Planning a trip to Siem Reap Cambodia? Wondering when to go? This guide will help you choose the best time to visit Cambodia based on your interests, budget, and the weather. Cambodia is a wonderfully beautiful and fascinating country steeped in history and rich in culture. It offers a wealth of things to do and see, from exploring the ancient temples and bustling, vibrant cities to relaxing on its stunning island beaches. Travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia, with the assistance of a private Angkor Wat tour guide in order to avoid crowded areas, take the finest photographs, and have the guide organize your itinerary. Itinerary to appreciate once-in-a-lifetime moments So what is the best time to travel to Cambodia? This will really depend on your interests and what you wish to experience. Take into account that it has two very distinct seasons: the dry season and the wet season, each offering a uniquely different experience.
Typically, the dry season starts in November and lasts until April. The temperatures are milder between November and February, making it a more comfortable climate to travel in and allowing more time to be spent outdoors.
Although the dry season is cooler and less humid, the temperatures can soar to 40+ degrees from March on, before the wet season actually begins. The wet and humid season runs from May through October, but typically Cambodia remains hot and humid throughout most of the year.
Best Weather In Cambodia
The countryside changes dramatically between the two seasons. The dry season is also the peak tourist season, when there is little rain and the land quickly becomes parched and arid, exposing the red dirt roads against watery fields and clear blue skies. This is a great time for off-roading and getting out there to explore Angkor Wat and the many other temples and places that are sometimes difficult to access during the downpours. This is also a perfect time for hitting the beaches, island-hopping, snorkeling, and diving in the crystal waters of the Gulf of Thailand. This is the busiest and most popular time of year for tourists traveling to Cambodia, and it is advisable to book hotels in advance if you are looking for something in particular, especially around Christmas and the international New Year.
There are many advantages to visiting in the wet season too, when the countryside transforms completely, adopting a different kind of beauty. The colors change to lush emerald greens as the rains bring growth to the paddy fields and forests, and parks and gardens are flourishing and bountiful. The skies are dramatic, with striking cloud formations reflecting in the rising waters in the fields, lakes, and rivers, making it the ideal time for nature lovers and photographers to visit. This is also the best time to visit Cambodia to explore Angkor Wat when the temples are devoid of hordes of tourists. Between May and July, the rain tends to fall heavily later in the afternoon for a while and is often clear, giving ample time to get out and about earlier in the day and evening. The wettest time comes later in the season when the heaviest rains fall between August and October. The rainy season is also a perfect time to take advantage of the lower prices when you will find some exceptional deals on hotels and accommodations.
Best season to visit Cambodia
Being a predominantly Buddhist and deeply cultural nation, there are many interesting and colorful festivals, religious holidays, and ceremonies throughout the year that you may not want to miss! These events are of great significance in Cambodia, and although each holds a specific cultural or religious meaning, the country not only exhibits great reverence for them but also much gratitude, joy, and celebration. The Khmer people are extremely fun-loving and wonderful hosts, so you may want to consider witnessing these events when deciding when the best time of year to visit Cambodia is for you.
Although the dates of these events are followed by the lunar calendar and change yearly, Christmas and New Year are still peak tourist times, and the International New Year on December 31st is widely celebrated.
Chinese New Year follows shortly after in January or February (depending on the lunar calendar) and is known as Chaul Chnam Chen, which coincides with Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. Although it is not a Cambodian holiday, it is recognized, and many people flock to Phnom Penh to join the festivities and observe the traditional Chinese dragon dances.
Khmer New Year
One of the most impressive and important holidays is Khmer New Year, known as Chaul Chnam Khmer, which falls in mid-April and is a 3-day-long nationwide celebration. Cambodians return to their families and villages for this period and prepare for the New Year by cleaning houses and colorfully decorating their premises, taking offerings to the wats, and exchanging gifts with one another. The nation comes alive with music, dancing, and huge water fights taking place everywhere for the 3-day celebration. Armed with giant water guns, hoses, buckets, and any other vessel that is at hand, the nation, old and young alike, participate in the fun. Powder is also thrown on each other too, just to add to the mayhem! Expect and prepare to get wet, if not soaked, when out and about, as there really is no escape. Keeping mobile phones and wallets safely in waterproof bags, it’s best to just get in there with them and embrace the whole joyous experience! For many, this is one of the best times of the year to visit Cambodia, and just before the approach of the rainy season.
Phchum Ben (Festival of the Dead)
This happens in October and is one of the most significant religious and cultural festivals, akin to the Christian “All Souls Day”. For several weeks prior to Phchum Ben Day, respects are paid to the spirits of the dead by offerings of food made to the wats and monks. The streets and local temples are full of people. The women are dressed in white tops and traditional, long, silken Khmer skirts and help to display and serve the feast that is offered to the spirits and then consumed by the monks and the pagoda inhabitants. The pagodas and wats are beautifully decorated, bursting with color, while the monks’ hypnotic chants fill the air. In true Cambodian nature, families and friends will join together to celebrate life and that of their deceased loved ones by having dinners and gatherings in the evenings.
Bon Om Tuk (The Water Festival)
Not long after Phchum Ben (in late October or November) and with the rainy season coming to an end, the naturally occurring phenomenon of the reversal of the flow in the Tonle Sap River takes place. This marks the beginning of the fishing season and also the time when prayers are given in faith of a good harvest in the following year. The much-celebrated Water Festival comes to life with local boat races along the Mekong, the Tonle Sap Lake, and its rivers. Many people visit the capital, Phnom Penh, to see the hugely crewed boats that take part in the regatta, which takes place in front of the Royal Palace and is attended by royalty, officials, and other dignitaries. Lasting three days, all the river banks are abuzz at night, and moon parties are held. In Siem Reap too, the riverside is adorned with decorative boats, and the bridges are traditionally decorated with colors and lights. Of course, more celebrations are had by all.
There are many more festivals and holidays throughout the year, marking historical, religious, and cultural events, but these are the three biggest celebrations. For more information on other official holidays and festivals in the calendar, you can check on the Ministry of Tourism’s website, noting again that some dates will change year to year according to the lunar calendar.
It is always a plus to have good local knowledge of what’s happening and where. A local guide can provide much-needed information. In Siem Reap, I can recommend Mr. Rain Proum, who is a knowledgeable and wonderful private Angkor Wat tour guide. You can contact him directly before your visit, and he will happily assist with your planning.
So when is the best time to visit Cambodia? I asked this of an expat friend who is living in Cambodia, and his response was, “Anytime from January to December!” It did make me laugh, but I understood. With such differing seasons and the diversity of activities available, it really does depend on your own interests and, of course, for many, the weather. Cambodia truly has something magical to offer year-round, coupled with the chance to learn more about a beautiful culture, all while having an extreme amount of fun and without doubt leaving memories to carry with you for a lifetime.