Essence of Cambodia
- Duration7 Nights
- StylePrivate Tour
- When to GoSep - Mar
- Price GuideFrom $3,265 Per Person
At a Glance
- Fast track airport arrival service and private transfer to your hotel
- Private city tour including the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda
- Optional afternoon tour of Tuol Sleng & the Killing Fields
- Evening food & nightlife tour
- Road transfer to Battambang, via Kampong Chhnang & Udong
- Private tour in and around Battambang including central markets, Phnom Banan ruins, and the Phnom Sampeau caves
- Optional visit to Cambodia’s first and only winery
- Transfer across Lake Tonle Sap to Siem Reap by private boat, visiting Prek Toal and floating villages en route
- Transfer to hotel before a sunset cocktail gondola cruise on the moat of Angkor Thom
- Early morning tour of the forest temples: Ta Prohm, Ta Nei, Ta Keo
- Evening visit to Phare, the Cambodian circus
- Sunrise at Angkor Wat
- Further optional tours: remote temples, villages and countryside, elephant walk, adventure activities
- Private departure transfer to Siem Reap International Airport
Meet Our Expert
I am totally captivated by Asia. Having lived in Singapore, Nepal, South Korea and Hong Kong, travelled extensively across all of our destinations in Asia, and worked in luxury travel for many years, curating exceptional trips comes naturally to me.
- 7 nights in 4-star boutique hotel accommodation with daily breakfast
- 2x further lunches and 2x further dinners during mentioned tours and activities
- Private arrival and departure airport transfers, including fast-track airport assistance on arrival
- All mentioned transfers and road transport on a private basis in air-conditioned minivans
- All mentioned tours and sightseeing on a private basis with private driver and English-speaking local guides
- Entrance fees for any mentioned sightseeing, permits, local taxes, etc
- Comprehensive final itinerary and travel app
- 24/7 support from our dedicated staff
- Flexible, personalized itinerary based on your interests
What's not Included
- International flights from your country of origin
- Tourist visa for Cambodia. Your consultant will advise on how to obtain this
- Tips or gratuities to guides, drivers, hotel staff
- Any meals, tours, or activities other than those specifically mentioned in itinerary
- Incidental local expenses - souvenirs, laundry, taxis, etc
- Travel insurance - we strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance as soon as you have booked your trip
Day by Day Itinerary
- Day 1
Phnom Penh: Arrival into Phnom Penh International Airport
Welcome to Cambodia! After landing in Phnom Penh you will be met off the airbridge and assisted with fast-track arrival service through immigration, baggage, and customs. You’ll then meet your local English-speaking guide and accompanying private driver and then taken straight to your downtown hotel. This will be a journey of around an hour in typical traffic.
Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is one of Asia’s most exciting and fastest-growing cities. Get settled into your room and enjoy the remainder of the day at your leisure. If you want to take a stroll, you’ll find a number of elegant colonial buildings and grand boulevards which saw Phnom Penh donned the “Paris of the East” during the 1920s. We highly recommend visiting the Central Market, an astonishing piece of Art Deco architecture that contains vast hallways housing countless stalls selling all sorts of items.
- Day 2
Phnom Penh: City tour of the Cambodian capital; Evening dining tour
After breakfast, you will meet your guide and head out for a private tour of the city. Begin at the attractive Royal Palace, and then the neighboring Silver Pagoda, covered in approximately 5,000 silver tiles. Afterwards, you’ll explore the massive collection of Khmer sculptures and artifacts in the National Museum which were recovered from the ancient Angkor Empire. You will then learn more about the sober recent history of Cambodia, visiting the infamous Tuol Sleng prison and then the “Killing Fields” of Choeng Ek where over 17,000 civilians were killed and buried in the 1970s. If you prefer, these visits can be skipped – please discuss locally with your guide. After the sightseeing, you have the afternoon at leisure.
As the sun dips you will head back out to explore the vibrant Cambodian capital’s drinking and dining scene. Your guide will first take you to a rooftop bar for a sundowner accompanied by epic views. You’ll then be whisked away by ‘remork’ (as tuk-tuks are known in Cambodia) to a hidden back alley restaurant, where you’ll whet your appetite on local Cambodian-style tapas. The next stop is the main course at another fantastic hidden gem, well known by locals and expatriates but far from the tourist trail, where you will feast on Cambodian barbeque and locally brewed beer. End the evening with coffee and dessert in the heart of Phnom Penh’s lively riverfront nightlife area. From here you can either be taken back to the hotel for a well-earned rest, or – armed with suggestions from your guide – continue the night independently.
- Day 3
Battambang: Transfer to Battambang via Kampong Chhnang
After breakfast you’ll set off from Phnom Penh, heading northwest along National Highway 05 towards the smaller city of Battambang. Several stops will be made en route – at former capital Udong, with its’ dramatic mountain-top palace; in the busy lakeside town Kampong Chhnang, where you’ll learn about traditional Cambodian pottery; and finally in Pursat, to visit its’ marble workshops. Draw into Battambang mid-afternoon and after checking into your hotel you have the rest of the day free.
- Day 4
Battambang: Guided tour of urban and rural Battambang
Today you’ll explore Battambang and its environs with your guide. Although Battambang is Cambodia’s second-largest city, you’ll find it much more compact and laidback compared to Phnom Penh. The centre is a mix of semi-restored colonial shophouses and long tree-lined avenues, neatly bisected by the Sangker River. Start with a visit to Psa Nath – Battambang’s busy central market – and then move on to the 11th century Wat Ek Phnom, built by Suryavarman I, wherein the adjacent rounds sits a 30m white Buddha statue surrounded by peacock trees. You’ll also learn about local food production techniques, visiting a local rice paper maker and then an intriguing, if pungent, visit to the fish paste market. Although a little sharp to Western noses, fish paste is an essential local seasoning, nicknamed ‘Cambodian cheese’ for its distinct aroma!
The afternoon will take you out of the city center to Phnom Banan, an Angkorian ruin that sits on a hilltop overlooking surrounding villages. The temple boasts a dramatic staircase to the summit and sits in atmospheric semi-ruin, its core lintels still standing strong but surrounded by collapsed blocks and overhanging trees. You’ll then strike a more somber note at Phnom Sampeau, which houses several Khmer Rouge cave execution sites. The caves are now home to large colonies of bats, and if fortunate, you may witness a mass exit at sunset. On the way back to Battambang you might like to stop at Cambodia’s first (and currently only) winery for a taste of the local drop.
- Day 5
Siem Reap: Private boat transfer across Lake Tonle Sap to Siem Reap; sundowners at Banteay Kdei
Today you’ll board a private boat for a full-day transfer down the Sangker River and across the mighty Tonle Sap lake to Siem Reap. There is much to see across Cambodia’s great lake, so taking a private charter allows you to make numerous stops along the way. The first will be at Bak Prea, a Buddhist temple set on a small islet, entirely surrounded by stilt housing. The village is of equal interest to the temple, bearing witness to the simple water-based lifestyle of its inhabitants. Continue to Phum Trey village, amongst the lakes’ flooded forest, where you’ll also find the ‘Black Wood’ temple of Wat Cher Khmoa.
You’ll then begin to move through Preak Toal. Encompassing some 53,000 acres of wetland and flooded forest, Prek Toal is arguably Asia’s premier water bird habitat, seeing it classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1997. Some 100 species of bird make their life here, around 15 of which are endangered, and as you pass through you should keep a keen eye out for ibis, milky storks, painted storks, Oriental darters, and spot-billed pelicans.
A picnic lunch will be included on board, and you’ll eventually draw into the Siem Reap shores of the lake in the mid-afternoon. You’ll then be transferred into town to your hotel and then have some time to relax. Please note: this transfer is only possible when water levels are high from August through to January. At dry times of the year, an alternative road transfer will be arranged, taking in Banteay Neang and Sisophon en route.
In the late afternoon, you’ll be taken for your first taste of Angkorian temples, exploring the labyrinthine Banteay Kdei, with its intricately carved hall of Dancing Girls. You’ll then be taken to the moat of Angkor Thom, enjoying a leisurely boat ride as the sun sets, with a cocktail in hand.
- Day 6
Siem Reap: Morning Temples of the Forest; Afternoon tour of Angkor Thom; Evening Phare circus
Wake early this morning to enjoy the lesser-visited corners of the Angkor complex at their quietest time of day. Head first to Srah Srang, Angkor’s expansive 700m x 350m reservoir, which glows a deep orange at sunrise. Continue to the legendary jungle temple Ta Prohm, its crumbling ruins now held together with roots and vines. A 15-minute walk through the forest north of Ta Prohm then takes you to Ta Nei where you’ll be served a delicious picnic breakfast. At this time of day, you’re likely to have the entire temple site to yourselves. A short drive then brings you to the final stop of the morning – Ta Keo, known as the ‘Mountain of Bronze Peaks’, with its impressive five-tiered pyramid structure. You’ll be dropped back at your hotel in the mid-morning and have some time to relax.
In the afternoon your guide will take you on a walking tour through the mighty Angkor Thom – literally ‘Great City’. Start at the imposing Victory Gate, then continue along the 5m high former city walls to the ‘Death Gate’ and then the Terrace of the Leper King. A further short walk from the Buddhist sanctuary of Preah Palilay takes you through shaded woodland to the three tiers of Phimeanakas, flanked by beautiful lakes, and then to the Hindu temple Baphuon. The big finish arrives in the exact center of Angkor Thom at the Bayon, the former state temple of Jayavarman VII. The Bayon is known for its captivating bas-relief faces, carved in their hundreds, each telling a different story of daily life or epic events in the time of Angkor.
In the evening you’ll be taken to enjoy Siem Reap’s finest contemporary spectacle – the Phare Circus. Tightrope walkers, contortionists, and acrobats take to the stage for a dynamic artistic spectacle that blends visual art, music, dance, and circus skills. Phare arose from Battambang-based NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak, with all proceeds from the Siem Reap event going back to their mission of skilling impoverished children in the arts and performance. The NGO’s impact on rural Cambodia is genuinely remarkable, and the show itself hugely entertaining, so on all counts the 90-minute show (with private transfers to and from included) is an inspiring and invaluable use of your time.
- Day 7
Siem Reap: Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Wake early this morning to visit Angkor Wat, the mother of all temples. You will visit at dawn, seeing the sunrise over the temple and bathe it in the softest and best light of the day. Your private guide will then lead you on a comprehensive tour of the temple complex, which has stood as a site of major religious significance since its construction in the 12th century. Explore the well-preserved central complex and detailed bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythologies and battles of the ancient empire. The beauty in balance and composition, combined with its sheer scale ensure Angkor Wat’s place as the crowning achievement in Khmer art and architecture. This is truly one of travel’s remaining great adventures.
You’ll the return to your hotel for a late breakfast and have the rest of the day free. Within town we recommend exploring the busy central markets and lively nightlife scene around Pub Street. Foodies can indulge in a wealth of dining tours and cooking classes. Adventure seekers have adrenalin-fueled activities galore, with quad biking, ziplining, hiking, cycling, and kayaking all possibilities. Shoppers will enjoy an enormous array of craft and souvenir venues, including charitable ventures such as Theam’s House or Artisans d’Angkor. Outside of the city day trips can be made to the remote jungle temples of Koh Ker or Beng Mealea, to the lush jungles of Phnom Kulen, or for bird-watching and kayaking around Tonle Sap’s Prek Toal village.
- Day 8
Siem Reap: Departure day
Your memorable tour of Cambodia comes to an end today, with a private transfer to the airport in good time for your departing flight. If you’d like to explore more of Southeast Asia, chat with our travel experts who can help plan the ideal bespoke addition to your itinerary.
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