Cambodia is, compared to its neighboring countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand a fairly small country and not so difficult to travel. This applies for the length of traveling as the distances are not quite as long, yet, the route is also not as straightforward. Having the classic north to south or south to north routes such as in Laos or Vietnam, the itinerary in Cambodia can be diverse. In total, though there are the classic and also well-known destinations that one will cover no matter which connections you end up taking. A circular route would be the most suggested one – here is a recommended itinerary for traveling the country in 3 weeks, mostly based on our own route and of what we have heard is worth seeing. Cambodia can also be visited in 2 weeks yet we highly suggest to do so in 3 weeks.
Most travelers will arrive in either the capital of Phnom Penh or the temple city of Siem Reap. As we landed in Siem Reap we used this as a starting point for discovering the country.
Day 1 – 4 Siem Reap, Angkor Wat
Siem Reap is a city located close to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat and many others. The city serves as a hub for discovering the vast array of temples which are spread across a huge area outside of town. I emphasize HUGE because many people underestimate the distances and believe that it is all reduced to the temple of Angkor Wat. The Angkor Wat is actually a single temple and is only a fraction of what can be seen. Here are some pictures of Angkor Wat to get you inspired!
You can choose between a one-day, three-day or five-day ticket to see all the temples. We bought the three-day ticket and were able to see almost all of the temples. As you can easily get “templed out” after seeing so many temples and ruins we decided to have a break day after the second day of visiting. You can decide which days to go within a one-week period which allows you to have a day to rest in between. In total, the four days will allow you to see pretty much everything of the temples and the town and also gives you some time to relax in between.
Day 5 – 6 Phnom Penh
The capital city is known for its colonial architecture, different museums, and temples. Take a look at the royal palace and discover the side street restaurants and markets that are spread around the city. Alternatively, have a visit to the Killing Fields a bit outside of town and learn about the country’s cruel past. Enjoy the temples at sunset and have a nice walk along the scenic Mekong riverside. A nice time to spend for one or two days max. before you continue the journey. You will have to pass by the city when going down south or up north.
Day 7 – 11 Islands (Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem & more)
Stunning beaches and clear waters will await you here. There are a few islands scattered a bit off the coast with the two biggest and most visited ones being Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem. Incredibly nice to swim and to do some boat tours around to discover the many beaches that can be found in different parts of the islands. Definitely spend around four or five days here to enjoy the spots.
Day 12 – 13 Sihanoukville
The town acts as a starting and departure point if you want to discover the islands. All the ferries leave from here and you can either choose to stay here first or after visiting the beaches off-shore. It is quite a new town and was primarily established because of Cambodia’s need for a larger port for the country’s overseas trading. The town offers a great variety of guesthouses, hotels, and casinos and large cruise ships stop-over here for some leisure time. There are a few beaches (not as stunning as on the islands) which allow for some chilling time – our favorite one named Otres Beach (picture below). Take a scooter and discover the area – no longer than two days needed.
Day 14 – 15 Kampot
Take a tour just a bit away from Sihanoukville and enjoy a relaxed stay in Kampot, a sleepy town along the Kampot River. We did not go here but heard it’s a very nice place to relax by the river, enjoy some nice sunsets and indulge yourself in some delicious Cambodian food. Probably also a nice place to rent a bicycle and do some touring around town and the river. Two to three days to spend here, depending on your need of taking a rest.
Day 16 – 18 Mondulkiri (Sen Monorom & surrounding)
The country’s most eastern province and also the largest one still doesn’t attract many tourists. It is a highland area covered by thick forests and is quite a change to the very humid regions of the lowlands. Arriving in Sen Monorom, the region’s capital town, you can explore the surrounding forests by trekking or motorbike. Many agencies offer elephant rides (quite controversial) but we eventually found one where you can be close to these gentle giants and enjoy two days including a trek around the forest – read about our experience with the Cambodian Elephants here. There pretty much is just one road leading there and back and it is best to spend around three days there.
Day 19 – 21 Kratie and back to Siem Reap
Heading back from Mondulkiri you can go further up north, following the Mekong river to a town called Kratie. The town itself is rather unspectacular but here you get the chance to see the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins. We took a Tuk-Tuk to the pier and a boat to see these beautiful animals jump around the water. It was very difficult to get a good picture but it was a great experience to see them up close in their natural environment.
Head back to Siem Reap after as there are many buses that go straight there. Enjoy another two to three days in Kratie and another relaxed day in Siem Reap to complete your three weeks stay in Cambodia.
Side Trips can also be made, depending on your time. We can recommend to also see the beach town of Kep, the temples, and village of Kampong Cham and the scenic area of Battambang. These can all be fit in between the route that we have mentioned above.