!0-days experience to discover the iconic ancient temples of Angkor, the unexplored jungles, tribes and villages of Cambodia. Travel overland to explore the essential and lesser-known sights the country. Learn about the mighty Khmer empire by exploring temple grounds on foot, zipline through Bousra ecopark and meet local communities of Ratanakiri. Give back to the local communities and participate in meaningful activities with them.
Upon arrival at Siem International Airport, you will be welcomed by your local English speaking guide and transferred to your hotel in the heart of the city.
Free at leisure at your hotel.
Pick up your temple pass at 4pm this afternoon and head into the park for sunset. For sunset, the options are now limited to Bakheng and Pre Rup. As Bakheng can be very crowded at last light, consider Pre Rup, a temple with elephant statues and fine lintel carvings above various doorways. Get there a bit early to explore the carvings and secure a good seat on the upper platform for the sunset.
Overnight at Siem Rea
Siem Reap (B/L/-)
Depart your hotel at 7am for the temples of Angkor. The city of Yasodharapura, now known as the Angkor Archaeological Park, was the capital of the Angkor empire for more than 500 years. On this full day Angkor sightseeing tour, explore centuries of temples alongside an expert local guide.
Beginning from 07:30, the entire Angkor Park is open to visitors but many are still strolling around Angkor Wat. Consequently, this is the best time to experience the temple you most wish to see with the fewest number of other visitors. Consider Ta Prohm, the temple made famous by the Angelina Jolie film Tomb Raider, which is otherwise best known for the trees and vines growing atop the temple walls. The temple is a perfect example of how nature has crept in and reclaimed its land after the fall of the Angkorian empire. Enter from the east, just as the temple opens, to avoid the crowds.
Next, visit Bayon, the temple at the center of Angkor Thom city, built by the last great king, Jayavarman VII. Begin with a walk around the lower galleries of carvings, which depict fascinating scenes of life at Angkor Thom. Next, stroll around the upper platform where the temple’s iconic face-towers are located. There are 52 towers in all, each with four faces of the Buddha looking out in the cardinal directions.
Then journey north of Angkor Thom to Preah Khan, originally known as “the city of victorious royal fortune,” and now named after The Sacred Sword that some believe may have once been housed here. Built in the late-12th century in honor of the great King Jayavarman VII’s father, this massive temple complex originally had a population of 97,840 in its service. Less frequently visited than its counterpart Ta Prohm (which was built for the king’s mother), Preah Khan is similar in design but is larger and more complex, and features numerous unique structures and carvings. Enter from the east with the morning light to your back and enjoy the sounds of exotic wildlife that now make the forested compound their home.
Depending on your mood (and the temperature at the time of your visit) enjoy lunch either at a local restaurant in the park or return to town for lunch, after which you can freshen up before returning to the park in the early afternoon. (Tip: there is an air-conditioned restaurant called The Angkor Cafe opposite the entrance to Angkor Wat if you wish to stay in the park but dine in an indoor venue).
Around 2pm, head over to Angkor Wat. While Cambodian afternoons can be hot, a nice feature of Angkor Wat is that the eight galleries of carvings that surround one of the inner enclosures (where you are likely to spend much of your time) is within a covered, open-air enclosure, making this one of few times that you will be protected from the sun. As the only west-facing temple, Angkor Wat is best to visit (and photograph) in the afternoon, enjoying the uppermost platform around 5:00pm, and walking out as the guards begin corralling visitors out of the complex at 5:30pm. Exiting the temple with the setting sun shining on the Vishnu image discovered beneath the temple’s central sanctuary is a magical sight to behold and a fitting end of your exploration of the temple built by King Suryavarman, whose name translates to “protected by the sun”.
Return to your hotel and enjoy dinner at your leisure. Overnight in Siem Reap
7:30, Departure early to Kratie today via Stung Treng.
On the way, stop to visit overgrown and infrequently visited Koh Ker, located 100 kilometres away from Siem Reap. Koh Ker was the former capital of Khmer Empire under Jayavarman IV. With its isolated location you are likely to see only a handful of tourists, if any at all! Appreciate the pyramid style Prasat Thom, that looks like it was moved from an ancient Mayan site to Asia!
Stop for lunch at a local restaurant along the way or at Stung Treng.
Arrive in Kratie, where you will have a short break to stroll around the town and stretch your legs before hopping on the lodge boat to Koh Trong Island, only a short 10 minutes boat ride away from Kratie. On this Mekong island experience typical Cambodian village life, where people’s livelihood largely depends on rice farming and fruits cultivation (Koh Trong is famous for its pomelo, a grapefruit like fruit). Upon arrival check in to your hotel and enjoy some time at leisure.
Overnight on Koh Trong Island: Rajabori Villas
Kratie- Koh Trong Island by Bicycle (B/L/-)
This morning, take some time to explore Koh Trong, the island that is your home during your visit to Kratie. You can decide whether you would like to take a local horse cart or pedal yourself around the island on a bicycle. Your first destination is the island’s Wat, where a special activity awaits you – here you can take part in a tree planting project initiated by a local farmer, with the aim to cultivate the once densely forested island. Contribute to the project by planting your own tree here and it will carry your name tag and leave a positive trace on the island.
Cross the river to Kratie town for lunch at Le Tonlé Tourism Training Center, where young locals are being trained in the principles of hospitality to ensure a better future in Kratie. Dining here means enjoying some delicious Khmer food paired with a very personalized service. The students here are excited to meet their guests and it’s a wonderful dining experience.
After lunch, continue north along the banks of the Mekong, a very scenic route with great views. Stop in the village Kampi, which is the best spot to view the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins along the Mekong. Board a local boat that will take you to some of the areas where these interesting creatures are sighted most frequently. Once you have spotted the first dolphin, your boat driver will turn the engine off and you will follow the dolphins silently (duration 1 to 1.5 hours).
Overnight on Koh Trong Island: Rajabori Villas
7:30am: Depart early from Kratie for the drive to Banlung.
Upon arrival in Banlung, stop briefly at Eisan Reclining Buddha Pagoda, which offers panoramic views of the rapidly-growing provincial capital. After dropping your bags at the hotel to freshen up (early check in depending on season), pack your swimsuit and head out for your afternoon program.
Today you will have lunch in the home of a local Tampuon family. The Tampuon are one of numerous tribal communities that populate Ratanakiri province. Enjoy local Tampuon food with the former village chief and his wife, who will play local music and discuss their lifestyle. After lunch, visit their neighbor’s home where you can try your hand at weaving local textiles. Next, visit another village where a local resident will show you how rice wine is produced.
After learning about making wine, head over to Banlung’s star attraction: Yeak Laom. This almost perfectly circular lake in the middle of the forest was created by a volcanic eruption around 700,000 years ago. Take a walk around the lake, stopping at wooden decks along the waterfront to swim and relax with local visitors. The 2.5km trip around the lake takes 1-2 hours with stops to swim, if you are so inclined. Otherwise, enjoy the fresh, clear waters of the lake on a deck or in a hammock and enjoy the atmosphere.
Overnight at: Terres Rouges
Distances and journey times: Sen Monorom - Banlung (185km) 2.5 hours
Tribal Village (B/-/-)
Today explore the rural tribal communities that live in the Ratanakiri countryside. Departing your hotel at 8:00am, your first visit will be to see locals mining for the gems after which Ratanakiri province is named (“Ratanakiri” translates as “Mountain of precious stones“). Unlike modern mining methods that devastate the land, traditional mining consists of digging a small hole, down which a miner descends, sending buckets of earth up to sift through for stones.
Next, stop at a Kreung village, another of Ratanakiri’s diverse tribal communities, for a walk around their village. Now located just beside the road, this tribe had long been isolated from the rest of Cambodia before new infrastructure was developed in recent years. Notice the tobacco pipes that most of the women in the village enjoy and stop to chat with locals
if you are curious about their lives.
Once you arrive at the river, venture 25-meters or so into the forest to visit a Jarai cemetery. The Jarai people build elaborate graves for their deceased loved ones, constructing totems of people and animals to surround the interred body.
From Andong Meas town, you will then depart on a local boat for a 45-minute ride upriver to an island where locals frequently pan for gold. When panning, locals can earn up to $10 a day in gold flake; if you look closely, you may find gold mixed in with the sand. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the island’s sandy beach and take a dip in the river if you wish!
After lunch you have a variety of afternoon options available to you depending on how long you wish to stay on the island. You may visit another tribal community that is known for its “bamboo shower”, return to Yeak Laom for a swim in the lake, visit one of several waterfalls outside of Banlung town, or visit the Banlung Market, where skilled smiths work gems and gold into jewelry.
Note: due to the remote areas visited and the seasonal quality of the roads and water levels on the river, the villages visited and waterfalls you may wish to see are subject to change.
Overnight at Ratanakiri
Mondulkiri- Bousra Waterfall (B/L/-)
Breakfast at your hotel.
Depart from your hotel at 7:30am to Mondulkiri.
After driving approximately 3 hour, check into your hotel and then head out to the natural highlight of the region: Bousra Ecopark and Waterfall. In addition to the massive two-tiered waterfall, there are several activities to experience at the Ecopark, including a zipline and a forest trek to the base of the lower falls.
After a safety briefing from experienced local guides, cross a wooden bridge to the far side of the uppermost falls to begin your zipline adventure. Following a route of progressively higher ziplines, sail through the forest from platform to platform until you reach the forest at the edge of the lower falls. Clip in, hang on to your camera, and fly across and above Bousra Falls, 100m above the lowermost pools! After catching your breath, join a local Bunong guide for a 30 minute trek through the forest to the base of the falls over which you just passed. Along the way, learn about the different plants that native people use for various aspects of your life. At the base of the falls, enjoy a cold drink and the refreshing spray of the falls where you may also snap some memorable souvenir photos.
Please note: If enjoying time at the falls, where swimming is possible during the low-water months (approximately December to June), it is possible to stay here for lunch or a midday snack: there is a wide variety of exotic local fruits and nuts for sale at the falls. Visitors with mobility issues may not be able to visit the lower falls, which requires descending a dirt trail through the forest that is particularly slippery in the Green Season months (June through November).
On the way back to town, stop at an overlook nicknamed the “sea forest” because of the expanse of tropical jungle that is visible from the breezy viewpoint.
Then, visit the Coffee Plantation, where one of the many crops that grow exclusively in Mondulkiri’s cool weather climate is produced. The Coffee Plantation allows visitors to walk through the groves of coffee plants and learn a bit about coffee cultivation. If you haven’t eaten already, enjoy lunch beside a picturesque reservoir. If you wish, you can pick up some roasted beans before heading back towards Sen Monorom town.
Finally, depending on your mood and the time of day, as you drive back into Sen Monorom town, take a drive up to Dohkrormom Mountain to enjoy the sunset and a great view of the rapidly growing provincial capital.
Dinner at the hotel or in Sen Monorom town (own arrangement).
Overnight at Mondulkiri
Distances and journey times: Krong BanLung - Bousra Falls (195km) 2 hours 52 minutes Bousra Falls - Coffee Plantation (29km) 38 minutes Coffee Plantation - Krong Sen Monorom (4km) 5 minutes
Elephant Valley Project (B/L/-)
Get picked up from your hotel at 7:15am for transfer to the Elephant Valley Project, a sanctuary for elephants within a 1,500 hectare reserve where the elephants can roam and learn how to be semi wild elephants again. Here you will hike out to meet one group of elephants in the morning in their natural forest habitat. On this immersive experience you will spend half the day with the elephants and also give back by volunteering and then join locals, staff, and other volunteers on the many projects it takes to keep the sanctuary running. In between experiencing the elephants and contributing to the project, enjoy the buffet lunch in the base camp at midday. Alternatively, if you don’t want to join the volunteer activities, you can take this time the afternoon to relax at the base camp and enjoy the beautiful scenery! Return to the hotel at 5:30pm.
Note: As the elephants are located in valleys that are accessible by dirt trails and stairs, visitors with mobility issues may not be able to visit the elephants in their natural habitat and may be constrained to the elephant center and “elephant spa” during dry season months and may be unable to visit EVP during Green Season, when the path down to the center can be very slippery. Only available Mon-Fri.
Overnight at Mondulkiri
Distances and journey times: Sen Monorom - Elephant Valley Project ~45 minutes
Phnom Penh (B/L/-)
Breakfast at the hotel, followed by departure back towards Phnom Penh.
From the mountains of Mondulkiri descend down an increasingly trafficked road, stopping briefly at an impressive monument commemorating the liberation of Cambodia by Vietnamese forces leading to the end Cambodia’s civil war, 40 years ago.
Stop for lunch in the provincial capital of Kampong Cham, which lies along the Mekong River and features a riverside lighthouse, built during the French Colonial era.
Depending on the season, you may make a brief detour to visit Kampong Cham’s iconic bamboo bridge. Traditionally constructed each year to allow access to the island of Koh Pen in the Mekong River southeast of Kampong Cham, the bridge is later destroyed by the river as the water’s rise each rainy season.
Although a new, permanent bridge has recently been constructed to the south, the locals continue to build the bamboo bridge as it draws both local and international tourists to the riverbank.
Next, visit Nokor Bachey temple in Kampong Cham. Wat Nokor is both charming and interesting, featuring beautiful wall paintings adorning a modern Buddhist pagoda built inside the grounds of an Angkor-era temple, the only temple of such design in Cambodia.
Finally, on your way back to Phnom Penh, stop briefly at Skoun, a village famous for its curious roadside snacks including grilled frogs, scorpions, and tarantulas! If you’re not bold enough to taste one of the creepy crawlers, it’s possible to play with the giant spiders who have been defanged prior to arrival at the market.
Overnight at Phnom Penh
Distances and journey times: Sen Monorom- Kampong Cham (265km) 4 hours
Kampong Cham- Phnom Penh (125km) 2.5 hours
Departure- Phnom Penh (B/-/-)
Breakfast at hotel.
Guide and driver will pick you up at the hotel and transfer to airport for your departure flight.