Tracing The Capitals Of The Khmer Empire

12 Days / 11 Nights
, Cambodia


Take an amazing journey tracing the capitals, temples, and ancient history of the Kings of the Khmer Empire that have reigned from 600 AD through today.  Begin with the bustling metropolis of Phnom Penh, then ascend Oudong and cycle down to the unknown Longvek.  Explore the pre-Angkor empire ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk built during the Chenla dynasty.

Trip Highlights

Tracing The Capitals Of The Khmer Empire

Cycling adventure like no other

Cycle to and through every major capital and ancient temple city of the Khmer Empire

Get to know the locals

Immerse in the lives of everyday people who are the living loins of the ancient Kings

History and culture

Cycle to all three of Cambodia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites



Phnom Penh Arrival

Transfer from airport to hotel: 25 minutesCycling distance: NADifficulty: Easy

Welcome to Cambodia!

Legend has it that Phnom Penh was founded by Lady Penh, who was gathering firewood along the banks of the river, and spied a floating koki tree and fished it from the water. Inside the tree she found four Buddha statues and one of Vishnu.  The discovery was taken as a divine blessing, and to some a sign that the Khmer capital was to be brought to Phnom Penh from Angkor.  Lady Penh proceeded to build a small mountain to enshrine the statues that still exist today on top of Wat Phnom, one of the attractions to see tomorrow.

The capital of Cambodia from 1432 to 1505 and then abandoned for 350 years until 1866, the city is noted for its beautiful and historical architecture and attractions.  Phnom Penh was once considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, and despite its recent turbulent history, it still retains a colonial charm. Cambodia’s capital is a bustling city, majestically located at the confluence of the mighty rivers of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap. Wide tree-lined boulevards and many colonial-era buildings reflect the glorious days and add to the allure of the city, where Asian and Western traditions meet in a fascinating way.

Arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport today, where a dedicated Adventure Guide and driver awaits for an escort to the hotel.   Enjoy free time until a welcome dinner on the riverfront at the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC), an icon of Phnom Penh with lots of history with a beautiful Tonle Sap River view. 

Overnight in Phnom Penh.


Phnom Penh City Tour

Transfer about 30mins

Accompanied by an English-speaking local guide, tour the city today to discover its ancient and recent past.

After breakfast, transfer by vehicle to take a look into the country’s tragic recent history with a tour of Tuol Sleng Prison (S-21) and the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek, sobering reminders of the evils of the Khmer Rouge regime. Although not a joyful tour, visiting these monuments are the keys to understanding the development of this still developing country.

Afterwards, be treated to a relaxing lunch Bopha Titanic right on the riverfront.  Next, be greeted by a driver to tour to the most remarkable sights of Phnom Penh in a Cyclo, an original Phnom Penh means of transportation and a fun way to explore this lively city.

First, head to the Royal Palace. This palace dates back to 1866 and houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In this temple view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze.

Next stop is the National Museum, built in traditional Khmer style. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artifacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth. In addition, the roof space is home to a large bat colony! 

End today’s journey at the famous Wat Phnom, founded by Lady Penh, whom the capital city is named after. 

Tonight, dinner is free and easy. Have an early night in preparation of the next day’s cycling adventure.

Overnight in Phnom Penh


Longvek and Oudong (Capitals of Kings in the 1500s to the 1800s)

Transfer to starting point: 30 minutes. Transfer from Longvek to Kampong Thom: about 2 hoursCycling distance up to: 89 kmDifficulty: Medium

Today, start by cycling the back roads out of the modern capital of Phnom Penh for about 45 km to the town Oudong and branch off towards Phnom Prah Reach or Oudong Mountain, once the royal residence and capital of Cambodia from 1618 to 1866, when it was moved to Phnom Penh.

The 400-plus steps to the top of the mountain will get the legs working overtime, but the view is worth it!  Then, trek down the backroads to meet the bicycles halfway down the mountain and zoom on down to more modern pagoda complexes replete with many murals and attractive buildings and designs.   From here, make the way to Longvek, which translates as “intersection” or “crossroads” and was the capital city of the country after the sacking of Angkor by the Siamese in 1431 and was chosen by King Ang Chan as the official capital in 1553 until 1618. 

Today’s ride gives us a chance to see rural Cambodia - stilted houses, rice paddies, ox carts, waving children and of course the friendly Khmer people.  There are plenty of opportunities to shoot pictures along beautiful stretches of the Tonle Sap River. 

After cycling, transfer to Kampong Thom to stay in a nice hotel.  Along the way, stop at the town of Skun to enjoy their local delicacy of spiders, a must do for any traveler to the region.  Watch the more adventurous companions give this delicacy a try.

Overnight in Kampong Thom.


Sambor Prei Kuk (Last of the Chenla Empire before rise of the Khmer Empire)

Transfer about 1 hourRide up to: 45kmDifficulty: Easy-Medium

Today, we set off on a 30km cycle ride to the pre-Angkorian temples of Sambor Prei Kuk which had it’s heyday from 600-900 AD as a part of the pre-Angkorian Chenla Kingdom.  Established by King Isanavarman I as the central royal sanctuary and capital, known then as Isanapura, Sambor Prei Kuk is a wonderful example of architecture and religious history. 

Spend the day cycling and trekking around and learning from the guides about this fascinating ancient temple complex which was just officially recognized in 2017 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Afterwards, transfer about 50km to the small rural village of O’Angkor.  This quaint village has beautiful wooden homes.  Get out and about on a 4km trek through the village and see how Cambodians live their daily lives.  Afterwards, it’s a short ride to a homestay at Preah Khan Kampong Svay.  Depending on timing, catch sunset and a cocktail at the Elephant Temple overlooking the big lake, known in Khmer as a Baray or ancient reservoir.

Overnight homestay at Preah Khan Kampong Svay


Preah Khan Kampong Svay – Koh Ker

Transfer about 1 hourRide up to: 50kmDifficulty: Easy

This morning have breakfast before visiting Preah Khan Kompong Svay,  the former royal residence during the Kingdom of Suryavarman II.  It is thought that the most accomplished king of the Khmer Empire, Jayavarman VII also lived here for a time.  Listed as a tentative UNESCO World Heritage site, Preah Khan will fascinate any visitor and will offer some excellent exploration and discovery opportunities.  This route is not on a main road and the temple itself is not visited by many. 

Afterwards, transfer towards Koh Ker and begin cycling.  Under the reign of the kings Jayavarman IV and Harshavarman II, Koh Ker was briefly the capital of the whole empire and more than ten thousand people lived here during that time (928 – 944 AD).  With over 70 temples as well as the highest pyramid style temple in Cambodia, the main Koh Ker temple resembles the ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico. 

Enjoy cycling and/or trekking to various temples and learn about the history from the knowledgeable guide.  This amazing archaeological site, today located in a remote area, is on its way to being classified by UNESCO’s World heritage.

Tonight, have a homestay with a local family in the village of Koh Ker.  Enjoy great Khmer food and get to know the locals and their way of living in this remote area.

Overnight homestay at Koh Ker


Koh Ker Capital’s Wildlife Reservoir and Hidden Temples

Ride up to: 30km; Trek up to 7kmDifficulty: MediumTransfer: 1 hour

Today, set off on the bikes for a wonderful adventure by cycling 25 km from the main road into the ecological reserve of Kulen Prontemp Wildlife Sanctuary aka “The Iron Forests of Kulen”.  The roads can be sandy at times but well worth the effort to reach Prey Veng village, home to about 200 families in this remote reserve.  Continue on a short ways to the Eco lodge and check into a recently constructed room with solar power, hot water, and mosquito netted bed.  Take a 6-7 km trek around the Ancient 12th Century Baray, or water reservoir, that served Koh Ker about 25 km away.  The ancient reservoir walls are reminiscent of the Angkor stones found throughout the region.  The wildlife guide will point out many species of birds and fowls through the forest around the Baray, possibly including the famous wild Cambodian tree chicken and the famous Cambodian wood duck that actually roost in the trees.  Travel through fields to reach a very special destination, the unvisited temple of Khmer Baray Chenai or Prasat Prey Veng, with untouched ruins shrouded in bamboo.  Return to the lodge for a fantastic dinner, campfire, and amazing starlight.

(Note: If in case of heavy rain, cycling in the wildlife sanctuary may not be possible. An alternative mode of transportation via traditional ox-carts or by motorised ‘ox-carts’ will be used instead.)

Overnight at Eco Lodge


Preah Vihear Temple Mount

Ride up to: 50+kmDifficulty: MediumTransfer: 2 hours

Set off early this morning after breakfast for a challenging nd beautiful 25km ride out of the wildlife sanctuary and then a 2 hour transfer to into the province of Preah Vihear, north of Siem Reap on the border with Thailand. 

On arrival, it’s time to saddle up again and cycle through rolling hills toward Preah Vihear temple. The routes are quiet here, a great way to see rural Cambodia.

Prasat Preah Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-centuries-long Khmer Empire during the reigns of the Khmer Kings Suryavarman I (1006–1050) and Suryavarman II (1113–1150) and was built to better worship the Hindu god Shiva.   At the base of the mountain, hop on a 4x4 vehcile and transfer to the top.  On arrival be rewarded with fabulous views over Cambodia’s and Thailand’s fertile plains. The impressive ruins reach skyward to nearly 525 meters, perched on the edge of cliffs with amazing views over the seemingly endless Cambodian jungle to the south. The temple is not yet restored but has spectacular carvings and lintels which are almost as splendid as those at Banteay Srei.   The spectacular location paired with a unique temple design is the reason UNESCO listed Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site.

Transfer back from the temple this evening to the hotel in town.

Overnight at Preah Vihear town (Sra Aem).


Banteay Chhmar

Transfer from hotel to starting point: 2-2.5 hoursCycling distance: up to 50++kmDifficulty: Easy

After breakfast today, transfer about 2 hours before hopping on the bicycles on the way to Banteay Chhmar, (aka the Small Citadel).  This is the Khmer Empire’s 4th largest temple complex in the northwest corner of the country.   Constructed during the reign of Jayavarman II and rebuilt by his future heir Jayavarman VII, this temple is replete with structures and bas reliefs similar to Bayon and Angkor temples.  One of only two temples outside of the Angkor area that has the enigmatic faces of the Bayon, it also holds the stories of four generals that helped the Kingdom repel the invasion of the Cham army in 1177.   Banteay Chhmar hosts few visitors, has excellent scenery, and is well worth a day of exploration. 

Tonight, immerse in true Khmer culture once again with the last homestay of the journey.  Eat traditional Khmer food, interact with the locals, and get a real feel for how people live in this part of the country.


Siem Reap

Transfer: 60minsCycling distance: Up to 60km

Take visit Angkor, the greatest of all the Khmer Kingdom’s temples.  This morning, hop in the saddle for a 60km ride through the beautiful countryside on the way to Banteay Meancheay.  Afterwards, transfer about one hour to Siem Reap, home of the mighty Angkor Wat.

Check into the hotel and relax for the rest of the day and evening.  The hotel is very close to the famous Pub Street and Night Market.  In addition to great souvenir shopping, enjoy a drink and a fabulous meal at one of the many pubs and eateries.

Overnight in Siem Reap


Siem Reap – Angkor Cycle (Cycling)

Transfer from Angkor Complex to hotel: 20 minutesCycling distance up to 40kmDifficulty: Easy

Set out to explore Angkor Wat via bicycle this morning, pedaling through dense jungles of the magnificent temples of Angkor.

Begin with a visit to Ta Prohm temple (a setting of one of the Tomb Raider films), built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries in dedication to Jayavarman VII’s mother. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle, trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes Ta Prohm one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples.

From Ta Prohm, dive back into the jungle and pedal through hidden passages to the ruins of Ta Nei (Grandfather Nei) and Preah Khan (dedicated to Jayavarman VII’s father) before heading to Angkor Thom. This was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. An eight meter high wall draws a perfect square around the city ruin. Enter through the ancient East Gate. On each side of the entrance path a row of fifty-four gods and demons hold the sacred Naga snake of Hindu lore.

From the walls of Angkor Thom, head inward for Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its fifty-four towers with enigmatic faces representing the fifty-four provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs.

Southward now, through Angkor Thom to the famous Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century.  Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing Mount Meru, the home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people.

One of the first Western visitors to the temple was António da Madalena, a Portuguese monk who visited in 1586 and said that it “is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.”

Overnight in Siem Reap.


Siem Reap - Cycle Roluos – Kompong Phluk

Transfer from hotel to starting point: 20 minutesTransfer from Kampong Phluk to Roluos Pagoda: 10 minutesCycling distance: up to 50kmDifficulty: Easy

After breakfast, start the last full day with a 15 km cycle ride to the early temples of the Roluos Group. Roluos is the site of an ancient centre of Khmer civilization known as Hariharalaya. It was the first town built by the Angkorian kings in the 8th and 9th century and consists of three main temples: Bakong, Lolei and Preah Ko. The surrounding countryside with its rice paddy fields and sugar palm trees are very typically Cambodian.

From there, cycle or transfer by vehicle to the shores of Tonle Sap Lake, and have the opportunity to learn about life on the lake. Tonlé Sap is South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake with its size varying greatly depending on the season, as it is swelling to about four times its size during the wet season. Board a local boat and visit Kampong Phluck, a village where houses on stilts that are submerged when Tonlé Sap Lake extends. On the way, pass floating houses and impressive flooded forests, portraying life on the water. A delicious picnic lunch will be served in a floating restaurant.

If desired, take a scenic and peaceful canoe ride through the flooded forest with a local Cambodian who lives in the village, normally an elderly woman with extensive experience paddling canoe.

Transfer by boat back to dock and go back by vehicle to the hotel to relax.

(Note:  In dry season, when the water is too low to traverse by boat, an alternative activity to cycle to the temple of Chau Srei Vibol, a ruin that is often skipped by most visitors to Siem Reap will be done instead. It’s possible to cycle back to town or transfer back by vehicle.

Transfer back to the hotel and relax until this evening’s farewell VIP set dinner at Nest, a stylish restaurant very close to the famous Pub Street and Night Market.  Nest is leading the way as one of Siem Reap’s premier fine dining restaurants.  It’s a large contemporary designed space, with a menu that combines both eastern and western flavours.  It also has an extensive wine and cocktail list, and their comfy lounges make it a great place not only for a restaurant, but also to relax with a drink after many days of touring.

Overnight in Siem Reap.


Siem Reap Departure

Transfer to airport: About 20 minutes

Congratulations! It is the end of the trip!  Enjoy free time today before departure, or extend the stay for a few more days and go to the beach to relax!

Important Information

Our services include:

  • Flexibility with each group to mutually agree on cycling and trekking distances each day.
  • Luggage transfer
  • Vehicles: (varies based on local conditions and vehicle sizes available). Private air-conditioned vehicle for transfer and back up as itinerary.
  • Bike rental and helmet
  • Plenty of water provided throughout the day when cycling or trekking
  • Snacks and local fruits
  • 1 Exo Adventure Certified French Speaking Guide for 1-7 pax; 1 Assistant English-speaking guide for 8-16 pax; 2 Assistant English-speaking guides for 17+ pax.
  • 1 first aid kit per guide
  • Each guide will have a full set of travel bike tools
  • Main support vehicle will have spare parts
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Guides eat all lunches and dinners together with clients, when meals are included
  • Sightseeing tickets where mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Accommodation as listed above.
  • Flight reconfirmations

Our services don’t include:

  • Visa or visa arrangement
  • International and domestic flights
  • Meals other than mentioned above
  • Soft drinks, or beverages beyond water – we can add this into costs at agents request
  • Beverage and alcoholic drinks at mealtimes
  • Tips for guides, porters, wait staff, drivers.
  • Energy drinks or powders, performance bars, or performance gels (Gatoraid, Powerbars, Gue, Isostar, etc)
  • Personal Travel Insurance
  • Personal expenditure (Laundry, telephone)
  • Any other services not clearly mentioned in the itinerary and in the inclusive portion.
  • Sunscreen, bug repellent, protective clothing.  Bring long pants and socks for evenings.
  • Other language speaking guides

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