The main purpose of every visit to Siem Reap will be the Angkor Archaeological Park with its many magnificent monuments. Although most kids will not enjoy days on end of exploring temples, there is plenty for children to enjoy in and around Angkor.
Depending on age and interest children will enjoy other things than adults. While some kids will feel like Indiana Jones exploring the jungle overgrown Ta Prohm temple, others will prefer riding a horse or pony in the Siem Reap countryside, while the youngest children will enjoy the large butterflies, snails and other animals that live on and around the Angkor monuments.
When visiting Angkor with children, plan the day to keep both adults and kids happy. Visit one or two temples in the morning like Angkor Wat or the Bayon close to Siem Reap and spend the afternoon around the hotel’s pool, enjoy a spa or plan an activity for the kids. When the children wake up early, you can have an early start which has the additional benefit that it is cooler and quieter.
Make sure to have a comfortable place to retire to after a long day, an accommodation with a pool would be ideal.
There are several options to get around in Angkor. A fun experience for kids is to ride around in a tuk tuk, an open motorized rickshaw for two people. An air conditioned car has the benefit of being able to retreat from the heat. The best time to visit Angkor with children is December through February, when it is dry and cools down at night.
Activities for families with children
There are plenty of things to do and see around Siem Reap that children will enjoy, including the following.
Horse & pony riding
Many children will enjoy the opportunity to ride a horse or pony. The Happy Ranch horse farm in Siem Reap organizes horse rides through the Siem Reap countryside passing paddy fields and small villages. During the trip you will be able to view every day Cambodian village life, wooden huts on stilts, rice fields with buffaloes, open air markets with fruits and vegetables, cooking outside over a fire. Ponies are available for children. When the children are too small or you prefer not to ride yourself, you can make a ride in a horse drawn cart. For more info, visit the Happy Ranch website.
Especially young children will enjoy a visit to the Angkor Butterfly Center (ABC), also known as the Banteay Srei butterfly center. Hundreds of beautiful, brightly colored tropical butterflies of many different species live in the center that can be viewed from close up. The center also has a pupa room with chrysalis, that are later to become butterflies. The Angkor Butterfly Center is found along Route 67 North of the East baray, and opens daily from 9 am until 5 pm.
Khmer cooking class
If you enjoy Cambodian food, taking a Khmer cooking class could be a fun family activity. Several restaurants in Siem Reap offer classes, including Le Tigre de Papier on Pub Street. The class starts off with a visit to a local market to buy fresh ingredients. Here you can learn a little about the ingredients of Khmer cooking. Participants can choose a starter, a main dish and a dessert they want to prepare from the menu. Wearing a chefs hat, children can help cutting and preparing the ingredients. At the end of the class, everyone can enjoy the prepared Khmer dishes. Prices for a 3 hours class start at US$ 13 per person. For more info, visit the restaurant’s website.
Although most kids will not enjoy full days of exploring one temple after another some will be fun to explore, like the Ta Prohm or “jungle temple” that featured in the “Tomb Raider” movie. The huge trees and massive roots growing out of the temple walls give the temple a special jungle atmosphere. Although a number of trees have been cut down to protect the temple from collapse, it is still one of the most natural settings in Angkor.
Other place of interest for children would be the Bayon with its enormous stone faces or the huge sculpted elephants at the Elephants terrace in Angkor Thom.
If your children enjoy a good storey, hire a knowledgeable guide who will be able to tell ancient Khmer legends and myths, like the storey of the Churning of the Oceans of Milk and the storey of the Leper King, that many kids will enjoy listening to.
Experience the atmosphere, smells and sounds of an Asian market at one of Siem Reap’s markets. The Angkor night market and the Psar Chaa (old market) are both colorful, busy and chaotic markets full of people, tuk tuks and motorbikes. Lots of stalls offer items as crafts and arts, wood carvings, clothing, bags and scarves. You’ll also see fresh vegetables, fruits, meat hanging from hooks and countless chillies used for traditional Khmer cooking. As the goods are priced for tourists and many shops offer the same products, it pays to give your bargaining skills a try. Apart from picking up some souvenirs, there are plenty of Cambodian restaurants as well as shops where you can have a relaxing massage or a pedicure.
Hot air balloon
An exiting activity for adults and kids alike, a hot air balloon ride will give you great views of rural Cambodia, Angkor Wat and other temples. A large stationary balloon is attached to thick cables. You can walk around freely in the basket to get good all around views. The balloon goes up about 200 meters if weather conditions are ok, less if conditions are windy. The balloon will stay at that altitude for about 10 minutes. Angkor Balloon is located about 1 kilometer West of Angkor Wat. Prices are US$ 15 for an adult, half price for children under the age of 12.
A fun activity for kids is taking a ceramics class at the Khmer Ceramics Fine Arts Center. Assisted by an experienced Cambodian potter, kids can make their own creation on the potter’s wheel from clay. In the basic class everyone gets 3 balls of clay to turn into pottery. One piece of choice gets fired and glazed into a finished product, which will be delivered to your hotel the next day. The center is located on Charles de Gaulle road in Siem Reap on the way to Angkor Wat. The basic clay class costs US$15 per person and takes 1½ hours. For more information, visit the Ceramics center’s website.