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In the south of the Indochina peninsula, there is an unusually beautiful country with a unique historical and cultural heritage – this is sunny Cambodia. Many centuries ago, travelers from the Celestial Empire noticed that the territory of Cambodia resembles a giant bowl formed by 4 mountain ranges – Cardamom, Elephant, Dangrek and Kontum. And only from the south side the territory of Cambodia opens to the outside world. Here the great Mekong River joins the Fresh Sea, also known as Tonle Sap Lake, in a fan of streams of various sizes. The sights of Cambodia attract millions of tourists to the country every year. What attracts travelers so much? What to see in Cambodia if you came here for the first time? In this review, we have selected for you the most interesting sights of this country.
What to see in Cambodia in the first place
Before studying the main attractions, we note that there are rules and traditions here, so it is much more reasonable to travel around the country with an escort. Guides in Cambodia offer their services at reasonable prices, and you can hire a guide both for one trip and for the entire stay at the resort.
1. Angkor Wat Temple (5 km from Siem Reap)< /h3>
Angkor Wat Temple – a large temple complex in Cambodia
The Angkor Wat temple complex is considered the main attraction of Cambodia and the country's great heritage – the image of the temple is on the national flag and on the coat of arms of Cambodia. What can we say, many consider this temple to be one of the most beautiful places in the world!
The discovery of a temple complex hidden in the jungle, erected in the 9th-14th centuries AD, took place only some one and a half centuries ago. In 1868, a traveler from France, Henri Muillot, wandering through the jungle, discovered stone structures and soon realized that he had made an important historical discovery. Thus, a great stage appeared in the history of Cambodia – the era of the Angkor civilization. Many centuries ago, the Cambodian state was ruled by Jayavarman II, the creation of the Angkor Empire is attributed to this ruler. During this era, the temple of Angkor Wat, dedicated to the god Vishnu, was created.
The largest temple of Angkor Wat is located in the center of a vast temple complex, which includes about two hundred temples. Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat that fills during the rainy season and a wall, and you can get inside the temple through the main portal. Of great interest to both visitors and researchers is the carving on the walls of the temple. The walls are carved with images that reach many kilometers in length and tell both about episodes of Indian mythology and real historical events.
2. Royal Palace (Phnom Penh)
Throne room of the Royal Palace complex in Phnom Penh
For those whose path lies through Phnom Penh, there is something to see in Cambodia, namely in the very heart of its capital. This is the Royal Palace of Phnom Penh, which serves as the residence of the head of state. Today, the Royal Palace is the first and main attraction located in the capital. The kings of Cambodia have lived in the palace since its construction, that is, since 1866.
Today, you can visit the palace on any day from morning to evening, with a lunch break.
in fact, the Royal Palace was built twice – the first time it happened in 1434, but when the capital of Cambodia was moved to Phnom Penh, by order of King Norodom, a new building of the Palace was laid.
The entire palace complex is located on the banks of the Tonle Sap River and covers an area of 402 by 435 meters. It is surrounded by unusual gardens – in addition to the usual lush green lawns, there are glades where different trees, bushes and flowers planted in tubs can be moved to any place in different combinations to create a new landscape.
As for the interior of the palace, only a few of them are open for inspection. Throne Hall, Banquet Hall, Pavilion for saving royal regalia, Elephant Pavilion, Reception Hall, Villa for foreign guests are available to visitors.
3. National Museum of Cambodia (Phnom Penh)
National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh
Not far from the Royal Palace is another important attraction of Cambodia – the National Museum. The museum presents the most complete collection of cultural, historical and archaeological artifacts representing the most significant periods of the existence of Cambodia – from pre-Angkor times to the 15th century AD. The museum is a bright terracotta building in the classical Cambodian style, built at the beginning of the last century.
The construction of the National Museum began in 1917, and already in 1920 its doors were opened to visitors. And 4 years after the opening, in 1924, in order to expand the museum, two wings were added to it from the eastern facade.
As for the museum's exposition, a large number of sculptures are presented here – these are ancient statues of deities, demons , heroes of folk legends. But the central place in this vast collection is undoubtedly given to the Angkorian sculptures – these are bronze statues of Vishnu, Shiva, Rama, Ganesha, the sculpture of Jayavarman. In total, the museum has about 5 thousand statues, which clearly trace the development of the Khmer culture.
In addition to countless statues, the museum presents Khmer household items – fabrics and utensils.
As for the surrounding areas, the museum has a picturesque courtyard with diverse vegetation and beautiful man-made reservoirs that delight the eye.
Official website: http://www.cambodiamuseum
See the beautiful places of Cambodia in this wonderful video!
4. Silver Pagoda (Phnom Penh)
Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh
A wide selection of excursion programs in Phnom Penh leaves no doubt – guests have something to see in Cambodia, especially if your path lies through its capital. The Silver Pagoda, or Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha, is the name given to the temple of the Cambodian ruler due to the unusual floor covering, consisting of several thousand silver plates, as well as a large emerald Buddha statue sitting in the center of the temple.
Inside the pagoda, along its walls, there are valuable gifts to the kings of Cambodia, who ruled at different times, from the rulers of other states. In addition to the main statue of Buddha, cast in baccarat crystal, several other Buddha statues sit in the hall, including a 90-kilogram solid gold statue adorned with more than 2,000 diamonds. In total, more than one and a half thousand different valuable artifacts are presented in the walls of the pagoda, and frescoes are carved on the walls, telling stories from the epic Ramayana.
The Silver Pagoda was erected in 1892 by order of King Norodom, and the original building of the pagoda was wooden. In 1907, a statue of Buddha was cast from gold, while, according to the will of the monarch, the gold was melted at the stake during his cremation. In 1956, ashes from the body of Buddha were delivered to the pagoda, and in 1692 a total reconstruction began, when the wooden building was completely transferred to reinforced concrete.
In addition to the pagoda itself, in its complex it is worth visiting the tomb of kings, storage texts, see the statue of King Norodom, see the footprint of the Buddha and the bell tower.
5. Wat Banan Temple (20 km from Battambang)
Wat Banan in Battambange Paul Arps
20 kilometers south of the city of Battambang is a semi-abandoned, overgrown with lush vegetation, but this makes Cambodia a particularly attractive attraction – Wat Banan Temple. This is one of the best preserved temples of the 11th century, in fact it is a smaller copy of the Agkor Wat temple – it also has five towers arranged in a checkerboard pattern, and the walls are decorated with frescoes and ornaments. Many galleries of the temple today are already badly damaged, and trees grow inside the towers, but nevertheless, this temple makes an even stronger impression.
The structure itself stands on a hilltop with a beautiful view of the Sangkar River and the surrounding area, and in order to reach the temple, one has to overcome a staircase of 358 steps. The slopes of the hill are now covered with dense forest and can hide mines from the war times, so it is not recommended to leave the beaten paths.
The sellers who sell drinks nearby will be happy to show the temple. Below the entrance to the temple, almost at the foot of the hill, there are caves that are also worth seeing. However, it should be noted that the entrance to the caves there is so small that you have to crawl or even lie on your stomach to go there.
6. Angkor Temple Complex (Siem Reap)
Angkor Temple Complex (Siem Reap) Steve Jurvetson
In addition to unforgettable natural landscapes and numerous historical monuments, there are truly colossal structures in Cambodia that testify to the existence of special civilizations. The Angkor temple complex is a unique attraction of Cambodia, which is a complex of stone temples, decorated in the same architectural style, but different in shape. The complex of buildings has a rich historical past and was built during the Khmer civilization, in the period from the 9th to the 12th century. The main pearl of the temple complex, of course, is the largest temple of Angkor Wat, whose area is approximately 2.5 square kilometers. And all the temples of Angkor occupy a huge area – about 200 square kilometers, so modern travelers will need several days to get acquainted with the territories of the archaeological park.
The temples of Angkor are ceremonial structures, but each of them is unique in its own way. In total, there are several types of temples:
- Temple Mount – a structure in the form of a multi-stage pyramid, characteristic of the heyday of the Khmer civilization, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva; Ground level temple – a structure dedicated to the ancestors, the main features of which are large and massive base platforms, rich sculptural decoration and skillfully executed stone carvings; Temple Mount at ground level – this type appeared as a result of the development of Khmer engineering and embodies the two previous forms of the temple; The temple-monastery is a huge ceremonial structure, surrounded by numerous buildings and richly decorated with sculptures and bas-reliefs.
7. Psar Thmei Market (Phnom Penh)
Phsar Thmei – Phnom Penh Central Market Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
It is simply impossible to come to Cambodia and not visit a single local market. Cambodian markets full of oriental flavor are something that you should definitely visit in Cambodia, because only here you can see the real life of the townspeople without beauty, how they communicate and what they do in their free time. At the same time, you can also buy numerous souvenirs for your family and friends along the way.
The most important market of the Cambodian capital is the Psar Thmey Market, or the Central Market of Phnom Penh. The dark yellow Art Deco building was erected between 1935 and 1937. The structure is cruciform when viewed from above and has a high central dome. From the dome, four wings of the building go in different directions, where numerous shops are located selling valuable little things – old coins, jewelry, watches – copies of famous brands and much more.
The main buildings of the market, located under the central dome, sell checkered scarves – krams, household goods, flowers, stationery, fabric for traditional Cambodian outfits – sarongs, as well as second-hand clothes brought from the USA and Europe. A market with fresh and high-quality food products has unfolded in the western part of the building.
It will not be difficult to get to the market – there is a taxi stand in the northwestern part of the market, and a bus stop in the southwestern part.
8. Tonle Sap Lake (10 km from Siem Reap)
Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia UnorthodoxY
The largest body of water in the Indochina Peninsula is Tonle Sap Lake, which translates from Khmer as “Great Fresh Lake”. This is a very valuable and in its own way unique landmark of Cambodia, and for several reasons.
- Firstly, the lake is very rich in fish, so it has always been attractive to neighboring states, several states have fought over it for many centuries. Secondly, the nature of the lake is unique – in different seasons, the lake area increases and decreases by 5-6 times. For example, during the rainy season, the area of the lake reaches 16 thousand square meters. km, and the depth is 10 meters, and in the dry season the area is reduced to 2.5 square meters. km, the depth decreases to 1 meter. The fact is that the Tonle Sap River, which usually flows out of the lake and flows into the Mekong River, changes its direction to the opposite with the onset of the rainy season, constantly replenishing the lake. As a result of this feature, the lake does not have a permanent shore, and local residents live in floating houses throughout their lives. Thirdly, again, due to the unique natural features of Tonle Sap Lake, which can change its area and depth, at the moment when the water leaves, fertile silty soils become available, on which rice and other agricultural products are grown with great success.
Arriving at Tonle Sap Lake, you seem to find yourself in a special world. Entire floating villages with a population of about 200 thousand people are located on the water. There are schools, shops, cafes, police stations and even the local administration.
9. Mount Bokor (Elephant Mountains)
Bokor National Park in Elephant Hills Phil Whitehouse
23 Cambodian national parks, rich in natural and historical attractions, are additional confirmation that there is something to see in Cambodia. The largest and richest park, covering a large area, is Bokor Park, located in the Elephant Mountains. Its area is about 1400 sq. km. Peak Kamtyay (Bokor) is the highest point of the mountain plateau, its height above the sea is 1,076 km.
Bokor National Park is considered the most picturesque place in the south of Cambodia and is included in the list of the most important excursions in the country. Climbing the overgrown paths to the top of Mount Bokor, you seem to be on an exciting adventure. The places here are abandoned, which gives them a certain mystical aura. Previously, a small town was located in the mountains of the park, from which several abandoned buildings remain today.
The first building you will meet on your way is the former casino of Bokor. Having visited its abandoned premises, you can also climb onto its roof, from where a wonderful view of the Gulf of Thailand opens.
Moving along the slopes, you can meet many representatives of the local fauna – monkeys, parrots, bears, jaguars, sometimes even lions. In the morning, you should be extremely careful, because during this period many predators go hunting.
Above is the dilapidated Black Palace, which was once the residence of King Sisowat Minowong.
And on the way to the top, you will meet the most beautiful attraction of the park – the two-tiered Popokvil waterfall.
10. Bayon Temple (the ancient city of Angkor Thom)
Bayon Temple in ancient city of angkor thom jokertrekker
Near the temple complex of Angkor Wat there is another ancient landmark of Cambodia – the majestic Bayon Temple, located in the very center of the ancient city of Angkor Thom and distinguished by its impressive size – its area is 9 square meters. km.
We can say that the Bayon competes with the Angkor Wat temple in the title of a favorite architectural monument of travelers. Both temples undoubtedly make a strong impression, but their design, external architecture and interior decoration are different.
Based on archaeological excavations, the Bayon temple dates from the end of the 12th century. The shape of the temple, the symbolism of its architecture, the monumentality of buildings – all this gives the image of the temple a certain mystical mystery.
More than 208 faces are carved on the 54 towers of Bayon, personifying the omnipresence of the ruler. A wide forehead, lowered eyes, a mouth with slightly raised corners, flared nostrils – this combination creates the characteristic “Angkor smile”. On each of the towers there are 4 human faces about 2 meters high, facing different directions of the world. The number of towers corresponds to the number of provinces of medieval Cambodia, the central tower among them personifies the ruler and his power.
entertainment, work and leisure. In general, the art of that time reached an unprecedented dawn and subsequently became known as the “Bayon era”.
Sights of Cambodia: what else to visit while in Cambodia
It is not worth stopping at the above tourist sites, because unforgettable excursions in Cambodia to many other places that are no less unique and fantastically beautiful await you. Check out our list of top attractions for a trip you'll remember for a lifetime!
11. Bokor Hill Station (Bokor Mountain)
Bokor Hill Station on Bokor Mountain Damien @ Flickr
Another landmark of Cambodia is located on Bokor Mountain – Bokor Hill Station, once created by French colonists as a resort town. Today, the buildings of the town have long been abandoned, and you can get here only by climbing along an overgrown path to a height of 1081 m above the sea.
The construction of the Bokor Hill resort began in 1921, houses, shops, a church and the main pride of the town, the Bokor Hill Hotel, were erected. In general, if you track the history of the existence of Bokor Hill, it seems that these places were cursed from the very beginning. After all, already in the first years of construction in this remote area, about 900 people died. And the town did not last long – already in 1940, during the First Vietnam War, the French left it. Until 1972, the city was empty until it passed into the possession of the Khmer Rouge. During these times, when the bloody regime of Pol Pot came into effect, many people were killed here, who were either shot or simply thrown into the abyss. The horrors that took place within the walls of the town during the reign of the Khmer Rouge were forever imprinted within its walls. Until the early 1990s, these walls were a refuge for the radical builders of a communist society.
Since 2012, the high-altitude resort of Bokor Highland has opened near these places, and now only tourists visit the mysterious ghost town as part of excursions.< /p>
12. Preah Vihear Temple (Dangrak mountain range, border with Thailand)
Preah Vihear Temple Complex ខន វាសនា
Even on the outskirts of the state, you will find something to visit in Cambodia, and the Preah Vihear Temple is proof of this. Right on top of the Dangrek mountain range, on the very border of Cambodia and Thailand, there is an ancient landmark of Cambodia – a temple complex built in the 11-12 centuries AD. in honor of the Hindu deity Shiva. The era of Khmer civilization was characterized by the widespread construction of temples, most of which have survived to this day. Preah Vihear is the center of all temple complexes – the temple received such a high status due to the highest architectural skill with which the temple was made, including its elements of skillful stone carving.
Due to the location of the temple on the border of two states – Cambodia and Thailand, Preah Vihear has been the subject of active territorial disputes between these countries for many centuries. It was only in 2008 that the International Court of Justice established that the temple and its adjacent territories are part of the Cambodian sovereignty zone.
A long string of steps, 800 meters long, leads to the sanctuary. On the stairs sit stone statues of lions and snake-like mythical creatures – nagas. In the central room of the temple there are statues of the main deities.
Today, the Preah Vihear temple can be visited both from Cambodia and from Thailand. This historical and cultural site is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
13. Ream National Park (18 km from Sihanoukville)
Ream National Park Stefan Fussan
At a relatively short distance to the east of Sihanoukville, there is an unsurpassed beauty attraction of Cambodia – Ream National Park, spread over an area of more than 200 square kilometers. The park is unique in that several ecosystems border on its territory at once – untouched mangrove forests, tropical jungle, sea coast, a couple of islands, a river delta.
A wide variety of representatives of the fauna live here – wild animals and birds that are under the protection of the state. For example, the local feathered population includes 200 different bird species, including such rare representatives as the Javan marabou and milk beak. The park is also famous for its large population of monkeys, and a rare species of freshwater dolphins lives in Tonle Sap Lake. The world of insects will amaze you with a wide variety of bright, unusual butterflies.
There are several options for walking in the park.
- Hiking with a guide is not difficult – there are hiking trails throughout the park. Jeeping – off-road driving will allow you to get to the most inaccessible, fabulously beautiful places in the park, which cannot be reached on foot. Perhaps the most interesting way to travel around the Ream National Park is a boat trip along the Prek Tuk Sap River: evergreen mangrove forests stretch along the banks of the river, where trees grow right in the water, and periodically here and there you can find pile houses of local residents.
Official site: http://reamnationalpark.com/
14. Sihanoukville City (229 km from Phnom Penh)
Sihanoukville resort city Kiensvay
On the coast of the Gulf of Thailand, 229 kilometers from the Cambodian capital, is the resort city of Sihanoukville. Tourists who prefer active travel to exotic places certainly have something to see in Cambodia – they should definitely visit here. Even in the high season, Sihanoukville is quiet, there is no hustle and bustle familiar to resorts, and the beaches are clean, beautiful and not crowded.
Sihanoukville is a small and relatively young town – it was founded in the middle of the last century and began its measured life in 1955, when a construction team built here the first and only seaport in all of Cambodia. The city itself was named after King Sihanouk, during whose reign it was founded. And Sihanoukville gained wide popularity thanks to the only actively developing resort. Here are perhaps some of the most beautiful places on the planet. The city-province is framed by the cleanest sandy beaches, small islands off the coast, so Sihanoukville itself is a landmark of Cambodia. Its beaches can compete in beauty with the famous beaches of Thailand, but here you can relax much calmer, and even cheaper.
Among the remarkable places of Sihanoukville, the following should be highlighted in a special way:
- Bamboo Island is one of the many beautiful islands of the coastal zone, which can only be reached by motor boat, so the road to this island in itself will already be interesting and impressive; The Old Pier is a protruding structure on the city coast, where you can endlessly admire the sunsets and take extraordinarily beautiful photos; Ream National Park – a territory in a pristine and very rich nature, including islets, mangrove forests, jungles; Monkey Island is also a picturesque area with dense jungle, beaches and waterfalls. According to legend, the largest monkey in the world once lived here.
15. Banteay Srei Temple (25 km from the Angkor group of temples)
Banteay Srei Temple
For everyone who would like to see a fairy tale in reality – to fall into the fabulous paws of a huge and dense forest full of secrets and mysteries, to wander through the ancient majestic buildings, there is something to visit in Cambodia. At the very foot of Phnom Dai Mountain, 25 kilometers from the group of temples of Angkor, there is a truly fabulous place. Here, in the thickets of huge tropical trees, there is an ancient temple of Banteaysrey, which has not lost its amazing beauty.
The citadel of a woman, this is how the name of the temple sounds in translation. The citadel is built of beautiful and durable pink-terracotta sandstone and impresses with skillful carvings made many centuries ago. The temple, built in the distant 10th century AD, is very well preserved. Artfully executed bas-reliefs, sculptures, and extraordinarily beautiful carved pediments have survived in excellent condition.
A road paved with stone of the same pinkish-brick color leads to the Banteay Srei temple itself. The temple is enclosed by a traditional wall with a moat dug in front of it filled with water. At first glance, the diminutiveness of the structure surprises, due to which it stands out noticeably against the background of other shrines of the Angkor complex. In addition, Banteay Srei differs from other Angkorian temples in that it was not built by the monarch, but by the royal dignitary of Yajnavarah. On one of the buildings of the temple it is written that Yajnavaraha was known as a philanthropist, helped the poor, sick and suffering. Also read about the best sights of Vietnam and get inspired for your next trip to Southeast Asia!