Best Things to do in Siem Reap Besides Temples

While Siem Reap is globally renowned as the gateway to Angkor Wat, attracting visitors keen on exploring Cambodia’s iconic temples, the city has more to offer beyond its ancient wonders. With an abundance of temples that could occupy an entire week-long trip, it’s easy to experience temple fatigue. However, Siem Reap’s allure extends beyond its temple complex, offering a diverse range of activities for a fulfilling visit.

In this guide, we unveil the top 15 delightful things to do in Siem Reap besides temples exploration. From vibrant markets and cultural shows to serene spas and culinary adventures, Siem Reap boasts a rich tapestry of experiences waiting to be discovered. Step off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the multifaceted charm of Siem Reap, ensuring your visit is not only temple-centric but a holistic and enchanting journey.

Things to do in Siem Reap besides temples  – Discover the lively Siem Reap like a local

Siem Reap, Cambodia, is renowned as the gateway to the Angkor Wat Archaeological complex, often simply referred to as Angkor Wat. It stands as a must-visit destination for many travelers, drawing them to the remnants of the Khmer Empire. Surprisingly, what was initially a mere entry point to the temples of Angkor has transformed into a vibrant tourist destination. Beyond the ancient temples and city ruins, Siem Reap captivates visitors with its bustling atmosphere and an array of activities to keep you engaged.

Below are some of our most recommended things to do in Siem Reap besides temples for your fullist experience in this vibrant city.

Enjoy the Performances At Phare Circus

Established in Battambang in 1994 by eight young refugees, Phare Ponleu Selpak is a remarkable initiative offering opportunities to underprivileged children in the aftermath of Pol Pot’s regime. The Khmer Rouge’s ban on art and culture in 1975 stifled Cambodia’s rich circus tradition, visible in the ancient temple carvings depicting acrobats.

Phare Ponleu Selpak, providing free food, education, training, and employment, boasts over 1000 students. The Phare Cambodian Circus, now with a second venue in Siem Reap, showcases performances blending acrobatics, comedy, dance, and circus skills reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil. The nightly shows at 8 pm offer a spectacular display of talent, with street food available for purchase starting from 5:30 pm. Tickets for this extraordinary experience begin at $18, contributing to the organization’s noble cause of empowering Cambodian youth through arts and education.

Visit to the Old Market

Explore the vibrant markets of Siem Reap, starting with Psah Chas, the Old Market, nestled between the river and Pub Street. This bustling marketplace offers an array of souvenirs, from magnets to art and the iconic elephant print temple pants. Haggling is the norm, so be prepared to negotiate for the best prices. While the initial asking price may be high, bargaining is part of the experience, and purchasing multiples might secure you a further discount. However, it’s essential to strike a balance, considering the value of the items and the livelihood of the local shopkeepers.

For a more authentic Cambodian experience, visit the Made in Cambodia market, where local artists showcase their handicrafts and jewelry. Located on Oum Khun Street, just a 10-minute walk from Pub Street and open from 12 pm to 8 pm, this market provides an opportunity to support Khmer artisans and take home unique, locally crafted treasures.

Feed and bathe with the elephants at Kulen Elephant Forest

Siem Reap Kulen mountain
Siem Reap Kulen mountain

Journey on a compassionate and enriching experience at Kulen Elephant Forest in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Established in 2018 as a sanctuary for elephants previously involved in offering rides to tourists at the Angkor temples, Kulen Elephant Forest stands out as a beacon of ethical wildlife practices. Spanning 400 hectares of secondary forest, the sanctuary collaborates with the local community to provide a dignified retirement for these majestic creatures.

As Cambodia faces rapid deforestation, adversely impacting the native elephant population, Kulen Elephant Forest becomes a vital haven. The sanctuary not only allows elephants to roam freely, dine on natural vegetation, and enjoy their pool but also aspires to establish a breeding program.

The experience at Kulen Elephant Forest is both educational and heartwarming. Visitors actively contribute to the well-being of the elephants, preparing morning snacks and accompanying the gentle giants on their forest stroll. Witnessing the elephants revel in their pool, displaying their playful antics, adds a magical touch to this meaningful encounter. Kulen Elephant Forest strives to shift perspectives, fostering an appreciation for elephants as endangered beings rather than mere commodities, and offers a captivating morning immersed in the world of these cherished animals.

Visit APOPO – the Hero rat

Amidst the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor, the tragic history of Cambodia often fades into the background. Scarred by a prolonged civil conflict, Khmer Rouge’s genocidal rule, Cambodia is haunted by landmines and unexploded ordnance. Decades after these conflicts, the country still bears the brunt, holding the world’s highest ratio of mine amputees per capita.

APOPO, originating in Belgium in the 1990s, has devised an ingenious solution to this menace. They train giant African pouched rats, affectionately known as “Hero Rats,” to detect landmines by sniffing out TNT. These rats, being too light to trigger the explosives, can traverse large areas safely and far more swiftly than humans equipped with metal detectors. By solely identifying the scent of explosives, they expedite the process, covering an area equivalent to a tennis court in just 30 minutes, a task that would take a human 4 days to complete. A visit to APOPO’s Siem Reap visitor center offers insights into the NGO’s projects, including rat training for tuberculosis detection. Witness a demonstration by one of these hero rats and even have a close encounter. It’s an exceptional cause and conveniently located on the route back from Angkor Wat, making it a meaningful addition to your temple visit. Entry is $8, and the visitor center operates from 8 am to 5 pm, with the last tour commencing at 4:30 pm.

Visit Cambodia Landmine Museum

Cambodian Landmine Museum, established in 2007 by Aki Ra, a former Khmer Rouge child soldier turned demining activist, serves as a poignant testament to Cambodia’s tumultuous history and the persistent threat of landmines. Located about 40 minutes from Siem Reap, the museum showcases thousands of decommissioned landmines and explosive devices recovered in Cambodia. Aki Ra’s personal journey, from a conscripted child soldier to a demining advocate, adds a compelling narrative to the exhibits.

This educational institution, a collaborative effort with the Cambodia Landmine Museum Relief Fund, aims to raise awareness about the devastating impact of landmines left from 20th-century conflicts. Visitors gain insight into the lingering consequences of past wars on Cambodia’s population. The museum provides a sobering yet necessary experience, shedding light on the ongoing struggles faced by the local people due to the remnants of war. Open daily from 8 am to 5 pm, entry costs $5, with free admission for children under 12 and Khmer nationals. To optimize your visit, combining it with a temple day and adding the museum at the end is recommended to avoid extra travel expenses. Alternatively, if exploring the temples isn’t on the itinerary, the APOPO center, just 6 minutes away by tuk-tuk from central Siem Reap, offers a more accessible option.

Joining a Siem Reap food tour

Embarking on a Siem Reap food tour offers a delightful immersion into Cambodian culture and cuisine. Guided by a knowledgeable local, you’ll traverse a bustling night market, delving into the culinary treasures that define the region. This experience goes beyond mere tasting; it’s an exploration of tradition and culture.

Navigating through popular street food stalls, sampling snacks, and indulging in dinner, the food tour promises a diverse array of mouthwatering specialties. It’s a journey through the rich tapestry of Khmer cuisine, allowing you to eat like a local and uncover the savory secrets of Cambodian culinary artistry.

These food tours cater to various preferences, ensuring even vegetarians can relish the experience with a plethora of plant-based options. Beyond satisfying your taste buds, a Siem Reap food tour becomes a cultural odyssey, offering insights into the country’s traditions and the vibrant tapestry of its culinary heritage.

Joining a Siem Reap cooking class

Siem Reap Cambodia curry cooking class
Siem Reap Cambodia curry cooking class

Taking a culinary adventure in Siem Reap by participating in a cooking class and delving into the art of creating Cambodian cuisine with your own hands. Beyond savoring the local dishes, these classes offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of Siem Reap. Consider options like the Paper Tiger Cooking Class, where you can refine your cooking skills under expert guidance. For a more authentic experience, explore the Khmer Cooking Class at a Local’s Home, providing insights into Cambodian home cooking.

The Cambodian Village Cooking Class offers a hands-on encounter with rural culinary traditions, while the Morning Cooking Class and Market Tour take you through vibrant local markets before guiding you in crafting delectable dishes. For those with a sweet tooth, the Cambodian Desserts Cooking Lesson with Tastings promises a delightful exploration of traditional Cambodian sweets. Don’t miss out on the chance to elevate your Siem Reap visit through this enriching and flavorful experience.

Learning the art of pottery

Joining on a delightful and creative adventure in Siem Reap by joining a pottery class. It’s an enjoyable activity that offers hands-on experience in the art of pottery making. At places like the Khmer Ceramic and Fine Arts Centre, you can immerse yourself in the world of pottery, learning the intricacies of creating beautiful pieces, including unique souvenirs like Angkor-style bowls.

The pottery class provides you with the opportunity to shape and design your own pottery under the guidance of skilled instructors. It’s not just an activity; it’s a chance to tap into your creativity and produce something special. Crafting your pottery allows for a personalized touch, making it a memorable and distinctive experience.

By participating in a pottery class in Siem Reap, you not only gain a new skill but also take home a tangible reminder of your time in this vibrant city. It’s an excellent choice for those seeking a fun and creative way to connect with the local culture and create lasting memories.

Get a traditional Khmer massage

Indulge in a rejuvenating experience by getting a nice massage while traveling through Southeast Asia. This exciting activity is a must-try, and you can find massage parlors throughout the city offering this delightful service at remarkably affordable prices, ranging from $1 to $7. Another unique experience is the famous fish spa, available for only $5 to $10. 

Immerse your feet in a tank filled with fish that delicately nibble away dead skin, providing a tingling and invigorating sensation. You can even enjoy a refreshing beer while the fish work their magic. After the session, your feet will feel revitalized and spotless. Whether you have some free time between your explorations or you’re planning a visit to the iconic Angkor Wat, indulging in a massage or the delightful fish spa is a fantastic way to unwind and pamper yourself.

Watching the sunset at Srah Srang

Uncover the hidden jewel of Siem Reap at Srah Srang, a man-made lake that might appear unassuming initially but harbors a breathtaking secret. Once graced by a floating temple and now guarded by majestic serpent statues, this location promises a mesmerizing sunset spectacle that demands inclusion in your Siem Reap itinerary. 

The serene beauty of Srah Srang becomes especially enchanting during the dry season, offering a unique and unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in the tranquil ambiance as you witness the sun casting its golden hues across the lake, creating a picturesque moment that will linger in your memory. For those seeking not only the historical marvels of Angkor Wat but also the quieter, more contemplative corners of Siem Reap, a visit to Srah Srang is an essential addition, promising a serene retreat and a captivating display of nature’s beauty.

Final thoughts

Uncover the captivating allure of Siem Reap, a destination that goes beyond the iconic Angkor Wat. Originally a rural village transformed into a vibrant travel hub, Siem Reap offers a mesmerizing fusion of history, culture, and contemporary vibrancy. Our curated list of things to do in Siem Reap besides temples, aims to inspire your next adventure.

Embark on a tailored journey with Viland Travel’s customized tours. Going beyond the beaten path, Viland Travel designs experiences that align with your preferences. Whether it’s delving into the intricacies of ancient temples, immersing in bustling local markets, or relishing the serenity of rural landscapes, Viland Travel ensures your Siem Reap adventure is personalized and unforgettable. Let Viland Travel enhance your exploration, turning every moment in Siem Reap into a vividly told story.