentle adventure, there is also a sturdy wooden walkway running right into the heart of the temple. We then head south towards the Tonle Sap Lake and the Roluos river to the nearest navigable point where we board small wooden boats for the trip to Kompong Pluk. Cruising down a narrow waterway, we enter this medieval floating village, where the houses stand atop stilts as much as seven metres above the water. Everything lives on the water, pigs, dogs, crocodiles and people, all jockeying for space in this incredible floating town. We explore the local wat here, before boarding a bigger boat to take us through the flooded forest and across the Great Lake to Chong Kneas and the holy mountain of Phnom Krom. We climb Phnom Krom for a glorious sunset over the Tonle Sap before heading to Siem Reap by road.

Day 12: In Siem Reap >> We rise early for a visit to the jungle covered Ta Prohm – a monastery built by one of the Angkorean kings to serve as residence for his mother. Largely entangled by jungle visiting this temple is like discovering it for the first time, as you wander through the dilapidated stone structures covered in giant tree roots. This magical place is also where scenes from the Hollywood film Tomb Raider were shot with the assistance from our team in Cambodia, who organised and provided the logistics to the producers of this film. From here will then go to Banteay Srei (by tuk-tuk) Angkor’s ultimate art gallery. This petite pink temple is the jewel in the crown of Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia and the name translates as ‘Fortress of the Women’, thanks to the intricate detail here, considered too fine for the hands of a man. After lunch and a swim in the pool we have something special to finish off the day that we are sure everyone will enjoy.

Day 13: Angkor Wat & Departure >> Rising at the crack of dawn, we journey out to the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. Believed to be the world’s largest religious building, this temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this is the most famous temple at Angkor. We stay at Angkor Wat to enjoy a picnic breakfast. As the crowds return to their hotels, we venture into Angkor Wat to enjoy its magnificence in peace and quiet. We begin by unraveling the mysteries of the bas-reliefs that tell of tales from Hindu mythology and of the glories of the Khmer empire. Stretching for almost one kilometre, these intricate carvings are a candidate for the world’s longest unbroken piece of art. Following in the footsteps of the devout and the destructive before us, we then continue to the upper levels of the inner sanctuary. The final steps to the upper terrace of Angkor are the steepest of all, as pilgrims of old were to stoop on their pilgrimage to encounter the Gods. Finally, the pinnacle, the sacred heart of Angkor Wat, a blend of spirituality and symmetry so perfect that few moments will measure up. After lunch you’re free to relax around the pool, or get any last minute shopping done, before we leave for the airport and our flight back home.
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