Experience some of the best sights in Cambodia with our 3-day Siem Reap itinerary. Visit all the mysterious Angkor temples, soak up the unique culture of a floating village on Tonlé Sap plus enjoy the best of the city.  

By: Mark Barnes | Published: 15 Mar 2024

Siem Reap is the second biggest city in Cambodia and an essential stop on any trip to the country.

Its calling card are the remarkable Khmer temples built in the 9th to 12th centuries. Lost for hundreds of years, these elegant stone cities are partially consumed by the forest, making them the most evocative religious buildings in the world.

Just a few miles south is Tonle Sap, the largest lake in southeast Asia. Here locals adapt to the changing height of the lake by living in homes that float on the water or perch high above it on stilts.

In addition to the surrounding sights, there are plenty of great things to do in Siem Reap including interesting museums, an old market, and plenty of cool bars.

Our itinerary covers 3 wonderful days in the area with tips on when to visit, where to stay and suggested additions if you have more time.

angkor wat temple siem reap

HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED IN SIEM REAP?

We recommend spending 3 full days in Siem Reap. This gives you enough time to explore all the most famous temples (as well as some lesser visited ones), visit a floating village on Tonle Sap and enjoy the nightlife in Siem Reap.  

It is however possible to see most of the highlights in just two days.

Four days would allow time to see the highlights at a more leisurely pace, explore some of the museums, and spend time chilling by the pool.

Here’s some ideas for how to fit Siem Reap into a 10-day of 2 week Cambodia itinerary.

BEST TIME TO VISIT SIEM REAP

Siem Reap is hot and sticky all year round. Daily average highs are between 30°C (86°F) and 35°C (95°F) all year.  

However, the year is split into two seasons, the wet season, and the dry season. In the wet season (May-October) it can be cloudy all day with intermittent rain and high levels of humidity. In September, it’s so overcast you might never see the sun.

In the dry season (November to April) temperatures drop by a couple of degrees, there is little rain and less humidity. It’s still hot and sultry, but less so than in the wet season and there is much greater chance of clearer skies.

The best months to visit are December & January. They are the coolest months of the year, and the Tonlé Sap Lake is still relatively full of water – perfect for seeing the floating villages.

For more tips on visiting, read planning a trip to Cambodia.

3-DAY SIEM REAP ITINERARY

Here is an overview of our 3-day Siem Reap itinerary.

  • Day 1 – Small Circuit of Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm.
  • Day 2 – Beng Mealea and Banteay Srei, followed by Tonlé Sap.
  • Day 3 – Grand Circuit of less the visited temples, and Cambodian Circus.

At the end of this guide, we have suggested amendments in case you want to take things a bit slower.

tuk tuk driver bayon gate angkor small circuit
ANGKOR THOM

DAY 1 IN SIEM REAP

SMALL CIRCUIT

For day 1, follow the Small Circuit, a circular route around the most impressive temples around Siem Reap.

  • Get an early start and head to Angkor Wat to watch sunrise from behind the north or south reflecting pools.
  • Explore Angkor Wat not missing the carvings on the southern and eastern walls, the Hall of a Thousand Gods or the views from the Upper Level.
  • Next head to Angkor Thom, a collection of temples, the most impressive being Bayon with its 216 smiling faces.  
  • Visit the Tomb Raider temple, Ta Prohm, fighting a losing battle against the jungle.  
  • Finish at Banteay Kdei with its maze of chambers, Buddha statues, lintels, and bas-reliefs.

The entire tour takes between 6 to 9 hours depending on how long you spend at each temple. There are restaurants and shops dotted along the route to pick up some lunch.

You can find detailed instructions, including times, tips on how to get around, and maps on our Small Circuit guide.

BACK IN SIEM REAP

If you leave Siem Reap an hour before sunrise you should be back about mid-afternoon.

Spend the afternoon relaxing by your pool or strolling around town. In the evening explore the Old Market, and grab dinner at the stalls of the Riverside Night Market which are perched on the banks of the river.

DAY 2 IN SIEM REAP

Start day 2 by visiting the best temples on the outskirts of Siem Reap then take a tour of a floating village on Tonlé Sap.

OUTER TEMPLES

  • Hire a taxi for the morning and take the 1-hour drive to Beng Mealea, a remarkable temple literally consumed by the forest.
  • Next drive 1 hour to Banteay Srei, a small temple with intricate carvings, considered the pinnacle of Khmer artwork.
  • Drive back to Siem Reap (45 minutes)

TONLÉ SAP FLOATING VILLAGE

In the afternoon join a tour to a floating village on Tonlé Sap Lake. There are quite a few to choose from, but we recommend either Kompong Phluk or Kompong Khleang. You can read all about them on our Tonle Sap post.

Tours leave Siem Reap between 2 pm and 2.30 pm and end with sunset overlooking the lake.

DINNER IN SIEM REAP

For dinner head to Street 26 in Siem Reap. Banlle does good vegetarian food, Tevy’s offers excellent Khmer classics, and Miss Wong provides the cocktails in a bar inspired by 1920’s Shanghai.

TIPS FOR DAY 2

  • This is a busy day so you’ll want to leave by 8 am otherwise you’ll miss the Tonlé Sap tour.
  • The taxi tour around the temples will cost about $65-75 and takes about 5 hours.
  • There is an optional canoe experience on Tonlé Sap which cost $5 per person and is payable in good quality US notes only.
  • If you want to take things slower see our itinerary adjustments lower in this guide.

DAY 3 IN SIEM REAP

On day 3, complete the Grand Circuit, a route that explores the less visited temples that surround Angkor Wat.

As you don’t need to leave for sunrise, you can have a slower start this morning. Have a leisurely breakfast in your guesthouse or try Sister Srey for an excellent coffee.  

GRAND CIRCUIT

Organise a tuk-tuk to leave around mid-morning and do the Grand Circuit tour in an anticlockwise direction.

  • Start with a brief photo stop at Prasat Kravan, then explore the monumental pyramidal structure of Pre Rup, followed by East Mebon.
  • Next go to Ta Som, not missing the eastern entrance to see the remains of a tree consuming the gate.
  • Stop off at North Baray lake, then walk across the boardwalk to Neak Pean temple.
  • Finish at Preah Khan, a maze of corridors and vaults similar to Ta Prohm without the crowds.

ANGKOR WAT IN THE AFTERNOON

On the way back to Siem Reap, you’ll pass Angkor Wat and it should be late afternoon. The light hitting the façade of the temple at this time of day is beautiful and it’s generally much quieter.

Head back to the north and south reflecting pools and libraries to get photos in the peace and quiet.

Note – Angkor Wat closes at 5.30 pm so make sure you arrive a good thirty minutes beforehand.

Angkor Wat at sunset
AFTERNOON AT ANGKOR WAT

PHNOM BAKHENG FOR SUNSET

We suggest one of two options for this evening. If you’ve still got the energy head to Phnom Bakheng and hike up to the summit (25 minutes) to watch sunset over the jungle. You can see Angkor Wat in the distance and there is often a good hubbub on the summit.

PHARE

The views from Phnom Bakheng are not amazing (in our opinion), so another option is to go to Phare, the Cambodian Circus. The performance is in a large tent in the western part of Siem Reap and it’s a lot of fun. The show begins at 8 pm and lasts 1 hour.

ITINERARY ADJUSTMENTS

The above is our recommendation on how to spend 3 days in Siem Reap. However, if you only have two days, we suggest you complete Day 1 and Day 2 of the itinerary above.

If you have three days and don’t want to rush, consider this slower 3-day itinerary:

You’ll miss the Grand Circuit, but it’ll be more relaxing, and you’ll have seen the best Siem Reap offers.

If you have four days, follow the slower 3-day itinerary above, then on the fourth day complete the Grand Circuit.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

This 3-day itinerary covers our highlights of Siem Reap. But it’s a popular destination and there are plenty of other sights.

Don’t miss anything you might be interested in by reading our guide to the best things to do in Siem Reap.

There are also lots of very different-looking temples. Here’s a breakdown of all the best temples near Siem Reap.

ANGKOR TEMPLE TICKETS

To visit the Angkor Temples near Siem Reap you need a pass from Angkor Enterprise. You can purchase the pass at the entrance gate to the main Angkor temples, but it can take time.

It’s much more convenient to purchase them in advance online. The pass can then be stored on your phone to show as you enter each temple.

There are three types of tickets:

  • 1-Day Pas ($37) – Entry to all the Angkor temples for 1 day.
  • 3-Day Pass ($62) – Entry to all the Angkor temples for any 3 days in a 10-day period.
  • 7-Day Pass ($72) – Entry to all the above temples for any 7 days in a 1-month period.

The pass will be scanned at the entrance to most of the major temples to monitor how many days have been used. Children under the age of 12 are free but must show their passports.

Note – Even if you follow our 4-day itinerary above you can buy the 3-day pass, as the third day exploring Siem Reap city and visiting Tonlé Sap does not require the ticket.

WHAT TO PACK

Read our guide on what you need to know before travelling to Cambodia, but here are some items particularly useful for hot days walking around the temples.

  • A refillable water bottle to help cut down on the excessive plastic use in Cambodia.
  • High-factor sunscreen and a floppy hat that covers the neck.
  • Mosquito spray with a high level of DEET and bite cream.
  • Good comfortable walking shoes – the miles quickly add up.
  • Longer shorts – shorts that are too short are not allowed in the temples. Men seemed to get away with shorts just above the knee, but the rules are stricter for women.
  • Bring plenty of T-shirts with sleeves – sleeveless T-shirts are not allowed in the temples.
  • In the wet season bring comfortable thin walking trousers and a light rainproof.
  • A light rucksack to carry items during the day will be handy.
  • Basic first aid kits including rehydration salts are always a good idea in Cambodia.
  • A lot needs to be paid for in cash, so always have small change in US or Cambodian Riel.
monk giving blessings at Angkor Wat
ANGKOR WAT

WHERE TO STAY

Siem Reap has embraced tourism with plenty of accommodation options from budget backpacker lodges to luxurious hotels. Here are a few recommendations from us.

HOSTEL | $

ONEDERZ SIEM REAP

Located beside the Old Market, this excellent hostel has private rooms and dormitories with free Wifi and two swimming pools.


BOUTIQUE | $$

JAYA HOUSE RIVER PARK

Located outside the busy area in a tropical garden, this beautiful property has excellent Wifi, air-conditioning, and a very enticing pool.


LUXURY | $$$

BOPHA WAT BO RESIDENCE

A smart clean hotel with a pool in a lovely garden setting. The breakfast is superb and it’s just a short stroll into the centre of town.  


siem reap itinerary

MORE TRAVEL TIPS FOR CAMBODIA

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