Touring a foreign country can be both thrilling and scary at the same time.
Since you’ll be venturing somewhere that’s entirely new, you might not be able to predict what to expect for your visit.
Right from the planning stage, you’ll quickly realize that there are numerous important things for you to figure out even before booking your flight tickets.
What is this country best known for? What famous attraction sites should I not miss? What are some of the local customs should I be conversant with?
These are just but some of the many questions that will need to be addressed before you travel. To avoid drowning in this great sea of unknowns, it’s extremely important that you do a thorough research of the destination country beforehand.
What’s Cambodia Famous for? Geographically, Cambodia is an Indochinese territory that’s found in Southeast Asia. With a population estimate of about 16 million, your visit is bound to be filled with a myriad of memorable views of gloriously ancient temple buildings and structures, rich cultural heritage, and a remarkable array of eco-tourism sites.
In this article, I have outlined some 23 key things that the country is most famous for, interesting facts about it, and some very stunning attractions that you wouldn’t want to miss during your visit.
The Famous Temples Of Angkor
Today, if you visit Cambodia and you don’t tour the temples of Angkor, your visit can be regarded as unsatisfactory. The 400 square kilometers awe-inspiring Angkor temples date back to the 9th century and still contains relics of the Khmer Empire.
It’s Cambodia’s national symbol as well as the world’s biggest religious structure.
This ancient yet vast Angkor multiplex houses several temples with Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Bayon temples being the most iconic. When planning your visit, it would be important to note that the entire complex will require at least three hours for you to completely tour it.
One spectacle that you might not want to miss is watching the sun as it rises from behind this UNESCO world heritage site. It’s simply magical.
TIP: To get the best view, you should try to capture this moment from the iconic Angkor Wat temple. However, you should know that this famous spot is usually crowded at this hour.
Numerous early birds flock here just to catch a glimpse of this special moment.
That said, you should also know that peak seasons at the world’s famous Angkor temples is between November and February. Unlike the early mornings, lunchtimes are usually not so crowded.
The Odd National Flag Of Cambodia
Just like most other national flags, the Cambodian national flag represents the people of Cambodia and their government. It symbolizes their political, cultural, and spiritual heritage.
However, it’s the only flag in the world that features a building. The flag generally has three strips (2 blue bands sandwiching a red middle band) and a picture of a building at the center of the flag.
The building in the flag is the famous world’s largest religious building. The Angkor Wat. To the people of Cambodia, this represents the structure of the universe.
Cambodia’s National Museum
While planning your trip to Cambodia, this should actually be the first place to visit. Like any other museum, the National Museum of Cambodia archives the country’s long and rich history.
This Museum is widely known for preserving one of the world’s greatest collection of Khmer artifacts, sculptures, and other cultural material.
For easy access, the museum is located in the country’s capital called Phnom Penh.
The Rich Cambodian Culture
The Cambodian traditions and cultural practices date back several centuries ago. Being an Indochinese state, this unique culture is a literal concoction of Buddhist and Hindu traditions.
A quick highlight for your visit is the Apsara dancing. Originally known as the Robam Apsara is a classical dance that’s over 1000 years old and was used to be performed for the royal dignitaries in the palace back then.
In case you fail to see this captivating dance, you can then make a point of watching a display of Cambodia’s rich arts and culture through the popular live show called Cambodian Living Arts.
Usually, the Cambodian Living Arts takes place at the national museum located in Phnom Penh.
This theatrical performance is a general fusion of Cambodian traditional dances, songs, and music that normally lasts for one hour.
The Unique Khmer Cuisine And A Weird Taste For Bugs
The Cambodian cuisine, also known as the Khmer Cuisine, isn’t globally celebrated like the Thai or Chinese food.
Even though almost every meal here is eaten with rice, the seasonal herbs, local fishes, and tropical fruits and vegetables make the Khmer Cuisine unique to visitors.
Additionally, most Cambodians have a weird taste for insects and bugs.
You’ll be amazed by the inclusion of a variety of fried bugs and worms in the local restaurants and market places.
Interestingly enough, the country has never had a McDonald’s franchise.
The Massive Central Market In Phnom Penh
As a tourist, it’s always a good idea to find and buy a good souvenir while touring new places. Well, Cambodia has one of those famous markets where you can cheaply buy items ranging from sunglasses to art.
It’s the massive central market found in the country’s capital. Given its vastness, it’s important that you bring with you a pair of your most comfortable walking shoes.
An important highlight for your visit is that the market has some of the artistically decorated buildings that were actually made in 1935.
Koh Kong Conservation Corridor
For those who love nature, there’s no better place to start exploring other than the Koh Kong conservation corridor. The place is aesthetically beautiful and covers a very large area.
The corridor’s perimeter starts at Koh Kong and stretches all the way to the Gulf of Kompong Som. The region encompasses an impressive set of ecological wonders that offers absolute serenity.
These include the largest virgin rainforest in Southeast Asia, the incredibly high Cardamom Mountain, and a plethora of both rare and endangered wildlife species.
The Elephant Valley Project At Mondulkiri Province
The Elephant Valley Project is a Sanctuary that has slowly grown its popularity among visitors thanks to their noble respite care services for elephants. All this happens in their natural habitat.
The sanctuary is located in the jungle found in Mondulkiri.
Visiting this site will get you the privilege of getting up-close with these majestic creatures and learn more on how you improve on your elephant tourism habits. Watching the elephants wallow in mud, play in the river, and walk through the jungle is simply a special experience.
The Royal Palace In The Capital
The Royal Palace is found in Phnom Penh that was built in the Khmer architectural style with a golden glittering roof back in 1866. The palace was built exclusively as the official residence of the royal family.
Currently, King Norodom Sihamoni occupies it as his official royal residence. For this reason, some parts of this picturesque palace are out of bounds to the public.
NOTE: You can still visit some of the other areas that are open for the public such as the Throne Hall and the neighboring buildings such as the Silver Pagoda.
Virachey National Park
Located in one of the remotest and isolated jungles in Cambodia, Virachey National Park is listed as one of conservation’s top priority areas in Southeast Asia.
This vast and highly unexplored national park covers a 3325 kilometer squared offers a huge assortment of sightseeing opportunities. These include rare wildlife species and pristine habitats.
As one of only two Cambodian national parks listed as ASEAN Heritage Parks, Virachey National Park, is one of the best ecotourism programs with English speaking tour guides in Cambodia.
The Attractive Battambang
For a change of view, modern-day tourists have gradually grown to admire modern-looking and trendy towns such as the ones found in Battambang. Battambang is found in northwestern Cambodia.
Crucial highlights in this province include the remarkable French colonial architectural style and a number of floating villages.
Some important sites in this province are the Killing caves and the quaint temple of Phnom Sampeau.
The Famous Sacred Mountain Of Phnom Kulen
Phnom Kulen, also known as Kulen Mountain, is approximately 60 kilometers away from Siem Reap town and is considered as the most sacred site among the Khmers.
History has it that in 802 AD, Jayavarman II declared himself as the god-king on top of it. Apart from being the most sacred sites, the Kulen Mountain is also a national park.
Important highlights for your visit include fantastic picnic areas, two beautiful waterfalls suitable for swimming, the archeological Kbal Spean, and exquisite hilltop temple.
As mentioned before, Ta Prohm is one of the most iconic temples found in the world’s wonder, Angkor complex.
Unlike the other temples of Angkor, Ta Prohm has never been upgraded since its construction back in 1186 AD. Over the years, Ta Prohm has been left under the mercy of nature.
Today, trees have evidently overgrown some of the 39 towers of Ta Prohm and jungle vines crawling throughout the place. This kind of raw beauty is outstanding and warrants Ta Prohm’s special interest.
The Ancient Prasat Preah Vihear Temple
Most ancient temples and sacred sites in Cambodia are normally crowded with thousands of visitors from all over the world. This isn’t the case at Prasat Preah Vihear.
The Prasat Preah Vihear is also a World Heritage temple that was built between the 9th and 12th centuries by different rulers.
This explains the long series of elegant building structures.
Located at the border between Cambodia and Thailand, this magnificent sacred site has been the center for ownership related conflicts for years. The Thai’s call it Khao Phra Wiharn.
NOTE: It’s only until 2015 when the temple was considered safe but remains guarded by the military.
After spending a long day touring every temple of the famous Angkor complex, many visitors often head towards Siem Reap. A simple resort town located in northwestern Cambodia.
Here you’ll find anything ranging from an affordable motel to a nightclub or an Apsara performance center.
Since it offers a gateway to the Angkor temples, Siem Reap is quite popular among the huge crowds found at the complex.
TIP: It’s always a good idea to make reservations early enough for the days that you’ll be visiting the region.
The Critically Endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins
As you might have noticed, Cambodia generally harbors an unbeatable record of the world’s rarest animal species.
Adding to this list is the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins found at the Mekong River, which stretches for about 200 meters.
With their bulgy heads and short beaks, these dolphins can easily be recognized from afar. Currently, their overall population is estimated to be about 91 individuals with Cambodia having the latest last born of the species that was born in the wild
The Largest Butterfly Zoo In Southeast Asia
Also known as the Angkor Butterfly Center, Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre is a butterfly zoo in Siem Reap province.
With more than 30 butterfly species, the center is now recognized as one of the largest fully enclosed centers for butterflies in Southeast Asia.
Since its establishment back in 2009, the center is now deemed as an important tourist attraction. As an educational center too, visitors get to learn firsthand and even witness the life cycle of an insect from egg all the way to a fully-grown butterfly.
The Renowned Tonle Sap
Tonle Sap is renowned globally as the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. The lake covers an approximate length of 120 kilometers and is connected to the popular Mekong River.
The lake is locally translated into the great lake and it breathes life to the numerous towns/cities along its shores. These include Phnom Penh, Kompong Khleang, Siem Reap, and Battambang among others.
The lake also provides a home to a variety of both animal and plant life.
TIP: For an exclusive experience, you can pay for a boat ride and explore floating villages on the lake.
Hike Through Kep National Park
The Kep National Park was founded in 1993 and its famous tracks and trails are most popular among visitors. After stuffing yourself with the delicious fried bugs and crabs, it’s time you literally hit the road.
Well, the 8-kilometer long path at Kep National Park will help you stay in shape. At least you won’t need a map because the park’s signage is clearly marked out.
The good thing is that the trail cuts through a tropical forest and offers sightseeing opportunities such as a pagoda and a vantage point from which you can have an exquisite panoramic view of the whole Kep province.
The Popular Lake Yeak Laom
Found at the center of a protected area, Lake Yeak Laom is a beautiful crater lake that is found in the midst of lush green vegetation.
This emerald-hued lake is located in Ratanakiri province, which is in northeastern Cambodia.
Locals consider this site sacred. The lake’s water is clear and suitable for swimming and the level of serenity found here is second to none. No wonder it’s one of the most popular destination sites for tourists.
The Picturesque Bokor Hill Station
In the early 1920s, the French colonials built a series of buildings on top of the Bokor Mountain. This was commonly referred to as the Bokor Hill Station.
These luxurious mountain resorts had a purpose. The officials used them as a retreat from the busy and noisy “urban” setup.
Over the years, these have been an important highlight for many visitors.
However, they were recently reopened under a new name, Le Bokor Palace. This means that unless you have an official invitation, you can tour the crumbling resort.
Still, there are a lot of other sites such as the crumbling church, waterfalls, among other attractive sceneries that you can take a quick selfie for your Instagram while on top of Bokor.
The Insanely Affordable Prices
Unlike numerous well-known tourist destination areas in the world today, Cambodia is generally a pocket-friendly destination for your vacation.
While the cost of things is a great factor in considering and planning for a visit, you’ll get a lot in return for your hard-earned bucks. For instance, if you’re running on a small budget, you can get great accommodation with three meals per day for less than $30.
If you include the great experience and breathtaking views throughout the country, Cambodia simply becomes irresistible. This is one reason why it’s increasingly becoming a popular destination for several travelers.
Cambodia’s Bamboo Island And Kirirom’s Pine Forest
Situated about 30 minutes off Sihanoukville’s coast is Cambodia’s famous Bamboo Island. This is one of the great sites in Cambodia that’s popular but with very few visitors.
The reason being, not many people would want to completely fall off the grid. On this Island, power is restricted and there is literally no reception or internet access.
On the flip side, there’s Kirirom National Park that has a vast temperate pine forest.
NOTE: For an eco-friendly visit, this park offers one of the finest spots where you can also be acquainted with the local life.
These two sites provide a great highlight for you to escape the incredibly hot temperatures in Cambodia.