Siem Reap is best known for its history, culture, friendly people, and temples – especially Angkor Wat. It also includes great natural places from ancient periods to newly-discovered ones. Here are the best natural and ecotourist attractions beyond the great Angkor Wat.
- Phnom Kulen: Located 59 km in the Northeast of Siem Reap province, Phnom Kulen, literally mean the Mountain of Lychee, is the secret place for Cambodian people. It sits a huge sleeping buddha statue. The mountain was the place where King Jayavarman II declared himself in AD 802 as “God King”.
But when one thinks of this resort, it is more than just a historical place from where sandstones were taken to build the Angkor Wat temple. A wonderful waterfall is in the mind of the one who’s been there. The resort was featured in the film Lara Crof: Tom Raider.
- Kbal Spean, literally mean The Head of Bridge, is located about 50 km in the same direction to Phnom Kulen. The place is commonly known by tourists as the River of Thousand Lingas as thousands of lingas were carved in the riverbed in addition to statues carved out of the stone. It locates about 18 km from well-known Banteay Srei temple. Interestingly, a 4-kilometer hike into the forest would be a good trekking experience. It would take about 45 minutes walking through the forest listening to singing birds to reach the peak of the sacred places. The route is mostly flat, but some areas on the mountain need climbing over big rocks, walking over a lot of sticking-out tree roots so that boot is needed.
- West Baray: West Baray is a man-made huge reservoir west of of Angkor Wat, built during the Angkorean era. It is a relaxing place for local tourists and international alike, especially during Khmer New Year in April which is the hottest month in the country. It was built to store water to for using in agricultural sector during that age. Some irrigation system remains in use now. In the middle of the reservoir sits an 11th century temple which should not miss. Boat is available to bring you there for just a few dollars.
- Tonle Sab: There are four places to visit in ASEAN’s “Great Lake”. These places feature floating village life and many kinds of birds. These include:
- Chong Kneas and Phnom Krom: Located about 20 km from provincial town, Chong Kneas and Phnom Krom is just on one destination. Chong Kneas is a floating village where many of the villagers are Vietnamese ethnicity. You would see their traditional life, and experiences the smell fishes.
- Prek Toal: Located deeper into the Great Lake. It is a well-known destination to see waterbirds, some even endangered species and so many kinds of fishes. These birds are under threat due to illegal habitat clearance.
- Kampong Pluk: It is another destination in the Great Lake recreation spot. Beside floating villages which is similar to other places, you would see mangrove, and variety of wildlife.
- Meychrey Floating Village: Is an eco-tourism in the lake. It locates in the northeastern bank of the Tonle Sap. Residence in this region have two main works, fishing and farming.
All of these places can be reached with waiting boats on the bank. The drive, if no tour guide, can communicate with you in English.
- Chreav Village: This is a best place for nature and bird lovers. It is another spot to see a variety of birds in Siem Reap if you run out of time to go to Prek Toal. In this village there is a lake called Boeung Raing where many endangered species are protected by and conservative NGO.
- Peung Tanan: Siting 85 km west of Siem Reap town, Peung Tanan is natural rocky hill. It locates on less than a square kilometer rocky hill. Hundreds of stones scattered over the hill similar to the Arches National Park in Utah. Some even call it “Cambodian Utah”. The view is just marvelous and the only place for such a view in Cambodia. It just becomes well-known for local tourists in the last few years when the road has been improved.
- Phnom Bouk: The destination is the combination of historical and natural. Located not far from Banteay Samre, the mountain atops a temple built by King Jasovarman I in late 9th and early 10th century, similar to that of Phnom Bakheng and Phnom Krom. The destination is almost unknown, but a place is quite mazing. It is unknown because the road up to hill was in bad condition. But you can climb up and reach the top in less than an hour. The location is almost unattached to other historical sites.
- Community eco-tourism at Trav Kod: is a natural lake which have become a destination for local travelers, and international alike in the past few years. It is recommended for a bike or moped tour from town through which you can have a view and even a chat with friendly villagers. When you get there, no worry of getting sunburn. Bamboo huts are available at reasonable price. Pchum Ben and Khmer New Year Festivities is when the place becomes so crowded. The view to the Kulen mountain. It’s also a recommended place to enjoy the night Camping or homestay there.
- Run Ta Ek Eco-Village: The eco-tourist destination lies not far from Trav Kot, on a 1000 hectares of land. A combined route between this and Trav Kot is recommended. The place is initiated by Apsara authority in order to support local villagers by creating jobs for them, who, in addition, grow vegetables for the town need. The villagers were trained in hospitality and now over 100 have been trained. There is a restaurant with Cambodian recipes at your wish. The place installed with solar/wind power (from water pump). It is also the best place for homestay. The place is surrounded by Chea Lea Thom lake.
Where to stay in Siem Reap with your kids
Choices are whether if you want to stay in town or outside town. Siem Reap provides you with many accommodations from budget to luxury options. I would like to recommend best quality kids-friendly hotel resorts Hillocks Hotel & Spa where you can enjoy tranquility outside town, fresh air and a big swimming pool. For smart, simple accommodation in a quiet place and just in town check out Borei Angkor Resort & Spa. Those who love a stay at boutique hotel can hole up at La Residence Blanc D’Angkor, a nice boutique hotel near the airport, complete with cafes and restaurants and the pool surrounded by nature.
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