12 Best Cities to Visit in Cambodia

by Rithy Sarin
Phnom Penh Cityscape in Cambodia

The cities of Cambodia are entry points to the rest of the nation, where visitors will experience firsthand the warmth and hospitality of the Cambodian people and discover the secrets of the country’s magical culture.

The many facets of this wonderful nation become clear after a few days spent exploring its local markets, pubs, and the Mekong River. To help you decide where to go in Cambodia, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite cities.


12. Poipet

The influx of Thai visitors to the casinos in this Cambodian transit hub near the border has fueled its growth in recent years. This once-depressed metropolis is now flush with wealth because to the expanding casino sector, which draws high rollers from Bangkok.

Visitors to Poipet usually just stop over in order to get a visa, and there have been several cautions concerning border control fraud. Learn about the daily struggles of the inhabitants by visiting the city’s historic railway station, a fading monument to a bygone era that is now surrounded by shantytowns.

11. Kampong Cham

Stairs to the Mekong River from Wat Hanchey Buddhist monastery near Kampong Cham.

Journey to tranquility at Wat Hanchey Buddhist monastery near Kampong Cham. Image source: Peter Stuckings/Shutterstock.com

Orange Mekong rivers flow through Kampong Cham, making it a commercial hub. There isn’t much to see or do in the pleasant, tiny city, but don’t let that put you off; the warmth of the locals is part of what gives it its appeal.

Besides taking leisurely strolls along the bustling boulevard and meandering riverfront, there isn’t much to do here. The bamboo bridge, which is rebuilt each year after the Mekong floods, is a major draw, since it provides access to a fascinating island settlement.

10. Kep

The coastal city of Kep entices visitors with delectable cuisine, a sandy beach, and a national park. The French aristocracy erected massive Western-style homes in the early 1900s, turning the city into a coastal resort.

In many cases, the homes have fallen into disrepair and the surrounding forest has swallowed them up, creating some great photo ops. Tourists from all over the world flock to this family-friendly city for the tranquil sunsets and delicious seafood it has to offer, as well as the superb hiking trails in nearby Kep National Park.

9. Kampong Thom

Kampong Thom, located halfway between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, is often underestimated, despite the fact that it has much more to offer than a simple layover. Kampong Thom’s surrounding fauna is a great place to spend time if you’re a nature lover. Birds and other animals thrive in the peaceful landscape of small farms and lovely rice fields.

On the outskirts of town you’ll also find Sambor Prei Kuk, the fascinating ruins of the Chenla Kingdom, which, unbelievable as it may seem, predates Angkor by 400 years!

8. Koh Kong

Although Koh Kong city is still in the midst of rapid development, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out the urban areas. Tourist traffic is on the upswing, and the city’s success in the adventure travel industry has stimulated an uptick in ecotourism in the rural areas outside municipal limits.

Travel to the neighboring beaches and roaring waterfalls in the dense forest over your two nights in the city.

7. Banlung

Banlung, a rural town on the borders of Vietnam and Laos, is characterized by red-dusty roads and picturesque scenery. Illegal trading and forestry have left their marks on the region, and the town is only beginning to see the benefits of the tourist industry.

Take a break from the bustle of the marketplace and go out of town to see the city’s natural attractions: Boeng Yeak Lom is a massive crater filled with shimmering blue water in the middle of the depths of the forest, and it’s just a short distance from the city.

6. Kampot

You may call Kampot a city, but it doesn’t really look like one. Visitors to the city often intend to stay for just a few nights, but end up staying much longer because of the city’s drowsy hedonism. The neighborhood is safe for children to go to school and adults to commute to work on their bikes because of the lack of traffic.

There is a warm sense of community and welcome in this city. Similar to a hippy enclave, many visitors end up staying for good and settling down to start their own enterprises. Hang around at the cafés and stay at one of the many fantastic inns to meet other travelers.

5. Kratie

The beautiful Mekong River winds its way through the narrow city of Kratie. It is a popular stopping point for tourists who want to experience local culture and maybe see the Irrawaddy dolphins that inhabit the river.

Children without clothing beg as tourists take photographs of them on their SLRs from one of the markerside cafés, revealing the harsh and destitute life of many residents. Kratie’s locals, on the other hand, are very kind and friendly to visitors.

Ride the ferry over the Mekong and spend the day cycling around Koh Trong to learn about the locals who make their home on this little island in the midst of the river.

4. Battambang

Battambang has proven to be a creative center because of its decaying colonial buildings and beautiful surroundings. You may see Cambodia’s future creative talents in Battambang, as well as old temples and pagodas, all in one convenient location.

It’s the ideal antithesis to the hectic streets of Cambodia’s larger cities, which are reflected in the city’s dreamy, sleepy vibe. Big businesses are threatening to demolish the historic buildings in the heart of the town, so it’s important that you come see them before they’re gone forever and concrete takes their place.

3. Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s most popular coastal vacation destination, but it’s also one of the country’s quietest cities. Tourists looking to unwind on Cambodia’s coast flock to the formerly sleepy fishing village.

Although the city hasn’t yet been discovered by the masses as a vacation spot, it is poised for rapid growth and development. Small shacks and bars line the shore of the white sand beach, where visitors spend their days lounging and drinking while they watch the waves roll in.

Although there is a sleazy vibe to the town, with many lingerers and unmarried older men traveling alone, the city is a jumping off point to Cambodia’s beautiful beaches, and its hotels are plentiful and frequently quite reasonable.

2. Siem Reap

The city of Siem Reap has all the excitement and enjoyment of a dusty frontier town. Seeing the world-famous Angkor temples is reason enough for most people to visit Siem Reap. Therefore, the city is a must-see for anybody traveling through Southeast Asia. Just a short tuk-tuk ride from the heart of town, the forest that now surrounds the temple grounds seems lifted straight from a fantasy novel.

Travelers may relax at one of Siem Reap’s numerous massage parlors if a night out on the town doesn’t seem appealing, or they can enjoy the city’s restaurants, bars, and clubs to their heart’s content.

1. Phnom Penh

The capital of Cambodia has experienced, and is still experiencing, its fair share of hardship, but the city’s turbulent history has given rise to a strength and tenacity that is contagious to visitors. In spite of their proximity to the city, the Killing Fields remain a sobering memorial to the victims of the Khmer Rouge dictatorship.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, located in a former school, serves as a somber reminder of the atrocities perpetrated against the Cambodian people in recent memory.

Even though the country has a troubled history, modern-day Cambodia has plenty to offer. You’ll see many friendly faces as you stroll the streets and marketplaces of Phnom Penh or relax on the banks of the Ton Le Sap River. Stop at the city’s namesake temple, Wat Phnom, to get some perspective on the splendor that is Phnom Penh.

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