The Perfect Itinerary for Siem Reap, Cambodia
In October 2017, Tyler and I got to visit a new country (yay!) — Cambodia. We chose Cambodia in part due to our quest to explore Asia while we’re living in the Philippines, but primarily because we couldn’t pass up the chance to see the temples of Angkor. Let me tell you — we were not disappointed. Cambodia, Siem Reap city proper, and the Angkor Archeological Park provided the backdrop for spending three perfect days in Siem Reap. Here’s how it went down:
The Perfect 3 Day Itinerary in Siem Reap
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- Angkor Wat
- Ta Prohm
- Siem Reap Night Market
- Pub Street
Grab breakfast at your hotel, then ask your concierge for a Tuk Tuk driver. Most drivers are hired for $15-20 per day, depending on your tour route and whether you want to stay for sunset. The driver will take you along the route and wait for you while you explore each temple. It’s sounds luxurious and convenient to have your own driver for the day, and it is! 😉
Once you’ve stopped to purchase your ticket pass to Angkor Archeological Park (grab the 3 day pass for $62 per person), spend the morning drooling over Angkor Wat.
Sitting on over 400 acres, Angkor Wat, meaning “Capital Temple” is the largest religious monument in the world. The massive temple is built entirely out of stone, with three levels of galleries, a quincunx of (five) towers, an outer wall, and a moat! From a distance it’s impressive and up close it’s awe-inspiring. Our favorite part (like many before us) was the bas-reliefs and devatas throughout Angkor Wat — the intricate carvings and decorations in the stone. I mean come on, the skill it took to create something like this 900 years ago is mind boggling!
Once you’ve taken 423 photos and videos (it can’t be helped!), venture back to find your Tuk Tuk driver and ask to stop off for lunch on the way to the next temple. Every temple has little outposts with toilets, vendors, and restaurants catering to tourists. Lunch is affordable, hot, and quick — plan for $6-8 per person.
After you’ve rested your feet and filled up on yummy Cambodian noodles, head over to Ta Prohm.
Openly referred to as the Tomb Raider temple, Ta Prohm is unique in the Angkor area for being left in the same condition it was found — which has consequently made it one of the most popular temples among tourists and is now undergoing restoration work. Nevertheless, with walkways and wooden stairs to guide you through without harming the surroundings, Ta Prohm is the perfect example of temple ruins blended with jungle. Strangler fig trees, with their eery roots, and silver colored trunks have grown up, around, and through the entire temple complex. We must admit, it’s pretty freaking cool.
If you’re like us, you’ll be pretty beat after spending hours exploring these temple complexes, so head back to the hotel for a rest, shower, and change of clothes, then head over to the Siem Reap Night Market (open 4pm – midnight). (Also, if you liked your Tuk Tuk driver, arrange a time for him to pick you up the next day!)
At the Night Market, browse dozens of street vendors selling everything you could possibly want for a souvenir, then hunt for a place to eat dinner. We always like to have one night where we don’t plan where to go, but rather wander a bit and stop where we want. We ended up eating on Pub Street, sitting on a second floor balcony and people watching.
After dinner take a stroll down Pub Street, Siem Reap’s famous “party street”, much like Khaosan Road in Bangkok. If you know me, then you know I love me some good house music, and the Temple Bar plays it loud enough for 4 square blocks to hear! If you’re up for $5 a cocktail, it’s not a bad place to dance (my preference) or sit on the patio and do some more people watching (Tyler’s preference).
- Angkor Thom South Gate
- The Bayon
- Petit Circuit (Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup)
- Sunset at Angkor Wat
- Dinner at The Sugar Palm
- Pub Street (yes, again!)
After you’ve grubbed on your breakfast buffet, meet your Tuk Tuk driver and head to the Angkor Thom South Gate.
Have your driver stop and let you off at the beginning of the causeway and meet you on the other side of the gate so you can stop, appreciate the grandeur of just one of the four entrances to this royal city, and snap some epic photos.
Hop back on your Tuk Tuk and enjoy the ride to the center of Angkor Thom, or the “Great City”, where you’ll find the Bayon.
The impressive towers of the Bayon boast 216 gigantic smiling faces, that are said to be representations of Jayavarman VII, a Mahayana Buddhist King, for whom Angkor Thom was built. As soon as you step up into the upper terrace of the temple — it’s hard to describe the feeling — you’re struck by the unique beauty of the faces around every corner. It’s mysterious yet serene; intimidating yet inspiring.
After you’ve gotten over how cool the Bayon is, find your driver and ask to complete the rest of the Petit Circuit. Within the Angkor Archeological Park, there is the Grand Circuit and Petit Circuit, created by French archeologists that first set out to restore and preserve the area. By now you’ve already completed most of the Grand Circuit (Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm), but there are several more, less visited temples waiting to delight on the Petit Circuit.
You’ll move through the Petit Circuit in the following order: Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup. If you want to visit any of the other temples along the way, just ask your driver! One of our favorite things about the Angkor temples is that each of them feels equally grand and unique. The architecture and decoration of every temple we visited, while similar in design, were impressive and awesome in their own right. I’ll let the photos of these temples speak for themselves:
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the Petit Circuit, head back to Angkor Wat to catch the sunset. Make sure your driver takes you to the west side or main entrance so you can appreciate the full scale of walking into Angkor Wat from the main gate and causeway. Our tip: head to the southwest corner of Angkor Wat for fewer crowds and super cool photos!
By now you’re feeling thoroughly happy and pretty lucky to have witnessed this little slice of archeological paradise, but perhaps a bit hungry. Head back to the hotel for a shower and then hire a one way Tuk Tuk ($2-3) to downtown Siem Reap and enjoy some authentic Cambodian food at The Sugar Palm. Highly recommended in both our guidebook and travel apps, we didn’t mind paying slightly higher prices for some darn good Cambodian food and modern ambiance at The Sugar Palm. To be fair, we still ordered four dishes and four drinks for a total of about $45, which is really not bad! We thoroughly enjoyed the Grilled Eggplant and Chicken Khmer Curry.
After dinner, grab a Tuk Tuk back to Pub Street and seek out a massage spot — there are literally dozens — and treat yourself to a foot massage. If you’re like us, after all the walking, climbing, and stone stairs, your feet probably need some TLC. Plus, you can’t beat $4 for a 30 minute foot massage!
Now if you think you should head home now, remember you’re on vacation! Head back to Temple Bar or another club, bar, or restaurant on Pub Street for drinks, live music, or dancing.
- The Bayon (or any temple you want to re-visit or visit)
- Spa Package
- Dinner & Drinks
For us, Day 3 doubled as a travel day, so we opted to hang at the hotel until checkout (noon), before checking our luggage and heading out to revisit our favorite temple. That, and whenever we stay in a nice hotel, we like to take full advantage of all the amenities when possible! If you’re overwhelmed by the multitude of options in Siem Reap, we highly recommend Saem Siemreap Hotel, and will definitely be staying there again next time we visit!
Once you feel up to it, take full advantage of your 3 day pass to the Angkor Archeological Park and revisit your favorite temple(s) or venture off to one you didn’t see the first time. For us, we wanted to head back to the Bayon and marvel at the giant faces, plus we explored more of Angkor Thom.
Afterwards we were finally templed-out and decided to spend the afternoon pre-flight at the spa. Our Tuk Tuk driver took us to a place that he recommended (which was great, but was obviously a tourist scheme — if you want a good spa, without the tourist prices, check out ratings on TripAdvisor or ask your hotel concierge).
After spoiling yourself at the spa, head for dinner and drinks! We opted to stay at our hotel and try some more traditional Cambodian dishes (Fish Amok and a spicy chicken dish), but if we didn’t have to fly we would have headed to King’s Road, a well known dinner spot in Siem Reap.
All in all, we felt we had a pretty perfect 3 day itinerary in Siem Reap! We toured temples unlike anything we’ve ever seen, got a small taste of Cambodian culture, and left feeling like we had the best kind of vacation — a mix between relaxation and exploration!
Ready for your own Cambodian adventure?
Download our Perfect 3 Day Itinerary for Siem Reap, which includes:
- Condensed and detailed version of our itinerary
- Exclusive tips on how to extend your trip beyond 3 days
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