A perennial Stubborn Mule favourite, Cambodia offers families the perfect blend of rich culture, awe-inspiring ruins, friendly villages, remote jungle and tropical palm-fringed beaches. Flanked by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, Cambodia has much in common with some of its neighbours – they collectively formed the mighty Khmer empire in centuries past – but is less developed and far less visited.
From staying with a local family or cycling through the paddy fields to catching sunset from the eighth wonder of the world, we’ve whittled down the many unique experiences on offer to our Cambodia with kids Top 10. Enjoy!
Our top 10 Cambodia with kids activities
1. Visit a stilt village on Tonlé Sap Lake
On the shores of the massive Tonlé Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, you’ll find a number of stilt villages, with all the houses suspended on 8-foot stilts. When the water level is high enough (all year round except Easter) your kids will love taking a boat trip around the village, weaving in and out of the stilts. Impress them even more by telling them that this is the only lake in the world where the waters change direction, then see if they can find out why…
If you’re wondering what a stilt village may look like, check out our ‘Cambodia Armchair Traveller Photo Blog’
2. Cycle around the ruins at Angkor Wat
Any Cambodia with kids trip HAS to include the largest religious temple complex on the planet. Be warned though, the site is huge. Whilst you can easily visit the main temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon and Angkor Thom by foot, we find that families of every age much prefer cycling, thereby being able to explore the outer lying ruins more easily and avoid the ‘are we there, yet?’ pleas. Sunset at Angkor Wat can be a very touristy (a.k.a. busy) affair so you’ll get a much better view from atop one of the less-visited ruins – and a view to yourselves too.
3. Go ziplining in the jungle
Near to Angkor Wat (but not invasively so) is a zip-line eco park, where you and your kids can soar through the forest canopy in a thrilling way, enjoying amazing jungle views as you do. So. Much. Fun.
4. Take the Bamboo Train at Battambang
Less visited and touristy than Siem Reap yet Cambodia’s second-largest city, Battambang is known for its French architecture and cosmopolitan feel. It also boasts an even more famous attraction that anyone travelling through Cambodia with kids should visit: the bamboo train. Affectionately known as ‘Norrie’, the bamboo train is essentially a bamboo platform that balances over two sets of wheels and is powered by a motorbike engine. It was once used to great effect in the days following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge and proved a lifeline to villages needing to transport goods across the country. Today, with the roads much improved, the Norrie has become more of a tourist attraction, albeit a kooky one.
5. Enjoy the tropical islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloen
Just off the coast of Sihanoukville are the paradise isles of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloen, where you can stay in Robinson-Crusoe-style beach huts (or, if you prefer, a more upmarket resort). Pleasures here are of the simple kind but you and your family will love the laid-back nature of the white-sanded and palm fringed isles. Its a great place to swim in the turquoise waters and far from the construction sites plaguing mainland coastal Cambodia.
6. Explore the Cardamom Mountains
In an action-packed holiday in Cambodia with the kids, there aren’t that many opportunities to get out and explore the countryside. However one exception is a gorgeous eco lodge in the Cardamom mountains, in the south west of the country bordering Thailand. Here you can really get out to explore virgin forest either by quiet trails, spotting wildlife, monkeys and tropical birds and butterflies, by kayak or by taking a sunset boat ride. We take you through the jungle to a waterfall where you and your family can swim in the pool at the base of the waterfall – sheer bliss!
7. Go kayaking on the Mekong or in the Cardamom Mountains
There’s something magical about exploring by kayak; something about the peace and quiet as you glide through the water with nothing to hear but birdsong and the gentle sound of water dripping from the paddle. In the south of Cambodia, deep in the Cardamom Mountains, you can paddle down the Tatai River to one of Cambodia’s most impressive waterfalls. Stop for a swim and soak up the jungle views. Further north, near Kratie, you can paddle down the Mekong through a flooded forest to a small island in the middle of the river. Stop for a swim and a snack of sticky rice before heading back onto the river to look for river dolphins. Bliss.
8. Take a cookery course
In the South East Asian pantheon of famous cuisines, Thailand and Vietnam take the top spots for internationally recognised dishes. Who doesn’t recognise a Thai green curry or a freshly rolled Vietnamese spring roll? But Cambodia deserves its place too, and has plenty to keep the foodie happy; think fish wrapped in banana leaves, coconut soups, lim-marinated beef salad and, for the braver amongst us, stir fried red ants. One of our favourite activities to include in Cambodia with kids is a traditional cookery lesson, when you can learn some of the secrets of Khmer cuisine.
First visit the market to learn about the various ingredients before heading to the kitchen to discover how to combine these to concoct some of Cambodia’s most popular recipes. In our experience even fussier children may be persuaded to taste more exotic dishes when they have had a hand in creating them.
9. Watch circus skills and acrobatics
The Cambodian Circus, a social enterprise located in Siem Reap, with its nonprofit school, Phare Ponleu Selpak, based in Battambang, has transformed the lives of hundreds of local children. It is a success story just as much as a fascinating, engaging and entertaining day or night out. You can watch the school run circus skills and dance classes throughout the day before taking in a real performance during the evening. Do read more about what’s been quoted as, ‘The best experience in Cambodia’.
10. Visit twin towns of Kep and Kampot
In the south of Cambodia, near the Vietnamese border, lie the attractive twin towns of Kep and Kampot. Kep lies on the coast you can you spend a wonderful couple of days here taking a boat ride to Rabbit Island to go snorkelling, visiting a butterfly farm, taking hikes in the national park and exploring the crab market. The market is great fun for kids and you can watch as the fishermen bring in the day’s catch before tucking into a large plate of freshly cooked seafood. Prawns on a stick anyone?
Kampot is equally worth a visit, a slightly ramshackle but utterly charming collection of colonial buildings on the edge of a river. After wandering around the town, visit a pepper plantation and take an early evening cruise on the river to watch the fireflies dance over the water.
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