Top 5 Places to Visit in Cambodia to Learn About Its Rich History

Learning Cambodia’s History: Top 5 Places to Visit

Cambodia is an incredible destination for history lovers. Find out our top 5 places to visit to learn about the country’s rich and interesting past.

Cambodia is a fascinating country with a deep and significant history. From the golden age of the Angkor Wat period to the harrowing rule of the Khmer Rouge, its past has profoundly shaped what the country is today.

No trip to this captivating destination is complete without exploring its historical monuments and learning about its history, both recent and ancient.

Cambodia is back open for international travel, so there’s nothing stopping you from starting your adventure.

Top places to visit in Cambodia

1. Ancient wonders at Angkor Wat

angkor wat is one of the places to visit in cambodia

Image credit: Poswiecie

It may be a given, but Angkor Wat is an absolute must-see for any visitor, especially history lovers. It’s the no.1 tourist attraction in the country, and the site has become such an important symbol of Cambodia that it even appears on their national flag.

Translated into English, Angkor Wat means ‘The City of Temples’, and that’s exactly what it is. Built all the way back in the 12th century, it’s the largest temple complex in the world.

The collection of temples made up the capital of the almighty Khmer Empire, and it’s still a sacred place of worship. The temples are a perfect example of the impressive skills and intricate beauty of Khmer architecture.

Angkor Wat is also perfectly situated in Siem Reap, so you won’t be short of things to do once you’ve crossed the temples off your bucket list.

Top tip: Angkor Wat covers a huge area — a day isn’t enough to see even just the main temples, you’ll want at least a couple of days to explore.

Also read: 10 Things To Do In Cambodia Aside From Temple Tours!

2. A deeper history in the Killing Fields

Killing Fields Cambodia

Image credit: silkesauer

Cambodia also has a difficult and much more recent history that cannot be left untold. During the reign of the ruthless and oppressive Khmer Rouge communist party, mass genocide led to the deaths of almost two million people.

Although a haunting experience, it really is worth visiting Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, known as the Killing Fields. This previous orchard was cruelly converted into a site of mass graves, where thousands of Cambodians lost their lives at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

The Killing Fields is an immersive and educational trip, with an informative audio guide that takes you around each part and explains what took place there.

It may not be for the faint-hearted, but it gives a true insight into just what happened during those years of Khmer Rouge rule. Understanding Cambodia’s dark history gives a greater sense of what has shaped this incredible country.

Top tip: You can easily find guided tours that include The Killing Fields and other important sights where you can learn more about the Khmer Rouge, such as the infamous genocide museum.

3. Colonial rule at Bokor Hill Station

Bokor Hill Station

Image credit: Matnkat

Cambodia also had an era of French colonial rule during the late 19th century. A great place to see evidence of this is at Bokor Hill Station.

On top of Bokor Mountain in southern Cambodia, you’ll find a group of French colonial buildings that were built to serve elite French residents in the 1920s.

The buildings, including a church and a hotel, are all abandoned and derelict, perfectly representing the end of France’s rule in Cambodia.

Top tip: Head to the terrace of the hotel for amazing views that look all the way out to Vietnam’s southern islands.

4. The ancient dispute of Preah Vihear Temple

Preah Vihear Temple

Image credit: UNESCO via Wikimedia

Preah Vihear Temple has a truly complex history that goes all the way back to the 9th century. It is an exceptional example of Khmer architecture, and the temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

The location of the Preah Vihear Temple is a big part of why it’s so interesting. It sits on the edge of the border between Cambodia and Thailand, making it the cause of persistent clashes over the true ownership of the sacred site.

This incredible structure doesn’t have the crowds that Angkor Wat and other more visited temples have, so you can soak in the incredible ancient architecture at your own leisure.

Top tip: Take notice of the Preah Vihear Temple’s structure and how it differs from other Khmer temples you’ve seen in Cambodia so far. It’s considered unusual by its long north-south axis that contrasts with the typical rectangular plan.

5. Sacred sights at Phnom Kulen

Phnom Kulen is one of the places to visit in Cambodia

Image credit: Narith5

Phnom Kulen, literally meaning ‘Playground of the Lychees’, is a sprawling national park located in Siem Reap province.

It is a sacred site, and Kulen Mountain is even considered to be Cambodia’s most sacred mountain. The area is packed during national holidays and religious festivals, where locals and visitors flock to all year round.

Bask in the remarkable waterfalls at the top of the mountain, and gape up in wonder at the giant reclining Buddha at the Preah Ang Thom pagoda.

Top tip: The area is highly visited by natural medicine doctors, known as ‘kru khmer’, who give blessings to those seeking better health from its holy waters.

So, which of these top places to visit in Cambodia will you explore first?

About Author

Helena Vila
Helena Vila

Helena is a full-time traveller who wanders all around the world just for adventures. She loves breathtaking sceneries in Southeast Asia, and definitely a foodie. She writes adventures and organizes new journeys for other people!