Cambodia is a wonderful destination for families with kids of all ages, and there is plenty to do in addition to temple visits. Our friends at luxury tour operator Lightfoot Travel has compiled a list of their most popular family excursions that have gained clients’ stamp of approval.
After spending years in a refugee camp during the Khmer Rouge rule, nine children and their art teacher returned to the province of Battambang 20 years ago. There, they opened an art school with the aim of bringing opportunity and healing into the lives of underprivileged children. Today, the art school has many offshoots including Phare The Cambodian Circus, which opened in Siem Reap in 2013. This non-profit organization is now the most popular non-temple attraction in the city and infuses ancient history and culture with modern acrobatics, dance, contortion and juggling. We highly recommend this, as it’s very special, uniquely Cambodian, and a great learning experience for kids.
Suitable for those above the age of five, a horse ride through the countryside is a unique way of getting an up-close view of Cambodia’s rural ways of life. Riding atop a traditional cow cart is also sure to entertain the kids, and parents will appreciate the private monk blessing ceremony that comes with the experience.
For more courageous families (or those looking for funny photo ops!), typical Cambodian street snacks include fried insects such as crickets, spiders and pickled ants. Even if you’re not plucky enough to tuck into them yourself, your guide will provide interesting stories and background info on these peculiar yet tasty snacks. And it’s always fun to watch the kids squeal as they dare each other to take bites!
While the famous Angkor Wat, The Bayon and Ta Prohm should definitely top your temple hit list, lesser-known sites such as Beng Mealea provide an awesome jungle-like setting for kids to explore. Overgrown with trees and branches, this hidden-away temple really gives you that explorer feel. Kids will have a blast climbing around stones and scrambling up walls a la The Jungle Book.
Although it sounds a little rough and adventurous, quad biking is an excellent family activity for those with kids over the age of about seven. Guides share bikes with the youngest passengers, and older teenagers are given the opportunity to ride themselves if they feel confident. We recommend the 2-hour sunset ride through local villages, watching as the sun dips behind the rice paddies on the horizon.
Suitable for older kids who are confident on a bicycle, this is a great excursion to do out of Phnom Penh. Located about 5km outside the city, the Silk Islands are connected only by little “ferry” boats. Largely agricultural, go on an island hopping tour of this little oasis cycling on roads that wind through paddy fields, local schools and rural villages. It’s a fantastic way to see a calmer side of an otherwise bustling Phnom Penh.
Located in the country’s west, the province of Koh Kong is known for its Cardamom Mountains and for being one of Cambodia’s most natural areas full of thick mangroves, forest, waterfalls and mountains. There is a particularly beautiful waterfall there called Taitai, which is a great spot for picnics. Koh Kong is for those really looking to experience rural Cambodia, and there is a lovely eco-lodge in the area.
This charming mode of travel is unique to Cambodia and one of the coolest rail journeys in the world. More of a cart than an actual train, bamboo trains consist of a wooden frame covered with bamboo slats, powered by a small gasoline engine. Travelling at about 15km/hour, they are used to transport both people and goods in and around Battambang. If you’re looking to try this you better hurry! It’s rumored that bamboo trains will likely be phased out once the railway systems are upgraded.
Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai-based Lightfoot Travel specializes in tailor-made family holidays to destinations around the world. Please contact them at +852 2815 0068 or www.lightfoottravel.com for your own bespoke itinerary and inspiration on what to see and do in Cambodia and beyond.