Once one of the ancient world’s most glorious kingdoms, Southeast Asia’s Cambodia (as the mighty Khmer Empire) ruled what is now Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Today, it is one of the world’s most fascinating destinations, due to its legacy and trove of spectacular, centuries-old temples near Siem Reap, as well as its paradisiacal islands, untrammeled rain forest and buzzy capital city, Phnom Penh.
In past decades, it was a challenging destination for leisure travelers. Now, the country has made tremendous strides and has developed an environment that is as attractive to luxury-seeking guests as adventurous ones.
While watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat has become a bucket-list experience for many people — and there are a number of opulent hotels ready to cater to visitors — Cambodia has so much more to offer.
There are wild jungles where eco-travel reigns supreme and pristine crescents of sand in the south, and the capital itself is not to be missed. With its incredible location, Cambodia can be visited alone or in an incredible trip through Thailand and Vietnam, or at the end of an ultra-luxury cruise.
Where to stay near Angkor Wat
With over a thousand temples dotting its environs, fast-growing Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia remains the number-one reason tourists visit Cambodia. Showpiece Angkor Wat, best seen at sunrise, won’t disappoint.
Anatara Angkor Resort
Full of Cambodian art and sumptuously hewed from gleaming, polished wood, this 39-suite hideaway feels more like a super-sized private villa or home than a hotel. Friendly staff, a slew of unique cultural activities (from cooking classes to gallery visits), a farm-totable restaurant and a central courtyard pool seal the deal. Relax in the Henri Mahout Suite, a two-bedroom extravaganza of Thai silk and bold colors.
Delving deeply into local culture the Aman way, Amansara occupies a re-kitted 1960s guesthouse commissioned by King Norodom Sihanouk. With 24 understated suites, the elegant property invokes an archaeological camp vibe as thrilling and moody as an adventure film set. Choose one of the 12 pool suites — each complete with its own plunge pool and private courtyard — designed to meld the interiors with the terrain.
Belmond La Résidence D’Angkor
One of the first luxury hotels in Siem Reap, the tranquil, 59-suite hotel borrows from classical Khmer-meets-French-colonial design motifs to create a garden-immersed sanctuary. A saltwater pool, Kong Kea Spa (try the Khmer Herbal Healer, a treatment using herbal poultices) and a martini bar offer diversions from temple-hopping, though guests will want to go off property, too, for hotel-organized activities. Choose the Deluxe One-bedroom Poolside Suite, which has an expansive terrace.
Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor
A grande dame built in 1932 during the French occupation, this Raffles hotel reopened in October after extensive restorations. Bright and shiny, it continues to celebrate a bygone era with Art Deco flourishes, a caged elevator, period architectural details, art and antiques. Its new signature restaurant, 1932, serves Khmer cuisine, while the famous Elephant Bar, a hot spot for decades, continues to showcase a heyday stylishness. Opt for the Two-bedroom Royal Villa, with verandas, sumptuous accouterments, and four-poster beds.
Shangri-La Hotel Phnom Penh will have 302 guestrooms and suites, various eateries, including a Chinese restaurant, and a rooftop pool. The long-awaited hotel will be part of a new mixed-use development located along the Mekong River and facing Diamond Island.