Step back in time to the grandeur of the prosperous Khmer kingdoms of yore. Take an in-depth tour of the temples of Angkor, marvelling at the grandeur of historic thousand-year old temples. Encounter towering monuments of Hindu and Buddhist origins and explore a traditional culture unlike any other.
Visit Angkor Wat in the early evening, when the crowds have dispersed and the evening light enhances its intricate carvings.
Take a traditional ox cart ride through the Rolous Group, a set of impressive monuments built before Angkor Wat.
Taste the exquisite flavours of Cambodian cuisine and explore colourful local villages to get in touch with Khmer culture.
Angkor Discovery - 4 Days / 3 Nights
Upon your arrival in Siem Reap, you will be welcomed by a local English speaking guide and transferred to your hotel for check in. Siem Reap is the base for exploring the fabled temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer empire.
After a short, relaxing break, begin your exploration of the Angkor Archaeological Park with the earliest capital city, originally known as Hariharalaya. Located about 15km outside of Siem Reap, the temples of the Roluos Group, as they are now called, is the site of the first city built by the Angkorian kings in the 8th and 9th centuries. Here you will visit two of the three main temples: Preah Ko and Bakong. The beautiful surrounding countryside with its paddy fields and sugar palm trees is very typical for Cambodia. Enjoy the beauty on an ox cart ride to Roluos Buddhist pagoda, a great and fun way to get in touch with rural Cambodia and its friendly people. Here, in a small contemporary temple, Buddhist monks will celebrate a private blessing ceremony for you, wishing your health and a safe journey – a very special experience!
Return to Siem Reap town for dinner and a good night’s rest before your exploration begins in earnest the following morning.
Optional: Bambu Stage - If you aren’t too tired from jet lag, you may wish to catch an evening performance at the Bambu Stage. Offering different shows on different nights of the week, Bambu Stage is a great introduction to Cambodian culture and history. In addition to a shadow puppet performance and a photographic history of Cambodia, Bambu Stage stages Angkor Decoded, a show that features the use of a large model to build Angkorian temples right in front of your eyes–as well as with your participation! Complemented by captivating storytelling, live drawing, projections, and music, Angkor Decoded provides a rich story that’s fun, interactive and engaging. (Note: private shows are available on request on evening’s the show isn’t performed for the public.)
Overnight in Siem Reap.
After an early breakfast, travel by ramork (a Cambodian tuk tuk) to the great city of Angkor Thom, passing through the South Gate of the great city of King Jayavarman VII, an impressive stone gate carved with elephants and capped by four giant faces of the Buddha. On each side of the entrance path crossing the moat around the city, a row of 54 gods and demons stands holding a sacred naga snake of Hindu lore.
Continue into the center of Angkor Thom for an exploration of the many structures within the 145.8 hectare (360 acre) grounds of the “Big City”, the literal translation of the modern name of Yasodharapura, which served as the capital of the Khmer empire for more than 500 years. Begin a walking tour of the city at the Terrace of the Leper King, whose carvings of underworld demons was mysteriously buried behind a second set of carvings that face out towards the grand Royal Plaza. Then, follow a parade of nearly life-size elephant carvings that adorn the aptly named Elephant Terrace to the entrance of Baphuon temple.
The largest temple ever built at Angkor, the Baphuon was built more than a century before Angkor Thom and at some point thereafter collapsed under its own weight. During the French Colonial era the temple was dismantled stone by stone and 300,000 pieces were numbered in order to reconstruct it at a later date, but the Civil War disrupted the effort and the plans were destroyed. In the 2000s an ambitious effort was made to reconstruct “the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle” and the temple was finally rebuilt and reopened to the public in 2011.
From the rear of the Baphuon, walk north into the Royal Palace Enclosure to visit the 10th century Phimeanakas where, legend has it, the King of Angkor would ascend the temple each night to make love to a naga queen in the form of a woman, lest the kingdom befall some mystical calamity. Continue north through peaceful forest to Prasat Preah Palilay and Tep Pranam, the latter home to an active Buddhist monastery.
Take a break for lunch at one of the local restaurants located here. Then walk east to the Preah Pithu Group, the last sandstone structures built by Angkorian kings, and then south to Wat Prompil Loveng. Here you will find a Buddha image in the likeness of King Jayavarman VII. The statue was discovered in a pit deep beneath the central sanctuary of Bayon in the 1930s and was likely the temple’s most sacred feature, the ancient Khmers believing that such images housed the spirits of the kings following their deaths. Pay your respects to the king who built this grand city before venturing to Bayon, the centerpiece of Angkor Thom.
Bayon temple rivals Angkor Wat in inspiring awe. Take time to browse it’s galleries depicting everyday life at Angkor and the wars waged by King Jayavarman VII. Then continue up to the upper platform where you are surrounded by more than 50 serene faces of the Buddha. While this area is one of the most crowded with visitors, find respite in the temple’s central sanctuary, where shade and serenity await you.
Return to Siem Reap in the late afternoon to enjoy your hotel pool or perhaps a nearby spa and refresh yourself prior to dinner.
Tonight, enjoy a food-hopping tour that gives back to the local community: Dining for a Cause, a gastronomical exploration of Siem Reap that focuses on restaurants with a social mission to benefit the people and communities of Siem Reap. Over the course of the evening, visit four different establishments to learn about each of their programs and sample some of their best local cuisine.
At the first stop, order any drink from the menu (they make some excellent cocktails and mocktails using local ingredients) and any one appetizer (try different ones and share with each other) while learning all about the organisation’s efforts and accomplishments.
Enjoy a family-style dinner of various Khmer classic dishes at a restaurant that follows a different business model, directing their profits both to employees and to various organisations. Learn about its efforts while dining. Along with food, order a soft drink, beer, or glass of house wine.
After dinner, go to a tropical garden restaurant run by an organization that operates a hospitality training school where all the restaurant workers learned (or are currently learning) their trade. Learn about how the program runs and its achievements while enjoying a creative cocktail, a glass of wine, beer, or coffee.
The final stop of the evening is an education social enterprise set up by a not-for-profit NGO with the mission of Breaking the Poverty Cycle Through Education and operated by the students who are served by the program. Serve yourself 200g of fro-yo with toppings and then head upstairs to talk with some students about how the program has changed their lives. (Note, because one restaurant is closed on Sunday, this program is not available on that day)
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Breakfast at hotel.
After breakfast, head out to the Angkor Archaeological Park, exploring the temples by ramork. First visit Preah Khan, originally known as “the city of victorious royal fortune,” and now named after The Sacred Sword that some believe was once housed here. Built in the late-12th century in honor of the great King Jayavarman VII’s father, this massive temple complex originally had a population of 97,840 in its service. Less frequently visited than its counterpart Ta Prohm (which was built for the king’s mother), Preah Khan is similar in design but is larger and more complex, featuring numerous unique structures and carvings. Enter from the east with the early morning light to your back and enjoy the sounds of exotic wildlife that now make the forested compound their home. Venture into the crumbling corridors of the labyrinthian complex in search of hidden features: while Ta Prohm was once the setting of the Angelina Jolie film, Preah Khan offers more of a “Tomb Raider” experience for those willing to explore.
The rest of the afternoon can be spent exploring additional temples around the park, such as Ta Prohm, Banteay Samre, and Pre Rup, or if you are up for more adventure, you can opt for one of the following optional activities: (Note: If you have an early morning departure tomorrow, you should visit Angkor Wat this afternoon.)
Optional: Angkor Zipline
Angkor Zipline is a zipline eco-adventure tour at the Angkor Archeological Park. Offering 10 zip lines of different heights, suspended sky bridges and abseiling from a tree, this is an excursion for those with a sense of adventure who want to soar over the jungle canopy like a gibbon! Transfer to the zipline site before receiving a safety briefing and being outfitted. After the adventure begins, start with the easiest ziplines before proceeding to the highest and most exhilarating. The highest zipline is 50 meters above the canopy and the longest is 350 meters. From the last zipline, the final adventure is to abseil down, followed by a soft trek through the forest that takes you back to the starting point. (Note – max 9 people in a single group, latest start time is 12pm, excursion lasts 3-4 hrs, maximum weight 125kg, not suitable for children under 5 yrs old or 1m height, no sandals permitted).
Optional: Quad Bike Adventure
An unforgettable experience as you will ride a quad bike especially designed for off-road terrain through the beautiful countryside of Siem Reap Province. The 12 km guided tour will take you to local villages, where you can learn about the way of life in rural Cambodia and have the chance to meet and chat with the wonderful and friendly people. The highlight of the two hour tour is the sunset in the rice fields.
Note: Children aged between 2 and 12 years at the time of travel will receive a 10% discount off the Adult Price. Two adults with maximum weight of 130 Kgs can ride on the same quad bike. In this case, the driver must have experience riding a quad bike. Children are welcome to sit with their parents as passengers. From 14 to 16 years old, children can ride their own quad only with an instructor riding pillion. 17 year-old children are allowed to ride alone only if they are adult size and have a similar or bigger quad bike at home.
Return to Siem Reap to freshen up as this evening you will attend a performance of ‘Phare, the Cambodian Circus’. Starting at 7pm, professional artists of Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) will perform an inspiring show suitable for people of all ages. Set up in Battambang in 1994 by young returnee Cambodians from the refugee camps who learned to use art as a means of coping with trauma, PPS has played an influential role in promoting and developing Khmer culture over the years after the Khmer Rouge genocide. The hour-long show mixes traditional and modern theater, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion performed in stories about Cambodian lives and society.
Dinner on your own account.
Overnight in Siem Reap
Rise early this morning to end your adventure with the most lasting memory: sunrise at Angkor Wat. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat was constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing the Mount Meru, home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Moreover, Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people.
Enjoy sun rising over the grand temple, then explore its galleries and chambers at your leisure—you have the whole morning to explore. (Note: inform your hotel about your early Angkor trip and they may be able to provide you with some take-away pastries.)
Return to hotel to check out and then transfer to the airport for your departure flight.
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