Day 1: Arrival in Siem Reap (-)
Upon your arrival, you will be picked up and transported to your hotel. Free time for the rest of the day.
Overnight at the hotel.
Day 2: Siem Reap – Angkor Wat – Angkor Thom (B, L)
After breakfast, you will go to Angkor Wat, one of the most famous and incredible temple in the world. Considered the largest religious edification ever built, this gigantic temple is a model of symbolism and symmetry, and is today more than ever the pride of the people. Erected in the 12th century under King Suryavarman II’s reign, it is widely recognized by experts as the eighth wonder of the world, and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992.
Then, you will go to the fascinating Ta Prohm monastery, abandoned for centuries in the jungle and now largely swallowed by the thick forest. Discovered in 1860 by French Scientist Henri Mouhot on a strike of luck, it was built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII and acted as an influent monastery and a Mahayana Buddhist University. It is without a doubt one of the most remarkable and popular temples in all Angkor.
Lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, you will discover the marvelous city of Angkor Thom, the masterpiece of the most powerful of all Khmer kings, Jayavarman VII. After the Cham occupation of Angkor between 1177 and 1181, the new king desired an impenetrable fortress at the heart of his empire. The scale of this construction is staggering, and the audacity of the king is evident to every visitor penetrating in the heart of Angkor Thom. This ancient city is accessible at the South Gate by a finely crafted bridge representing a famous scene in Hindu mythology: the Churning of the Milk Sea. In this scene, Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) unify to pull a Naga (a 7-headed snake) from the ocean in order to extract the elixir of immortality.
You will start to discover Angkor Thom by visiting the Terrace of the Leper King. In the past, the royal crematorium was disposed on this gigantic platform. There, you will find a statue, which was before believed to be a representation of the Leper King but is in fact a representation of Yama, the God of Death. Next, is a visit to the Terrace of the Elephants, a location were shows, parades, and traditional sports events took place.
A little further south, you will visit the temple of Baphuon, one of the most beautiful temples of Angkor, dating from the 11th century and the reign of Uditayavarman. The Baphuon has undergone a massive renovation that was undertaken by the École Française d’Extrême Orient (French School of the Far East) and is again open to visitors today.
The highlight of your visit will be the discovery of the perplexing Bayon temple. Located in the center of Angkor Thom, it perfectly expresses the creative genius and the ego of the most ambitious of all the Khmer kings. Its 49 towers are all adorned with four faces of Avalokiteshvara (the Buddha of Compassion), whose resemblance to the sovereign itself is troubling.
Dinner and Overnight at the hotel.
Day 3: Banteay Srei – Banteay Samré – Preah Khan – Neak Pean – Pre Rup – Baphuon (B, L)
After breakfast at the hotel, you will go to Banteay Srei, a jewel of Khmer art. This small pink sandstone temple is the expression of refinement of the sculptural Angkorian art. The delicacy of its sculptures makes it one of the most remarkable site in all Angkor. Its name, which means “Citadel of Women”, derives from its delicate engravings, considered too subtle to have been made by men.
Originally believed to be dating back to the latest period of the Angkorian era, the inscriptions found on this site suggest that this temple was built by a Brahman in 967. However, architects and historians agree that these inscriptions may actually date from a former structure that already existed on this same location during the construction of Banteay Srei.
Then, you will visit Banteay Samré, dating from the 12th century. Built by King Suryavarman II, to whom we also owe the phenomenal Angkor Wat, this temple was later renovated almost entirely. Pediments above the interior doors contain engravings considered to be among the most beautiful of all the similar sculptures dating from the Angkorian period.
Lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, you will go to Preah Khan temple (“Sacred Sword Temple”), built by the powerful King Jayavarman VII at the end of the 12th century. Brother of Ta Prohm temple, it comprises impressive corridors arranged in cross, all having walls covered by magnificent sculptures. Quite strangely, several parts of the temple are Greek-inspired. Preah Khan is one of the few temples to be dedicated both to Buddhism and Hinduism. The East entrance was originally designed for the Mahayana Buddhist, while the other cardinal points represented the Hindu Trinity consisting of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma.
Then, you will continue your expedition with the elegant Neak Pean temple, which in Khmer name means “Entangled Naga”. This small temple is the ultimate ornamental fountain, with its numerous lions and elephants heads spitting water. Originally, Neak Pean was located on an island in the center of a vast Baray (reservoir), called Jayatataka (or Jaya tank).
Finally, you will visit the “Mountain Temple” Baphuon and the royal crematorium in Pre Rup, where you will also enjoy a delightful view on the countryside.
Overnight at the hotel in Siem Reap.
Day 4: Siem Reap – Tonlé Sap – Pouk – Siem Reap (B, L)
In the morning, you will discover the Tonlé Sap Lake – the largest freshwater lake in all South-East Asia – and go in the direction of Chong Khneas Floating Village. Nestled under the Phnom Krom hill, this floating community changes location depending on the water level of the lake. During the rainy season, when the Tonlé Sap’s surface is five times greater than usual, the village is located at the foot of the hill, while during the dry season, the village is 4 km away from the hill. Everything is in floating mode in this village where fishing is the main source of income: schools, shops, gas stations, and even karaoke clubs. Many houses are in reality acting as floating farms, with large enclosures containing hundreds of fish. You will cruise by boat on the Tonlé Sap and go through the floating homes and shops. Then, you will visit the local market before having lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, you will go to Pouk district, where a silk weaving project was launched by Artisans d’Angkor, a charitable organization working towards reviving Cambodian crafts. There, you will visit a traditional silk farm and discover the manufacturing process of natural silk, starting from breeding silkworms to weaving fabrics. You will learn more about the culture of mulberry and the technique used to feed silkworms; you will also see the cocoons in which those little creatures produce pure silk. Then, you will be the privileged witnesses the steps of collecting silk, the preparation of the yarn and the dyeing techniques.
At the end of your visit, you will be able to purchase beautiful items from the Artisans d’Angkor shop. The fabrics sold in this shop are amongst the best in all Cambodia. The project launched by Artisans d’Angkor is geared toward helping disadvantaged young Cambodians to acquire valuable working experience in order to get real job opportunities in the future.
Finally, you will be able to visit the Artisans d’Angkor offices and the Chantiers Écoles, a training center which mission is to revive the arts of stone and wood carvings. This center is also one of the best shopping point for Cambodian handicraft items.
Later, you will have dinner on your own. Overnight at the hotel in Siem Reap.
Day 5: Siem Reap – Battambang (B, L)
After having breakfast at the hotel, you will go in the south towards Sisophon and then reach Battambang, the second largest city in the country and an historical town located on the borders of Sangkhae River (the drive will last approximately 3 hours).
Upon your arrival, you will check-in at the hotel and lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, you will enjoy a 2-hour ride that will bring you along the borders of the river and you will visit Wat Slaket pagoda. You will also discover traditional homes in a village and meet local inhabitants to see the preparation of rice cakes, before strolling in the local market.
After that, you will board a unique bamboo train that will bring you back to Battambang. These “local trains” are in reality bamboo-made platforms mounted on wheels and circulating along the old railway tracks. During this ride, you will have the chance to observe the beautiful countryside scenery.
Later, you will have dinner on your own. Overnight at the hotel in Battambang.
Day 6: Battambang – Phnom Penh (B, L)
Have a good breakfast before heading to Wat Koh district to visit a traditional village and discover the rural life in the countryside. You will learn more about rice harvesting, fruits cultivation, and the preparation of palm sugar. Next, you will go to Wat Banan temple, perched at the top of a hill. The winding road running along the Sangkhae River crossed past multiple wooden-made houses. Upon reaching the temple, you will climb to the top of the hill, where you will enjoy the breathtaking view on sumptuous plains.
Then, you will go to Phnom Sampeau, a sacred mountain home to numerous pagodas and stupas. There, you will also visit a poignant memorial dedicated to victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, who were mercilessly thrown in caves located in this holy mountain.
Lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, you will go back to Phnom Penh (5-hour drive). Check-in at the hotel and dinner on your own.
Overnight at the 3-star Lux Riverside Hotel (superior room).
Day 7: Phnom Penh – Departure (B)
Have a nice breakfast and enjoy your free time until being picked up by car and driven to the airport for your departure flight.