A hidden gem of Southeast Asia, Cambodia offers a wealth of enriching cultural and conservation experiences. From drifting through the magical floating villages of Tonle Sap to exploring intricate temples in Angkor Wat and visiting elephant and bird conservation areas, there is much to discover in this culturally-rich region. Read on for our top picks.
Royal Palace and National Museum
Experience the treasures of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Climb aboard an authentic, motorized tuk-tuk in the atmospheric city and explore the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum of Cambodia, home to the world’s largest collection of Khmer art.
Marvel at the peaked golden Khmer rooftops and immaculate manicured gardens as you visit the Throne Room, where a succession of Kings have been crowned. Discover Cambodia’s rich culture and heritage at the Silver Pagoda, named for the 5,329 solid silver tiles inlaid into the floors. A trove of ancient Khmer art and sculpture can be found at the National Museum of Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is the memorial site of the S-21 interrogation and detention center of the Khmer Rouge regime. A visit to the museum chronicles a dark and devastating period of Cambodian history. Explore a series of sobering but enlightening exhibits which include survivors’ voices, traditional music and documentary movie screenings, alongside archival material and photographs.
While sailing on Aqua Mekong, learn about the history of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge through discussions and talks from our expert guides. Visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which is located in the heart of Phnom Penh and encourages visitors to carry a message of peace with them as they leave.
Floating villages of Tonle Sap
Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and has become famous for its abundant wildlife and 170 idyllic floating villages – collections of stilted overwater huts which are home to local fisherman and their families. Best visited between June and October during the abundant rainy season, Tonle Sap Lake is a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to large seasonal populations of rare waterbirds. Aqua Mekong offers the Mekong’s only private fleet of skiffs on board which guests get to embark on exclusive excursions around Tonle Sap lake.
Over in Chhnok Tru, discover what local life is like in a town where schools, churches, pagodas, and even the karaoke bar and police station all float. Visit the floating village of Moat Khla, accessible only by water, and attend a Buddhist blessing ceremony in this isolated community.
Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment
Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment or ELIE is a local non-government organization based in Mondulkiri, Cambodia. It aims to improve the health and welfare of captive elephants in the province, as well as preserve their natural habitats and support the local people who work with these magnificent, intelligent creatures.
ELIE was founded in 2006 to provide veterinary care and mahout-orientated education to the families and communities that own captive elephants. Today, ELIE runs a number of projects in Mondulkiri, including an elephant research and monitoring program, mobile veterinarian program, an indigenous community-based organization assistance program, and The Elephant Valley Project, an ecotourism project that provides a sensitive approach to elephant care, rehabilitation and conservation.
Prek Toal Core Bird Reserve
Prek Toal Core Bird Reserve is one of the last refuges in South East Asia for endangered waterbirds. One of three biospheres on the Tonlé Sap Lake, this stunning wildlife sanctuary boasts rich biodiversity and a large migratory population of rare, majestic waterbirds. Eco tourists and keen birdwatchers can spot Black-headed Ibis, Painted Stork, Milky Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle and many more species.
Included in some itineraries during high water season, guests on board the Aqua Mekong can set off by skiff into the 22,000-hectare reserve and spend hours exploring Cambodia’s largest bird sanctuary. The Prek Toal Core Bird Reserve is dubbed “the single most important breeding ground in Southeast Asia for globally threatened large water birds”.
Explore centuries of rich and fascinating Cambodian culture aboard the award-winning Aqua Mekong river ship.
No trip to Cambodia would be complete without wandering through hundreds of awe-inspiring temples, preserved for centuries in the lost city of Angkor Wat. The largest religious structure in the world, Angkor Wat was built by Emperor Suryavarman II, who ruled the region from 1113 to 1150. The heart and soul of Cambodia, this vast, mysterious complex showcases over a thousand Hindu and Buddhist temples, ranging from intricate apsaras, hand carved into the sandstone walls, to serene and smiling stone faces of Buddha and still-intact temples wrapped in thick tree roots.
Aqua Expeditions offers a complimentary flight and luxury transfers to Siem Reap for all guests with itineraries ending in Phnom Penh. While other cruises offer land transfers which can be long and arduous, arriving in Siem Reap via plane is a comfortable and quick journey.
Travel tip: Visit Angkor Wat early to witness a spiritual sunset over the main shrine.
Looking forward to uncovering the hidden gems of Southeast Asia? Contact our Expedition Consultants and we’ll help you plan the perfect cultural getaway.