The Essence of Cambodia

12 Days / 11 Nights

Phnom Penh – Kep, Kampot – Sihanoukville – Siem Reap

  • Duration:12 Days / 11 Nights
  • Tour type:Private
  • City:Phnom Penh
  • Availability:Year round
  • Group size:Upon enquiry
  • City:Siem Reap

Trip Overview

highlights of your journey
  • Stroll around the vibrant French colonial city of Phnom Penh and witness its tumultuous past - the depredations of the Khmer Rouge.
  • Explore Kep & Kampot, quiet beach towns - twin soothing seaside jewels famed for delicious seafood and absolute relaxation.
  • Relax in the tranquility of the Sihanoukville coast. Settle into the lush life with our suggestions of luxury getaways on Cambodia's picturesque islands.
  • Discover the world-famous heritage and UNESCO site of the Angkor temples, the "City of Temples" was built to replicate the heavens on earth and witness Angkor Wat at its stunning time – at dawn and sunrise.
  • Adventure further to discover Siem Reap’s beautiful surroundings including the dense jungle temple of Beng Mealea, the pink temple of Banteay Srei, and a fascinating floating village on Tonle Sap Lake.
  • Enchanting evening with authentic Khmer cuisine and witness the hundred-year-old “Royal Ballet of Cambodia” or “Apsara Dance” and stroll around the live Siem Reap night market.

Trip Itinerary

day by day program

DAY 1 - Phnom Penh Arrival / Welcome to Cambodia!

On arrival in Phnom Penh, your tour guide meets you as you exit from the Restricted Area at the airport and offers you a private transfer (45-60 minutes) to your hotel.

Optional: Sunset cruise on the Mekong River and dinner
Early this evening, you are transferred to a bustling riverside and embark on a private wooden boat cruising up the mighty Mekong River. Watch a spectacular sunset over the Phnom Penh skyline and Royal Palace and witness this charming capital’s beauty at dusk (1-hour cruise) while cheering up some nice local beer. Finally, enjoy a delicious Khmer set dinner at a local restaurant (food only).

Overnight in Phnom Penh (2 nights)

DAY 2 (B/L) - Phnom Penh / Full-day City Tour

Today is a full day to explore the city’s highlights. Start with the glittering Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, admiring the over 5,000 silver tiles covering the floor and the collection of shiny golden Buddhas. Then walk to visit the National Museum, home to the country’s most important collection of ancient Cambodian artifacts. Built-in 1917 in traditional Khmer style, the museum grounds also feature a peaceful, palm-shaded central courtyard and lotus ponds – ideal places to contemplate one of Asia’s richest cultures.

After lunch, you are taken on a Cambodian Genocide tour to explore Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school turned into the S-21 prison –essentially a torture center –by the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, and the notorious killing fields of Choeung Ek, where some 17,000 people met their ends. Although not a joyful tour, visiting these monuments unlocks the keys to understanding the development of this still-developing country.

*Special note: If you do not wish to visit these horror sites, you may spend this afternoon exploring the spiritual Wat Phnom, a city landmark, for which the capital was named and a popular place for worship, and the famous Central Market (Phsar Thmei), which is a unique colonial-style building constructed in 1937. The location where the Central Market now sits was once a swamp area occupied by a lake known as Beng Decho. Today, this beautiful market has become a prominent landmark in Phnom Penh.

Overnight in Phnom Penh

DAY 3 (B) - Phnom Penh / Kep

Morning transfer by overland to the seaside town of Kep (3 hours, 175 km). En route, detour to explore Kampong Trach Limestone Cave, where brightly colored five-headed Naga serpents guard the entrance. There are also a number of shrines outside the caves.

Continue to Kep, check in at your hotel, and enjoy free at leisure.

Optional: Join-in Sunset Cruise: A leisurely cruise along Kep’s coast
Nothing beats being on the water around sunset. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Our converted fishing boat will take you along the coastline for a different perspective of this beautiful seaside town.
*Duration: 90 minutes (Start @5.00 pm)
*Inclusions: Sparkling wine, wines, beers and canapés

Overnight in Kep (2 nights)

DAY 4 (B/L) - Kep / Kampot / Kep

This morning, visit the popular Kep crab market and experience the bustling atmosphere as you see crabs stored in baskets in shallow water and being cooked right there in the market.

Continue to La Plantation, a family-owned pepper plantation, and visit the salt farms along the way. At the pepper farm, take a tour to learn about the differences between green, black, white, and red peppers, and enjoy lunch at the farm’s restaurant (with a chance to taste some fresh green peppercorns).

Finally, drive to explore the charming and quiet river town of Kampot. See the old French colonial buildings and leisurely enjoy some beer at the Riverside restaurant (own expense) before turning to Kep or you may opt for a relaxing sunset cruise along Kampot River (sharing).

Overnight in Kep 

DAY 5 (B) - Kep / Sihanoukville

After breakfast, take a three-hour coastal drive to Sihanoukville (130 Km), followed by a shared speedboat transfer to an idyllic offshore island. Afternoon free at leisure to enjoy swimming.

You might think you need to head to Thailand or Indonesia to experience those tropical beaches with white sand and crystal-clear waters, but Cambodia also has one of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. Barely one hour’s ferry ride from the ever-evolving coastal city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s tropical islands are an eminently accessible slice of paradise on earth. Settle into the lush life with our suggestions of luxury getaways on Cambodia’s picturesque islands.

Where to stay:

Song Saa Private Island
The twin ‘sweetheart’ islands of Song Saa are simply the last word in luxury island living, just 35 minutes from Sihanoukville port rests amongst an undeveloped and scenic terrain of rain forests rocks, boulders, and seascape. Dreamed up by a husband-and-wife team who spent years working to bring their vision of these idyllic islands to life, this five-star retreat is an exercise in understated style studded with over-water villas, winding pathways, private pools, top cuisine, and majestic ocean vistas.

Six Senses Krabey Island
As you’d expect, this is the perfect place to feast your senses on the richness of island life. This private island takes only 15 minutes to reach by speedboat, but once you arrive, you might not want to leave. The 12-hectare private resort features 40 free-standing pool villas, an extensive Six Senses Spa, a sunset bar, two unique restaurants, an ice cream parlor, a horizon lap pool, an outdoor fitness circuit, an oceanfront boardwalk, a beachfront sundeck, open-air cinema and sky observatory.

Koh Russey Resort
An ultra-contemporary island hideaway in “the Cambodian Riviera”, the Koh Russey Villas & Resort offers laid-back chic with a blend of wellness, epicureanism, relaxation, and adventure, on the longest private beach on the archipelago. It’s the perfect fusion of convenience, comfort, and indulgence in an idyllic tropical island environment. 20 minutes from the airport by car and 10 minutes by boat from the shore.

The Royal Sands Koh Rong
This is a true island villa experience and, true to the name, you’ll feel like royalty here as you settle into your beachfront home away from home. The largest of Cambodia’s islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Rong isn’t a private island like the others on this list. That said, much of Koh Rong is minimally developed, home only to rustic fishing villages and coconut palm, meaning this.

Overnight in Sihanoukville (3 nights)

DAY 6-7 (B) - Sihanoukville / Free days at leisure

Over these 2 days, enjoy free days at your leisure or you may experience some hotel services or activities at your own expense.

Overnight in Sihanoukville

DAY 8 (B) - Sihanoukville / Siem Reap

Today, you are transferred by a shared speed boat to the shore and continue by private car to Kang Keng International Airport in Sihanoukville (a 40-minute drive) for your onward 1-hour flight to Siem Reap (flight to be advised). Affectionately dubbed Temple Town, Siem Reap sits on the doorstep of Angkor Wat.

On arrival in Siem Reap, your tour guide will meet you as you exit from the Restricted Area at the airport and offer you a private transfer (60 minutes) to your hotel. Balance of the day is free at your leisure.

Overnight in Siem Reap (4 nights)

DAY 9 (B/D) - Siem Reap / Angkor Tour with Sunrise

Today rise early to catch the spectacular sunrise over the world’s largest religious ruins of Angkor Wat and discover this mighty temple at dawn, regarded by many as the quintessential Angkor experience. The temple’s greatest sculptural treasure is its 1-mile-long bas-relief that wraps around the walls of the outer gallery along with the 2000 figures of Khmer Devas and Apsaras.  After exploring the ruins in detail led by your professional tour guide, return to the hotel for a late leisurely breakfast. 

Later this afternoon, depart to visit the encroaching jungle Ta Prohm, also known to be the undisputed capital of the “Kingdom of the Trees”. Once home to 600 exquisite dancers, Ta Prohm is a wondrous site, with giant fig and kapok trees strangling the ancient stonework in a photogenic interplay of man and nature. This temple has been featured in several Hollywood movies such as Tomb Raider, Indiana Jones, and Two Brothers.

Continue to discover the ancient fortified city of Angkor Thom, built in the 10th century by the greatest Khmer ruler, King Jayavarman VII (1181 – 1201). Travel to the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom. Walk along the 8m-high laterite wall (500m) of the ancient city to the relatively unvisited and magical East Gate. The crematoria built against the outside of the city wall are best seen from up on the wall and give rise to the popular name of ― Gate of Death. Then take another 1.5 Km walk to Bayon temple “The Giant Smiling Faces temple”. The structure of the giant faces of Bayon temple is staggering in its construction. Sixteen chapels inside the structure indicate its religious importance, while on the outer perimeter over 1,200 meters of exquisite bas-relief record scenes of daily life from 11th century Angkor. Its third level is stunning – 49 towers are adorned with 172 smiling faces of the omnipresent Avalokitesvara. 

Move on to visit the nearby Terrace of the Elephant, and the Terrace of the Leper King to view their detailed stone carvings. From there walk through the shaded parkland to visit the triple-tiered mountain temple of the Baphuon, also known as the Pyramid temple in Angkor. As the sun begins to set, walk to the Ta Kav Gate (West Gate of Angkor Thom) to view the beautiful sunset over the rice fields and the reflection of the golden light over the city gate.

Dinner with Apsara Dance Performance & Siem Reap’s night market tour
Finally, enjoy your enchanting evening with authentic Khmer cuisine while witnessing the hundred-year-old “Royal Ballet of Cambodia” or “Apsara Dance”. Stroll around the live Siem Reap night market before returning to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Overnight in Siem Reap

DAY 10 (B/L) - Siem Reap / Go off the beaten track

Today, your guide will take you through timeless rural Cambodian villages and countryside escaping from crowds and go beyond the Siem Reap’s limits to discover Beng Mealea, ‘Lotus Pond’ in Khmer, for a unique jungle experience. Undiscovered for centuries, Beng Mealea is one of the very few temples of which elevated wooden walkways allow you to walk above the ruins’ collapsed galleries and towers whilst shaded by the jungle canopy, giving a very ‘Indiana Jones’ feel to the experience.

Lunch will be served at “Bong Thom Khmer House”, a nice local restaurant at outskirt of Siem Reap that offers the real taste of Khmer food.

After lunch break, the famous Banteay Srei temple “the Citadel of Women”. Built in pink sandstone, the walls are covered in exquisitely preserved carvings of unusual delicacy. Because of its small size, fairy-like atmosphere, and extraordinary examples of Khmer sculpture, this temple is often a favorite among visitors.

Conclude today with Kampong Phluk “Harbour of the Tusks”, a fascinating fishing community on the fringes of the magnificent Tonlé Sap Lake, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. Embark on a captivating boat trip to see its glory as you pass through the floating village where the fisherman and their families live in stilted houses. Relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery dominated by the tranquility of the lake that dots the landscape.

Overnight in Siem Reap

DAY 11 (B) - Siem Reap / design your own day

Enjoy a free day at your leisure. Relax and reflect on your memorable journey so far.
Or you may opt for other activities/tours:

Option 1: Private Khmer Cooking Class with a local market visit 
This morning at 9 AM, travel the local way with a Remork (Tuktuk) – an easy and comfortable, to explore a local market, where the colors and aromas of fresh, vibrant ingredients will thrill your senses led by one of the kitchen brigades with a shopping list for today’s menu as your guide. You will be led through the labyrinth of tunnel-like passageways that weave from one area of the market to the other. Return to the indoor kitchen where you will be guided through time-honored Khmer cooking techniques to create some of its most storied dishes from preparation to cooking. Lastly, time to enjoy your culinary creation serving as your lunch. 
*Duration: Half-day (9.00 am – 1.30 pm)

Option 2: The Kulen Elephant Forest Sanctuary
8.00 a.m., enjoy a 1-hour scenic drive to the Kulen Elephant Forest sanctuary where you will learn about the project, enjoy nature, and interact with elephants: Introductory briefing, elephant meets and greet, observation trek (2km), and watch the elephants play by the pond.
*Duration: Half-day (8.00 am – 1.30 pm)

Option 3: Explore Angkor’s less-visited temples
Venture on a less-traveled road deep into Angkor Park to discover the hidden gems of Angkor – another fascinating corner of Angkor including the mountain temple of Pre Rup, the East Mebon temple built within the Eastern Baray (guarded at its corner by stone figures of harnessed elephants), Ta Som is a captivating and charming temple (like Ta Prohm, there is a tree growing through part of the structure which provides excellent photo opportunities), Neak Pean, or the “coiled serpents” is a fountain built in the middle of a pool, and Preah Khan or “Sacred Sword” – constructed as a monastery and teaching complex in 1191 by Jayavarman VII, it is unique in its sense of religious tolerance, with sections dedicated to Buddhism, ancestor worship, and the Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu. Once inside the second enclosure, look for the delicate frieze of ‘apsaras’ or celestial dancers, in the Hall of Dancers.
*Duration: Half-day (morning or afternoon)

Option 4: Experience local traditions and Siem Reap’s atmospheric countryside
Travel a bit further away from town to Rolous village to immerse yourself in the local culture with a walk into the life of the Khmer people – an insider’s look at the intriguing culture and Siem Reap’s atmospheric countryside beyond Angkor Wat. You will visit a Buddhist monastery – offer alms to a Buddhist monk to earn some merits in Buddhist tradition and practice the arts of giving followed by a blessing in the Pali language from the monk, the way the locals do for the wishes of good luck and happiness in life. Then wander through the nearby Bakong temple, Angkor’s first mountain temple dating back to the 8th and 9th centuries and still remarkably well preserved. Next soak up the views of the rural village, paddy fields, and swaying palm trees while crossing quiet lanes by ox cart.
*Duration: Half-day (morning or afternoon)

Option 5: Siem Reap Quade Bike adventure
Take a break from temples and enjoy guided tours on Quads (Terrain Vehicles) around the countryside and traditional local villages of Siem Reap. You can enjoy the tour as long as you want to start from 1-hour adventure to a full day off-the-beaten-track excursion. The sunset tour by quad bike is an exciting experience; this allows you to see the real rural area of Siem Reap and have the opportunity to spot a spectacular sunset view over paddy fields.
*Note: Sunset quad bike tour (1 hour+, start @5.00 pm)

Evening option: Visit Phare Circus Performance by Phare Artists:
“Phare, the Cambodian Circus” is an offshoot project of Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), performed by students and professional artists from the center and used to perform around the world. It’s an amazing blend of traditional and modern theatre, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling, and contortion beautifully choreographed and performed in a story about Cambodian lives and society.

Overnight in Siem Reap

DAY 12 (B) - Siem Reap / Departure

Enjoy some free at your leisure until it’s time for the transfer to the Siem Reap Angkor International Airport for your flight home or next destination.

*** End of Service ***

Phnom Penh Capital

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)

Stupa at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

Kep Seaside Town

Kampot Seaside Town

Salt farm in Kampot

Pepper farm in Kampot

Song Saa Private Island

Six Senses Krabey Island

Koh Russey Resort

The Royal Sands Koh Rong

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Ta Prohm temple

The giant smiling faces of Bayon temple

Apsara Dance Performance

Beng Mealea temple

Banteay Srei temple

Floating Village on Tonle Sap Lake

Khmer Cooking Class

The Kulen Elephant Forest Sanctuary

Ox cart ride in a local village

Countryside quad bike tour

Service Terms

inclusions & exclusions
  • Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air-conditioned vehicle unless stated otherwise
  • English-speaking local guide (for other languages supplements apply)
  • Selected accommodation at each destination with daily breakfast
  • All admission fees for mentioned visits
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner)
  • One-way air ticket from Sihanoukville (KOS)/Siem Reap (SAI) on economy seat
  • Daily drinking water during the tour
  • All taxes and service charges
  • Gratuities
  • Camera/video entrance fees (if any)
  • Cambodia visa fee (if any)
  • Meals & drinks not specified in the above inclusions
  • All personal and travel insurances
  • Other personal expenses
  • Optional tours/services

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