The Best Cambodia Itinerary for 5 Days

Cambodia Itinerary 5 days

Are you looking for a Cambodia Itinerary for 5 days? You’ve come to the right place! My name is Amy (AKA Templeseeker) and I’ve spent three weeks travelling in Cambodia and can recommend you the best sites that should not be missed if you are on a time limited. Let me tell you this – if you can spend longer in Cambodia, please do! The amazing country warrants at least 3 weeks to fully explore the cities, beaches and temples on offer.

However, I understand that for many people, South East Asia is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you may only have 4 or 5 days to spend. Don’t worry, even if you only have 5 days to spend in Cambodia, if you plan it well you will see the main sites of the capital city of Phnom Penh and also the main temples of Angkor Wat.

Cambodia Itinerary 5 days
Here’s me at Angkor Wat! My world no. 1 destination for Templeseeking!

Tips for Planning your Cambodia Itinerary for 5 days

  • Do one or two destinations MAX and I would suggest combining Phnom Penh and Siem Reap
  • If you are massively into religion and history and like to pace yourself while travelling then I would recommend just focusing on the Siem Reap temples.
  • Don’t travel by bus within Cambodia (this can be a nightmare and they are ALWAYS delayed!) – so take internal flights such as Lanmei Airlines.
  • Avoid the beaches of Sihanoukville! They are no longer the peaceful haven that they used to be 10 or 20 years ago – they are now full of building work and rubbish strewn everywhere.
  • Avoid Monsoon season (May to October) – November and December are the best months to visit Cambodia.
  • If you are working full time and not a practicing Christian then consider making use of your Christmas holiday for your Cambodia trip. I actually flew to Cambodia on Christmas Day and it was a great decision (really quiet airports and a lovely atmosphere).
  • Buy the Lonely Planet Cambodia – Although you can get a lot of information online these day, the Lonely Planet on Cambodia has some excellent maps and a detailed section that focuses on Angkor Wat and tells you al about the history and the best temples.
  • Download the GRAB app before you arrive – you can use this to order taxis and tuk-tuks in Cambodia. It works just like Uber and tells you exactly how much you should be paying.
  • Take plenty of crisp $1 bills and small denominations – although Cambodia has its own currency, it actually operates a dual currency system with both Cambodian riels and USD in circulation.

Lonely Planet Cambodia

Getting to Cambodia

There are two options for getting to Cambodia – flying into Phnom Penh or travelling into Cambodia via Bangkok.

The first is what I did – I flew into Phnom Penh and started my Cambodia journey there. However, the flight to Phnom Penh actually turned out to be a pain in the ass for me (there was no direct flight and I had to change in China!).

I learnt later on that most travellers go to Cambodia via Bangkok mainly due to the easy of travel with connecting flights. Bangkok is an international airport hub and I could have taken a direct flight there and then taken a flight from Bangkok or travelled overland to Siem Reap.

Whichever option you choose for travel into Cambodia will determine which way round you do this itinerary. You will either start in Phnom Penh and do Siem Reap second or vice versa. I am going to write this itinerary starting in Phnom Penh because that’s the way I did it, but depending on your travel plans you can switch it around.

Cambodia Tourist Spot
Faces in Bayon Temple, Siem Reap

The Best Cambodia Itinerary for 5 Days

So, you only have 5 days to spend in Cambodia? Here’s what you’re gonna do!

Spend two days in the capital city of Phnom Penh where you will see the Phnom Penh Grand Palace and Silver Pagoda plus a few smaller sites in the city. On your second day in Phnom Penh you will do the harrowing but important tours of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields to learn about the history of Cambodia under the Khymer Rouge.

You will then take an internal flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap where you are about to experience the largest and most amazing ancient temple complex in the world – Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat as I have mentioned is a temple complex – that is many, many temples to explore and not just one! I would recommend that you spend two days exploring the temples (do the small circuit and the grand circuit). Then on your final day you can choose to see more temples or a different activity in Siem Reap such as shopping or the visiting the APOPO hero rats.

I will now give a more detailed breakdown of this itinerary so that you know exactly where to go and what to book.

Travel Tip: Use the GRAB taxi app to order your taxi on arrival. For the airport run I recommend an actual taxi rather than a tuk-tuk because Phnom Penh traffic will fill your tuk-tuk with unhealthy fumes and the Siem Reap Airport run will be extremely dusty which gets on your chest and in your eyes. Once you are settled into your hotel, tuk-tuks are fine for getting to the temples and main sites.

Phnom Penh – 2 Days

Book yourself into a decent hotel – Phnom Penh is excellent value for money and it is easy to find a 3 or 4 star hotel for around £25-30 a night! I stayed at the HM Grand Central Hotel which was extremely comfortable and a decent location.

Travel Tip: Dress conservatively which means legs and shoulders covered. They will not let you into the Royal Palace (and some other attractions too) if you are not wearing modest clothes. If you turn up with a vest top you will be told to buy a T-shirt at the gate to go in!

The first 2 days of your Cambodia Itinerary for 5 Days will be spent in the capital city of Phnom Penh. On your first morning wake up early and jump in a tuk-tuk straight to the Phnom Penh Royal Palace.

Day 1 – Phnom Penh Grand Palace and National Museum of Cambodia 

The main sites of your first day in Cambodia will be the Phnom Penh Grand Palace and National Museum of Cambodia. You will spend approximately two hours at each of these, and then there may be some left over time for you to visit some other things in the city such as Wat Phnom or some of the markets.

AM – Phnom Penh Grand Palace

It opens from 8am most days and the earlier that you get there the better to avoid the crowds and the heat of the day. It is usually closed for an extended break at lunch so double check the times in advance. The setting of the palace is beautiful and you are immediately greeted by Cambodian statues and stunning plants and flowers.

The first set of buildings you will come to is the Kings palace, where you will see some stunning examples of Khymer architecture including the Throne room, the Moonlight Pavilion and Khemarin Palace. Visitors are allowed to look inside the Kings quarters but no photos are allowed inside this room.

Phnom Penh Tours
King’s Palace – Phnom Penh Grand Palace

The second complex you come to is the Silver Pagoda temple complex. The Silver Temples itself is so called due to the 5000 or more silver tiles covering the floor of the main vihara. You are allowed inside the vihara where you can see some fine examples of Cambodian Buddhist riches including the Cambodian Emerald Buddha (actually made from crystal) and a life-sized gold Buddha  encrusted with more than 2000 diamonds. In this complex you will also be able to visit the Buddha’s Footprint Vihara, stupas and statues of the King and Kailassa Mountain (a small and sacred hill and a peaceful oasis within the city). Khailassa Mountain is not many steps!

Take a lunch break before heading to the Royal Museum.

PM – Cambodian National Museum

The Cambodian National museum is located right next to the Phnom Penh Grand Palace and so you won’t have to travel far. The building itself is stunning and the museum is the largest historical and archaeological museum in Cambodia. Several exhibitions display statues, lingas and artefacts that can be traced back to ancient times. You will even find the Leper King from Siem Reap and a massive bronze Vishnu from the 11th Century.

What to do in Phnom Penh
Cambodian National Museum – Phnom Penh

Wat Phnom

If you are not completely knackered after that massive and intense influx of Cambodian architecture and history, jump in a tuk-tuk and head to Wat Phnom, which is the highest temple in Phnom Penh. The entrance fee for tourists is a small donation of just $1.

Day 2 – Tuol Sleng S21 Prison and the Killing Fields

If you are checking out of your hotel today for the onward journey to Siem Reap, ask the hotel to look after your luggage while you do the Killing Fields tour. Alternatively, stay over tonight and fly to Siem Reap early in the morning.

This second day is a tough one – you will see the S21 Prison where innocent people were tortured during the reign of the Khymer Rouge and also the Killing Fields where people were put to work and murdered. Cambodia was led by the communist government of Pol Pot 1975 to 1979. During this time Pol Pot took the country back to the ‘year Zero’ and approximately 2 million Cambodians suffered death from starvation, forced labour or execution. It is a difficult part of history to come to terms with, but it is an import thing to understand as a tourist in Cambodia, because almost everyone you see around you will have been directly affected or had family members affected in some way.

I would advise that you book a Phnom Penh Killing fields tour that covers S21 prison in the morning and the Killing Fields in the afternoon. You will gain an insight into the Cambodian history from your guide and booking on a tour will make it easy to travel between these two locations. Book this tour with Get Your Guide here.

Travel Tip: Dress respectfully and observe silence during this tour as they are places of memorial. Shorts and vest tops are not allowed.

AM – S21 Prison (Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum)

Approximately 17,000-20,000 prisoners went through S21 prison between 1976-1979 and shockingly, only 11 died. Most of the prisoners were soldiers, government officials, academics, doctors, teachers and students, who were accused of going against the governmental regime.

The prison has now been converted into a museum and memorial to remember the lives lost and educate people on the history of the Pol Pot regime. It is quite a harrowing visit – be prepared to see torture chambers (and equipment), solitary confinement cells and a photograph gallery of victims.

Sometimes there are survivors there who have written books about their experiences. You can support them by purchasing a book for just $10.

PM – Kiling Fields – Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre

The Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre built on one of the largest killing fields of Cambodia. There are no tour guides here, but you can purchase an audio guide for just $3 (at the time of writing) which is well worth it. Go round on your own – this is a place for reflection. Stick to the paths and avoid stepping on the mass graves. Prepared to see remnants of bones, teeth and clothing of the victims which may have worked its way up to the surface. The most disgusting part was the ‘killing tree’ where members of the regime used to smash babies and children heads of the tree to kill them – it is sickening. You will finish your tour of the killing fields at the memorial stupa which was built in 1998, and contains over 8000 human skulls.

Travel Tip: On the evening on your second day (or the morning of the third day) you should head to the airport and take an internal flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap ready for the temples of Angkor Wat. If you are limited to a 5 day schedule, do not take the bus – they are almost always delayed and often break down and travelling by bus will ultimately mean that you lose a day.

Siem Reap – 3 Days

Welcome to Siem Reap! This spiritual place is home to some of the most impressive ancient temples in the whole world! You will need to spend at least two full days seeing the temples. The first day will be the grand circuit including Angkor Wat and the second temple day will be for the small circuit including Ta Prom (The Tomb Raider temple with the Bayon trees!). Go early in the morning on your first day to the Angkor Wat ticket office in Siem Reap to buy your 3 day temple pass – you can find a guide to buying your ticket to Angkor Temples here. Note you can NOT buy tickets to the temples at the temples themselves!

Travel Tip: Take a lanyard with a small clear wallet attached so that you can wear your temple pass around your neck. There are a lot of check points and you will also be asked for it at most temple entrances so you need it handy!

Angkor Wat Guide
Angkor Wat

Day 3 – Angkor Wat and the Grand Circuit Temples

On your first day plan to be up and out early Hire yourself a tuk-tuk and request Angkor Wat and the grand circuit temples which includes:

  • Angkor Wat – UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest religious monument in the world (this can also be seen on the day of the small circuit).
  • Preah Khan – Preah Khan is a 12th Century temple that was built by King Jayavarman VII that was run by 100,000 servants at its peak.
  • Neak Pean – A small but beautiful 12th Century temple built on water – take the walkway across and don’t fall in. Beware of the monkeys!
  • Ta Som – Ta Som was built in the 12th Century in Bayan style with a Bayan tree growing across the back gate (sometimes referred to as Tomb Rader II).
  • East Mebon – 10th Century temple built in the reign of King Rajendravarman and dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
  • Pre Rup – Built in 961 AD out of sandstone, brick and laterite and dedicated to Shiva. The name suggests it was used for funerals. The temple is high so expect quite a climb.
Ta Som Temple Grand Circuit
Ta Som temple, Siem Reap

You may want to spend 2 hours at Angkor Wat due to the scale of it (especially if you are queuing to climb the main tower). For the other temples around an hour is enough and some of the smaller temples such as Neak Pean may only need half an hour.

Ask your tuck-tuk driver to stop off for a lunch stop for you some time around lunch – there are plenty of small cafes and cheap restaurants dotted around the park which serve good value and tasty food. Your driver will be able to recommend somewhere.

Travel Tip: It is essential to book a tuk-tuk for your days at Angkor Wat – the distance between the temples is too far to cycle or walk.

Evening – Aspara Dance Show or Share (Traditional Cambodian Circus)

If you are up for it after all those temples, book yourself an evening meal with Aspara dance show (traditional Cambodian dance) or Phare (the Cambodian Circus).

Day 4 – Angkor Wat Temples – Small Circuit

Your 5 day Cambodia Itinerary will continue with more temples today and you should follow the route for the Angkor Wat small circuit. Your tuk-tuk driver will be happy to look after you again! If you didn’t get to see Angkor Wat in your first day then head straight there – Angkor Wat can be seen on either of these routes. The main temples to see on the small circuit day are:

  • Phnom Bakheng – Head there early to catch sunrise or or later for sunset photo of Angkor Wat. It’s a 15 minute walk up to Phnom Bakheng.
  • Bayon – This is the temple with the large faces! A 12th Century temple with 5 gates, all decorated with Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s head.
  • Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King (Inside Angkor Tom) – Often skipped but tell your Tuk-Tuk driver to stop here! This 12th Century terrace Elephant trunks carved into the rock was used by King Jayavarman VII as a platform from to view his victorious returning army from battle!
  • Ta Keo – Built entirely out of sandstone in 975AD and in a similar style to Pre-Rup.
  • Ta Prohm – Ta Prohm is a late 12th Century temple that was originally called Rajavihara and was made famous by the Tomb Rader movie.
  • Banteay Kdei – Known as the ‘Citadel of Monks’ this temple was built in the late 12th to early 13th Century during the reign of Jayavarman VII Some drivers skip this so tell them to go if you want to see it and be aware of the bats!
  • Srah Srang – Skippable but nice for sunset photos and the end of the day.

There are also two other temples that are skippable but you can add them in if you have time – Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda.

Evening – Drinks on Pub Street

If you can manage to head out for some evening drinks then you need to get yourself over to Pub Street! Be warned – it’s rather tacky and you will find mostly tourists getting drunk rather than locals! Enjoy a beer at one of the best drinking holes such as Temple Club, Laundry Bar or Angkor What?!

Day 5 – More Temples and shopping!

Sorry to say that it’s the final day of your Cambodia Itinerary for 5 Days! There are two options for the last day – one is to have another day of temples and the other is to mix it pop a bit with some shopping and museum experiences.

Option 1 – Bantei Srei and Roluos Group

If you are not yet templed-out so to speak, then take a tuk-tuk to Bantei Srei in the morning which is a 10th Century temple dedicated to Shiva and one of the most beautifully carved Siem Reap temples. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘temple of women’. Then in the afternoon I would recommend a visit to the Roluos group of temples. These are even older than the main Angkor Wat temples and date back to 9th Century.

Roluos Group Temples
Roluos Group Temples – from 9th Century, Siem Reap

Option 2 – Shopping and APOPO Hero Rats!

Alternatively you can go shopping in Siem Reap – it’s fun to explore some of the local markets such as Old Market (Phsar Chas) or the made in Cambodia market. Be aware that there have been some pick pockets reported in the markets so keep your belongings close and don’t carry more money than you need.

As an additional optional activity for your last day you might like to meet the APOPO rats of Siem Reap. These hero rats have been trained to sniff out landmines so that areas can be cleared and declared safe. Don’t worry, the rats are too light to set the land mines off!

APOPO Siem Reap Hero Rat
APOPO Hero Rat of Siem Reap – these rats are MASSIVE and very clever!

Sadly you are now at the end of your 5 days in Cambodia. I hope that you have thoroughly enjoyed this trip. It’s now time to get packed up and head off for your next adventure! Enjoy 😉

Cambodia Itinerary for 5 Days – Further Reading

I hope that you found this Cambodia Itinerary for 5 Days helpful and I would love to hear your feedback. Please comment on my blog below. If you are visiting Cambodia then you might also find these articles useful for planning your trip…