Cambodia holiday, beyond Angkor

“Cambodia is famous for Angkor Wat, but there’s so much more to discover, and this two week small group tour reveals it all.”


Phnom Penh | Spider village of Skuon | Angkor | Angkor Wat | Pilgrim’s Way Path and Phnom Kulen Plateau | Anlong Veng Town | Preah Vihear Temple | Kep | Siem Reap | Tonle Sap Lake | Kompong Chnang | boat trip on Tonle Sap River | Udong | Phnom Tamao wildlife rehabilitation centre | Rabbit Island | Ta Prom Tonle Bati temple | overnight stay in monastery

Description of Cambodia holiday, beyond Angkor

Explore away from the well worn tourist trails and get a real understanding of local people, history and culture on this Cambodia holiday, beyond Angkor. This comprehensive 14 day small group tour takes in a host of superb sights which are frequently missed by travellers to Cambodia. It was designed to suit travellers who have been to Cambodia before, but the holiday can be easily adapted to work perfectly for first-time visitors who want a different insight into the country, without missing the famous sights. So we visit the world renowned temples of Angkor, and those new to the site can enjoy an organised tour, while returnees are free to ramble and hike at will.

There are lots of off the beaten path highlights on this two week tour. Hike to the sacred mountain of Phnom Kulen to stay the night in a remote monastery. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sambor Prei Kok, a 7th-century ruined city. Head to the Thai border and explore Anlong Veng, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold and admire the spectacular views from the dramatic, cliff-top Preah Vihear Temple – also a World Heritage Site. On the coast, enjoy the pretty port town of Kampot with its crumbling French colonial architecture and end your holiday in the old French seaside resort of Kep, where you can relax on the beaches of Rabbit Island and tuck into sundowners and seafood at the Crab Market.

Travelling on foot, by minibus and boat, you’ll soak up the unspoiled Cambodian countryside, peppered with paddy fields and stilt villages and throughout the tour, taste wonderful regional food and meet lots of incredibly friendly and welcoming people.

Travel Team

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13 Apr 2019
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01 Jun 2019
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27 Jul 2019
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19 Oct 2019
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23 Nov 2019
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28 Dec 2019
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Holiday type

Small group holiday

This is a 'small group adventure' - you will be sharing your experiences with like minded people. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 12 persons, a genuinely small group. Experience has taught us that smaller groups are less intrusive to local cultures and environments whilst allowing more interaction with local people. Furthermore it means greater flexibility on a day to day basis and on a social level it proves to be fun. Whether you are travelling alone or with friends/family its good value, and a great way to meet new people! The intention is to travel as a group of friends rather than a typical tour group, so don't expect stick-on name badges or any following the umbrella.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Cambodia holiday, beyond Angkor


Group sizes
Our group sizes are genuinely small, with scheduled tours usually limited to just 9 persons. Experience has shown that this offers major benefits in various areas, and is integral to our concept of responsible tourism.

- Transport; we are able to use smaller types of transport as well as making public transport more practical. i.e. pick–up trucks and minibuses instead of large coaches. This has practical as well as ecological benefits
- Nature and the Environment: Similar benefits arise with respect to any nature based activities: hiking, snorkeling, bird watching etc. Not only do smaller groups have less negative impact on the natural environment but, as above, it is easier for a guide to transmit instructions and knowledge. There is also far more chance of spotting birds and wildlife with lower numbers.

National Parks
If governments see that creating and maintaining National Parks can create revenue, then it is an incentive for them to preserve such areas and create new ones instead of short term gain from logging, plantations etc.

If local communities can see that National Parks, Forest Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries etc bring in revenue for local communities and employment for local people then it is an incentive for them to respect such protected areas and participate in tourism schemes.

We therefore feel it is essential to incorporate as many such protected areas into our itineraries as possible – not only to show the scenery and exotic flora and fauna to visitors, but also to encourage authorities and local people to establish and take care of such areas.

General point
The itinerary includes the following national parks: Phnom Kulen, Kep, Phnom Bokor and Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary. Specific schemes supported on this itinerary include; The Saray Water Hyacinth Handicraft project in Prek Toal village. Organized and funded by Osmose and the Australian Govt. this scheme involves villagers in fabricating and selling handicrafts made from the non-indigenous water-hyacinth plants that clog up a lot of Cambodian waterways. A visit to this project is included in the trip.


Group sizes
- Service is inevitably improved with a high ratio of guides and tour-leaders to customers and we are able to offer a more personalized service. Information and directions are passed on far more easily and a high level of flexibility can be maintained, which isn't possible with larger groups.
- Socially; small numbers create a much more cohesive group with far less chance of cliques or 'groups within groups' – it's often been described by those who travel with us as "more like a group of friends and not like a tour group at all".
- Restaurants and Accommodation; we use smaller, locally run restaurants and accommodation that larger groups wouldn't be able to do - again another essential element of our tours.
- Visiting local people; Another significant advantage is when visiting local people, villages, tribal groups and so on, a smaller group has far less impact, is far less intimidating and there's a much greater chance of a warm welcome and opportunities for genuine interaction. (No villager is going to invite 16 people in for a cup of tea!)

Off the beaten track
Providing a balance between the well known 'must sees' and the off the beaten track 'best kept secrets' is what we're all about. Not only taking in the famous sites and well known destinations, but also the rarely visited ones not usually included in tour itineraries, but which we believe provides a more authentic insight into the countries visited.

Not only does this mean you will visit sites which are more remote and which most people don't get to see, but also that the people living in these less frequented areas will also get to benefit from the tourist dollar. The vast majority of tourism in SE Asian countries only touches a few key sites: e.g. in Cambodia only a very small percentage of visitors get to see anything other than the temples of Angkor and at a push Phnom Penh. In the case of Thailand the vast majority of the country's tourism revenue is spent in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Samui and Chiang Mai.

People from Eastern Thailand hoping to benefit financially from tourism would more than likely end up having to go hundreds of miles to work in Bangkok or Pattaya; and anyone wishing to do the same in Western Cambodia would converge on Siem Reap, leading to social problems and depopulation in these rural areas and creating a serious imbalance in wealth between such regions.

Local food and meals are an essential part of any culture therefore an essential part of enjoying new and different cultures is discovering their traditional food. That's why on all our tours, meals are, as much as possible, based on authentic regional food eaten in local restaurants, and whenever possible, we avoid eating in hotels and flashy tourist establishments. A Thai green curry eaten in a Western chain hotel is probably going to be altered for the Western palate and identical to those found in many UK high streets, whereas one eaten in a bustling night market is going to be the real McCoy!

This means better and more authentic food, and also means our custom is going directly to small cafés and market vendors rather than big businesses - and again provides more opportunities for interaction with local people.

By eating in this manner we are encouraging local people to offer local alternatives to visitors and indeed to increase pride in their traditional cuisines. It's a sad state of affairs, and perhaps a reflection on many tourists, that in many areas, local people are of the impression that all foreigners want to eat pizzas and drink Nescafe!? It's nice to show the locals otherwise.

General point
The second general point – ‘off-the-beaten-track’ is particularly relevant with regards to ‘Beyond Angkor’ since it includes several destinations that are well off the usual tourist routes in a country where tourism is concentrated to an unusually high degree in one particular spot. I would estimate that 90% of tourism in Cambodia is restricted to Angkor and Siem Reap. Being a very poor country with little industry, (and in many parts of the country only subsistence level farming), we feel that ‘spreading the tourist dollar’ around in Cambodia is extremely important. This itinerary includes: Sambor Prei Kuk in Kompong Thom Province, remote areas of Siem Reap Province such as Phnom Kulen and Koh Ker, Battambang, Kompong Chnang & Pursat Provinces, Udong in Kandal province, several sites in Takeo Province and Kep and Kampot. In all these areas local and locally owned guides, transport, restaurants and accommodation are used.

Wat Preah Kral. Preah Kral Monastery on Phnom Kulen is a very remote monastery inaccessible by road. As well as being a functioning Buddhist temple it also functions as a hospital/sanatorium for local persons suffering from mental illnesses as well as ailments such as epilepsy. Monks use traditional medicines, yoga, meditation and prayer to treat the sick and whatever Western doctors may think they claim a very high success rate. The monastery also acts as an old people’s home with board and lodging provided for widows with no remaining family in exchange for cleaning and cooking tasks. All in all a fascinating place to visit and a site well worthy of our support. We include a visit, over-night stay and cash and food donations to the monastery.


Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary is run by Wildlife Alliance, and all of the animals kept here have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. They are rehabilitated and released when possible, but unfortunately the physical or psychological harm they have suffered means that most will not be able to leave the sanctuary. There is one elephant who has been involved in performances – something which Responsible Travel does not usually support. However, in this case, the elephant has been trained using positive reinforcement methods, and is demonstrating how she carries out tasks. Training is necessary to ensure vets and handlers can treat her safely. As the sanctuary is carrying out extremely important work, and the overall impacts are positive for wildlife, we have decided in this case to continue to support Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary.

3 Reviews of Cambodia holiday, beyond Angkor

4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 14 Dec 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Too many to mention.. the food was delicious, Angkor temples were stunning, guides were knowledgeable and courteous and the addition of the Vietnam war/ Khamer Rouge prison camps added a sobering and enlightening aspect to the background understanding of the wonderful people in both countries.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Chay - vegetarian food in Vietnam. Take a swimming costume - if you stay in a hotel with a pool, it is bliss to cool off after the heat of the day.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I absolutely felt every aspect helped local people. The hotels and home stay were all small and independant, The guides were local with families living in the cities. We used guides at the visitor attractions, ate in very local restaurants, markets and bus stops along with locals and and local business men, our transport was all independent. We stopped at a water hyacinth weaving workshop on Tonle Sap lake which is making a business from harvesting the invasive hyacinth and selling woven products for income. I also visited a Seeing Hands massage place in Siem Reap - an organisation set up to help blind women train up in the skill of massage and earn an income.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Outstanding, the reassurance of knowing where I was going, without the stifling tourist group feel of big business holiday tourism. It felt like I had astonishing luxury with great information and insider knowledge but with a light touch on the communities I visited. It was perfect for me.

Reviewed on 09 Jan 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The early morning visit to Angkor Wat temple to see the sun rise. This was organised by individual members in the group and we really enjoyed the free time to explore other temples in the area as we did not have time to do this in the organised day trip to the temple. Also the visit to the monastary was very interesting except we did not have the opportunity to talk to the monks in order to understand their beliefs and to absorb the atmosphere. Cambodian people we met were very friendly and hospitable.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Not to have expectations and just absorb the experience of the visits. Keeping an open mind makes the trip more enjoyable. Be prepared for the long and bumpy road journeys within Cambodia.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I don't feel that the trip particularly benefited the locals as the places visited were also tourist attractions. And as for impact on the environment it is difficult to say. I did notice there was more waste and rubbish were tourists frequented the areas.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I would recommend this holiday for first time visitors to Cambodia. And just to be aware of the differences in culture and to try to understand it without judgement.

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you to Rabea for her very kind and interesting comments. Its great to hear that she would recommend it to first time visitors to Cambodia - it was originally designed for those who had visited the temples and now wanted to get below the surface of the country.

With regard to the positive impact on local people, we do believe it is possible to have a benefit despite visiting tourist attractions. At tourist sites we do encourage the use of the many locally run restaurants and cafes and the purchasing of handicrafts and souvenirs from local people .

The Beyond Angkor, in particular is an itinerary which visits off the beaten track sites that are only really known to locals including the overnight stay at a monastery well away from the tourist trail.

In Cambodia sites frequented by foreign tourists are generally kept clean and tidy though litter can be a problem in places popular with foreign and local tourists. When off the beaten track we do encourage our tour leaders to use bags to collect litter they find whether it belongs to our group or not and also point out to local guides how much it reduces people's pleasure in the places they are visiting.

Reviewed on 05 Apr 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Jungle walks, sleeping in a temple on a sacred mountain, travelling by boat past floating villages. Ancient temples all to ourselves literally in the middle of nowhere. Meeting people with stories of Yetis and the Khemer Rouge. The whole holiday was a thoroughly exciting one from beginning to end. Not to forget of course the splendour of Ankor Watt.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Just go and have a brilliant time.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes definitely.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

This holiday certainly lived up to it’s description of being 'a bit different' With friendly, well informed and organised guides we were able to travel to places that were well off the beaten track and get a real sense of Cambodian life and history. Combine this with comfortable, clean and friendly hotels it still felt like a holiday with time to chill and do our own thing. Brilliant.

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