Best places for solo travel

Girl looks at temple in Angkor Wat complex, Siem Reap

Best Places for Solo Travel

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As great as a travel companion can be, sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect one. Other times, your normal travel companion is busy with work, her boyfriend/girlfriend, or she just has a different country on her bucket list. Whatever your reason may be for hitting the road alone, here are the top ten best places for solo travel in my books. 

#1 Cambodia

Best place for: Temple exploration, beach days, and history 

Having lived here, I may be a bit biased, but Cambodia is one of my favourite countries for solo travel. Cambodian people are so warm that you never really feel like you’re on your own. It also has enough of a traveller circuit that it’s easy to choose activities or places to stay where you can meet people you really click with.

What to do in Cambodia: 

Start off by exploring the temples of Angkor Wat while you base yourself in the town of Siem Reap. If you’re into adventuring and going at it alone, rent a bike and get your exercise sweating your way through these 12th century ruins. Alternatively, sign up with one of the hostel tours to get a feel for the temples and meet some other wannabe Indiana Jones travellers along the way. From Siem Reap, don’t miss out on Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh to learn about the country’s difficult history in the 1970s through a visit its jarring museums, S21 and the Killing Fields. There are plenty of great cafes and restaurants in the city that were made for solo travellers just like you! Then get your water fix by heading down to the islands off of Sihanoukville for some serious beach time and partying, or to the riverside haven of Kampot for kayaking and great coffee. If you’re looking for further trip ideas, check out the 50 best things to do in Cambodia for some more inspiration. 

Safety in Cambodia:

Safety isn’t a major concern in Cambodia, however, phone and bag snatchings are increasingly common, particularly in Phnom Penh. Wear a backpack with both straps on, keep your phone hidden when you’re walking on the street, and just be generally aware of what’s going on around you.

#2 Myanmar

Best place for: Solo sunsets, getting off the beaten path, and meeting new friends 

Myanmar was my first big solo trip, which could be why it ranks so high in my books. The country is a happy medium of being more removed from the well-worn Banana Pancake Trail but still visited enough that you can easily meet a lot of new friends, particularly a number of other solo travellers. People tend to travel around Myanmar in a loop. This means you’ll often meet people who are travelling the same direction as you, allowing you to have your independence with some familiarity along the way. Myanmar has some pretty incredible temples and off-the-beaten-path adventures to experience either solo or with new travel friends. 

What to do in Myanmar: 

Head to the most famous place in Myanmar, Bagan, where you can rent out an e-bike (solo or with a group from your hostel) to explore over 2,000 temples and pagodas. You can also hop in some shared transport to visit the nearby Mount Popa, a monastery perched on top of an extinct volcano with 777 stairs to climb and maybe even more monkeys to get past. From Bagan you can head to Hsipaw or Kalaw that act as starting points for multi-day treks to see Myanmar’s countryside and rest your head in homestays along the way. Treks are also a great way to meet new travel friends. And if you’re craving a bit of reflective solo time? You can visit places like the enchanting Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon or Mandalay’s U Bein Bridge where flocks of people congregate every sunrise and sunset. Both are magical places to explore solo, although you’re likely to get invited to join a local family for a snack at both.

Safety in Myanmar:

Personal safety isn’t an issue in Myanmar. However, do inform yourself on what’s going on in the country. There are grave human rights atrocities happening in Myanmar currently. Do your research to educate yourself on the ethics of travelling to Myanmar and make an informed decision for yourself on whether or not to visit. This article from BBC provides a good basis for assessing if your trip passes the human rights test. 

#3 Colombia

Best place for: Mesmerizing cities, nightlife, and nature

Colombia might not be one you expected to see on this list, but once again the people make this place wonderful for solo travel. I unfortunately don’t speak a lick of Spanish, which made travelling solo in Colombia a bit harder than travelling in Myanmar or Cambodia where English is more frequently spoken. However, the people were so lovely and it’s a relatively easy country to navigate even with limited knowledge of Spanish. It also boasts the most incredible cities I’ve ever been to and one of my favourite treks.

What to do in Colombia:

Colombia has something for every solo traveller. Bogota’s amazing street art scene, cafes and cobblestone streets are captivating and the perfect place for a solo traveller to wander around. Heading up north, stop at Salento in the Cocora Valley to see the country’s famous national tree the Quindío wax palm, then head up to cool Medellin. Take Medellin’s incredible free walking tour, head up the city’s gondola, and enjoy the nightlife. Then visit and wander the bright streets of storybook Cartagena. Finally, get your nature fix in Tayrona National Park on the beaches or test your endurance on the Lost City Trek. The gruelling 4-6 day jungle trek is sure to help you bond with the other travellers in your group – even if it is about just how badly your clothes smell by the end.

Safety in Colombia:

I had one unfortunate taxi scare when I was alone in Colombia and overall I did have to be much more on guard as a female traveller than I did in most other countries I had previously travelled to, save maybe India. But as long as you’re smart, Colombia isn’t as dangerous as you would be led to believe. Be careful, keep your valuables at your hostel in a safe where possible, and make smart choices. You can’t prevent everything bad that could happen, but you can take steps to protect yourself. 

#4 Peru

Best place for: Geographic diversity, mountain treks, and amazing food

The diversity that Peru offers may be unmatched by any other country on this list. Peru is home to the Andes mountains, lush Amazon rainforest and incredible Colca canyon. Beyond geographic diversity, the country is also full of ancient civilizations and history to discover. From lost cities to mysterious lines carved in the desert, and cuisine unlike anywhere in the world, Peru should only be missed at your own peril. It’s also incredibly easy to navigate the country as a solo traveller.

What to do in Peru:

If time allows, spend a week surfing and beaching at Mancora. Then trek the lesser known parts of Peru by basing yourself in Huaraz, located in the breathtaking heights of the Andes. From here you can take a multi-day trek through the Santa Cruz Valley or Cordillera Huayhuash. Move south and experience the chaos of Lima and its delicious (and numerous!) Michelin-Star restaurants (for the flashpackers in the crowd). From Lima, head south to experience the famous sand boarding in Ica or the moonscape of Paracas. You can also take a day trip to the incredible Islas Ballestas, often referred to as the poor man’s Galapagos. From there it’s south to Nazca for a nausea-inducing flight over the mysterious Nazca lines, famous geoglyphs that stretch hundreds of kilometers wide. Continue southward by bus to Arequipa and walk along the gorgeous colonial gem known as the white city before heading to Colca Canyon where the fortunate may catch a glimpse of the giant Andean condor. Once you’ve had your fill of canyon country, head to the bustling city of Cuzco to experience Peru’s cultural juxtaposition first hand. Spanish colonial buildings mesh with ancient Inca walls in a dizzying array of cultural fusion. Next head to the unmissable Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, Salkantay, or Lares treks, or take the train. If you’re a solo traveller looking for something more off the beaten path, venture to the other less famous lost city of the Inca’s, Choquequirao. Once you’ve drank your fill of the Cuzco region, catch a flight to Iquitos the jumping off point of the Amazon or head to Lake Titicaca. 

Safety in Peru: 

Peru is generally very safe to travel in, but exercise caution and avoid walking alone late at night in Lima, Cuzco or on the beaches of Mancora. 

#5 Vietnam

Best place for: Mountains, motorbike rides, and tailored clothes

Vietnam is one of my repeat favourites for solo trips. When I was based in Cambodia I loved sneaking in a weekend away by myself to Ho Chi Minh City for amazing Vietnamese food, awesome coffee shops and the stimulating buzz of a big and increasingly modern city. Vietnam is equally amazing for longer trips, spending a full month going from South to North, or vice versa. Perhaps even more evident in Vietnam than Myanmar, because everyone heads either South or North, it’s easy to adopt travel friends going the same route as you. This makes Vietnam one of the easiest countries to make friends on the road if you’re travelling solo.

What to do in Vietnam:

Even scratching the surface of what Vietnam has to offer is hard to put into one paragraph. Starting in the motorbike chaos of Ho Chi Minh City, visit the War Remnants Museum and indulge in some incredible food across the city. Then head north to the “honeymoon capital” of Vietnam in Dalat, which contrary to its name, is actually really nice for solo travellers. Dalat is full of adventure activities like canyoning and mountain biking, not to mention great Vietnamese coffee shops. Carrying on north you can stop at the beaches of Mui Ne and Nha Trang, then visit the charming (albeit touristic) town of Hoi An to have any clothes you would like tailor made for an affordable price. Travel further north to visit charming Hanoi with its quaint egg coffee shops and water puppet shows. Then take in Ninh Binh or Halong Bay’s iconic limestone formations. If you don’t mind some colder weather, head up north to Sapa to do some trekking or go further afield to Ha Giang’s motorbike loop (where you can rent a bike on your own or get behind an experienced driver) and the impressive border waterfalls in Cao Bang province. All of these places have great group tour options or are perfect for solo exploration.

Safety in Vietnam:

Vietnam is another place I always feel really safe in travelling as a solo female. Again, watch for bag and phone snatchings, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. 

#6 Thailand

Best place for: Beach parties, diving, and cooking courses

If you’re looking for a great first solo trip, Thailand is probably at the top of the list. The beaches are incredible, the cities (Bangkok in particular) are a whirlwind, the people are friendly, the food is to die for, and the culture is fascinating. While you might be forced to share a large portion of the backpacker trail with hundreds of other tank top-clad backpackers, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path spots to be discovered. 

What to do in Thailand: 

Spend a few days getting acquainted with the chaos of Bangkok by visiting the iconic Grand Palace and Wat Pho, or take a backwaters boat cruise through the city’s remaining canals.  Party the night away along the backpacker ghetto of Khao San Road or get upmarket along the many nightclubs of Th Sukhumvit. Once you’ve had your fill of the big city, head north to Chiang Mai and the surrounding hill country for trekking, cooking courses, and waterfall adventures. If you’re craving some time in the sun, make your way south to experience Thailand’s islands, including our personal favourite Koh Lanta, and the plethora of diving, beaching, and (full, half, blue, etc.) moon partying that awaits. 

Safety in Thailand: 

Thailand is an extremely safe country to travel solo in and few streets or areas are dangerous to walk through at any time of the day. Keep an eye on your cash and valuables for unwanted hands and read up on common scams before you go.  

#7 Canada

Best place for: Mountains, water activities, and charming cities (Montreal)

Too often we forget about our own backyard. Particularly now as we become increasingly aware of the impact our flights have on the climate crisis, choosing trips close to home is a great option! From charming cafes and top notch nightlife in Montreal, to the countless mountain and water adventures in the Canadian Rockies, Canada has something for every solo traveller. 

What to do in Canada:

If you’re the type of solo traveller who loves a good cafe, museum, restaurant or cocktail bar, look no further than Montreal. Brimming with culture, this charming city is the perfect mix of North America and Europe. If you’re in the East anyways, pair this trip with a journey up to Toronto or maybe even down to New York City in the USA. If you prefer the wild outdoors, start in Vancouver or Calgary to visit the incredible Canadian Rockies. There are fantastic one day to multi-day hikes to get your fill of nature, not to mention kayak trips and whale-watching if you head over to Vancouver Island. 

Safety in Canada:

Canada is generally very safe and a great place to go as a solo female traveller. That being said, be aware of wildlife that may cross your path. If you’re planning to hit some hiking trails, try to group up with other travellers or locals and be sure to pack bear spray in case you meet a grizzly or black bear en route. 

#8 Taiwan

Best place for: Street food, hot springs, and waterfalls

Taiwan is surprisingly underrated, particularly for solo travellers. The people here are unbelievably friendly and helpful, so even if you stop for a moment on the street I can guarantee someone will come up to you and ask if you need help. It’s also full of incredible nature, including some of the best hot springs around. 

What to do in Taiwan:

Taipei is a mecca for any solo traveller who loves sampling different street foods with markets galore. You can also easily get around the city by public transit to access the zoo, the city’s gondola, and its beautiful temples. Take a quick jaunt up Elephant Rock to see the sun set over Taipei 101 – while you may be a solo traveller, you certainly won’t be alone for this view. Taiwan is such a small country, that it’s easy to base yourself in Taipei and do plenty of day trips to the incredible Taroko Gorge, hot springs in Beitou, and beautiful waterfalls in Pingxi. Overall Taiwan is a great solo trip, whether you base yourself in Taipei or travel around the country. 

Safety in Taiwan:

Taiwan is another generally very safe option. I never had any issues here and would highly recommend Taiwan as a solo female traveller.

#9 Indonesia

Best place for: Volcanoes, rice paddies and yoga

Indonesia is one of my favourites for diverse adventures on a solo trip. If you’re looking to do some serious solo relaxation time, you can head to Bali for all of the smoothie bowls, yoga classes, rice field walks and massages your heart desires. If you’re looking for a bit more of an adventure, travel over to one of the neighbouring islands for some rougher travel with lower tourist numbers.

What to do in Indonesia:

Indonesia, home to some 18,000 islands, has no shortage of travel options. Bali is obviously the most popular place to go, and if you’re getting your toes wet with solo travel, it might be a great starting point for you. Head to Ubud for yoga classes galore and smoothie bowls in the rice fields, visit the waterfalls up at Munduk, and maybe try a surf lesson in Kuta. If you’re looking to try a bit less polished of a trip, head to the island of Flores where you can see the amazing volcanic lakes of Mount Kelimutu. Flores also serves as the jumping off point to see the incredible Komodo dragons. If you’re more of a great apes fan, travel to the island of Sumatra where you can see Sumatran orangutans in their natural habitat from Bukit Lawang. Overall, the options are endless in Indonesia, and can suit any kind of solo traveller.

Safety in Indonesia:

With such a vast array of islands, all unique to themselves, it’s hard to put one safety rating on the entire country. Overall, Indonesia is a very safe place to go, and whenever I have visited solo I haven’t had any issues. However, do be mindful of the laws here and, again, use common sense. 

#10 Sri Lanka

Best place for: Train rides, spicy food, and beaches

Sri Lanka has continued to soar in popularity for travellers. With its magical train rides, incredible surf, and delicious spicy food, Sri Lanka is deservedly popular. It’s a slightly more relaxed place to travel than India, which makes it a good option for solo female travellers looking to get their feet wet exploring South Asia. 

What to do in Sri Lanka:

After getting settled in and spending a day or two acquainting yourself with the country’s largest city, Colombo, venture inland via train to Kandy to experience the cultural heart of the country. From Kandy take the iconic train (yes, the one you’ve seen all over Instagram) further through stunning countryside and make the sacred pilgrimage up Adam’s Peak. Alternatively, spend several days exploring the tea country of Nuwara Eliya or Ella. If beaches are more your thing, head south for the best of Sri Lanka’s beaches. Be sure to experience the white sand of Talalla Bay and catch the waves at Weligama or Hiriketiya. To take a break a break from the sun, interrupt your beach days with a day trip to the old forte at Galle. If you have time, venture further afield to Sigiriya (Lion Rock), north to the cultural melting pot that is Jaffna, or east to the surfing mecca of Arugam Bay. 

Safety in Sri Lanka: 

Sri Lanka is a safe country to travel in, but subject to cultural and religious clashes. Check security warnings before heading out. 

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Koh Lanta Travel Guide | Top things to do in Koh Lanta 2019

Koh Lanta talabeng sea kayaking

koh Lanta Travel Guide | Top things to do in Koh Lanta in 2019

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Charming Koh Lanta may just be Thailand’s perfect island. The island boasts stunning beaches, miles of peaceful roads, a picturesque old town, and a Goldilocks level of development and culture (yes, that means just right). Koh Lanta is one of those places where a three day stop can easily transform into a month (or longer) stay. Only two hours away from Krabi airport, Koh Lanta has been spared the plague of overdevelopment that has spread to so many of the Thai islands (and the Banana Pancake Trail), most notably the island that is ominously visible from Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi.  Unfortunately, places change quickly in Thailand and with major road construction (twinning and a second bridge connecting to the mainland) already in the works, Koh Lanta’s days of tranquility may be numbered… so book your trip and use this guide to make the most of your time on this incredible island. * This post contains affiliate links. We’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you if you click the links and make a purchase. Just like the travel backpacks we build, we’re very particular about travel products and services. So any products or services we suggest, we test and use ourselves before making any recommendations or endorsements

The best things to do on Koh Lanta 

Explore on motorbike

Koh Lanta is best explored by motorbike/motor-scooter, allowing you the flexibility to explore all that the island’s 22km coastline has to offer at your own speed. Not to mention the thrill of zipping up and down steep roads with the breeze blowing through your hair/helmet as you hop from one palm-lined beach to the next and pray you have enough throttle left to ascend the next hill. Not only is motorbike the best way to explore Koh Lanta, but it’s also the most economical. Full-day bike rentals are available for 200 baht a day or less. The island is also reasonably relaxed in terms of traffic, so it’s a great spot for farangs (foreigners) to cut their teeth on #scooterlife. If you go this route, make sure you’re well insured with a comprehensive travel insurance. Riding a motorbike is a blast, but it’s not the safest activity out there. So be smart and make sure you’re prepared if something doesn’t go according to plan.  If you’re not comfortable with driving a bike, there are transportation options available including hiring moto taxis or a private driver, but be prepared to have less freedom and spend as much as 600 baht for taxi transport to some of the remote southern beaches or up to 3000 baht for a full-day private driver. 

Beach the days away

Koh Lanta offers a plethora of jaw-dropping beaches all along the island’s western coast, which get more breathtaking the further south you head. If you’re exploring the island by motorbike, you’ll have the freedom to beach hop at your own leisure! Go in low season (mid-April to November) and you may have many of these beaches completely to yourself. Because Koh Lanta’s beach endowment can be somewhat overwhelming (who is complaining!), here’s my ranked list of Koh Lanta’s top beaches: Klong Jark Bay – A stunning stretch of white sand. This beach was our personal favourite. It’s big enough that even with a few people you’ll still feel like you’re completely alone.  Nui Bay – Journey down a series of steps to access this small beach protected by rocks on either side. A rustic bar in the middle of the beach serves ice cold Singha and Chang. A word of warning – monkeys roam this beach and may be ready to snatch your unattended coconut.  Mai Phai Bay – The last beach before the National Park. Kantiang Bay – Adjacent to Kantiang village, this beach tends to be a bit busier but serves as a great option if you’re staying in Kantaing village or stopping there for a mid-day meal.  Relax Bay – A great option if you’re looking for something quaint and close to Long Beach.  Cooking with Mon Koh Lanta

Take a Cooking class with Mon

Learning to cook is an incredible way to experience Thai culture and bring your memories of Thailand home to graciously share with all of your friends and family. Cooking with Mon is an incredible option for learning to prepare all your Thai favourites. From khao soi to phad thai and mango sticky rice, Mon masterfully guides you through a marathon cooking session (ours was five hours!) that familiarizes you with the staples of Thai cuisine. Best of all, he gives you a feel for Thai cooking, by discouraging exact measurement and letting your palate be your guide. He tops the whole class off by providing you with a pdf recipe book with over 30 Thai favourites. Truly a must do on Koh Lanta! 

Check out Koh Lanta Old Town

Ban Si Raya or “Lanta Old Town” is a trip back in time to an era when this port served as a safe harbour for Arab and Chinese trading ships navigating the Andaman Sea. Today, century-old stilt houses have been converted into guesthouses, shops, and cafes that overlook the sea. While slightly touristy in feel, a walk down the main drag makes you forget where you are and begin contemplating life as a trader, sailing the high seas and trading in tea, spices or perhaps even opium (for the adventurers in the audience).  If you’re cooking with Mon (see the prior point), the cooking school is located near the Old Town. So go early, have breakfast in the Old Town and take a moment to explore this cool spot.

Dive Thailand’s Best Dive Site

Koh Lanta provides access to Hin Daeng, a site that is often ranked as Thailand’s best dive site. Hin Daeng is a large mid-sea pinnacle that frequently serves as home to massive shoals of fish and large pelagic fish like sharks, tuna, and barracuda. Dives to Hin Daeng are often paired with dives at the also spectacular Hin Muang. Unfortunately, the mid-sea location makes this an expensive dive (4000 to 5500 baht) with a lengthy commute (2 – 2.5 hour boat ride to the site). Scuba Fish and Lanta Diver are both excellent operators. Email or call in advance to find out trip timings to these sites or face disappointment like I did… 

Go for a jungle hike to the Lanta waterfall (tricklefall) 

Thailand’s climate is hot and humid and you’ll be sweating profusely and constantly. So what better activity to partake in than a hike through a steamy jungle? Surprisingly, the foliage provides a great deal of shade, and the hike alongside a small creek does actually prove to be a refreshing 30-minute walk! If you’re visiting outside of the wettest part of the year, don’t expect a waterfall at the end, rather more of a trickle. Despite the anticlimactic conclusion, this adventure makes for a great way to get out of the sun in the heat of the day, after or before a stop at the stunning Klong Jark Bay beach. The hike is free to access, but motorbike parking at the start costs a small fee. koh lanta sunset

Knock back a sunset cocktail/beer (or 2, 3 or 4…)

Despite the occasional well-marked sign pointing in the direction of this week’s mushroom shake or poster for the next ¼ Moon, ½ Moon, Dark Moon, Blue Moon, Purple Moon or Full Moon Party, Koh Lanta isn’t an island that attracts a lot of the “let’s get lit on buckets” crowd (a real blessing IMO). What it does offer is a few great options for enjoying a drink and toasting another incredible sunset beachfront! Here are a few places to wet your whistle:  Fat Turtle – Terrific views from this very comfortable and expansive beachfront bar/restaurant. Great mojito. Cold Singha. Avoid the frozen margarita unless you are dealing with a severely depleted blood sugar level. Majestic Bar – Comfortable lounge chairs and good happy hour cocktails for taking in the sunset beach front.  Salty Fish – Absolutely charming owner and family staff with great food and delicious cocktails. The beach isn’t Koh Lanta’s most scenic, but the ambience and quality more than make up for this.  Why Not Bar – The intimate feel of Kantiang village compared with the other parts of Koh Lanta combined with Why Not’s beachfront location make this a no brainer for one drink at least.   

Go spelunking! Kinda…

Looking for a new activity to try? Why not check out Koh Lanta’s take on spelunking (cave exploring) and check out Tham Khao Maikaeo. This two-hour trip (300 baht) takes you through a series of caves and tunnels on a guided adventure tour. Make sure to bring good footwear, flip-flops don’t count. 

Go for a backroads run (really!!)

I love to run when I travel, but there is a catch… You have to go early or you won’t go. Set your alarm for 5:30 and hit the road by 6 to experience Koh Lanta at first light. Limited traffic on the roads and a much more comfortable temperature make this a great way to get to know your surroundings, witness people meditating quietly outside of their homes, and even receive cheers and encouragement from locals. If you’re close to one of the roads that intersect the island’s east and west coast, take a jog up and down a backroad. You’ll get to see what life is like outside of the more touristed spots of the island, or in my case, take a run through a massive garbage dump (unquestionably the nadir of my run).  Ko Lanta talabeng sea kayaking

Push past the crowds into the Emerald Cave, snorkel, or enjoy a relaxing kayak tour

In Bangkok, you have the famous Emerald Buddha. Near Koh Lanta the famous Emerald Cave. The Emerald Cave is a small beach surrounded by cliffs that can be accessed only by swimming through a dark cave and into the hollowed out interior. Sound serene? It is! The only catch is that you shouldn’t expect to have it to yourself. The Emerald Cave is extremely crowded, as are many of the snorkelling tours that visit the islands nearby Koh Lanta for day trips. If you’re looking for something a little less crowded and less conventional, check out Talabeng Sea Kayaking. You’ll climb/explore the Ghost Island and Cave, kayak around deserted islands, and enjoy a delicious lunch on a beach that you’ll have all to yourself! Fahreed makes this an experience to remember, pointing out all of the best photo-ops and adding hilarious commentary. Just make sure to bring a pair of shoes with a decent grip and your adventurous spirit. 

Volunteer opportunities on Koh Lanta/where to volunteer on Koh Lanta

Be a Trash Hero

It doesn’t take long before Thailand’s plastic garbage problem completely overwhelms you. If it bothers you to the point of needing to take action, join one of Trash Hero Koh Lanta’s Sunday cleanups typically held at Klong Hin Beach. It’s a great opportunity to make a difference and meet a few new friends who are all working to make a difference too. Check their Facebook page for upcoming cleanups. Trash Hero Ko Lanta cleanup

Lanta Animal Welfare

This long running animal rescue centre helps support both dogs and cats. Stop by for a tour of the facility, play with their 30+ cats, or check in to see if they need help exercising the dogs (orientation required). Lanta Animal Welfare is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm and is truly the purrrfect spot for any animal lover looking to help make a difference while visiting Ko Lanta. 

How to get to Koh Lanta

By Plane: 

Fly to Krabi Airport then take a 2-3 hour mini-bus (+ferry) ride to Koh Lanta. The bus can easily be booked when youland at Krabi airport. Don’t worry, the location is obvious. Mini-buses leave when full or if you get lucky in the low season  you may be given a private driver.

Fly to Ko Lanta

By Bus: 

Ko Lanta will appear on most tour agency and hostel transport lists. This cheapest, but slowest way of getting to Koh Lanta. 

ko lanta speed boat

By Boat: 

Speed Boats depart from the main pier for most neighbouring islands. Ask ahead of time about the schedule during low season.

Best places to stay on Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta is quite spread out and as such, there is no perfect place to stay. Places on/near the beach tend to be lacklustre and overpriced. Not to mention, the beauty of Koh Lanta is the sheer quantity of beaches that you can explore. So going to the same one by your hotel every day isn’t necessarily a selling feature. I spent a ton of time scoping the island for the best spots and here are the results:

Can’t Miss:  

Green Pepper – The best place to stay on Koh Lanta, charming Green Pepper consists of several small bungalows spread out in a lush garden. Run by lovely Mayaan and Mon (from Cooking with Mon), you are instantly made to feel incredibly welcomed and cared for in this beautiful spot. They’re both versed on all Koh Lanta has to offer, and are happy to go above and beyond to make sure you feel comfortable and help you make the most of your time on Lanta!  We were a little unsure when we first booked given its location in the hills and slightly away from the beach, but as a motorbike is essential for making the most of Koh Lanta regardless of where you stay, it ended up making little difference. If you’re still not convinced, the peace and quiet of the hillside location makes you feel like you’re staying at a private retreat and the value can’t be beaten. Click here to check rates for your visit. 

If you need to be by the beach and can afford to spend:

Lazy Days – Situated on Relax Beach, these charming bungalows take the cake for beachfront accommodation on Ko Lanta. The only catch is they’re not cheap and start at 4400 baht per night in peak season. If you’re going in low season, check for deals. They can be as much as 60-70% off. 

Accommodation I looked at but didn’t love:

La Lanta: The incredible location, made me have to go and check this place out! Unfortunately, the resort looks as if its prime has passed, despite being set right on the beautiful Mai Phai Bay. A 5-star location, but isolated from any bars and restaurants and in some serious need of some TLC… If the price was right it may be worth checking out, but not for the high season rates.

Sri Lanta: This sprawling expanse of time-share like condos and bungalows would feel perfectly at home on Phuket with golf carts and manicured lawns. Unfortunately, on Koh Lanta, it feels a touch out of place and lacks character and soul. 

Best places to eat on Koh Lanta:

Can’t miss food stops on Koh Lanta:

Go Deng – From the street it looks like not much more than a glorified street cart (or 2 of them put together), but from the comfort of your plastic chair you will enjoy Ko Lanta’s most enjoyable dining experience. Delicious Isan food and treats such as papaya salad, spicy duck and noodle soup await the fortunate diner, all for rock bottom prices. Miss the place at your own peril, although be warned the dishes can have some kick! How to find it: Google Maps might be a challenge for this one, so look for the fluorescent lights and food carts next to Mr. Wee Pizzeria and Body and Mind Massage in Long Beach just north of the 7-11.   Kindee – An excellent night out. Kindee provides the closest thing to a luxurious dining experience available on Koh Lanta and doesn’t disappoint. High quality preparation (see photo above) and presentation with the flavours to match. Both the duck and the whitefish were incredible. In high season make a reservation to avoid disappointment.

More Great Koh Lanta Restaurants:

Happy Veggie; Tasty veggie options including a delicious falafel burger. They’re also happy to refill your water bottle and help you cut down on plastic!  Patty’s Secret Garden – Serving up Thai and western, the service was great and so was the food. Drunken Sailors –  Awesome place to chill out in Kantiang for a beach break lunch or a late breakfast. Their coffee is the best on Lanta and the both the western and Thai food are fantastic (surprising I know!) Peak Cafe – Cute little cafe with a nice outdoor sitting area. The owner is absolutely charming and serves up great hot and cold coffee. Not to mention the most delicious bacon I’ve ever tasted in Thailand (usually not a bacon destination…). Salty Fish – Not only a great spot for drinks, Salty Fish scores high marks for food as well. Scrumptious Thai dishes are cooked up here including a 24-hour slow roasted pork that needs to be ordered in advance. Sadly, we only had the opportunity to try appetizers here, which did not disappoint. 

Things to bring on your trip to Koh Lanta: 

A great travel backpack: Thailand’s wide ranging transportation methods and uneven terrain make a travel backpack your best choice for an adventure like this. A great pack helps you stay organized, makes travel easy and will save you money. With a 60L capacity, rugged weatherproof materials, and an integrated packing system, the Khmer Explorer Travel Set was built for an adventure like this. 

Things to do in Phnom Penh

A great daypack: From lazy beach days to waterfall hikes, motorbike rides and dive trips, Koh Lanta has not shortage of activities. The best bet for something like this? A customizable everyday backpack like the customizable Kiri Collection

Kiri Backpack

Travel insurance: Don’t even think about taking a trip without proper travel insurance. One mistake or accident could turn your dream Lanta trip into a nightmare. 

Runners/water shoes: From sea kayaking to hiking to exploring caves, good grips are a must.

Reusable water bottle: The island has numerous spots to fill up your bottle. Help reduce the impact of your adventure by taking this small step. The ocean and the fishies will thank you!

That’s a wrap. With quiet roads to explore, an abundance of beaches, and an incredible vibe, Koh Lanta is not to be missed.  This is Thailand and things change fast, with one bridge already connecting Ko Lanta Yai and Ko Lanta Noi (the undeveloped northern island), major road construction, and a second bridge on the way, Koh Lanta may change very drastically, very soon. So plan quickly, my friends! 

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50 Incredible Things To Do In Cambodia | 2019​

Sunrise at Angkor Wat an amazing thing to do in Cambodia

50 Incredible things to do in Cambodia | 2019

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Cambodia is filled with amazing things to do. From visiting the temples of Angkor Wat to kayaking remote backwaters to acquainting yourself with the country’s fascinating history, the country provides no shortage of bucket list activities. This list of the 50 best things to do in Cambodia is sure to provide you with plenty of activities no matter how you like to adventure.

Things to do in Siem Reap

No Cambodia itinerary is complete without a stop in Siem Reap. Conveniently located near the iconic Angkor Archaeological Park, this once sleepy town has come alive in recent years, in some ways for the better and in others for the worse, depending on who you ask.

1. Explore the temples of Angkor

No matter your travel experience, age or interest, it is absolutely impossible not to be completely floored by the scale of the majestic temples of Angkor . Witness the sun rise at Angkor Wat or bask in the pre-dawn light as you explore the many levels and courtyards of the world’s largest religious building. Explore the walled city of Angkor Thom by gazing into the 216 faces of Bayon or climb the seemingly endless tiers of the Baphoun. Feel the force of mother nature as giant trees grow from the ancient ruins of Ta Prohm or venture a little further out to the (relative) isolation of Preah Khan’s corridors. With more and more tourists coming every year, the Angkor Archeological Park is a hard place to find much solitude. That said, it’s popular for good reason and finds the top ranking position on any list of things to do in Cambodia. If you need help planning your visit, check out our Cambodia itinerary for our comprehensive guide to visiting Angkor.

2. Find the “Secret Temples” of Angkor

If the crowds of the Angkor Archaeological Park have you squirming for solitude, fear not! The vastness of the great Khmer empire left many magnificent ruins throughout the country that have (yet) to become cluttered with tuk-tuk drivers and tourists seeking their ultimate sunrise ‘gram.  Venture out to Beng Mealea or Banteay Ampil to experience your very own version of Tomb Raider, Indiana Jones, or other bad-ass archaeologist film. Tread lightly though, as just like any good adventure film, there may be a snake or two around. If you want more details, check out this guide we wrote on finding hidden temples.

3. See Phare, The Cambodian Circus

Don’t worry friends, no elephants, tigers, or animals of any kind were harmed in the making of this production! Phare is Cirque Du Soleil meets Cambodian storytelling (historical, folk and modern). Better yet, all of its artists and performers are graduates of a vocational training centre responsible for providing education to poor and at-risk Cambodian youth. Phare, the Cambodian Circus, offers these students and graduates somewhere to hone their skills and a place to earn a wage that will break the cycle of poverty. So go ahead, run away to this circus on your trip to Cambodia!

4. Nourish your stomach and your soul at one of Siem Reap’s training restaurants

If you love eating out, Siem Reap may be one of the best places to indulge in Cambodia. Haven, Marum, and Spoons are great options to sample incredible Khmer and international fair. Better yet, every restaurant provides vocational training to all of their staff, allowing them to build the practical and leadership skills to graduate and help shape a bright future for Cambodia. If you want to learn about a few more feel good restaurants, check out this post.

5. Experience the chaos of Siem Reap’s Pub Street

The first time we ventured to Siem Reap over a decade ago, Pub Street had already started its evolution into a true backpacker ghetto like Thailand’s infamous Khao San Road or Ho Chi Minh City’s Pham Ngu Lao. For better or for worse, the evolution is now complete.  Beer company tank tops are sold on every corner, fast food carts and touts overwhelm the street, and endless throngs of sweaty backpackers stumble around on post-temple pub crawls. If you’re not into the Pub Street party mayhem, it’s still a worthwhile spot to find a table with a view and a cold beer to take in the spectacle. 

6. Brunch like a champion

If you’re exhausted from all of the days of temple-ing, or if a night on Pub Street ran you down, brunch may be your best solution. Siem Reap has a few incredible options to brunch to your heart’s content. Enjoy a sunshine smoothie bowl and a flat white at one of our favourite little haunts: Little Red Fox. Take the time to enjoy one of their awesome art sessions that feature local Cambodian artists, musicians, and culture creators. If the night before was rough, or if you just love awesome waffles or waffles meet burgers, head to Missing Socks Laundry Cafe and grab their “signature waffle burger”. They’re also no slouch in the coffee department.

7. Buy local at Angkor Handicraft Association

You can buy “Cambodian” souvenirs all over Siem Reap. Unfortunately the majority of these are manufactured in Thailand, Vietnam or China and do nothing to improve local employment opportunities. Enter Angkor Handicraft Association’s fair trade market, a blissfully relaxed shopping experience where all of the products are certified Cambodian-made. From scarves to clothes to bags, pottery, sculptures and paintings, you’re sure to find your perfect souvenir, all while helping make a difference!

8. Dirt bike Siem Reap’s countryside

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can go out on a dirt biking trip on the backroads of Siem Reap province. This is a sure way to find completely hidden temples and experience the beautiful rural side of this temple town. Make sure you have experience doing this before you hit the road.

9. Visit Road 60

Road 60 is the local answer to Pub Street. This road, located just outside of Siem Reap town, turns into a lively spot every night as mats are rolled out onto the pavement, games and rides appear, and there are food stalls galore. If you’re looking to experience a typical Khmer night, this is your spot.

10. Visit Phnom Kulen

Beautiful Kulen mountain is located about two hours from Siem Reap town and it’s a favourite place for Khmer families to take a day trip to on the weekends for a picnic. With incredible waterfalls to see and a cooler climate, this might be just the place to take a breath of fresh and cool air after days of temple exploration.

11. Angkor National Museum

If you’re exhausted from the Cambodian heat, but thirst for more information and artifacts left behind by the Khmer Empire, venture to Siem Reap’s Angkor National Museum. This museum has been at the centre of some controversy, given its for-profit motivation, Thai-ownership, and limited link between many of the buddhas shown and the Angkor-era. That said, you may learn a thing or two and the air conditioning provides much needed reprieve from the Cambodian inferno.  

12. Visit the Cambodia Landmine Museum

Cambodia remains one of the most heavily impacted countries by landmines and unexploded ordnance. Recently reopened, the Cambodia Landmine Museum was founded by Aki Ra, a former Khmer Rouge child soldier who has since deactivated thousands of landmines. Your small admission fee supports your own education on the danger of landmines and the education of at-risk and landmine affected youth in neighbouring communities. 

13. Get your yoga fix at Peace Cafe

If you’re feeling your legs after all of the temple climbing at Angkor Wat, you might just need to get a good stretch in. Head to Peace Cafe located along the river in Siem Reap for one of their yoga classes. They also offer Khmer language classes. 

Things to do in Phnom Penh

14. Learn about the genocide at Tuol Sleng

Tuol Sleng, otherwise known as Security Prison 21, is a former school that was turned into a security prison during the reign of the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. More than 14,000 people were tortured, imprisoned, and ultimately killed in these halls. Only 7 people who walked in here walked out alive. One of these survivors sits at the entry point as you enter S-21. As you navigate past the faces of all those who were lost, it’s a particularly potent reminder of humanity’s dark side. It’s a harrowing place that can’t be missed on a trip to Cambodia to truly understand the country’s history.

15. Travel to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields

Located just 40 minutes outside of Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek was the largest of the Khmer Rouge killing fields. This is the location where those imprisoned and tortured at S-21 were sent to be executed. Today this is a place dedicated to educating both Cambodians and international visitors about the Khmer Rouge genocide in an attempt to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again.

16. Visit the Central, Kandal or BKK Markets

Phnom Penh is bursting with amazing markets to explore, from the famous architecture and fake goods of the Central Market to the souvenir haven of the Russian Market. For really authentic experiences though, visit Kandal or BKK markets when they open at 7am. Watch as shopkeepers lay out vegetables and meat to sell for the day and get lost in the corridors selling the widest range of items. These are the markets not catered to tourists in any capacity and they’re great places to get a sense of Phnom Penh’s daily bustling life.

17. Take a self-guided walking tour from the Royal Palace to the Central Market

After loading up on breakfast (we would suggest nearby ARTillery Cafe), head to the Royal Palace to begin your journey through Phnom Penh’s big sites. Walk past the National Museum, up towards the Central Market and back along the riverside. This map may give you some ideas on how to plan your route.

18. Cycle on Koh Dach (Silk Island)

If Phnom Penh’s concrete jungle tires you out, take a quick local ferry over to Koh Dach (Silk Island). Once you arrive, you can rent a bicycle and leisurely peddle the quiet roads snaking around the island. You can stop and see how silk is made along the way, but the real delight of Koh Dach is its peace and quiet compared to the city next door.

19. Have a drink at the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC)

Located on the Mekong river, FCC was the gathering place for journalists and aid workers during Cambodia’s civil war and its walls are covered with photographs and stories from these former days. You can feel the history here and it’s a beautiful place to take in the view and relax after a day in the heat.

20. Take a boat trip on the Mekong

Sometimes there’s no nicer way to see a city than from the water, and from a seat. Jump on one of the many boats that head out onto Phnom Penh’s Mekong at sunset to cruise down the waters and enjoy an undisturbed view of the city.

21. Try a Khmer massage, for good

Somewhat lighter than a Thai massage, Khmer massages involve a lot of stretching and kneading. No oil is involved here and you’re given a pajama like outfit to wear. While you can get pretty amazing massages all over Cambodia and often for much cheaper, if you’re in Phnom Penh don’t miss out on One Day Spa. Their training centre provides Cambodian women with the opportunity to develop skills in business management and the hair and beauty industry. Their dark corridors, curtains and warm lighting are reminiscent of stepping into the set of Beauty and the Beast.

22. Go to a free Khmer language class

Looking to learn some of the local language? Head to the Khmer Study Group’s free language meetups held every week in Phnom Penh to pick up a few words, try some delicious food, and maybe meet some new friends.

23. Join in aerobics by the Mekong

Head down to Phnom Penh’s riverside and you’ll be sure to see an outdoor aerobics session in session at some point. Join in to work off some of the Angkor beers you indulged in on Pub Street in Siem Reap. It’s an entertaining experience to say the least.

24. Jump on a trampoline or sip on a coffee at an old factory

Factory is one of the hippest places to be in Cambodia (or anywhere for that matter). It’s an old factory that’s been converted into a massive multi-purpose creative hub. There’s a trampoline park called Fly, a trendy coworking space, and some pretty stellar coffee.

25. See the Royal Palace

Still the official royal residence, Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace is nothing short of a grand vision. It’s one of the most popular places to visit in the city, and while it’s worth the trip, what may be nicer is actually sitting on the grass across from the palace where locals gather to feed countless pigeons and snack on their picnics.

26. Take in a rooftop sunset at Juniper Gin Bar

A newcomer to Phnom Penh, the rooftop of Juniper Gin Bar is pretty spectacular. It’s a great way to see the Mekong at night (or watch any celebrations if you happen to be in Cambodia over a holiday – of which there are plenty). The drinks here are also pretty great.

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Things to do in Battambang

27. Take the slow boat from Siem Reap to Battambang

Sure you could make this trip in one third of the time by bus, but isn’t travel about the journey, not the destination? When the water is low, the boat frequently gets stuck so this can be an extra long journey. While it may be long, it’s far from a boring trip. Passing by villages floating on stilts, local fishermen at work on their boats, and children playing on the riverbanks, this is the way to observe everyday Khmer life at its finest.

28. Learn to cook Khmer style

There is no better place than the sleepy town of Battambang to try your luck at cooking Khmer style. Head over to Nary Kitchen where you’ll scour the local market for ingredients, then return to make multiple dishes you didn’t realize you were capable of creating. A cooking lesson, a delicious meal (we promise Nary’s instructions are foolproof), and a free recipe book thrown in – it is hard to find better value for $10!

Things to do in Kampot

29. Kayak through the Green Cathedral

Picture a Disneyland-style boat ride through the jungle but in real life and you have kayaking the Green Cathedral near Kampot. Rent a kayak at GreenHouse, Champa Lodge or Meraki and explore the beautiful backwaters here that are covered by tree cathedrals. It’s reminiscent of the Mekong Delta and you’ll often have the water completely to yourself. You can also rent a SUP board and test out your balance on the river water.

30. Motorbike up Bokor Hill Station to escape the heat

If you thought cold weather wasn’t possible to find in Cambodia, you need to visit Bokor. A beautiful (and well paved) road winds its way up the mountain into misty air and tree-covered slopes.You’ll be met at the top of the road with waterfalls, buddhas, casinos (old and new), and an old church to explore. It’s chilly on the mountain so you’ll definitely need to bring a sweater.

31. Take a tour of a pepper farm

Even if you’re not a self-professed pepper person, a visit to Kampot’s incredible pepper farms is not one to be missed. Head out to the beautiful La Plantation for a free tour of the farm, how pepper is made, and a tasting of all different types of pepper. Kampot pepper is famous internationally and it was actually the first Cambodian agricultural product to be granted protected geographical indication status.

32. Cycle past the salt fields

Less famous than its pepper, the salt fields surrounding Kampot are no less beautiful to see. Hop on a bicycle and head out of town to take a leisurely cycle past the white fields. It’s a beautiful way to see the Khmer countryside.

Things to do in Kep

33. Take in a sunset at Kep’s Sailing Club

Kep’s swanky Sailing Club on the beach is a great place to grab a sunset drink and take in the incredible view over the ocean. It’s not cheap, but it’s also not as expensive as you might think when you first see its location. Their fresh fish is delicious if you’re looking to extend your restaurant stay.

34. Sea kayak or paddleboard in Kep

From Kep’s Sailing Club you can rent sea kayaks and paddleboards to explore the waters around. It’s a great way to get some great exercise and see Kep’s beautiful coastline from the water.

35. Pull out your hiking shoes in Kep National Park

Kep National Park is one of the only places where you can hike without a guide in Cambodia, as the area has been completely cleared of landmines and unexploded ordnance. A trail system snakes around the park and it’s a great place to take a two hour stroll or peddle a mountain bike through. You’re sure to see an animal (or ten) here. The Led Zep Cafe makes for a nice spot to rest your feet and quench your thirst in the park.

36. Fulfill your Castaway dreams on Rabbit Island

Koh Tonsay (or Rabbit Island) is a blissful little patch of sand less than an hour by boat from Kep. It’s certainly rustic and if you’re looking for a Castaway experience, you can settle into one of the little bungalows on the beach here to stay the night.

Things to do in Cambodia’s mountains

37. Go on an ethical elephant encounter

Cambodia’s wild eastern province of Mondulkiri is home to a range of opportunities to see elephants. Emphasis on seeing, not riding. Be sure to read this thoughtful article to make an informed decision about which elephant sanctuary you visit. They aren’t all created equally and it’s important to choose a place that doesn’t add any additional stress to these animals lives.

38. Go trekking in Mondulkiri or Ratanakiri 

Cambodia’s wild east is full of unexplored territory to be found. To get a feel for this, take a multi-day jungle trek through Mondulkiri or Ratanakiri provinces. In the rainy season you may just find a waterfall or two to explore.

39. Visit Heaven Cliff in the Cardamom mountains

Located in Cambodia’s Cardamom mountains, Kirirom National Park is an oasis of forests, waterfalls and, you guessed it, cliffs. Jutting out like Pride Rock over a valley of trees, Heaven Cliff offers incredible views over the Cardamoms. It’s an easy hike in to access the cliff and it’s worth the small bit of exercise to see this incredible view.

Things to do on Cambodia’s islands

40. Bask in the sun on sleepy Koh Ta Kiev

Koh Ta Kiev is still reminiscent of Cambodia’s islands a decade ago. A quick ferry ride from Sihanoukville takes you to this sleepy place where you can hang out in the sun, take advantage of the perks of solar power and curl up in Kactus’ treehouses.

41. Explore underwater

Cambodia’s islands are home to several great dive sites. Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem, Koh Kong and Koh Tang all offer incredible underwater sights  from seahorses to barracuda to incredible coral.

42. Join the party on Koh Rong

Gone are the days when Koh Rong was still a whisper on backpackers’ itineraries through Southeast Asia. It’s now a well-trodden party spot (depending on the part of the island you visit). It may not be on par with Koh Phangan’s many different moon parties, but it’s still the spot to go if you’re looking to liven things up in Cambodia.

43. See the bioluminescent plankton light up at night

If you’ve watched The Beach, you’ve probably already dreamt of swimming in an ocean lit up by plankton sometime in your life. While swimming in the ocean waters at night may not be the safest choice, you can take a boat out to see this phenomenon when you visit Cambodia’s islands. Head out at night into the water and get lost in the blue light as the bioluminescent plankton comes to life with your movements.

Other amazing things to do in Cambodia

44. Try a tarantula or cricket

Cambodia is famously known for its roadside tarantula and cricket snacks. You often find these offered at local markets across the country and if you aren’t too scared to give them a try, you may just find them to be your new favourite snack.

45. Kayak to see the dolphins in Kratie

Cambodia’s rare Irrawaddy dolphins are found in the river near the dusty town of Kratie. The unique, short beaked creatures draw quite a crowd. The best way to see them is through a kayaking trip that takes you past riverside villages and ideally the dolphins, without disrupting them by taking a motorboat.

46. Try out meditation for a day or ten… at Wat Langka or a Vipassana course

Phnom Penh’s centrally located Wat Langka offers one-hour free meditation sessions multiple times a week. If you’re looking for a taste of meditation this may be for you. If you’re a veteran and looking to take it to the next level, try one of the international Vipassana ten day silent retreats in Cambodia to take your mind to the next level.

47. Visit the ever-political Preah Vihear

The views here are almost as impressive as the temple itself. Perched on top of a 525m mountain, Preah Vihear has been the source of tension between Cambodia and Thailand over the years, as both vie for its ownership. It’s located 200km from Siem Reap so you’ll definitely need more than a day to get here and fully explore the temple’s four levels and courtyards, but this is a place more than worth the detour.

48. Go to an Apsara dance show

Apsara is Cambodia’s most popular form of classical dance, dating back to the 7th century. The hand movements in Apsara are nothing short of incredible. A number of shows are held at different venues around the country, but the most famous is held at the National Museum in Phnom Penh every night by Cambodian Living Arts.

49. Try Cambodia’s favourite snack

As soon as you make your first Khmer friend, you’re sure to be offered this snack: green mango with prahok (fermented fish paste) or chili dip. In Cambodia eating sour green fruits, especially green mango, with prahok or chilis is very common. It has a different taste but quickly grows on you.

50. Visit one of Cambodia’s community-based tourism initiatives

Offering a great way to experience traditional Cambodian life and benefit community development, ecotourism and community-based tourism are ever-growing in Cambodia. One of the most famous places for this is Chambok, located near Kirirom National Park. This site was set up in 2002 under the support of a local NGO to provide alternative livelihoods to community members and protect the surrounding areas from deforestation. Stay in a homestay here and experience incredible trekking and swimming in the waterfall nearby.

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