Here then are those temples which for so long seemed like visions... Here are the foundations, the plinths, the galleries, the extraordinary domes resembling multi-ringed tiaras.
-Claude Farrere, L'illustration, 1931
The temples of Angkor are the most striking and sprawling collection of ruins in the world and adequate time should be spent exploring them. For special activities in the temple complex or adventures futher afield, glance at some of our recommendations below, though we can address almost interest you may have.
Make a positive impact on the lives of local people in Cambodia. Volunteering options include the capital of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and small, remote villages, focused on children and community infrastructure. In Battambang we enjoy the country's quiet 2nd city and then head to Banteay Chhmar for some adventure and to support the local community by helping to build a well and learn of their effort to preserve the magnifent local temples complex of the same name.
Other responsible tourism projects that benefit the local community including training for the blind and those affected by landmine injuries. San Francisco-based Room to Read sponsors the building of libraries in the region, empowers teachers, and strengthens literacy development. One of their great successes in Asia is Cambodia. We can arrange a visit one of their partnership schools in either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap where your children may meet with local children and teachers informally and learn about each other's lives. Visit a silk farm cooperative which supports over a one hundred villagers through manufacturing silk products. Learn about the silk production process and children can learn to operate traditional looms.
Water for Cambodia is an enjoyable and impactful Cambodia project our past travelers have sponsored and visited. The project builds and installs biosand water filters to provide critical safe drinking water in local communities.
Cambodia also has a presence of numerous other charities and NGOs, including those focused on assistance to women and families including the Somaly Mam Foundation. We would be pleased to arrange visits with these organizations as well. Please see our list of regional charities and NGOs.
Enjoy a traditional Khmer-style picnic lunch in a beautiful wooden Khmer home just outside Siem Reap. If we are visiting the earliest capital in the Angkor area, Hariharilaya (now known as Roluos) after a morning spent traveling back in time with a visit to the giant pyramid Bakong, the earliest of the temple mountains which later became the signature of Khmer kings we can also arrange a Khmer-style picnic lunch at the beautiful wooden home of one of the country’s foremost archaeological experts.
Designed by renowned Khmer architect Hok Sokol from the Center for Khmer Studies, where he worked as a co-leader of a three-year study program funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, this two-story house is a striking contemporary take on the traditional Khmer house and is located near the rural town of Roluos. A picnic lunch will be provided as you rest and relax, admiring the pleasant setting and learn about Khmer traditional architecture as well as history of the temples themselves.
Enjoy a thrilling birds-eye view of the temples. We can organize short flights over the temples to longer flights of 15 minutes to three hours, including the stunning clifftop setting of Preah Vihear (below), landing to explore these remote and unvisited temples on the border of Thailand by foot.
A 15 minute flight over takes in magnificent Angkor Wat, and satellite temples and sites, including Phnom Bakheng Sra Srang (Ancient Royal Bathing pond), Pre Rup, East Mebon, and Tasom Temples. Your pilot will provide narration during the flight. Private flights are a maximum of four passengers.
Enjoy a longer excursion to Preah Vihear, above, an abandoned temple in a cliffside setting along the border of Thailand. Air journey travels from Siem Reap to Preah Vihear site where you will have three hours to explore and picnic at the site virtually free of other tourists. On the return, also stop to explore the remote abandoned temple Koh Ker, lost to the jungle (above).
For over two decades we have been hosting amateur and professional photographers in and around Angkor, concentrating on places providing exceptional photography opportunities, all away from the crowds. Accompanied by a local or interanational professional, capture the now bustling capital city and people of Phnom Penh, including busy markets and everyday life in one of Asia's most rapidly changing cities.
Culminate your photography trip in Cambodia with side trips in around Angkor, including Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia with ethnic Vietnamese fishing communities, local farming villages, and in what was the center of a great civilization, the grand temples of Angkor. Include a photography guide for a sunrise session at magnifient Angkor in special spaces for stunning shots, or for multiple mornings for sunrises and sunsets. We also excel at providing access for personal photography featuring locals.
The sunrise over the temples and jungle plain provides astonishing setting for photos with your loved ones, for memories of a lifetime. Capture your honeymoon or family's momentous journey in the most magnificent temples in the world with a local professional or Siem Reap-based international photographer Regis Bernard.
Photos: All Rights Reserved, Regis Bernard
Deep in the jungle of Cambodia border area near Thailand lies a magnificent gem of the Khmer Empire, the massive temple ruins complex of Banteay Chhmar. Banteay Chhmar is one of the most significant Khmer temples outside of the World Heritage site of Angkor. Devoured by the jungle and ravages of time while long forgotten by most locals, the ruins of the 12th century temple three-square kilometer temple site—the fourth largest temple complex in Cambodia—is now being rediscovered and it is the local village community of Banteay Chhmar has been busy managing its recovery.
Explore the striking stone and jungle ruins of this remote temple shrouded by trees with few others around, while learning about the local community and the work they are doing, far from the popular tourist sites and crowds. Banteay Chhmar, a Bayon style-temple complex, was severely looted throughout the 1990's, due its remote location and proximity to the Thai border where relics such as large stone reliefs could easily be smuggled out across. Now considered one of the most endangered sites in the world, the complex was in desperate need of renovation. The restoration of Banteay Chhmar temples is crucial with potential to draw tourists, giving a much-needed boost to the local economy.
In addition, the temples serve as symbol of the precious history of the area, which would otherwise be lost without the preservation efforts by volunteers and local organizations. Discover how this community of rice farmers of this small village are working on a unique experiment to help preserve and restore their grand temple, with little outside assistance.
During this excursion, also visit unrestored satellite temple ruins of Prasat Samnang Tasok and Prasat Ta Prohm also covered with thick jungle growth in a surreal juxtaposition.
This unique cooking class follows Ramsay, Bourdain and Stein’s Cambodian adventures. Gordon Ramsay trying his hand at stuffed frog in his Roluos cooking class Gordon Ramsay trying his hand at stuffed frog in his Roluos cooking class.
This unique cooking class follows in the footsteps of the famous and infamous television chefs that have passed through Cambodia on their global culinary journeys. This course takes us deep into the Cambodian countryside around Siem Reap where we visit the local market of Roluos, a traditional town far removed from the tourism industry around Angkor. After browsing the local market for some fresh ingredients, we travel to the beautiful wooden house of Sala Roluos, contemporary take on a traditional Cambodian design. This was the location where Gordon Ramsay learnt to cook stuffed frog with kreung paste, a delicious Cambodian dish involving lemongrass, turmeric, garlic and more, as part of his Gordon’s Great Escape series. Guests will learn this dish in the same surrounds and will also be shown options for how it might work with a more traditional meat such as chicken.
Other celebrity chefs have passed through Cambodia and we will take inspiration from their journeys. Kitchen Confidential chef Anthony Bourdain visited Cambodia for his No Reservations show and we will learn how to make delicious fresh spring rolls as he did when in Cambodia. Finally we will look to Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey for inspiration and learn to cook amok, Cambodia’s national dish involving a mild baked fish curry in banana leaf. Note that the menu can be varied to take into account dietary requirements or individual tastes.
Indiana Jones and Lara Croft come alive during this one-of-a-kind adventure! Escape the crowds, heading off-the-beaten-path to explore abandoned and unvisited jungle temples far beyond Angkor. Captures the experience of early French explorers in a tented camping next to the walls remote temples, such as the massive lost temple of Ben Mealea, exploring the massive unrestored temple left to the jungle without another visitor in sight. For children, thrill to an exciting night safari with flashlights, exploring the temples in the dark of night.
The safari tents will be familiar to anyone who has been on safari in Africa featuring fully-appointed hotel-style bathrooms, complete wash basins and stylish toiletries. Wooden furnishings, including full-size single beds, tables and chairs and clothes rails, complemented by antique brass fan.
Notes: The best season for an Angkor safari is November to April during the dry season. The safari camp is reached by a 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser. For the more adventurous, we can organize this safari by motorbike, accompanied by a support vehicle, biking the trails in Preah Vihear province that among the most exciting in Asia.
This dynamic not-to-miss "street circus" features a unique format and social mission. Uniquely Cambodian, the circus shows tell stories that touch on themes strong in Cambodian tradition, ethos and spirit; A modern ghost story – many Cambodians are petrified of ghosts, A run-away boy – abused by his mother, ignored by his drunken father – tragically too real in Cambodia, A man shunned because of a disability, wreaks revenge, until the whole situation gets out of hand... These are authentic Cambodian stories. Accompanied by Khmer music there are feats of daring, including contortion, juggling, acrobatics, balancing mixed with dance, and modern and traditional theater.
Performers are from an art school, founded to provide education for poor, impoverished children from Battambang who would have no options for schooling. The school now provides services for over 1,200 students, include work with the circus. As well as the circus, we can arrange a visit to the school to meet with students. By your degree of interest in the arts, we can arrange a private encounter with the troupe before the show or for familes with children, a longer meeting to dance and theater instruction by the troupe members. During the show, we also arrange best seats in the auditorium.
Picture yourself in Humphrey Bogart's African Queen during this day trip to Preak Toal biosphere, your guide chopping a path through the reeds as you float by boat through the villages and flooded forest on a traditional wooden boat to the premier bird-viewing destination in Southeast Asia, Preak Toal, home to rare, large water birds such as the painted stork, ibis, crane and pelican.
Guide Michael Buckley writes: "Preak Toal, which encompasses nearly 52,737 acres of wetlands and flooded forest, is recognized as Asia’s premier habitat for large waterbirds. In 1997, the United Nations declared Lake Tonle Sap and its shores (including Preak Toal) a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Over 100 species of birds have been spotted here, 15 of them endangered." The day trip also affords visiting local villages in the area where few other travelers venture.
Angkor on two wheels! We offer a range of original rides to some of the most spectacular temples and sights in and around the temple complex. Enjoy a variety of half-day or full-day casual to moderate rides, which include the temples, jungle countryside, farms and villages, all on back trails and paths away from the crowds.
As well as new innovative rides, we also offer the classic rides of old, including the Grand Circuit of Preah Khan, Neak Poan, Ta Som, Eastern Mebon and Pre Rup over the course of a leisurely day, or the Small Circuit of Ta Keo, Ta Nei, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei and Sra Srang.
Finally there is the option of exploring Angkor Thom on bicycle for those who want a short ride among the temples, perfect for families with younger children. The shorter trips can be organized for children of all ages (most rides are flat on packed dirt roads, away from traffic, with support).
Longer, full-day rides will keep even the fittest rider pleased. Note: Like horseback riding, cycling is organized during the dry season only (from October until May) and we recommend rides starting earliest in the day to avoid the high heat.
The early morning is considered a precious time of day, transitioning between night ending and the morning birth and the perfect moment for meditation. In these early morning hours, join with the monks at their monastery for prayers, followed by meditation
After meditiation, entering the stunning Angkor temple complex to practice yoga with a master at a sublime location. We can also organize breakfast or lunch with yoga at a private sala (wooden villa) near Angkor
Though a day exploring the temples can be exerting, for those looking for a glimpse of jungle, ruins and waterfalls, and history, there are hikes near the Angkor complex, but also verdant national parks. A favorite, near the temples, Kbal Spean, is a highlight which features carved stones along the hike, including submerged stones. Other hiking in the area includes Mount Kulen, where the Kulen Elephant Forest is also located.
Mount Kulen, is a sacred space for Cambodians, the birthplace of the magnificent Angkorian Empire and the holy rivers that fed its plains and encircled its most precious temples. Under a two-hour drive from Siem Reap, hiking is on a five-mile out-and-back trail through jungles and past waterfalls up the ‘Mountain of Lychees,’—this sacred mountain popular with Buddhists and Hindus on pilgrimage. At the summit are temple ruins from this great past.
Enjoy an authentic glimpse in a local village during a visit to a silk farm, where traditional fine silk products are made from harvesting the silk worms to final loom work. Silk production provides the primary income for over a hundred residents at the village and provides employment opportunities to many former orphans from the village and to other disadvantaged rural people living in the surrounding areas of the farm. In addition, the farms female founder, Pheach, states that "our affluent and unequal world, women are at the forefront of the struggle against poverty and oppression and in Cambodia, as elsewhere, women are both the ultimate goal of development and its means. Through their skills, link to their training and their desire to create, they promote the action of emancipation that contributes to change.
Meet Pheach and staff and learn about breeding of silk worms and producing textiles, with an opportunity to try the looms hands-on. A delicious lunch will be served at the farm. The farm is an easy stop on the return from Banteay Srei or hiking on Kbal Spean.
If you were hoping to enjoy elephants in an ethical and humane setting, there is now such as place close to Siem Reap. The Kulen Elephant Forest is a sanctuary for the gentle giants, all retired elephants from the tourist trade in Angkor, usually giving ride to tourists. The sanctuary not only provides care for the elephants, but teaches visitors about the conservation and threats to elephants in Cambodia.
The elephant sanctuary is one hour from Siem Reap, with visits usually lasting about a half day. Lunch will be served on site, and we may prepare a box lunch with other foods as well.