A guide to Cambodia's top places, plus our lesser-known favourites
Bordered by Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, with over 400 kilometres of white, sandy coast lapped by the warm, clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia is the laid-back, low-key member of the continental Southeast Asia family.
Covering an area smaller than Oklahoma, Cambodia is small, round, flat, and over 50% forested. That last part’s pretty significant: in Southeast Asia, only Borneo has more continuous rainforest, which makes Cambodia one of the best places in the world to explore the habitats of endangered species such as Asian elephants, Indochinese tigers, clouded leopards and Asiatic black bears.
Beyond its forests, Cambodia is overwhelmingly rural. Phnom Penh is the only real city, and you don’t need to travel far from it to find yourself deep in the countryside. Every road is an adventure – whether you’re on your way to arty Battambang (one of our favourite towns), stopping off at the root-strangled ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk (much older and more mysterious than Angkor Wat), or swapping wheels for a kayak on Tonlé Sap (the biggest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia). This is definitely a place for people who love the journeys as much as the destinations.
Last, but certainly not least, there are the beaches: white sand, turquoise water, swaying palms, and some incredible seafood. They’re every inch as stunning as Thailand’s, and yet the world barely notices them.
“Apart from the outboard motors on a few of the sampans, the scene could not have changed in hundreds of years: naked children slapping at mud puddles, women selling bananas and rice, but most people mending nets, tending cooking fires and sorting fish in baskets.” - Paul Theroux (about Tonlé Sap)