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May 09

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7 Days in Siem Reap: A One-Week Itinerary

When it comes to travel planning, my job is to research what to see and Dan handles the bookings. Until Cambodia. Dan had been wanting to see Angkor Wat for such a long time that I asked him to plan the entire Siem Reap itinerary.

I should have expected no less: My resourceful husband found a local to help him.

Okay, not just any local. This Siem Reap native had been a private tour guide for over 20 years, his English was excellent and he responded quickly to Dan’s questions. I was shocked at how quickly Dan had the trip arranged. It takes me weeks of research and planning. Maybe he should take over that responsibility and let me spend more time with my Kindle, reading about the places we could visit.

Choices: Hire a guide, or do it yourself?

Here are the sightseeing options, as I see it.

Use a guidebook. Had I been in charge of planning the trip, I probably would have taken the DIY approach to save money. You know the routine: Read a guidebook, hire a tuk-tuk driver, buy the ticket and wander around, looking for all the landmarks the book recommends.

A lot of websites offer that advice, but after having spent a week in Cambodia, I think my method would have been a huge mistake. We had used a book for our one-day walking tour in Savannah, Georgia. I found myself saying, “Hold on, let me see what’s important about this building” a whole lot. Then we’d stop so I could read the entry to Dan.

Angkor Ticket Information

Hire a guide. Dan’s method meant we could focus on the sights. We ended up with two tour guides who shared the driving and guiding duties. Both were well-versed in Cambodia’s history and culture as well as Buddhist and Hindu lore. Sunny and his friend Bunna offered anecdotes, pointed out curiosities, and answered our myriad questions. Yes, it was costlier, but we could economize elsewhere. This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Shouldn’t we make the most of it?

Sonny with his warm smile and a cold beer.

Take a tour. A group tour would be informative as well, but they work on a strict schedule and you are hampered by the slowest person. You can’t stay as long as you wish or leave early if we you have seen enough of a place. When service was slow one morning, Sunny and Bunna waited for us to finish our breakfast. When I sprained my knee while mounting a too-high step, Bunna slowed the pace and helped me along. They took us to a few lesser-known temples and we got some incredible shots, with no one in the way. Could we have done that with a group tour? I’ll let you figure that out.

(Tip: Whichever method you choose, keep in mind that arriving early can make all the difference in your experience. For one thing, it’s cooler early in the morning, and for another, you miss the tour bus crowds. Temples open at sunrise or before.)

One week around Siem Reap and Angkor

Most tourists are in Siem Reap for only a few days. They’ll visit Angkor Wat and a few other sights, then head off to Phnom Penh. As a result, Sunny only had one- to four-day itineraries on his website.

We were the first of Sunny’s clients who wanted to spend a whole week in Siem Reap. Since none of the usual itineraries would work, he offered to create one that would. The extra time took us further afield and we were able to travel down rural roads, passing through countryside few westerners see.

I’ll admit that a Lexus hybrid is a whole lot more comfortable than a tour bus or tuk-tuk would have been.

In any case, we fit a lot of Cambodia into one week. Take a look at this itinerary, then go ahead and feel sorry for people who have only stayed for three or four days.

Day 1: City Highlights + Traditional Shows

Morning: Learn how silk is made at a local silk farm, see relics from the country’s wars at the Cambodia War Museum, then watch artisans create unique stone, wood and textile crafts at Artisans d’Angkor Khmer handicraft center.Silk Farm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Russian Tank at the War Museum

Artisan crafting in wood.

Afternoon: See exhibits on Khmer history, civilization, and cultural heritage at Angkor National Museum, then enjoy some free time at the Old Market (Psar Chaa). Return to hotel for shower and relaxation.

Colorful stall at the Old Market

Evening: Enjoy an expansive buffet dinner with traditional dance shows at Koulen II restaurant. After dinner, see Angkor Night Market. (Tip: Book as early as possible and ask for front-row, center seats.)

Day 2: Angkor Thom (Smiling Faces Temple) + Cambodian Circus

Morning: See the many-faced towers at Angkor Thom. Pass through the South Gate and tour the interior: Bayon, Baphuon, King Palace area, Phimean Akas, Terrace of Leper King, and Elephant Terrace.

Entrance to Angkor Thom

Bayon Temple

Afternoon: Visit Angkor Wat and see the sunset at Bakheng mountain or Pre Rup temple.Angkor Wat

Evening: Phare, Cambodian Circus (Tip: This was incredibly fun, but open seating view is partially obstructed. Worth paying more for center seats.)

Day 3: Sunrise at Angkor Wat + Ta Prom Temple

Morning: Leave hotel at 4:30 am to see sunrise at the Angkor Wat. After sunrise, visit Ta Prom temple before the crowds arrive. Then continue to Preah Khan, Neak Pan, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup. Lunch at the Angkor Park.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Ruins at Ta Prom Temple

Ta Som Temple

Afternoon: Continue to Pre Rup, Prasat Kravan and Srah Srang.

Pre Rup Temple

Setting up for a VIP event at Kravan

Evening: Have dinner at Malis Restaurant, a 5-star dining establishment.

Day 4: Banteay Srei + River of 1000 Lingas + Roluos Group

Morning: Leave at 7:30 am to visit “citadel of the women,” Banteay Srei, then continue on to see the River of 1000 Lingas and waterfall at Phnom Kulen mountain. Lunch at the Angkor Park.

The Lady Temple, Banteay Srei

River of 1000 lingas

Afternoon: Visit Roluos Group of temples, the first major capital of the Angkorian-era Khmer Empire.

Roluos Group – Bakong Temple

Roluos Group – Preah Ko Temple

Day 5: Cambodian Life Tour at Tonle Sap Lake + Beng Mealea temple

Morning: Depart at 8:00 am to see the lifestyle of Cambodians who live along the banks of Tonle Sap Lake, the largest lake in Southeast Asia. Explore Kampong Phluk floating village and/or Kampong Khleang stilt village

Stilt Village on Tonle Sap Lake

Floating village on Tonle Sap Lake

Afternoon: Explore Beng Mealea, an especially beautiful temple that is being reclaimed by the jungle.

Boeng Mealea Temple

Day 6: Prasat Preah Vihea & Koh Ker Temple

Morning: Depart before breakfast to visit Prasat Preah Vihea, a spectacular Hindu temple that is situated on a 525-metre-high clifftop on the Thai border.

Preah Vihear Temple

Afternoon: Explore Koh Ker archaeological site, with 40 temples and a reservoir that were built by Jayavarman IV, Khmer emperor from 928 – 941. Koh Ker is dominated by Prasat Thom, Prasat Linga, Brastat Prum and Brasat Neag Kmau. Among those, the most beautiful is “Prasat Thom,”  which represents the sacred mountain of Hindu mythology. The giant pyramid temple has seven tiers a 36-meter base.

Koh Ker Temple

Prasat Thom pyramid temple

Day 7: Cooking Class + Quad Bike Ride – Siem Reap Countryside Tour

Morning: Cooking class. Learn how to prepare traditional and delicious Khmer dishes under the guidance of a professional chef. Begin with a walk through the local market, see the action and learn about the produce. Then return to the kitchen and get to work learning to prepare spring rolls, traditional amok fish, and fried bananas before enjoying your creation in the garden.

Champey Cooking School – Spring Rolls

Afternoon: 4-hour off-road quad bike trip offers an insight into a different side of Cambodia: the countryside surrounding Siem Reap. A local guide will show you how locals live in rural areas and their daily life style. The trip begins with a full briefing on how to drive the quad bike as well as important safety instructions. Then set off through the streets of Siem Reap to see villages, rice fields, a hidden temple, and Cambodians going about their daily lives, The final stop is at a rice paddy, with a beautiful view of the setting sun as it dips below the rice fields.

Quad Tour and red clay in Siem Reap

Inspired?

Who we hired: Smile Cambodia Tour designed and escorted our trip. Sothea (a.k.a. Sunny), who owns the company, took a break from guiding and became our driver. His friend Phing Bunna guided us through the area. Both are from Siem Reap and have been tour guides since 1996. And yes, we would hire them again. (We paid for the entire trip ourselves. Nothing was complimentary.)

Where we stayed: Palm Village Resort and Spa. To support our site, please check prices here.

Visit the Angkor Archaeological Park:

  • Angkor Park ticket prices: 1-day: $37, 3-day: $62 (valid for 1 week, any 3 days), 7-day: $72 (valid for 1 month).

Viator offers tours in Siem Reap that are similar to what we took.

See more: Our Cambodia photo gallery has more photos from our trip.

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6 comments

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  1. Jason Santiago

    Cambodia seems so beautiful! Do you have an idea what the budget should be going here? 🙂

    1. Linda

      Hi Jason, if you’re referring to private local guides with driver, I would budget about $100/day and try to negotiate a multiple-day discounts. You never know!

    2. Dan

      Hi Jason,

      We spent about $800 for private tour guide and transportation. Food and entrance tickets was about another $400. Hotel was about $450. We stayed for 8 days and had a few upper-end meals and entertainment. Hope this helps.

      1. Jason Santiago

        Hi Linda & Dan,

        Awesome! Thanks for that. 🙂 Definitely a big help. Cheers!

  2. Ann

    Hi Linda! I was reading your blog about your visit to Clifden and your ancestral home of Kingstown. I take it you’re talking of Kingstown Glebe (AKA Ballymaconry)? So was your Nora Canavan’s related to Michael Canavan who lived in Knockavally in Griffiths valuation (1855)? Also, one of your photo’s was of your relative, a Berry. Is her family from the area? I’m just trying to connect some dots. My Berry’s left Kingstown Glebe in 1850 – I believe they were likely related to the 2 Berry’s in Kingstown in 1855. And I think they in turn may have been connected to the Canavan’s. Feel free to PM me if you can.

    1. Dan

      Hello Ann,

      First, thanks for you comments. Second, this is Dan and I’m the blood relation to the family. Nora was my great grandmother and yes was related to Michael as you indicate. Also, yes my relative is a Berry and lives in the same area. We met her in Galway and then she took us to the family lands and relatives. Yes the Berry (Mary Berry) was a Canavan.

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