Angkor Wat, the jewel of Cambodia, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site just outside the lively town of Siem Reap. With its rich history, the temple complex attracts millions of tourists each year who come to explore and marvel at the stunning architecture of these ancient structures. While visiting, you will, of course, want to see the towering majesty of Angkor Wat itself. The other well-known temples, such as Ta Prohm, featured in the famous Tomb Raider movie, and the impressive Bayon temple, recognized by its many gigantic sculpted faces, are also must-sees. While most tourists stick to this well-trodden path, there are many hidden gems and lesser-known temples that offer a unique and off-the-beaten-track experience for families visiting the region. Privately explore the marvels of Angkor Wat with your family. With a flexible itinerary and a devoted tour guide, you can design the ideal vacation for everyone. Get tips on choosing a private tour operator and uncover the best things to do with your family in Angkor Wat.
To make the most of your time and best use of your Angkor Wat pass, I highly recommend using an experienced Angkor Wat private tour guide to help you explore, as the area is vast (over 400km square)! While there are more than seventy temples in Siem Reap, there are hundreds more in neighboring provinces, like the architectural masterpiece of Preah Vihear and Koh Ker, which is Cambodia’s and Southeast Asia’s only pyramid. These are a few hours from Siem Reap, and journeying there can really feel like you are going off-grid. Nothing compares to exploring when you are the sole tourist in the area. Traveling in the low season can also be advantageous to avoid the large numbers of tourists.
Alternative Experiences: The Floating Villages on Tonle Sap Lake
When traveling with a family, especially younger children, you will want to think about other experiences aside from the temples. If you have a guide for several days and you want to experience more about real Cambodian ways of life, delve into Cambodia’s rich culture, and enjoy the warmth of the local people, I suggest visiting the floating villages on the Tonle Sap Lake (the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and connected to the Mekong, providing food for the entire region). I personally loved this and will continue to return. On my first trip, I took a boat down a channel, flanked by an enchanting floating forest. The stillness and quiet added to the magic of this place. The boat continued to cross a part of the enormous lake towards the floating fishing villages, where the houses were built on stilts. This largely Vietnamese community lives year-round on the water and moves around using small boats. I was in awe. Everything is on the water. Your guide will help you interact with the locals to better understand this unique way of life and highlight parts of the floating villages that are difficult to access on your own. This is truly an off-the-beaten-track experience (there is no track in sight!) and a treat for all the family. You will see how children go to and from school by boat and stop on the water to buy fresh fruit or snacks from the local vendors selling their wares from their boats. My day ended with dinner at one of the floating restaurants, as the stunning sunset was perfectly reflected on the water. Your guide will arrange your pick-up, travel, and organize your boat, which will be invaluable to you on these excursions and to learning private Angkor Wat tour itinerary for families.
Kulen Mountain and the Waterfalls
Another day could be spent visiting the historical site, a beautiful village, and the waterfalls of Kulen Mountain. It is situated 50 km from Siem Reap and pre-dating Angkor Wat; it is considered by Khmers to be the most sacred mountain in Cambodia. Many make pilgrimages there on the weekends and public holidays, so I suggest visiting on quiet weekdays. The road winds its way up through some spectacular, lush jungle. Once you arrive at the parking lot, you will continue the adventure on foot. There are several paths and treks, one of which leads to the steep climb up the steps to the summit, where you will find Wat Preah Ang Thom, which is home to a giant, gold-gilded, reclining Buddha carved into the sandstone.
Going down from the parking lot, you will follow the trail to the rickety wooden steps that will take you to the base of the waterfall, where you can enjoy a dip to cool off from the heat. There are temple ruins and giant stone animals considered to be the guardians of the mountain (these are really hard to find without a guide, especially in the rainy season). There are also hundreds of lingas carved into the riverbed, and the water that flows over them is believed to be sacred. Once you have visited the site, you can stop for lunch at the small market selling local produce and souvenirs. I have frequently seen Khmer wedding parties there for their special day photos, as the backdrop is perfectly suited for this, and it’s beautiful to see them in their traditional dress. Although the place can be busy, it is most definitely worth a visit when it is not a religious holiday.
There are so many routes you can take in this country. A day in the countryside with the locals is just as much an adventure for me as anything! I enjoy a visit out of town to walk with and feed the rescued elephants that now live freely on the expansive land at their sanctuary. I engage with the artisans who work intricately with silk or farm in the beautiful lotus fields. I watch sunrise or sunset from the top of Phnom Kraom, only a short distance from Siem Reap. Whatever you decide, there is a wealth of off-the-beaten paths, and with the help of a good guide, you will be able to create your own tours depending on the interests of your family.
There are places you will find you simply can’t get to without a guide and transport, so I can highly recommend the services of tour guides Angkor Wat of Mr. Rain Proun. With his knowledge, expertise, and humor, you will be well looked after. He will tailor the tours to suit all your family’s needs.
In conclusion, every day in Cambodia is an adventure for me. I don’t have to go very far to feel like I am off the beaten path! In and around Siem Reap itself, there are many trails and small roads to hidden pagodas, temples, and markets. Cambodia is aptly called the Kingdom of Wonder for this reason. Should you decide to visit, I believe you and your family will treasure the experience and take away so many memories that will last a lifetime.