Cambodia may be a backpackers paradise but it’s also an amazing, out-of-the-ordinary place to go on a family holiday with kids. With beautiful scenery, cultural attractions and heartwarming people, Cambodia has a lot to offer. One of the most magical places there is Siem Reap. Famous for the legendary Angkor Wat Temple Complex, it also happens to be an ideal destination for family adventures. Ready to let your inner Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones out? Here’s some inspiration for your holiday itinerary to Siem Reap with kids.
What to Do in Siem Reap with Kids
Do a Temple Run
The Angkor Wat Archeological Park in Siem Reap is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed complex of over 400 ancient temples. It’s HUGE and if you have time, take several days to explore the whole compound. On foot or on a bicycle… your choice! The temples are truly incredible to see and provide ample opportunities for keepsake family photos.
When travelling with small children, it is best to get a pass that lasts for several days to explore the complex in several sessions. Like Indiana Jones, you can do a temple run and explore secret dungeons and chambers. Kids will love this place just as much as you will. The sunrise is stunning if you can wake up for it, otherwise late afternoon is also a good time to go.
Zipline over Angkor Archaeological Park
Looking for some family adventure high up in the treetops? Go ziplining! Angkor Zipline offers a five-hour eco-tour, where you can zipline through magnificent jungle treetops within Angkor Archaeological Park. Hanging bridges, jungle platforms, cable bars, breathtaking views — it’s a zipline experience like no other. Kids as young as five years old can join in.
Hop on a Tuk Tuk
The tuk tuk is an iconic three-wheeler and can be usually spotted along the roads or side streets in this part of the world. The kids will find it an adventure to hop into the back of one, and so will you! Bargain a little (or a lot!) to settle on the fare first. You can even see Angkor Wat from your tuk tuk, if you like.
Visit a Floating Market
About 35 minutes’ drive from Siem Reap lies Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and a fabulous family playground. It offers floating villages, exotic birds, tranquil local life and gorgeous sunsets. You can even plan a picnic by the lake or experience dinner on a floating restaurant. This makes for a wonderful day out in nature!
Picnic at Phnom Kulen National Park
Phnom Kulen, literally “Mountain of the Lychees”, is the birthplace of the Khmer kingdom. It takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to get there from Siem Reap. The waterfalls are impressive, with the most stunning being the one at the summit of Kulen Mountain. Surrounded by swings and hammocks, families can spend the entire day swinging, swimming, laughing, relaxing, picnicking, tubing and more. Other sites of interest include the sacred River of a Thousand Lingas, and Preah Ang Thom, an ancient monastery with a giant reclining Buddha statue.
See the Cambodian Circus
Known as Phare, the Cambodian circus is a must-watch when you visit Siem Reap with kids. Phare is an astonishing performance, weaving historical and modern Cambodian tales. Local artists, dancers and acrobats combine to present an energetic mix of theatre, music, dance and fire art. It’s bright, it’s colourful and full of excitement the kids will love. Be sure to reserve your seats in advance.
Make Your Own Khmer Ceramics
For a hands-on cultural experience, join a two-hour pottery class at Khmer Ceramics as a family. Guided by a local ceramics artist, you’ll be shaping your own ceramic bowl made out of local clay and decorating it with traditional Khmer designs using special carving tools. Your masterpiece will be ready to be picked up the next day, along with your very own potter’s diploma. Fun fact: at Khmer Ceramics, you are not only learning something new but also supporting a non-profit organisation that employs deaf and mute instructors. How cool is that?!
Watch a ‘Live’ Puppet Show
For yet another kid-friendly cultural experience, discover Cambodian shadow theatre. Bambu Stage puts on ‘live’ puppet shows, where traditional shadow play and Cambodian instruments combine with modern mime and dance. Kids can also sign up for a workshop and try the craft for themselves.
Go Nuts at the Art Box Trick Art Museum
While visiting Angkor National Museum before going to see the famous Angkor Wat temples is a must-do, the kids might not be too excited about that. Surprise them with a visit to the Art Box. This museum is unlike any other; in fact, it’s the largest trick-art museum in the world. Take the craziest photos against life-sized murals — fun guaranteed!
Explore the Local Markets
Who doesn’t love strolling around in traditional markets? It’s a great way to get a taste of local culture, taste authentic Cambodian food and shop for handmade goods and souvenirs. The Old Market of Phsar Chas located in the centre of Siem Reap is a great spot to get shopping done. If you’re there on a Sunday morning, support local farmers and artisans at the Asana Organic Farmers Market.
Road-60-Market is definitely the most local of Siem Reap markets — arrive after dark for the buzziest atmosphere. There’s even a small amusement park for the kids to discover. Lots of food stalls offer just about anything from delicious barbecued meat to crispy fried insects. Feeling brave? How about a deep-fried tarantula? Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the delicious Cambodian desserts! Tip: ask your (tuk tuk) driver to wait for you at the front of the market as getting back to your villa can be tricky.
Get Massages for the Whole Family — Kids Included!
Want to relax and spend a few hours at a spa but don’t know what to do with the kids? Just head to Lemongrass Garden Spa with the kids in tow. While you unwind and indulge in some pampering after a long day of temple-hopping, the little ones will be busy enjoying their own special massages for kids!
When to Visit Siem Reap with Kids
Choosing the best time to visit Siem Reap with kids can be a little tricky. The most ideal is between the rainy season and the peak season. This is when the weather is warm and dry but there aren’t too many tourists around just yet. November, early December, February and March are best.
The rainy season isn’t all bad. For one thing, it almost never rains all day, so it is perfectly fine to book a villa near Angkor Wat, get a three-day or one-week pass and go during the sunny hours of the day. For another, it’s extra enjoyable as tourist numbers are low, the surroundings are lush green everywhere you go, and you can snap gorgeous photos without having to wait in line at the famous temples. Just remember to pack rain jackets and suitable footwear for everyone.
If you want to experience some unique festivals, the Khmer New Year (coincides with Songkran in Thailand) happens mid-April. The Chinese New Year in January or February is great fun too.
Where to Stay in Siem Reap with Kids
A villa experience is a great option for families visiting Siem Reap with kids. Preferably one with a private pool to cool down at the end of the day. Air-conditioned bedrooms, a garden with a pool, a living room and kitchen with modern conveniences — a villa gives you all the privacy you could ever want and spacious personal living spaces to come ‘home’ to after a day of family adventures in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
This article was contributed by Khanh Tran from Villa-Finder.com, the leading villa reservation platform in Asia. Click here for more information.