Say you’re traveling to Siem Reap and everyone knows you’re after that Tomb Raider experience at Angkor Wat! We get you, it’s a must-do when in Southeast Asia and one of our favorite places on Earth too. But if you’re here for a 3-day stay, we urge you not to focus only on that and follow this itinerary instead.
Why? Well, Angkor Wat is indeed one of the most magical places you’ll visit in your lifetime, but after a full day of temple-hopping, you’re bound to get a little… bored. With over a thousand temples, it does get a bit repetitive after a while.
Day 1 – Siem Reap City Tour
Despite being one of the largest cities in the country, you won’t find any tall buildings or busy roads in Siem Reap. Instead, you can expect eccentric colonial architecture, a thriving food scene, and some vibrant nightlife!
☀️ Morning: hop on a tuk-tuk to the Angkor National Museum. If you’re planning on visiting Angkor Wat without a guide, then this is the best way to grasp a bit more about its history. Make sure to separate at least 2 hours to see it all.
Cost: the entrance fee to the Angkor National Museum is $12 per adult plus a $5 fee for the audio guide which is highly recommended.
😎 Afternoon: prep for a little pre-sunset stroll through the city center! Siem Reap is very compact and easy to explore on foot, but if the heat is too much you can always hop on a local tuk-tuk or rent a bike to get around. We recommend starting this little tour at around 3 PM.
Start at Wat Bo, one of the oldest pagodas in Siem Reap, then walk along the river to Wat Damnak, a Buddhist monastery that served as a royal residence until 1927. Both temples are free to visit.
Make your way back to the riverside and cross it to the Wat Preah Prom Rath, a functioning Buddhist monastery with a history dating back to the turn of the 16th century. This building gets beautifully illuminated during sunset, and so does the river!
🌙 Evening: as the sun goes down, the stalls are set for the night. Make sure to visit the Old Market, or Phsar Chas, which is both a local wet market and a souvenir market. All of the food stalls by the river are great for trying some traditional food – make sure to try some Lok Lak and Fish Amok!
After eating, make your way to the famous Pub Street, where the exciting nightlife takes place. This neon-lit avenue is filled with bars and restaurants with $1 beers and exotic bites such as ostrich and crocodile skewers.
Day 2 – Angkor Wat Archeological Park
Once the seat of the Khmer Empire, which ruled most of mainland Southeast Asia from the 9th to the 15th century, Angkor had its peak during the 12th century before a long period of decline when the jungle swallowed most of it.
The itinerary for this day will depend on which of the following options you choose for visiting the park, but regardless, this will definitely be the most exciting day of your trip!
🚗 Guided tours: the easiest way to visit Angkor is to hop on a guided tour. The cost ranges from $20 to $115 a day per person and usually includes pickup and drop off, an AC vehicle, and an English-speaking tour guide.
🛺 Tuktuk: this is a good option if you already know where you want to go! All tuk-tuks in the city offer this private tour and it should cost you no more than $15 for a Half-Day and $20 for a Full-Day tour. The drivers are usually very knowledgeable although their English is a bit harder to understand – don’t be afraid to ask them questions, they love telling you all about Angkor!
🚲 Bike or E-Bike: we think this is the most original and memorable way to visit the temples. You can rent a bicycle in Siem Reap directly through your hotel and it should cost around $5-6 per day. If you choose this one, make sure to check out our Angkor Wat by Bicycle – Perfect One-Day Itinerary post!
There are two main circuits that can be done in one day: the Grand Circuit and the Small Circuit. You can definitely do the grand circuit on one day if you are visiting the park by car or tuk-tuk but we wouldn’t recommend doing it by bike. The small circuit is the perfect combination of biking and spending enough time on each temple.
Day 3 – Quick Day Trip from Siem Reap
This is a pretty relaxed day since chances are you’ll be exhausted after exploring so many temples. If you’re somehow not exhausted, don’t worry, we got you covered too with a second option!
Option 1. Kampong Phluk Floating Village
Kampong Phluk is a floating fishing village of stilted houses built within the floodplain of Tonle Sap Lake – the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. It’s located about 16 km southeast of Siem Reap and it offers a close look at the mangrove forest and lakeside village life.
☀️ Morning: you can have your morning off, enjoy that hotel breakfast we all love, and recover by the pool. By the afternoon, we’ll hop on a new adventure!
😎 Afternoon: at around 2 PM, get ready to be picked up for this unique cultural experience! The van will then take you for a quick tour of the local markets of Roluos where you can get yourself a delicious traditional banana fritter for one dollar!
Once you get to the boat, you’ll wander through the water until you enter Kampong Phluk – a collection of three fishing villages, home to around 3,500 residents who live in very peculiar high stilt-houses.
Some other highlights of this tour are the stunning Hindu and Buddhist stilted Pagoda which is covered in colorful murals that illustrate how the two religions coexist in Cambodia, a floating restaurant experience where you can also take a boat tour of the stunning flooded forest, and the sunset by the lake.
You can read more about this amazing experience on our Kampong Phluk Floating Village: Cultural Experience in Cambodia post!
Book this tour: Kampong Phluk Floating Village Tour with Sunset >
🌙 Evening: pack your bags and don’t forget to check underneath your bed – the sock’s black hole.
Hot tip: If you’re up for a bit more time in Cambodia, we highly recommend visiting Koh Rong. Known as the Maldives of Cambodia, there’s plenty to do here and we urge you to enjoy it while it is still a bit under the radar. It’s truly a paradise island!
Option 2. Kulen Mountain
Located about 1.5-2 hours away from Siem Reap, Kulen Mountain is a sacred site with multiple temples such as the Preah Ang Thom Pagoda with its giant reclining Buddha and the revered River of a Thousand Lingas with its carved riverbed displaying Hindu Gods (believed to date back to 800AD).
☀️ Morning: be ready by 8:30 AM to be picked up for this experience! A private transfer will take you from your hotel to Phnom Kulen National Park, considered the birthplace of the ancient Khmer Empire. Here you’ll visit the River of 1000 Lingas, a Buddhist Pagoda, and some spectacular waterfalls you can swim in, some of which have been featured in the Tomb Raider movie.
Important: The entrance fee to Kulen Mountain is $20 per person and it’s usually not included in the tour price. Since it’s a sacred place, you should note that even whilst swimming, you should dress conservatively – shorts and T-shirts are ok.
😎 Afternoon: at around 2 PM, you can opt between a drop-off back to your hotel or a visit to the Banteay Srei temple, built of majestic red sandstone and known as the Women’s Citadel.
A valid Angkor Day Pass is required for entry to Banteay Srei, so if you opt to visit it, you should get yourself a 3-Day pass on the first day instead of a 1-Day pass (more info on how to buy an Angkor Pass here).
Book this tour: Kulen Mountain: Full-Day Private Waterfall Tour >
🌙 Evening: get some well-deserved rest and say goodbye to Siem Reap!
Siem Reap Travel Tips
Best Time to Visit
Since you’re here mainly to visit Angkor Wat, you should know that although the complex can be visited all year round, December to February is usually considered the best time to visit, with the sunniest and driest days of the year. April to May is not recommended as it’s too hot and humid.
June to November is less crowded and cheaper but it’s when you’ll see the most rain. Everything looks green and beautiful during this time, so don’t rule it out completely! It is also during this time that the Tonle Sap River rises over 10 meters and reaches the stilted houses, making this tour even more exciting.
Where to Stay in Siem Reap
Siem Reap offers both budget and luxury accommodations and here are some of our top recommendations:
See more from Cambodia here!