From the history and seductive elegance of Phnom Penh to the phenomenal temples of Angkor Wat, discover the ancient and modern history and beauty of Cambodia on this classic Phnom Penh and Siem Reap tour. Take an Angkor Wat Mekong River cruise to experience the Khymer culture, traditional life and rural villages.
This classic Angkor Wat Mekong river cruise from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap begins in Cambodia’s capital city where you can learn about Cambodia’s tragic past at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former site of the Security Prison S-21 established by the Khmer Rouge regime. Visiting the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek is not a warm experience but it is essential if you want to understand what happened in Cambodia during the time of the Pol Pot regime. Admire the stately columns of the Royal Palace, visit the National Museum, the Silver Pagoda, and enjoy a “cyclo” ride along the bustling streets. Later, relish a private evening tuk-tuk tour to discover some of the city’s coolest hidden bars and some of the best local food.
Your Mekong Cruise
Board a luxurious, art-inspired colonial styled riverboat for an upriver cruise along the mighty Mekong. Visit a local school and travel by ox-cart through the countryside, rice fields, and Cambodian backroads. Explore a Khmer pottery village. Learn about the process of making palm sugar. On the island of Koh Oknha Tey, witness the fascinating methods involved in the making of silk. Step back in time at the small village of Angkor Ban, famous for its traditional houses. Visit the enchanting pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Hanchey and observe the daily activities of the young, novice monks. See the Koh Paen Bamboo Bridge.
Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor
Be amazed by the Phare Circus show, during which you’ll be entertained with dance, theater, original live music, juggling, gymnastics, and breath-taking circus arts that are used to tell Cambodian stories from recent history, folklore and modern society.
Explore the largest religious monument in the world at the 400-acre Angkor Wat complex, deep in the jungles of Cambodia. Stroll through the intricately carved hallways and take your time to see every part of this incredible complex. See the ancient city area of Angkor Thom, with its carved-stone faces standing as silent witnesses to former days of glory, and Ta Prohm, a temple complex slowly being reclaimed by the jungle. You’ll also visit a Buddhist monastery, witness the ancient tradition of alms giving at sunrise, and receive a blessing from the monks. Later, visit Banteay Srei − the “Citadel of the Women,” as well as a butterfly center and an artisans center.
Please note all of the featured excursions, activities, and accommodations on this classic tour can be tailored to suit your taste, budget, and time availability in accordance with your personal wishes. All are private tours and transport with a private guide, with the exception of the cruise portion, which is on a shared basis with other passengers.
Itinerary & Prices
Welcome to Phnom Penh!
Welcome to Phnom Penh! Located on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong River, Phnom Penh was once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina.
Upon your arrival, you will be met by your guide and driven to your hotel. Take the rest of the day easy, have a good rest, enjoy a stroll along the picturesque river promenade and make sure to be ready for your exciting day first thing in the morning!
Touch of History and Khmer Food Exploration
AM: After the Khmer Rouge regime, the city was sadly left a shadow of its former self. Now, due to a strong, young dynamism, the city is once again a vibrant, growing capital. Meet your guide right after breakfast. This morning learn more about the turbulent Khmer Rouge years with visits to Tuol Sleng, a high school turned interrogation prison known as S-21 during the Khmer Rouge era and now a genocide museum; and Cheung Ek, a large memorial commemorating the 17,000 victims who died there under the reign of Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot.
PM: For dinner leave all the familiar behind! Zip across the city in a tuk-tuk and discover the best of Cambodian cuisine at four sit-down local restaurants and one craft beer and cocktail bar. Discover Cambodian food throughout history and learn how deep the Khmer cuisine reaches within Southeast Asian culture.
Meals: B, D
Phnom Penh Royal Treasures
After breakfast and check out meet your driver for the transfer to Jayavarman, docked at the nearby pier.
After check-in and settling in, join your co-travelers for an exquisite lunch at the renowned high-end restaurant. Today’s exploration of Phnom Penh takes you to the cultural highlights of the city’s heritage: the Royal Palace with its Silver Pagoda and the National Museum. The day trip ends with a “cyclo” ride along the bustling streets of downtown Phnom Penh and back to the ship.
Evening onboard: lecture about modern Cambodian history, held by our friend and local expert, Mr. Jean-Michel, a professor from the Royal University of Phnom Penh, BBQ dinner on the deck, and a classic Apsara dance performance along with other folklore dances.
Meals: B, L, D
Ox Carts and Water World
We take the Tonle River towards Kampong Tralach, where we take the traditional ox-carts for a ride along the river to the small village and a “Green School” – a project the Heritage Line supports.
Back on board for lunch and an afternoon of sailing to Kampong Chhnang’s “water world”, where everything is balanced on sticks in water-rich soil.
Visit the countryside and villages specializing in traditional Khmer pottery making or extracting Palm juice before returning to the ship for a quiet evening on the river.
Meals: B, L, D
Silk Making and Secluded Village
The island of Koh Oknha Tey in the middle of the Mekong is famous for manufacturing high-class silk products. Visit the workshops and learn about this ancient craft, from a tiny silkworm larva to a cocoon, then dyeing, spinning, and weaving the fibers into high-quality Cambodian silk.
Back on Jayavarman, before lunch, our expert guide holds a presentation about the geography of the Mekong River and Tonle Lake along with the unique attributes of the area. Afterward, a monks’ blessing ceremony delivers spirits and wishes for health and prosperity for all.
After lunch the ship sails towards Angkor Ban – a small traditional village of unspoiled Khmer community.
Dinner on board and overnight at the riverbank of Kampong Cham.
Meals: B, L, D
Monastery, Monks, and Kids
After a sumptuous breakfast, we leave the ship for the enchanting pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Hanchey (7th century). This small complex sits on a hilltop with breathtaking views over the Mekong. Many young, novice monks live on the compound of Wat Hanchey, and you’ll have the chance to observe some of their daily activities: eating simple meals, praying, studying, or hanging out and making conversation while in their saffron-colored robes.
After lunch on board, we stop at the tranquil monastery of Wat Nokor – the largest of its kind in Kampong Cham Province. Here, we might have the chance to engage in light banter with some of the sociable monks living in the area.
We may be fortunate enough to visit a nearby spectacle only present during the Mekong’s dry months (December to May). The Koh Paen Bamboo Bridge connects the mainland with Koh Paen Island and is re-built by the local community every November when water levels drop.
We cruise further up the Mekong to visit a local school and learn more about the education of the young Cambodian generation. Children from the Organization for Basic Training (OBT) are provided free, supplemental education in English, maths, and the arts, and they are always excited to show their skills in music and dance.
Meals: B, L, D
Arrival and Astounding Show in Siem Reap
After breakfast disembark the ship for a transfer by bus to the drop off point in Siem Reap.
Kampong Cham is an important trade and transportation hub. The highway connecting the town and the capital of Phnom Penh is among the best maintained in Cambodia, and the country’s first bridge across the Mekong (Kizuna Bridge) was built here in 2001.
The transfer takes approximately 4.5 hours including rest stop. To keep you entertained during the ride, our expert guides share interesting insights about Cambodia and the region we journey through.
Arrive in Siem Reap in the early afternoon – your local guide will pick you up and escort you to your hotel in Siem Reap. Try a massage at the resort’s spa before evening’s attractions.
Your driver will pick you up in the evening, in time for the fascinating and inspiring Phare Circus Show and dinner.
Phare Circus works mainly with disadvantaged young people. They learn circus skills, theatre performance, music and a range of visual arts. It combines local traditions with new creative and innovative genres. Daring athleticism is combined with stories that speak powerfully to Cambodia’s not-too-distant history.
Meals: B, D
Angkor Wat and Other Ancient Temples
It’s a full day around the Angkor Archeological Park today. Pack a sunscreen and water before setting out on your exploration.
After breakfast, transfer by private car to Ta Prohm – one of Angkor’s jewels. Overgrown with fig trees, giving a haunting yet exotic atmosphere, is the most photographable. From here drive a short distance to Ta Keo, which would have been one of the finest temples in Angkor had it been completed.
Continue to Angkor Thom – an entire walled city, the royal Capital in the 12th century. With a population of 1 million, it was far bigger than any city in Europe at the time. The amazing centrepiece is Bayon temple crowned with 216 giant, smiling faces of King Jayavarman VII.
Take a lunch break before the exploration of Angkor Wat, claimed to be the largest religious building in the world. The temple, which took 30 years to construct & used the labor of 300,000 workers was built as the earthly representation of the universe with its’ central tower symbolizing Mt Meru – the center of the Universe.
Return to your hotel late afternoon.
Monk Blessing, Temples, and Butterflies
Wake up early and prepare for an ultimately evocative start of your day, journeying deep into the Angkor Complex to a small village community and its monastery with 200 Monks for the ancient tradition of Alms Giving at Sunrise.
Witness the Monks pay respects to their elders before you join the local community in preparing a Monk’s breakfast, as part of the Alms offering. Receive a blessing from the Monks, in this truly South East Asian tradition.
As you are guided around the community, you will hear & feel the vibrations of their morning traditional chanting to finish this exclusive experience before continuing onwards.
Continue to Banteay Srei temple, the only major temple that was not built by a monarch. Constructed in the 10th century it was dedicated to the Hindu god – Shiva. Banteay Srei translates to “Citadel of the Women” and is one of Angkor’s most significant structures as its walls are decorated with elaborate carvings which have been preserved remarkably well.
Next head to the Banteay Srey Butterfly Center, an interactive butterfly farm nestled in a luxurious tropical garden. Morning is the best time of the day to spot as many butterflies as possible. Thousands of free-flying Southeast Asian species will surround you.
In the afternoon take your time to visit the Artisans Center, with local arts and crafts. Ah, also, don’t forget to pack tonight! 😉
Your driver will pick you up from the hotel. If time allows you can stop by at a local restaurant or local galleries for the last minute shopping.
Drive to the airport is approximately 30 minutes.