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Uncovering the lost world of the Khmer Empire

Cambodia

WHEN TO GO

OCTOBER TO MARCH

IDEAL LENGTH

9 NIGHTS

PASSIONS

Architecture, art history, adventure

Home

Destination

Cambodia History

Uncovering the lost world of the Khmer Empire

Embark on the ultimate Cambodian adventure, discovering the tumultuous history of this small nation from the mighty Khmer kings to French colonial rule and the darker days of the Khmer Rouge. Meet the modern face of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, before heading north towards Siem Reap. Travelling by four-wheel-drive, helicopter, quad bike and boat, explore remote regions of this entrancing country which, until recent times, have been largely inaccessible. Accompanied by expert archaeologists, anthropologists and art historians, ride through tropical jungles revealing a rich array of wildlife and hidden temples enveloped by greenery. How did this vast Hindu-Buddhist empire express its spiritual culture through art? Marvel at one of the world’s greatest architectural treasures, Angkor Wat and uncover secluded archaeological sites once lost. 

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Meeting at a cultural crossroads 

Begin a captivating journey into Cambodian history in the nation’s dynamic capital, staying in one of Phnom Penh’s most characterful landmark hotels. A respected art expert leads an exploration of the city’s diverse architectural heritage, visiting the sumptuous Royal Palace, the distinctively French Art Deco Phsar Thmey Market and the National Museum, home to an exceptional display of Khmer art. Discover the city’s spiritual heart at the venerable Wat Phnom temple and learn about Cambodia’s darker past at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, chronicling the horrors perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. How does Phnom Penh encapsulate modern Cambodian history? 

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Travels through a once forbidden land 

Delve deeper into Cambodia's rich past in Battambang, once under Siamese (Thai) rule, a cradle of culture that brought forward artists, writers, poets, musicians and intellectuals. Observe the well-persevered French colonial architecture, considered amongst the finest examples in southeast Asia. Journey through rice paddies in the lush countryside and pause at the Phnom Sampeau Killing Caves, a poignant memorial to the victims of the Khmer Rouge. Cross the Tonlé Sap lake by boat to Siem Reap, visiting the 10th century Roluos temples before joining a renowned archaeologist for an enlightening introduction to current conservation projects. How successful have modern restoration methods been in preserving the integrity of these sites? 

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Exploring the Golden Age of Angkor 

An unforgettable adventure exploring the lost world of the Khmer Empire begins with a thrilling ride on quad-bikes, into Phnom Kulen National Park, following winding jungle trails, to reach Srah Damrei, a giant stone elephant carved in the 9th century. At sunrise, join a leading art historian on a special helicopter flight and experience the majesty of the incomparable Angkor Wat complex from above, gaining a fresh appreciation of the vastness of the site. Unlock the rare opportunity to visit the remote, mountaintop Preah Vihear temple using a hidden helipad. How did Suryavarman II and subsequent Khmer kings use religious imagery in these monuments to express their divine authority? 

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A jungle adventure 

The expedition continues into the jungle north of Siem Reap, heading to the secluded and rarely visited Koh Ker temple site, once the empire’s capital, with an extraordinary seven-step pyramid as its centrepiece. Later, discover one of the most beautiful Khmer monuments, the pink sandstone temple of Banteay Srei, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Are there new discoveries waiting to be made in these dense forests? Meet a distinguished local artist in his studio and observe him at work, creating paintings and sculpture influenced by traditional Cambodian designs, while a candlelit dinner, served in the dramatic setting of a ruined temple, offers a taste of Cambodian cuisine. 

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