Of course, Siam Reap is world-famous for its incredible Khmer ruins, but beyond playing Lara Croft, what else can you get up to in this quaint Cambodia town? Well, quite a lot! We’re going to list out our top four choices below. No matter if you’re staying a fancy five-star hotel or a backpackers’ hostel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, you’ll want to check out our list of the best things to see and do during your visit. From taking a pottery class to exploring the local market, taking a trek into the hills and rambling over ruins, there is an abundance of unique and memorable things to do in this quaint historical enclave.
Explore Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is the heart and soul of Cambodia and a focal point of fervent national pride. Unlike the other temples in Siem Reap, it was never abandoned to the elements and has been in virtually continuous use since it was built by Suryavarman II (circa 1112–52). Angkor is the largest religious monument in the world, on a site measuring 162.6 hectares (400 acres). Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it’s built with sandstone blocks quarried from the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen, more than 50km away, using the labor of 300,000 workers and 6,000 elephants. The temple grounds are massive and sprawling, so plan on at least half a day to do it justice. The premises are open from 5:00 am and either sunrise, great view but crowded, or lunchtime, less crowded but hot, is the best time to visit.
Visit the Old Market
A visit to ‘Psar Chas,’ aka The Old Market, should be very high on your list of Things To Do in Siem Reap. A visit to this mainstay open-air market dating back to the 1920s will afford you a glimpse into local life. Open between 7:00 am to 8:00 pm daily, the market is divided into small sections selling a diverse variety of goods. Everything from fresh produce, like meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables, to clothing, handicrafts, spices, and souvenirs, can be found by wandering the aisles. Our recommendation is to come hungry, as the food section is an ideal place to sample local Cambodian delicacies, such as soups, noodles, rice dishes, baguettes, sausages, cakes, insects, and more.
If finding a hidden gem will pique your interest, then ask a local tuk-tuk driver to take you out of town and far away to the Kulen Nature Trails. This lush rainforest is home to a plethora of secret monasteries, temples, and waterfalls. If a much-needed escape from the heat and hustle and bustle of downtown sounds refreshing, you’ll love strolling under the forest canopy alongside a bubbling stream. Either buy provisions when you arrive or take them along with you and enjoy a sumptuous picnic beside the rushing waterfall inside one of the pagodas that sit atop the mountain.
Note: During the rainy season (May-Oct), your ascent will be muddy. Also, try to go early to avoid the tourist groups that descend later in the day.
Take a Pottery Class
Why not take a step back in time and learn time-honored ancient Cambodian pottery-making techniques from a master potter. Spending a day at the Angkor Pottery Center is a fantastic way to learn about how pots, vases, bowls, and cups are made. But this is not just a spectator’s event; you can get your hands dirty and try making a creation too, either on the pottery wheel or freehand. Creating your masterpiece will produce one of the most beautiful holiday souvenirs you’ve ever had. Whether you come as a group, couple or solo traveler, the center will enthusiastically welcome you to join a 30-minute class between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm daily.