Cambodia is home to spectacular natural wonders and some of the most mind blowing archaeological sites in the world.
Popular destinations for most first time visitors include the Angkor Wat temple complex in the northwestern province of Siem Reap and the fast-growing party town of Sihanoukville on the country's southwestern coast.
With the tourism industry in Cambodia booming in recent years, it’s worth exploring some lesser known experiences away from the crowds.
5. Wash Elephants at the Mondukiri Project
Dedicated to their goal of protecting and providing genuine care for elephants, the team at Mondulkiri Project is committed to eco-tourism - this means no riding or sitting on the majestic giants.
Located in the beautiful jungle areas close to Sen Monorom, near Cambodia's eastern border, this sanctuary is completely free of elephant exploitation, allowing for a guilt-free adventure.
Spend time feeding the elephants whilst you learn about their habits and the close relationship they share with the Bunong hill tribe people, before swimming beneath a waterfall and washing the elephants. There are five of these incredible creatures under the protection of the Mondulkiri Project and being locally owned, that means all money spent during your time there will be put back into the local community.
4. Explore the ruins of the Banteay Chhmar Temple
Its remoteness in the far north western corner of the country means the Banteay Chhmar temple is one of the least understood archaeological complexes of the Angkor period.
Whilst constant looting in the 1990s has meant this once great temple has lost much of its original beauty, recent renovations to the temple have uncovered three enormous sandstone statue heads indicating there is much of this lost empire yet to be discovered.
The Banteay Chhmaer temple complex is the fourth-largest temple from the Angkorian period and dates to the late 12th to early 13th century.
3. Try to spot the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin on the Mekong River
Irrawaddy Dolphins are found in coastal areas in South and Southeast Asia and latest estimates are there are less than 100 remaining.
These dolphins don't often jump out of the water like their saltwater cousins and are much more shy.
They’re considered sacred by both the Khmer and Lao people and in recent years, significant efforts have been made towards educating fisherman about the importance of these creatures to the local community.
2. Discover the Ancient Ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk
If you have already seen the astonishing temples of Angkor Wat and are keen to discover more of ancient Cambodia, then your next stop should be Sambor Prei Kuk.
Built during the 7th century, these amazing archaeological sites pre-date the Khmer empire. Abandoned to the jungle for centuries, some of the temples at Sambor Prei Kuk are now entirely covered in tree roots, making for a spectacular site - be sure to bring your camera for this one!
1. Swim at Night with Phosphorescent Plankton
Located near the east coast, Koh Rong is a two hour boat ride from Sihanoukville.
Boasting pristine white beaches, this island that has only been open to tourism since 2008. There are only a few guesthouses and bungalows on the island, so booking accommodation can be tricky, but trust us on this one – it’s definitely worth it!
Every night on the dark side of the island, travellers have the chance to experience the magical phosphorescent plankton. The plankton lights up when disrupted. All you need to do is wait until dark and wade out into the shallows on the beach.
Make sure you bring a snorkel with you to experience swimming in this incredible spectacle.
Published under license from Well Travelled.