The Ultimate 3 day Siem Reap Itinerary

The Ultimate 3 day Siem Reap Itinerary

Welcome to my ultimate 3 day Siem Reap Itinerary! I love, love, love Siem Reap and it’s one of my favourite destinations in Southeast Asia. Mainly, of course due to the fascinating and spectacular temple complex of Angkor Wat. 3 days in Siem Reap is enough to do the grand circuit (big loop), the small circuit and then have either an extra temple day (such as Roluos Group temples or Banteay Srei) or an extra day to do some non-temple activities such as shopping or visiting the APOPO hero rats. Your last night will be spent enjoying the bars on Pub Street and celebrating your successful trip.

An Introduction to Siem Reap

Siem Reap, in the North West of Cambodia is famous for its world class ancient temple complex (Angkor Wat). As a result of the attraction of the temples, tropical climate and the cheap cost of living, this destination now attracts backpackers and digital nomads from around the world. This means that Siem Reap is ideal for solo travellers, as well as those travelling with friends and family. I found Siem Reap to be so enjoyable that I stayed for almost 10 days! But you will be able to see the highlights in a 3 day Siem Reap Itinerary.

Ny favourite She
Cambodian monks in front of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

What is the best time to visit Siem Reap?

Siem Reap is hot all year round – the main two seasons are the wet season and the dry season. Both are hot and so you want to avoid being hot, wet and muggy – so go in the dry season. The best time to visit Siem Reap is from November to February. Christmas is a great time to visit and many people travel at this time to make the most of their time off work!

Getting there and around Siem Reap

Siem Reap is served by a decent airport and you can get direct flights from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and also the Thai capital Bangkok. It is possible to travel overland but it can be a long and uncomfortable journey from both these destinations. As it’s cheap to fly in Southeast Asia it’s not really worth the overland travel – what little amount you would save wouldn’t warrant the travel time!

In Siem reap itself, the best way to travel around is by Tuk-Tuk. The temples are too far away from each other to walk or cycle between them. A decent tuk-tuk in Siem Reap is around $25-30 per day and it’s always a good idea to get a driver recommended by a fellow traveller so that you are safe and don’t get ripped off

A few words of advice about visiting Siem Reap

I spent over 10 days in Siem Reap and spent a full week visiting the temples! Here are a few words of advice for your 3 day Siem Reap Itinerary…

  • Spend at least 3 full days in Siem Reap.
  • Book a tuk-tuk driver to look after you and take you to the temples – it’s too far to walk or cycle between them.
  • Try to buy your temple ticket from the ticket office the day before you start your temple tours, otherwise this will hold you up first thing in the morning.
  • Buy the three day Angkor Wat ticket and have it readily available to show people at the temple gates (a lanyard with a waterproof display pouch attached is a great idea).
  • Wear sturdy walking boots (not trainers or converse because thorns and scorpion stings can penetrate these).
  • Set out early for the temples (around 7.30am) – ideally you don’t want to be climbing them during the heat of the day.
  • Get good travel insurance for Siem Reap – private hospitals can be extremely expensive and medical bills can rack up pretty quickly.
Siem Reap temples Cambodia Banteay Srey
Banteay Srei, just outside of Siem Reap

Where to Stay in Siem Reap

  • If you are looking for a party hostel then stay at the Siem Reap Mad Monkey. It’s got a great bar, good pool and a really sociable atmosphere, perfect for meeting other solo travellers.
  • If you want a more serene comfortable room and good customer service, stay at Baby Elephant or Be Happy Guest House.
  • Looking for a spot of luxury in Siem Reap? Eightfold Urban Resort is a 5* resort featuring an outdoor swimming pool, garden, a restaurant and bar. It also has free WiFi and a 24-hour front desk and concierge. All rooms include a balcony with pool view.

What to pack for Siem Reap

The are a few essentials that you will need to pack for your 3 day Siem Reap Itinerary. Double check with your doctor about Malaria tablets for your time of travel, but I was not advised to take anti-malarials there as the Malaria risk is low. Make sure that you take….

  • A refillable water bottle (it gets HOT in Siem Reap) – I recommend the Life Straw with its inbuilt water filter.
  • A lanyard with clear waterproof pouch to wear your Angkor Wat pass visible around your neck (you can buy these on Amazon).
  • A comfortable 25-30L day pack such as Berghaus or Deuter – I prefer one with a waist clip to take the pressure off your bag while exploring the temples.
  • Sturdy walking boots that will support your ankles and keep out thorns, insects and scorpion stings.
  • Loop pile walking socks to keep your feet comfortable and blister free.
  • The Lonely Planet Cambodia – it has some great information on the Siem Reap temples.
  • Comfortable walking trousers – they protect your legs from the insects and thorns of the jungle terrain that Angkor Wat temples are contained in.
  • Plenty of T-shirts (but not vest tops)
  • Comfortable sandles or flip-flops to slip on and off when visiting the inside of modern temples.
  • A good camera (if a DSLR is too heavy go for a simple point and shoot such as the Canon PowerShot or Nikkon Coolpix.
  • Basic medical kits including anti-histamines, hydrocortizone cream and rehydration sachets (plus any usual travel meds or frequent medication that you take).

Siem Reap 3 Day Itinerary – At a Glance

Here is a short summary of the ideal Siem reap itinerary…

  • Day 1 – Angkor Wat and the small circuit
  • Day 2 – Angkor big loop (Grand Circuit)
  • Day 3 – Third temple day (Banteay Srei or Roluos Group)

3 days in Siem Reap is enough to do the grand circuit (big loop), the small circuit and then have either an extra temple day (such as Roluos Group temples or Banteay Srei) or an extra day to do some non-temple activities such as shopping or visiting the APOPO hero rats. Your last night will be spent enjoying the bars on Pub Street and celebrating your successful trip.

Angkor Wat Guide
Entrance to Angkor Wat temple, Siem Reap

Detailed Siem Reap 3 day itinerary

Here is a detailed 3 day Siem Reap itinerary with a detailed breakdown of the temples that you should not miss.

Day 1 AM/PM

Allow 6-7 hours to do Angkor Wat plus the small circuit (Bayon, Terrace of the Elephants, Ta Keo, Ta Prom and Banteay Kdei).

  • Wake up early for sunrise at Angkor Wat – it’s one of the few temples that opens from 5am (along with Phnom Bakheng another good sunrise temple) and it will be less busy the earlier that you go. You will possibly need to queue again to go up the Angkor Wat main prang, but the views are well worth it.
  • Bayon Temple – this is the one with the big faces – all five gates are decorated with Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s head.
  • Terrace of the Elephants – This is often skipped, but tell your tuk-tuk driver to make sure that he stops there – this beautiful terrace was used by King Jayavarman VII as a viewing platform to greet his victorious returning army. 
  • Ta Keo – New on the small loop is this interesting pyramid style built entirely out of sandstone in 975AD.
  • Ta Prom – This is the 12th Century ‘Tomb Raider’ temple that has been engulfed by a Bayan tree.
  • Banteay Kdei has four Gaporas (monumental gates) and was built in Bayan style and so you may see similarities between this and Bayan. Look out for the bats hanging up above!
Angkor Wat Small Circuit
Me and my Mom at Ta Prom, one of my favourite temples on the small circuit!

Bonus temples – If you have the energy and you are not templed out, you might also like to include Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda.

In the evening, if you fancy it head to JOMNO restaurant for some Modern Khmer Cuisine. Alternatively, you could head to the night market for some street food.

Day 2 AM/PM

Your second day will be a tour of the Angkor Wat grand circuit (Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon and Pre Rup).

  • Preah Khan – A massive 12th Century temple that was built by King Jayavarman VII to honor his father. It had 100,000 servants at it’s peak and is one of my favourite Angkor temples.
  • Neak Pean – This small but beautiful 12th Century temple surrounded by water was known as the temple of the Dragon King.
  • Ta Som – Known as the brother of Ta Prom, this temple is often referred to as ‘Tomb Raider II’ and also has a Bayan tree growing through it.
  • East Mebon – One of the earlier temples on this circuit, East Mebon was built in 10th Century during the reign of King Rajendravarman and was dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
  • Pre Rup – this mountain style pyramid temple was built in 961 AD – it’s quite a climb but worth it especially if you can go up for sun-down. The perfect way to end your second day of temple seeking.
Angkor Wat Grand circuit
Inside Preah Khan, one of my favourite grand circuit temples

Take a meal at a local restaurant and then head to ‘Pub Street‘ for some drinks and socialising Siem Reap style! Some of the best bars include…

  • Banana Leaf
  • Angkor What?!
  • The Laundry Bar
  • Temple club
Pub Street Siem Reap
Pub Street, Siem Reap – all lit up at night!

Day 3 AM/PM

On the third day in Siem Reap you can either choose to have another temple day or a day of alternative activities. If you want more temples, here are some ideas…

  • Banteay Srei (well worth a visit) and Banteay Samre – you need to travel out of the city slightly for these so need a driver.
  • Roluos Group – These temples date back to the 9th Century as part of the ancient town of ‘Hariharalaya’.– so much earlier than the main Angkor Wat temples (these were 11th and 12th Century).
  • Beng Mealea – Known as the jungle temple, this one really is overgrown! It’s around an hour and a half out of Siem Reap.
  • You might also like to spend time seeing some of the lesser temples just off the main routes such as Phimeanakas and Baphuon (inside Angkor Tom).
Roluos Group Temples
Roluous Group temples – perfect for the morning of your third day in Siem Reap

If you feel that two days of temples is more than enough, then there are plenty of other fun activities to do in Siem Reap besides temples including….

  • Shopping in Siem Reap – the markets are great value (you can grab T-shorts for $1-2) but remember to barter!
  • APOPO rats – Visit the APOPO centre where you will get to meet the giant rats that are successfully clearing Cambodian territory of land mines.
  • Angkor Wat Crazy Golf – Whack that golf ball through miniatures of some of the best Angkor Wat temples! This was one of the most fun things I did in Siem Reap. Don’t go after dark when the bugs and frogs are out in droves!
  • Phare Cambodian Circus – Book yourself an evening at the traditional Cambodian circus featuring high-flying acrobatics.
APOPO Siem Reap Hero Rat
Meet the hero mine detecting rats at APOPO

If you want to Pace yourself

If you want to pace yourself further, you can do Angkor Wat on the morning of the first day, with an alternative afternoon activity, and then do the small circuit on day 2 and the grand circuit on day 3. Some people find the heat and the temple climbs a bit ‘much’. Also, if you have any medical conditions you may want to just do the main temples over three days instead of two, to take the pressure off and relax more.

Additional Activities and Day Trips from Siem Reap

If you are looking for extra add on activities, there are several good day trips from Siem Reap…

  • Koh Ker – This temple complex is about two and a half hours North east of Siem Reap. The temples are impressive and it’s much less explored.
  • Preah Vihear – Built in 893, this large and impressive temple sits high up overlooking the Cambodia-Thai border. Well worth a visit if you have a spare day (or even go the night before and stay over).
  • Battambang – Doable as a day trip if you hire a private driver who can give you a tour, it is a long day but worth it for Wat Sampeau and the Bat Cave. A day trip is rather ambitious and I would recommend a two day excursion from Siem Reap if you have additional time.

Read my article on ‘Is Battambang worth visiting?’

Preah Vihear tour
Me at Preah Vihear temple, near the Thai border

Further Reading on Cambodia

If you found this article useful, then you might like to read some of my other articles on Cambodia including:

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