Discover Cambodia’s mystical temples at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Angkor Archaeological Park. The three-day-two-night adventure brings you to awe-inspiring temples of the Khmer Kingdom, from the famous Angkor Wat to the city of Angkor Thom – including the Bayon, Ta Prohm and Pre Rup – plus Banteay Srei. Enjoy a jungle hike to the River of a Thousand Lingas and a boat trip around Tonle Sap, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Day 1: Siem Reap – Angkor (L)
The tour guide will pick you up at Siem Reap and take you to your hotel. Then, Coach and tour guide transfer your group to the Angkor Archaeological Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains the incredible Angkor temples of the Khmer Empire, ranging from the 9th to the 15th century. When you arrive at the Angkor temple complex, located just 3.4 miles (5.5 km) north of Siem Reap, begin your temple tour with a visit to Angkor Wat, the most famous and well-preserved of all the temples of Angkor.
Built in the early 12th century in the former Khmer capital, Angkor Wat first honored the Hindu god Vishnu before becoming a Buddhist temple, and remains the world’s largest religious monument. As you tour the spectacular site with your guide, learn about the100 stone temples that have survived at Angkor, once surrounded by wood palaces, public buildings and houses that have since disappeared.
Continue to the old capital city of Angkor Thom to see the Bayon Temple with its 54 towers decorated with more than 200 smiling stone faces. Take a look at Phimeanakas, Baphoun, the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King before stopping for pictures at the magnificent South Gate. Here, gods and demons line the causeway that leads up to the gate, which is crowned with four large faces pointing in the cardinal directions.
Enjoy your lunch at a local restaurant, situated in a forest village surrounded by rice paddies.
In the afternoon, return to Angkor Thom and visit the beautiful Ta Prohm Temple – made famous by the film Tomb Raider – and imagine yourself an early explorer as you come upon the temple ruins being reclaimed by the jungle. Complete your tour with a climb up the brick steps of the terminal pyramid of Pre Rup (if time allows), one of the oldest buildings in the Angkor complex.
Free at leisure and overnight at Siem Reap
Day 2: Siem Reap – Banteay Srei (B, L)
After breakfast, take the trip through the countryside past Siem Reap to the small village of Kbal Spean. En route, stop for local snacks like sugar palm candy and see rural Cambodian life unfold as you watch villagers plant or harvest rice or engage in other seasonal activities.
When you reach the base of the nearby mountains,you begin trekking to Jungle to the River of a Thousand Lingas (around 40-minute trek). Here, encounter Hindu sculptures carved into the river’s granite banks more than a thousand years ago. The short uphill path to the carvings can be a bit slippery when wet, but the more challenging sections have bamboo handrails and wooden steps – it’s well worth the climb for the view of the valley below. (please make sure you have suitable footwear and carry water if you intend to do the walk.)
On your return to the base of Kbal Spean, visit the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (closed Sundays and public holidays) – home to a variety of animals that have been saved from illegal trafficking, including gibbons, monkeys, anteaters, snakes, turtles and the bright-eyed loris.
After a tour of the wildlife center, enjoy another scrumptious Khmer lunch and head back to the Angkor temple complex to explore Banteay Srei, a small sandstone Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. Considered the jewel in the crown of Angkor art, this temple boasts some of the finest and best-preserved stone carvings of the World Heritage Site. Built in the 10th century, Banteay Srei consists of three rectangular enclosures whose designs are magnificently ornate.
If time and weather allow, explore the gorgeous Banteay Kdei temple, a sprawling former monastic complex that remains largely unrestored. Constructed by the same architect as the Pre Rup temple, it has a multi-tiered platform adorned with naga (dragon) balustrades and lion guardians. Enjoy sunset at the picturesque reservoir Sras Srang, where during the dry season the remains of a temple in its center can be seen!
Your evening is free for you to relax amid the laidback atmosphere of Siem Reap. Overnight at Siem Reap
Day 3: Siem Reap – Tonle Sap (B)
Enjoy breakfast with your small group and then hop in a remork (the Cambodian tuk tuk) with your guide, touring a bit of Siem Reap before leaving it behind for the countryside. Journey to Tonle Sap, one of the world’s most productive bodies of fresh water, which feeds into the Mekong during Cambodia’s dry season and forms a large lake during its monsoons.
Classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the ecosystem supports millions of fish that come to spawn each year in the seasonally flooded forest, and attracts a variety of water fowl. Take a boat trip around the lake to find floating villages where Cambodian people have settled along the shores, and get a sense of the water-based agricultural life shaped by monsoonal rains and the water’s rhythms.
Afterward, jump back in the remork and take the back roads on your return, watching more seasonal agricultural activities along the way, such as cricket catching, smoking fish, fish paste-making and duck farming. Finally, stop in a local village to pick up Khmer snacks, and pay a short visit to a modern Cambodian Buddhist monastery, before arriving in Siem Reap where your three-day tour ends around noon.
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