A visit to Siem Reap isn’t complete without exploring the famous Angkor Wat. But if you’re planning a trip to this beautiful city in Cambodia, make sure you save time for the lesser-known Siem Reap attractions.
These sites and experiences will help you learn more about Cambodia’s vibrant culture and incredible, yet tragic, history.
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5 Interesting Things to do in Siem Reap Besides Angkor Wat
1. The Killing Fields (Wat Thmey)
The Killing Fields are a stark reminder of what Cambodia went through during the Khmer Rouge’s reign (1975 – 1979). There are over 300 killing fields in Cambodia where, collectively, over one million people were murdered and buried by their own government. Here you’ll witness just one of those 300 areas where the Khmer Rouge buried those they murdered during the genocide.
The history is horrific, but something we should all know about and never forget. I highly suggest reading about Cambodia’s history before your trip. Having a grasp of what happened in their government and to their people will give you more insight into what you might experience while you are there.
Check out the beginning of this post for a more detailed history of the war in Cambodia and why these Killing Fields should be an important stop during your visit to Siem Reap. You can also read a detailed account of our time exploring the Killing Fields in Siem Reap in this post.
- Cost: Free, although donations are accepted
- Time needed: 20 – 30 minutes
2. APOPO Visitor Center
The Killing Fields and Wat Thmey are important places to visit while in Siem Reap, but they can make for a very somber morning. Luckily, the APOPO Visitor Center is right around the corner and will cheer you up with their incredible mission.
APOPO is a wonderful organization focused on clearing landmine affected areas around the globe. Did you know that Cambodia is the second most landmine-affected area in the world? I didn’t either until I visited APOPO.
Not only will you learn more about Cambodia beyond all of its incredible temples, but you’ll also get to witness one of the APOPO landmine sniffing rats in action! Yes, APOPO uses special rats to help sniff out areas in Cambodia (and other areas around the world) that are still plagued by landmines. It’s truly incredible to watch these little guys work. They are so smart!
A visit to the APOPO Visitor Center starts with a brief history of how Cambodia came to be plagued by landmines. You’ll see examples of how the landmines are hidden within the jungles and even on farmland. Then you’ll be brought to an area to watch one of the HEROrats go to work. To read more about our entire experience at the APOPO Visitor Center, click here.
I was so moved by our visit to the APOPO Visitor Center I symbolically adopted a HERO rat named Magawa when we got home. I periodically get updates with how he is doing in the field. He is a hard worker and sniffs out many dangerous mines!
- Cost: $10 per person
- Time needed: One hour
3. Cambodian War Museum
The Cambodian War Museum is another great way to expand your knowledge about the militant history of Cambodia. As an American, I was never told how much the US impacted Cambodia during The Vietnam War and it wasn’t in a good way.
At this outdoor museum, you’ll see various weapons recovered after the war including bombs and rifles. They also have a few military vehicles as well as a helicopter.
Near the back of the property, there is a pavilion dedicated to the landmine victims of Cambodia. Seeing their pictures and reading their stories is incredibly moving.
If you don’t know much about what Cambodia went through during The Vietnam War, the Cambodian War Museum is a great place to visit.
Guided tours are available, however, they will wait for a large group to form before starting. If no one else shows up, you will be on your own. It’s not hard to explore the area by yourself and there are many signs in English.
- Cost: $5
- Time needed: 30 minutes – 1 hour
4. Senteurs d’Angkor
Our first day exploring the temples of Angkor Wat ended early. Since we had extra time, our tour guide told us he wanted to take us to a special place in Siem Reap called Senteurs d’Angkor.
This wonderful place helps women in Siem Reap find work after going through a divorce. Divorce in Cambodia is very taboo and women are usually ostracized after going through one. Not only do their families shun them, but it becomes very hard for them to find work.
Senteurs d’Angkor takes in these divorced women, provides them with a job as well as a safe community far from hatred and exclusion.
Each job at Senteurs d’Angkor produces items to be sold in the gift shop as well as their spa in downtown Siem Reap. Trades such as candle making, soap making, and basket weaving are all part of this organization.
After our visit, we went into their gift shop and bought several things to take home for friends and family. The prices of the items in the shop were very reasonable and it was a great feeling to support such an amazing organization.
- Cost: Free and includes a tasting of coffee or tea. Prices of items in the gift shop are mostly $5.
- Time spent: 30 minutes – 1 hour
5. Treat Yourself to a Massage
Just like everywhere else in Southeast Asia, massages are incredible and so inexpensive. There are many places to choose from in Siem Reap, but we loved Lotus Dream Spa. Just read the glowing reviews and you’ll see why it was our pick.
The staff was so kind and professional. Our massage was very relaxing and included a foot washing before we were taken to the room. This is the perfect activity for a rainy afternoon in town or after exploring temples all day in the hot sun.
- Cost: $12 – $20 for a one hour massage
- Time needed: 1 – 2 hours depending on your treatment
Bonus: The Night Market
Cambodia is a relatively cheap country to visit for Westerners and the Night Market makes it even more so. Here you’ll find all sorts of Cambodian trinkets to bring back home as souvenirs.
If you want to get something truly authentic while you’re in Cambodia, make sure you check out the Made in Cambodia Market as well. Although the prices might be a little higher than the Night Market, everything sold in the Made in Cambodia Market is regulated so you know you’ll be getting the real thing.
Since the Night Market is in the downtown area, you can combine this with Pub Street. Think of Pub Street as the Bourbon Street of Cambodia. This is where all the backpackers hang out, party, and get drinks in the evening. The later it gets, the rowdier it gets. We walked through Pub Street briefly one night, but it wasn’t our cup of tea. However, if you’re looking to have cheap drinks one evening, that is definitely your spot.
- Cost: Free, unless you purchase something
- Time needed: Varies, but we only spent 20 minutes walking around because we didn’t plan on buying anything
There are many more things to do in Siem Reap than what is on this list. Make sure you talk to the concierge at your hotel to learn about even more things you can add to your itinerary. There’s nothing like a local’s knowledge.
In fact, our last day in Siem Reap ended a bit early after our visit to APOPO. Our driver didn’t know much English, but we asked him – well, tried to ask him – if there was anything else he would recommend. We didn’t think he understood us until we found ourselves at a beautiful temple speaking with a wonderful monk who was friends with our driver. It was an unexpected moment I will always cherish!
Whatever you choose to do in Siem Reap, make sure you soak in as much culture and history as possible. Cambodia is incredibly beautiful and has some of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. A visit to this country is a humbling and life-changing experience that will stay in your heart forever.
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