72 Hours in Siem Reap
Once a sleepy little riverside village, the vibrant city of Siem Reap is now a bucket-list destination for travellers the world over. Finding its fame as the home of Angkor Wat, a visit to the mighty temple quite rightly tops most people’s list of ‘things to do’, but there’s plenty more to see and experience in arguably Cambodia’s most charming corner. With that in mind, here’s our guide to getting the most out of 72 hours in Siem Reap…
Disclaimer: If you’ve got the cash to spare, we strongly recommend investing in a 3-day pass to the Angkor Temples. This will set you back $62 (as opposed to $37 for a one day ticket), but allows you the freedom and flexibility to enjoy the magnificent ruins and surrounding Archaeological Park at a relaxed pace, rather than trying to cram everything into one day and risking both heat exhaustion and temple burn-out in the process.
Day 1 : Meet your tuktuk driver (and guide if you’d like one) at 4.45am to buy your entrance tickets, before making your way across the moat (bring a torch if you can!), through the stone entrance, and across the causeway to find a comfortable spot to watch the sunrise over the mighty Angkor Wat. Once daylight arrives many travellers retreat for breakfast, but bringing snacks means you can head straight in to marvel in relative solitude.
Spend the morning wandering around Angkor Wat at your leisure, gradually finding yourself at the middle level. Here you’ll need to queue to climb the steep steps to the top, and only those dressed according to the ‘Code of Conduct’ (see pages 28-29) will be allowed entrance.
By late morning you’ll probably be ready for a snooze, so tuktuk your way back to your hotel for a well-earned nap before heading for lunch at Spoons, a social enterprise training restaurant serving delicious interpretations of traditional Khmer street food. After an early start a relaxed afternoon is no doubt in order, so spend a few hours meandering through the trinket-lined alleyways of ‘Psar Chaa’ – the Old Market, and the small side streets in the local vicinity. You can always stop of for a chilled treat at Gelato Lab if needed! For dinner this evening head to Malis, the home of fine Khmer dining (we recommend the soft shell crab!)
Day 2: Leave your hotel at 7.00am and tuktuk your way back to the temple park, though this time starting at Bayon Temple. Entrance here is permitted from 7.30am onwards, so being one of the first to arrive means both cooler climates and fewer fellow visitors. From here you move on to Ta Prohm, the famous ‘Tomb Raider’ temple.
Return to town for lunch at Sugar Palm, a restaurant fondly known as playing a significant role in the revival of traditional Cambodia recipes almost lost during the Khmer Rouge period. From here take a short stroll over to Wat Damnak. Wat Damnak is one of the city’s oldest and most beautiful pagodas, where you’ll find beautiful tree-lined walkways, colourful stupa spires, and plenty of English speaking monks.
At 3.00pm make your way to the centrally located Champey culinary school, and spend the afternoon exploring local flavours and cooking techniques. This evening you’ll feast on your own Khmer creations, before enjoying a cocktail or two at Menaka – Siem Reap’s very own speak easy!
Day 3: This morning you will be admiring the Angkor Park from a completely different angle, as it’s time to take to the trees with Angkor Ziplining! Over the course of a few hours you’ll explore an exhilarating array of rope bridges and zip lines, all weaving through the magnificent jungle canopy. Once you’ve come back down to earth there is plenty of time to visit the mysterious Neak Poan temple.
For lunch today head to Haven, another social enterprise restaurant with a charming outdoor dining and exceptionally good food! After all the exertion this morning it’ll then be time to relax and unwind with a traditional treatment at Bodia Spa.
Dinner this evening will be an early one at Bugs Café, where you can sample the creepy crawlies of Cambodia’s culinary traditions before wrapping-up your time in Siem Reap with an entertaining evening at Phare, the spectacular social enterprise circus that weaves together social commentary and Khmer folklore with acrobatics that give Cirque du Soleil a run for its money!