Published: 14th December, 2016
With two weeks in Cambodia you've got enough time to touch on some of the highlights: Angkor Wat, the capital Phnom Penh and an island or two in the south. Of course, longer would be better, but this sample two-week itinerary for Cambodia should keep you busy.
This itinerary is essentially the one-week Cambodia itinerary with all the options thrown in properly. This plan gives the traveller a good mix of ruins, beaches and culture. While there's a fair amount of bus travel involved, there's also enough downtime to rest your sore butt at the end of the day.
As with the one-week itinerary, plenty of side trips and extensions could be added on, but given the amount of travel already involved, we'd suggest adding in a few rest days before adding in too many more destinations—this is a holiday, right?
Both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh have international airports, so if you are short of time, you can fly in and start the trip from either. Those with more time, or those who are looking to incorporate this two-week itinerary into a larger regional trip, can overland in and out of the country—Cambodia has overland borders with all of its neighbours.
Cambodia has two distinct seasons: hot and wet and hot and dry. The least hot dry part of the year, between November and January, is the most popular time to visit. Dry season runs from November to April on the back of the northeast monsoon and the wet season runs from May to October courtesy of the southwest monsoon, bringing with it some three-quarters of Cambodia's annual rainfall. July to September are the wettest months, characterised by some transport difficulties, especially in rural areas where roads can be damaged, and flooding—we're looking at you Phnom Penh. April can be unpleasantly hot.
As November to January is the most popular time to visit, it is also the most crowded; risking a bit of rain can pay off with slightly reduced crowds. Wet season does bring with it some minor advantages—Angkor Wat for one can be spectacular after a monsoon thunderstorm—just pack an umbrella. Cambodia's islands are not recommended in the height of wet season.
The suggested minimum time for a trip like this is two weeks, though three weeks would allow for a far more comfortable pace of travel. If you have less than two weeks—say 10 days—we'd suggest considering dropping at least one destination. Our one-week Cambodia itinerary may be of interest.
Day 1–3: Siem Reap
Set in northwest Cambodia, Siem Reap is best known for being the gateway to the Angkor ruins, a sprawling World Heritage-listed complex of more than 400 ancient temples, with magnificent Angkor Wat as its focal point. You'll use Siem Reap both as a base for visiting the ruins and other attractions including floating villages on Tonle Sap. Over the last decade, Siem Reap has developed into a destination in its own right and has a wealth of excellent shopping, eating and boozing options available.
When you're finished with Siem Reap and Angkor you need to head across to Battambang—a trip that can be done by bus, share-taxi or boat. We like the boat, but they have sunk in the past (at least the lake is fairly shallow). If you want to spend more time in the area, take a look at our week around Siem Reap itinerary.
Day 4–5: Battambang
With a rich architectural heritage, an increasingly confident art scene providing a cradle for many of Cambodia’s top talents, and stunning surrounding countryside, Battambang is a tranquil respite from the boom and hustle of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The city is also home to a hugely successful school dedicated to the arts and this is starting to generate its own energy in the town. A trip to Battambang is not complete without a trip to the evening circus at Phare Ponleu Selpak. It's enormous fun, and you can find flyers with the monthly schedule in most restaurants in town. Before the circus there was the nori and Battambang is best known for this special bamboo train—a fun way to see parts of the countryside you otherwise wouldn't reach. Moving on from Battambang is a simple case of catching a share-taxi or bus to the vibrant capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
Day 6–7: Phnom Penh
With one foot rooted in the past—found in temples, markets and buzzing back streets—and another striding boldly into the future, which is pretty much all around you, thriving, turbulent Phnom Penh brings together Cambodian, Chinese and French influences in a congested, grimy, shiny, vibrant and thrilling mash. Allow at least two days here, both to visit its museums and Khmer Rouge history but also for an afternoon or two spent roaming riverside. Both share-taxis and buses run the route down to Sihanoukville—your next stop.
Day 8: Sihanoukville
A peninsula ringed by pretty beaches and surrounded by a smattering of very attractive islands, Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s premier mainland beach location, but, unless you have spare time up your sleeve, we'd suggest just an overnight stay before continuing on to one of the islands. This is where the beaches are better, the water clearer and the scene less seedy. Decide on an island and catch the ferry the following morning.
Day 9–11: Koh Rong or Ko Rong Samloem
Off the coast of Cambodia’s Sihanoukville, picture-perfect islands attract travellers seeking long dreamy beaches, diving and natural environments. Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem are a short speedboat ride away from the mainland, where soft yellow sand and brilliant white beaches appeal to both party-goers and serenity seekers alike. With just two days, this is a pick one or the other situation. If you want to see both, you'll be needing, at a minimum, an extra two days. Bear in mind that in peak wet season, travel out to the islands is not so pleasant.
When your island time runs out, get a boat back to Sihanoukville and then a bus or share-taxi east to Kep or Kampot.
Day 12-13: Kep or Kampot
Another one of those either or situations, Kep and Kampot both have their strongpoints. If you're more of a beach person, go for Kep, while if a sundowner by the river or a cruise along a sleepy river is more your thing, go for Kampot. Both have an outstanding range of accommodation and very down to earth, chilled out vibes. Want to do both? Add two days and do so! Both Kep and Kampot have share-taxi and bus connections back to Phnom Penh.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
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Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.