Wedged between Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, Cambodia is right in the heart of Southeast Asia, with year-round travel-friendly weather. Cambodia has just two climatic halves to the year, the wet and dry season, which we’ll take a look at in more detail.
From mid-April until October, Cambodia experiences its wet season. The wet season is a result of the Southwest monsoon, which blows from May to October, bringing with it rain! Rains tend to peak in September which is the height of the monsoon season. In these months there could be a short downpour daily. These rains could be heavy, so you will have to be indoors during this time! It should be noted that activities like jungle hiking and kayaking, might be disrupted as they rely on passable paths and rivers, and flash floods can often hold up transport from place to place.
Fortunately, these showers rarely last more than about half an hour, so if you time your day well, you can use that time to grab some food or sip a coffee while you wait for it to pass. Once the shower has gone, you’ll be able to enjoy blue skies and brilliant sunshine. The temperature often soars during the wet seasons, reaching the high 80s (27 degrees celsius) at some points.
While the rain can be annoying, there are advantages to traveling in the wet season. As it is off-season, flights and accommodation will be cheaper and there will be fewer crowds to elbow through when you go sightseeing. On top of that, the wet season is also nicknamed the ‘green season’ due to the fact that the landscape gets hydrated by the rain and flourishes in shades of lush green.
As the name suggests, the dry season, which runs from November until mid-April, sees very little rainfall. This is a result of the dusty northeast monsoon, when it arrives it dries out the country fast. The sun shines day in, day out, although the temperatures are a little lower than in the wet season. However, this can be a blessing as it stays around the 70s making it warm enough to explore Vietnam’s incredible nature, but not so hot as to be unbearable. You’ll also find that the humidity in the wet season is lower so you won’t be soaked in sweat the moment you leave your air-conditioned room.
The dry season is the most popular time to travel, but this comes with some challenges. Prices soar during this period, and crowds swell as people flock to the good weather. This can dampen the experience somewhat if you feel you are always crammed in between hordes of other travelers.
If you have a specific interest in seeing some of Cambodia’s favorite destinations – Siem Reap and its nearby Angkor Temples, Tonle Sap Lake, Phnom Penh, Kep, and Sihanoukville – then you may like to know how the changing of the seasons can affect each of them and your travel plans.
A major tourist destination, Siem Reap is a town in northwestern Cambodia near Tonle Sap lake. Most travelers visiting Siem Reap are using it as a gateway for exploring the mystical and awe-inspiring Angkor temple complex. During the 9th – 15th centuries Angkor was the seat of the Khmer kingdom and it features the famous Angkor Wat temple which appears on Cambodia’s flag.
Between November and March is the most comfortable time to see the ruins, as the weather is cooler and drier and humidity is a bit lower. However, this is when most other tourists will be swarming over the temples (which attract up to 2 million foreign visitors each year!) so you might want to consider traveling in the shoulder months of November and March to avoid the hordes. There is something to be said for seeing the temples in the wetter, greener season. Despite a less comfortable temperature, the temples will look much more impressive and travel costs are lower.
Tonle Sap lake is a large body of water near the country’s center that is much affected by the seasons, swelling to 5 times the size during the wettest parts of the year. It plays a huge part in the region’s culture, home to floating villages and hugely diverse ecology.
Tonle Sap is a great destination all year round but during the wet season, when the water levels are higher, it is even more impressive. July to December is a good window to aim for as levels will be high.
The capital of Cambodia is Phnom Penh, which can be found at the confluence of the Mekong River, the Bassac, and the Tonle Sap. It’s fairly quiet for a Southeast Asian capital, with provincial charm and interesting architecture telling of fraught and tragic history.
Most prefer to travel to Phnom Penh during the dry season (November – February) in order to explore in a milder climate. If you go between October and November, you’ll witness the colorful Cambodian water festival Bon Om Touk which marks the end of the rainy season with dragon boat races and fireworks.
Kep and Sihanoukville are two rapidly developing seaside towns in the south of Cambodia that make a great springboard for exploring the popular southern islands off the coast. November to April is a good period in which to visit for stunning sunrises and comfortable temperatures of around 24 degrees Celsius. If you’re clever, you’ll plan your arrival here to coincide with Cambodia’s Sea Festival in December – a happy celebration with music, fireworks, dance, and abundant seafood around Sihanoukville.
Hopefully, you’ve now got a better idea about when might be the best time for you to visit Cambodia depending on the regions you are interested in. If you have any questions at all about Cambodia’s seasons, when to take cruises on the Lower Mekong River, or tailoring land tours to visit the regions mentioned above, then please contact our sales team. Our Asia destination experts are waiting to take your call.
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