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48 Hours in Siem Reap

Home to glorious Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, Siem Reap features at the top of most travellers’ lists when visiting Cambodia.

It's not a large city but it is key to the Kingdom's tourism sector and is home to its cultural and historical roots.

However, there is much more than temple trekking to squeeze into a 48-hour stay in the city. With a huge variety of excellent dining options, luxurious hotels and spa retreats, Temple City is a beacon for relaxation and exploration.

Taking visitors to Artisan Angkor’s silk farm on the outskirts of the city.
Taking visitors to Artisan Angkor’s silk farm on the outskirts of the city

Day One: Morning

No trip to Siem Reap is complete without a trip to Angkor Wat, and what better way to start your day than a spectacular 6 am sunrise at the iconic archaeological masterpiece?

With Angkor Archaeological Park being the main draw, you’ll be hard pushed to find a hotel or guesthouse that doesn’t cater for temple tourists wanting to watch the sun peek from behind Angkor’s iconic spires, with tuk-tuks on stand-by and breakfast available to take with you.

Don’t expect to have the temple to yourself though, because dawn is Angkor’s busiest time, with thousands flocking around the lotus lake to the front of the 12th-century temple to capture the perfect photo.

After a quick exploration of the sprawling grounds, head to the neighbouring Angkor Thom. The ancient city is home to Bayon Temple and its 216 gigantic faces. We recommend finishing off the morning with a trip to root-riddled Ta Prohm, which had a starring role in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. There is no shortage of makeshift restaurants throughout Angkor serving Khmer dishes to help you to refuel from the morning’s temple trekking.

If you want to have a pampered and exclusive temple experience, consider heading skyward in a hot air balloon, or charter a private helicopter for a romantic and intimate aerial tour of the Angkor temples.

Day One: Afternoon

Make the most of your Angkor day pass and head to Banteay Srei, a rural district that sits about 30km from Angkor Wat. Here, you may well stumble upon peace and quiet, with the 10th Century red sandstone temple remaining relatively off the tourist trail.

While the temple is tiny in comparison to its big sister, the intricate carvings remain intact and the crumbling ruins can be explored. If you’re all templed out, then fear not because Banteay Srei has plenty more up its sleeve.

Home to the pristine countryside and rural life, the Banteay Srei site showcases a series of community-driven activities in the area, authentic homestays and the chance to see local life up close.

Banteay Srei Butterfly Centre ($4/$2) is well worth a visit. Home to more than 30 species of Cambodian butterflies and moths, Southeast Asia’s largest fully-enclosed butterfly centre offers a colourful educational experience.

Day One: Evening

Start the evening with a leisurely stroll along Siem Reap River’s tree-lined promenade to sit down at one of the many fine-dining restaurants. Many will specialising in Pan Asian cuisine, and have contemporary choices, especially in the leafy French quarter.

Cocktails are a must to wind down the evening. There are charming spots set out in traditional Khmer wooden houses, serving a delicious array of cocktails. Get lost in the winding alleys near the Siem Reap market and in the famous Pub Street and discover a collection of quirky bars along the way.

Angkor Wat from above
Angkor Wat from above

Day Two: Morning

Start the day delving into Cambodia’s rich artisanal heritage at Artisans Angkor. Launched in 1998, the organisation strives to train Cambodians in the ancient arts, which were almost wiped out during the Khmer Rouge reign, and provide local artisans with employment.

Visitors can take a free tour of their workshops in Siem Reap centre, where traditional Khmer handicraft is being undertaken in the form of stone and wood carving, lacquering, silver plating and silk painting.

Two free daily shuttle buses also take visitors to Artisan Angkor’s silk farm on the outskirts of the city. Here, you can see how Cambodia’s famous golden silk is created, from silkworm to cocoon to finished product.

Day Two: Afternoon

Get on the ultimate high and enjoy alternative views of the temples. Helicopters are available to charter above the iconic temple complex. While they are not allowed to fly directly over Angkor Wat, we can catch views of it in the distance as we hover above the vast complex’s other temples.

After getting back on firm ground, head to one of Siem Reap’s hippest attractions, Kandal Village. Once a gritty grid of backstreets, the area has undergone a makeover and had some style injected into it in the form of cool boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants.

The Little Red Fox Espresso is a great spot for a snack and caffeine hit (excellent coffee!) before browsing the stores that dot the area. Kandal Village is also home to TRIBE Urban Art Gallery, which celebrates local and international artists.

Another must-not-miss spot with art lovers is Theam’s House, the home and workspace of artist and designer Lim Muy Theam. He has opened up his exquisite traditional wooden house to visitors, who can meet him and his family and view his works in the making.

Evening tour at Angkor Wat
Evening tour at Angkor Wat

Day Two: Evening

Grab an early dinner at Cuisine Wat Damnak, where award-winning chef Joannès Rivière delightfully fuses authentic Cambodian flavours with superb French flair. (They have also opened up a restaurant in the capital of Phnom Penh in 2021 called Cuisine Wat Damnak Phnom Penh).

Next up is a trip to the circus. Phare, the Cambodian Circus Phare, the Cambodian Circus is by far one of Siem Reap’s top attractions, with ancient folktales retold on the stage through jaw-dropping Cirque du Soliel-esque performances.

Also worth visiting is Angkor Night Market, which stays open until the early hours and is full of bargains waiting to be bagged. Selling everything from souvenirs and clothes to art and electronics, finding space in your suitcase will be your only problem.

Love it or hate it, Siem Reap’s Pub Street has to be seen to be believed. Here, a deafening mix of music offends the ears and bucket-swigging backpackers bounce around until the sun comes up.

You can find out more Yugo Experiences in Siem Reap with an excellent range of hotels that provide spa services, gourmet dining, and more.

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