20 Unique Things to do in Siem Reap Besides Temples

It's no surprise that the famous Angkor Wat brought you to Siem Reap, but don't miss the incredible things to do in Siem Reap besides temples!

Siem Reap is the jumping-off point to tour the Angkor Wat temple, the newest addition to the Wonder of the Worlds list. While seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat was an otherworldly experience that is tough to put into words, there are also so many things to do in Siem Reap besides temples! 

The lively night markets, the impressive handmade art, the food that both pushes your limits and is the most delicious yet in Southeast Asia and the people that make you feel welcome and at home. 

The history here is both ancient and modern as Khmer people redefine their identity after one of the most horrific civil wars in modern history, so stick around and see what else is waiting for you in Siem Reap!

Glowing sun setting over an inland lake in Cambodia

Table of Contents

1. Chat With a Monk at Peace Cafe

As one of the most Buddhist countries in the world, you’ll see monks going about their lives all around Siem Reap (well, maybe not on Pub Street). There is so much respect and honor for these people who committed their lives to learning and practicing the ways of the Buddha and his teachings. 

If you’ve ever wondered about this ancient religion, or just don’t want to pass up a unique opportunity, Peace Cafe has made connecting with a local monk possible!

Every Monday and Tuesday, they offer ‘Chats with a Monk’ for free – where you can sit down and have a 1:1 convo. While it is free to do it must be booked in advance – check out their meditation classes, yoga, and vegetarian food options as well!

Cost: FREE
Time: 1 hour
Book: Email peacecafeangkor@gmail.com to book your session

2. Visit the Rat Heros at Apopo non-profit

APOPO is a global organization that trains rats to sniff out the TNT used in the landmines. These are the biggest and smartest rats you’ll ever see! Watch the rats demonstrate their process in action, learn about their training program, and even hold them yourself! 

This was also a great way to learn more about the civil war and the Khmer Rouge. An estimated 10 million land mines were distributed by opposing forces, without any details of where or how many. Still today, people, often kids, fall victim to the damage intended by enemies 50 years ago.

APOPO is an organization that prioritizes the health and well-being of all people, and your ticket helps them with their mission to return the land of the people, back to the people. 

Cost: $10
Time: 1 hour
Book: Message on Whatsapp to book a group tour slot


A woman holding a huge rat used in Cambodia to detect landmines

3. Lotus Farm

A true eco-experience, the lotus and silk farm is a unique experience that prioritizes the local people and provides a hands-on experience. Learn how to transform the beautiful lotus flower into paper, yarn, textiles, tea, and more! 

Sip tea with a scenic view of the countryside, talking with and learning from the local women employed here. Created by Samatoa Lotus Flower Fabric, sustainability, and ethical business is a priority! The most worthy cause you can support here in Siem Reap.

This was one of my favorite things to do in Siem Reap besides temples. Getting to see the local side of life, support an ethical practice and business, and have so many things to take home to remember my trip!

Cost: $35
Time: 2 hours

4. Enjoy Some 'Happy Pizza'

Since Thailand is the weed capital of Asia, it’s no surprise that this ancient herb is plentiful just across the border. While all drugs, including weed, remain illegal in Cambodia, some places seem to be above this law… mostly pizza places.

While enjoying a chill night walking around, we headed to ‘Happy Siem Reap Pizza‘ and got a medium pizza with 2 scoops of ‘happy’. I’ll be honest, we didn’t expect much except some shake on a bad pizza. Although the pizza itself wasn’t great (at least not up to my NY standards), the happy was there and it hit hard. 

You’ll have many tuk-tuk drivers offering you weed in the streets which I highly suggest you pass on. Weed is definitely illegal here, and smoking in public is an easy way to draw some unwanted attention and potentially some fines by a local cop. However, if you feel inclined to have a pizza, I can say from experience it was a great purchase.

Cost: $6-12
Time: longer than you think 😉

5. Try Scorpion on a Street Food Tour

If you’ve never had a cool answer to the ‘What was the strangest food you’ve ever eaten‘ question, now is your time to change that.

You can take your pick between grilled lizards, deep-fried tarantulas, massive cockroaches, and whole scorpions. If it was alive, it is edible here! I’ll be transparent, I have a deep fear of crunchy bugs and haven’t dappled in eating them outside of some big crickets in Thailand, but it is tempting to try a scorpion!

Even if you’re not ready to dive into insects, you still have to check out Cambodia’s street food scene. The food is delicious – some of my favorite yet, and there are always vegetarian options, non-spicy food, and unique flavors.  

Tours happen all over – ask your accommodation and go with a local to explore the best and most adventurous local dishes. 

Cost: $1-5
Time: Depends on how long it takes to work up the courage

6. See the Flying Foxes at Sunset

If you’ve never seen a fruit bat, you may mistake it for a real-life Jeepers Creepers that hangs in the trees. As their nickname suggests, the ‘flying foxes’ are big and honestly majestic to see in flight!

While they are pretty lazy in the day just like the rest of us in this heat, they take off around sunset to go hunting for bugs. The best spot to see them is around the Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Shrine (just type flying foxes in your Google maps if you don’t want to type that much). 

Cost: FREE
Time: 20 minutes

7. Get Blessed by a Monk

Blessings by a monk are something that has been around for centuries, and you too can receive one in Siem Reap! The blessing is thought to bring good luck, fortune, health, and prosperity to the recipient and should be received with honor and gratitude. 

In this experience you can expect to be splashed with holy water, hear some chanting, and receive a blessed object – usually a bracelet- to take with you. Purchasing a blessing is a great way to give back to the temples where they reside.

Cost: $20-30
Time: 1-2 hours

A group of local boys in water receiving a blessing form a monk in orange robes

8. Bamboo Sak yant Tattoo

For the more adventurous travelers who want more than a carved elephant souvenir, check out the art of the local bamboo sak yant tattoo – a stick-and-poke style done with a long bamboo rod. 

As with any tattoo shop, you may need to book in advance, although from what I’ve seen many shop owners are chilling all day until there is a customer, so you probably will have good luck going for a walk-in.

It is a beautiful art, and if any reader actually got one, I would love to see the final result!  

Cost: Variable
Time: 2-5 hours

9. Angkor Botanical Gardens

An often-skipped attraction is the Angkor Botanical Gardens. Only 6 minutes from the city center, it is a peaceful escape from the hustle of the city without going into the crowds of temples. Great for travelers who need a small break and time for reflection. 

Open every day from 8am-6pm, it is a perfect morning activity to stroll around before the heat picks up or see the sun glow at sunset. In an area that can feel a bit dry and dusty, it is so relieving to explore the gardens and see the vibrant life that can thrive here. 

Cost: FREE
Time: 45 minutes+

10. Sunset Views at Phnom Krom Viewpoint

Okay, the title says that this list is everything besides the temples, but some of the coolest things around around temples! This one is south of the city, so not within the Angkor complex main area, but it still requires a park pass to enter. 

This area is much less crowded than Phnom Bakheng in the Angkor complex and has incredible views. It is best during the rainy season when the sun reflects off the flooded rice paddies, but it is still a gem year-round. 

Be sure to follow the appropriate dress code at all temples - cover your shoulders and knees, and wear modest clothing!

11. Take a Yoga Class

On long-travel trips, never underestimate the need to move your body. Yoga is a great way to stretch, breathe, be slow, and wake up those long-forgotten muscles. The presence of Buddhist and Hindu practices in Southeast Asia pairs perfectly with quality yoga classes.

While there are a handful of yoga studios around Siem Reap, my favorite is The Yoga Space. Only $8 for a drop-in class, I prefer to do a full day of unlimited classes for $20! They offer various yoga styles, as well as unique classes including kickboxing, hypnotherapy, and sound healing.  

Cost: $8-20
Time: 1-2 hours

Two women in yoga position with their hands and legs pressed into the floor at the Yoga Space in Siem Reap

12. Khmer Cooking Class

There is no better way to experience the local culture and ingredients that come together in a cuisine. Cooking classes are always my favorite thing to do in a new country, as you get some 1:1 time with a local, and learn how traditional dishes are prepared.

Cooking classes are even better when you can go to the market to pick up ingredients! Before diving straight into a class, I recommend exploring some of the street food options to see what you like, and then finding a class that provides the instructions to those dishes! 

Some options to check out:

Cost: $19-40
Time: 2-4 hours

Local ingredients for sale at a street market in Southeast Asia

13. Art Class

As soon as you start walking around the streets of Siem Reap, you’ll notice the impressive art made by locals. Hand-carved wooden elephants, acrylic and oil paintings of the local scenery, and intricately carved wall hangings. 

Join the fun and learn the local ways at an art class! Get your hands dirty in a pottery class at Khmer Ceramics & Fine Arts, or try your stroke of the brush with a painting course. Everything you could want to create can be found at 

Cost: $25
Time: 1-2 hours

14. Siem Reap Markets

Made in Cambodia
Best for locally made crafts and located serenely by the river, this is the only place in town where you won’t be bombarded by shop owners to buy something. Open daily from 12 pm-10 pm with a live acoustic music group performing on weekend nights!

Old Market
Catering to locals, the old market is one of the best things to do in Siem Reap besides temples. It is a wet market in the daytime and has a lot of souvenir shops for tourists. 


Night Market
Even if you don’t set out to see the night markets, they’re hard to avoid if you’re traveling on foot after sundown. Located all across town where shop owners relentlessly sell paintings, clothes, trinkets, and more unique things to buy. You have to haggle hard here, from my experience and all my research they will always try to get an exorbitant price!

15. Cycling Tour

Cycling is a great way to explore slowly, without having to walk everywhere – which you definitely won’t want to do in this heat! There are cycling tours available all over town for any adventure you want.

Make your choice from a temple tour on a bike, a countryside tour at sunset, or a village cycling tour to get a small dose of the local lifestyle. With e-bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, dirt bikes, and more, there is a biking tour available for everyone!

Although I never went on a cycling tour and instead rented a motorbike for the week, it was so nice to drive myself, see the sights, and explore the pace I wanted. 

Cost: $15-35
Time: 2-4 hours

16. Phare Circus

This circus act is a mix of art, strength, and pure skill and is among the best things to do in Siem Reap besides temples! The Phare Circus is a perfect blend of history, cultural storytelling, and ethical jobs for local people while prioritizing responsible tourism. 

It was created as a way to get underprivileged kids off the street to learn a skill they could use to earn a living. A noble cause with a stellar outcome, enabling kids to master their bodies and share their cultural stories that are told throughout the show. 

Doors open at 5:30 pm, with dinner available for purchase and happy hour before doors open at 7:30. Although the show doesn’t start until 8:00, be sure to get in line for a good center seat since there are no assignments! 

Cost: Section A-$38 | Section B-$28 | Section C-$18
Time: 1 hour show

17. Aspara Dance

A unique evening experience where art and history come alive, the Aspara Dance performance combines lavish classical dances, folk performances rooted in village culture, and the ‘Reamker’, an epic poem told through song and movement. 

Located in the Wat Bo area, the theater is comfortable and cozy as you enjoy a fine dining experience with a traditional dance performance. Dinner is served at 7:30 pm, followed by a 1-hour performance of 5 dances from 8:30-9:30 pm!

Cost: $31
Time: 2-3 hours

18. Get a Massage

No matter where you are in Southeast Asia, cheap massages are everywhere! It can be a fun thing to compare the massage techniques across cultures to find the best one. While a massage isn’t my personal splurge of choice, my boyfriend is a big fan and is determined to find the best deep-tissue massage in all of our travels.

A fair warning to the men who walk around solo – this may be one of the few places where men are preyed on more than women. While I’m sure some massages come with a happy ending, there are plenty around that keep it professional!

Everyone needs a little bit of self-care, and a nourishing massage is a great one. Definitely one of the best things to do in Siem Reap besides temples!

Cost: $6-20
Time: 1-2 hours

19. Kulen Mountain

One of the most popular tours is up to Kulen Mountain, where you can swim at the base of a massive tropical waterfall,  and see beautiful views from the cliffside of Poeng Ta Kho. The waterfall itself is pretty built up – lockers, paved trails, and an entry fee, which is all covered by a tour fee if you choose that route.

However, you can also rent a motorbike for the day ($7) and drive up yourself! This allows you to explore a bit more in the jungle since it is a huge National Park preserve. 

If you’re interested in something a bit more adventurous, but don’t want to drive a motorbike, check out ATV and dirt bike tours that show you the way down rugged forest roads and get off the main trail. 

Cost: $35+
Time: 6-8 hours

Two people sitting on a cliffside near kulen waterfall is one of the best things to do in Siem Reap besides temples

Activities to Avoid

In such well-traveled areas, there are bound to be some activities offered that are unethical and exploitative. Overtourism is becoming an issue in Siem Reap, leading to creative and illegitimate money-making opportunities! 

As travelers, we have the choice of what to support with our time and money, and what to avoid. Every dollar spent is a choice towards what you support – and once you dive deeper into the ethics and sustainability of some activities, you won’t want to support them. Embrace eco-tourism and look out for the scams and exploitation that occur too often.

Not all tourist activities are good. Just because you see the words cultural, ethical, or sustainable, doesn't mean those values are actually upheld. Be aware, ask questions, and avoid supporting exploitative and destructive practices!

Floating Village

Although a common tour enjoyed by quick travelers, a little bit of research into the floating village tours highlights the questionable ethics that play into this ‘local tour’. While you will meet some local people and have the chance to ‘support the villagers and children struggling’, the money usually doesn’t go where intended, and the tour guide receives a commission for bringing the unsuspecting tourists into the trap. 

Be sure to read the list of scams before considering spending your time and money on a floating village tour. A quick glimpse at TripAdvisor and Google reviews will show the list of unfortunate experiences that others had on these ‘cultural tours’.

Crocodile Farm

While eating crocodiles itself is not necessarily unethical, what that production practice has transformed into is more questionable. Local people live off the native fauna, which yes, includes crocodiles. However, when that consumption turns to unethical mass-farming practices, there is a clear line that has been crossed.

Crocodile farms near Siem Reap keep live crocs in a dirty small enclosure. You can go look at them for a fee, making it a money scam that capitalizes on the cruel conditions for the intelligent animals.

Steer clear of VL Crocodile Farm, notorious for the high fees and low conditions as a cheap way to make some extra money. 

Crocodiles in a small enclosure with a dirty pool in Cambodia
Image from Google Review at VL Crocodile Farm

Kulen Elephant Sanctuary

When it comes to animal encounters – especially with animals that are as emotionally intelligent as elephants – I have a very strong requirement to support ethical encounters only. And no matter how many times a place says they are ethical, if you’re allowed to touch, swim with, or especially ride the elephants… it’s simply not ethical.

If you are interested in supporting ethical elephant encounters, see how you can work a trip to the southeast of Cambodia to support the Elephant Valley Project – the only ethical elephant experience in Cambodia!

Animal experiences are often tourist destinations at the expense of the animal. Avoid any location that is hands-on with 'wild' animals!

Fish Foot Massage

Siem Reap isn’t the only tourist destination that offers ‘fish foot massages’, where you let your feet soak in a tank of water filled with fish that eat your dead skin. 

That alone is a bit strange, but not outrageous. However, there have been numerous occasions of some nasty diseases that are spread by these fish. Not surprising when you consider these fish just nibble on traveler’s feet, and stay in an unsanitary tank sitting in the sun. Not a great condition for the fish, and a potential health issue for you!

Two people with their feet in a bath with small fishes who eat dead skin
Trying the fish massage in Bali before learning about the bacterial infections

Summary - Unique Things to do in Siem Reap Besides Temples

Exploring the majestic and ancient Angkor Wat temple complex may be what brings you to Siem Reap, but the rich history, vibrant culture, and local life are what make you want to stay a little bit longer. 

Get lost in the city center trying new and strange foods (if you dare), making art with local teachers, and witnessing the rich Cambodian culture at circus and dance performances.

Check out the rural life in the countryside by visiting the ethical lotus farm, or take a drive up north into the jungle for some insane waterfall views! 

There are so many things to do in Siem Reap besides temples, the hardest part is choosing the few you want to do!


Explore the other destinations waiting for you in Asia!

Posted by Taylor Mallaber

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