Things To Do In Battambang, Cambodia from Village Tours to Exploring Temples Without Crowds. Ek Phnom, Battambang, Cambodia. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Things To Do In Battambang, Cambodia from Village Tours to Exploring Temples Without Crowds

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Things to do in Battambang in northwest Cambodia include everything from ambling the historic centre, home to over 800 heritage buildings, strolling colourful markets, and grazing on street food, to doing countryside and village tours by tuk tuk, exploring temples without crowds, and riding the exhilarating bamboo train.

We’ve spent a lot of time in Battambang in northwest Cambodia over the years, so we know its attractions aren’t immediately apparent and it can take time and a little effort to appreciate its allure. Here’s our guide to things to do in Battambang.

A 3-hour drive or 4-hour bus ride from Siem Reap, Battambang looks and feels like a country town with not a lot happening, despite it being Cambodia’s second largest city. Stroll its dusty centre in the sweltering heat of the middle of the day and you might find yourself making plans to leave.

Set out at dawn for a tuk tuk drive around the countryside in the magical early morning light, do a bike ride through the friendly villages, cruise the coffee coloured Sangkhae River on a local fishing boat, or amble the riverside at sunset, however, and you will probably end up extending your stay.

Published 7 June 2014; Last Updated 8 October 2022

Things To Do In Battambang from Village Tours to Exploring Temples without Crowds

Here are some of our favourite things to do in Battambang:

Scramble ancient Khmer archaeological sites without the crowds

One of the best things to do in Battambang is explore the atmospheric temple ruins scattered around Battambang province. While they might not be as impressive as Angkor Wat and the other Khmer Empire temples near Siem Reap, the fact that you’ll probably be exploring them alone makes up for their modesty and state of disrepair.

The must-do is 11th century Phnom Banan, around 20 kilometres out of town, which is best visited at sunrise for the golden early morning light. Your short hike up the shaded 358 steps will be rewarded with a pretty little complex of towers with some intricate carvings, Buddha statues wrapped in citrus robes inside the main tower, and glimpses of the surrounding countryside and Sangkhae River.

Don’t miss the dilapidated yet lovely Ek Phnom (above), which the Khmer Rouge attempted but failed to destroy, which also has some detailed carvings, a giant Buddha beside the road near the entrance, and a more modern pagoda decorated with colourful murals. You can also have your fortune read at the foot of the temple by the man with the beatific smile.

Explore laidback villages and visit artisanal producers

One of our favourite things to do in Battambang is to hire a tuk tuk to aimlessly cruise around the countryside. The routes to the temples, through lush rice fields and tranquil villages give a great insight into local life and support the adage that travel is as much about the journey as the destination.

You can rent motorbikes to do the same, but we prefer tuk tuks so we can sit back, soak it all up, and have our hands free to return the continual waves of friendly locals and take lots of photos. Good tuk tuk drivers know the most picturesque routes.

The most interesting are the road to Phnom Banan (south of Battambang) and the road to Ek Phnom (north of town), so you could include the temples on these tours. The roads are liveliest in the early morning and late afternoon when stallholders are setting up or shutting shop and locals are eating breakfast and having snacks at roadside stalls on their way to or from work.

There are fascinating side roads and dirt tracks that snake through villages with traditional timber houses on stilts, lush rice paddies, and vegetable patches and skirt the riverbank where fishermen throw out lines.

Boutique hotels Maisons Wat Kor and Bambu Hotel both offer half- to full-day tuk tuk tours ($15-17) that include visits to the home workshops of artisanal producers who make everything from rice noodles and rice paper to incense and cotton kramas (scarves).

Battambang Bikes has a countryside bike tour that includes a visit to an antique Khmer timber house in Wat Kor village while Battambang Resort can add a fishing boat cruise to their bike tour.

Feast your eyes on antique pagodas decorated with faded murals

Historic pagodas or wats that survived the brutal Khmer Rouge years are dotted around the city and province — so many that there is talk that Battambang is set to get a future UNESCO World Heritage listing for its abundance of well-preserved pagodas, temples and colonial buildings.

You don’t have to wander far within Battambang before you arrive at a mural clad pagoda within leafy grounds where friendly monks can be found studying and are often up for a chat. The easiest to visit are handily two of the oldest and most handsome, the splendid Wat Pippitharam, also known as Wat Peapahd, a block north of Phsar Nath (old market) past the Seng Hout Hotel, and Wat Damreay Sar (‘White Elephant’) which boasts statues of elephants, monkey gods and other creatures that represent various scenes from the Reamker or Khmer Ramayana.

On the opposite riverbank, Wat Bovil has beautiful wooden carvings on display in its old vihear and gold and black doors on the newer vihear; Wat Kandal has some fine paintings and a replica of Angkor Wat out back; while Wat Sangker is another of the oldest pagodas. Most are surrounded by chedis and stupas (structures containing ashes) making for pretty pictures in the late afternoon light.

Take in handsome colonial buildings on an architecture tour

One of the essential things to do in Battambang is take in the architecture. The compact old centre is home to over 800 heritage buildings, including French-Classical mansions from the colonial era, quaint Chinese shop-houses built in the early 20th century, and modernist examples from the New Khmer Architecture.

One of the joys of visiting Battambang is simply strolling the narrow streets taking it all in. Do a walk early in the morning or late afternoon, as it’s too hot in the middle of the day.

Print up one of the free self-guided heritage walking trail maps produced by non-profit Khmer Architecture Tours (based in Phnom Penh) from their website or do a tour.

The French-owned hotel Au Cabaret Vert offers audio tours on antique cyclos that stop at significant buildings, including the elegant 1907 former Lord Governor’s Residence, an atmospheric Chinese temple, and hidden pagodas.

Battambang Bikes (above) also offers an art and architecture themed tour. See: Our Guide to the Arts and Architecture in Battambang.

Hurtle through lush rice fields on the rickety Bamboo Train

Riding the bamboo train is one of the most touristy things to do in Battambang but for many visitors it’s the only thing they do in Battambang, and it’s great fun.

Built in the 1920s by the French, the single-track metre-wide railway line offered proper train services until the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 and the lines went into disuse.

In the 1980s norries — bamboo and wooden platforms the size of a double-bed that sit upon metal wheels — were built by locals to ferry goods, people, produce, and livestock between villages.

The norries can quickly be disassembled and lifted off the tracks to let an oncoming norry pass and then reassembled and returned to the track again. While they’re now equipped with motorcycle engines, in the old days norry drivers stood up and like a gondolier used long bamboo poles to push the things along.

Now it’s predominantly tourists riding the rickety bamboo train, holding on for dear life as the contraptions hurtle through rice fields at a hair-raising speed. The track isn’t in the best of conditions.

Breaks between sections cause the norry to judder as it clunks over them, suggesting for a second there might be a derailment, except the thing simply continues to rocket over the over-grown line, shrubs whipping our arms and face as speed past.

There is a small village at the end of the line where you can visit a fascinating brick kiln, buy a t-shirt (please do), and get something to eat (there’s a street food stall), before hopping back on to do the return journey along the line you came.

The sunset ride is popular, especially with tour groups. The norry driver stops on a bridge to allow you to get off and savour the sun sinking over the rice fields. (When we do the sunset ride with our guests I take a picnic basket packed with gin and tonics and nibblies.)

If you want to do this ride make sure you’re jumping on a bamboo train at least one hour before sunset to allow plenty of time to go to the end of the line (30 minutes) and return in time. Tickets ($5) are sold at the desk at the start of the ride, where the policeman will also take your name. Tuk tuks charge $5-7 to take you, wait and return; allow two hours in total to be safe.

Note that back in 2019, the old bamboo train stopped so the tracks could be prepared for a proper train service, and a new bamboo train opened near Phnom Banan. Then the old bamboo train resumed once again on the new railway line. You’ll have to stipulate to your driver which bamboo train you want to ride. See this post for more details.

Be amazed by millions of bats emerging from a cave and savour the sunset from Phnom Sampeau

This may not be one of our favourite things to do in Battambang but a visit to Phnom Sampeau or Mount Sampeau is popular with visitors and locals alike and can be added to your trip to Banan Temple.

It’s not too far away, however, you’ll need to plan your time carefully so you can watch the pre-sunset spectacle of millions of bats emerging from a cave and flapping their way into the sky — we were told they’re off to eat their dinner of fruit from nearby trees.

Sadly, the mountain is also the site of the Killing Caves, where the Khmer Rouge dumped bodies of murdered Cambodians — something to reflect upon as you savour the sunset from the top of the hill where you’ll have sweeping views of the pancake flat plains.

How to Get to Battambang

Car and driver

There are currently no commercial flights to Battambang airport. You have to fly into Siem Reap or Phnom Penh first and then travel on to Battambang.

To get to Battambang from Siem Reap we usually hire a private car and driver (from US$40-50, depending on the type of car), which is the fastest and most comfortable means of getting there.

We have an excellent driver we use, Mr Sophen, who you can reach on 855 (0) 69 606 306. Tell Sophen that Lara sent you. Hotels in Battambang can organise a car and driver to return to Siem Reap for US$40-50, or to take you to the Thai border for US$35.


We use bookmebus to book buses to Battambang. Numerous bus companies travel between Battambang and Phnom Penh (over 20 buses a day, $6, six hours), Siem Reap (four buses a day, $6, 3.5 hours), and Bangkok via the Cambodian-Thai border town of Poipet from Bangkok’s Mo Chit/Northern Bus Terminal and Ekkamai Terminal. (The latter are more frequent but not direct).

The two best bus companies to Battambang are Capitol and Sorya. Capitol offers two services a day to Bangkok (7.45am and noon, $13, 8 hours).


From Thailand, you can take the early morning train from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station to Aranyaprathat (dep. 5.55am, arr. 11.35am; 48 baht/US$1.50; see the Thai Railways site for more details).

From there you can get a tuk-tuk (80-100 baht) for the 6km journey to the Thailand-Cambodian border. Insist the driver drop you at Thai Immigration and ignore the touts who will try to lure you into their travel agency to buy more expensive visas.

Go directly to Thai Immigration to exit Thailand and then cross the road and walk down to Cambodian Immigration.

Thai-Cambodian Border and Visas

The 30-day Cambodia visa currently costs US$30 for tourist visas and US$35 ordinary/business visas. You can also organise an e-visa in advance.

Bus/Mini-Van/Share Taxi

From Cambodian Immigration, you can hop on a free government shuttle bus to Poipet’s main bus terminal (10 mins away) for a bus/mini-van/shared taxi ($4-5) to Battambang but a far better option is to have your hotel organise a car and driver to meet you (US$20-35 depending on the vehicle).

The private drivers with their own cars will wait in the parking area near the roundabout outside the Immigration office. Drivers also hang out here and take their chances on finding customers. We have hired drivers this way on numerous occasions.


During the wet season and early dry season when water levels are high you can also take a boat (departing at 7am, $25, 6-10 hours) between Siem Reap and Battambang, however, this is a love it or hate it experience.

Those who enjoy it like to sit on the roof with a good book if the weather is fine and soak up the sunshine and breezes and take in river life. Those who hate it complain of unsafe boats, cramped seating, little luggage space, and boredom.

How to get around Battambang

Tuk Tuks

You can walk to the sights in central Battambang, but tuk tuks come in handy in the hottest part of the day and especially if you’re staying at Maisons Wat Kor or Battambang Resort. They’re essential for getting to the Bamboo Train and doing many of the experiences we’ve described above.

As far as we’re concerned the best tuk tuk driver in Battambang is dear Mr Ol (092 563 957), who we met years ago when we stayed at Bambu. He is the main driver of our clients when they do our culinary tours and writing and photography retreats, and we send Lara’s bespoke itinerary clients to him, too. Tell Mr Ol we sent you.

If Mr Ol is not available, he’ll organise another excellent driver for you. Expect to pay around US$15-20 for a half- to full-day tuk tuk tour through the villages and countryside, much less for town tours. These are very fair rates as distances are longer than what you’d drive in Siem Reap.

Where to stay in Battambang

Battambang is home to some beautiful boutique hotels (all tried and tested) and you can read our reviews of Battambang’s best boutique resorts and budget hotels in our guide to Where to Stay in Battambang.

Have you been to Battambang? What are some of your favourite things to do in Battambang?


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A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

15 thoughts on “Things To Do In Battambang, Cambodia from Village Tours to Exploring Temples Without Crowds”

  1. The non-touristy Khmer temples is the attraction that will top my list when get to Battambang next year. Thanks for this through list!

  2. Hi Heather, yes, look, they definitely can’t compete with Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Bayon, and Ta Prohm – those stupendous temple cities are busy for a reason. Angkor Wat’s beauty is unparalleled and if you go for sunrise, off-season and start exploring by the ‘back door’, you can also find yourself quite alone sometimes. These by contrast are far smaller and more dilapidated but there is definitely something special about scrambling around them without anyone else around. Again, though, go for sunrise. Most visitors don’t arrive until later. Enjoy!

  3. This post made me want to scramble back to Cambodia- I love that part of the world!

  4. Pleased to hear that! It’s our home now so let us know if you ever return. Thanks for dropping by!

  5. I started searching for Siem Reap long stay accommodation following a recent visit (which we loved!), and found your website. What a find, thank you for the brilliant insights and most helpful tips.
    Our host Jeff at Maison 557 in Siem Reap (please introduce yourself if you find the time, he’s a great guy, widely travelled and a really interesting and thoughtful person) was of a similar view regarding the children’s orphanages and why it’s not good to support the tourism aspects of them.
    Great to find out on your website about Tara, CCT and Jaan Bai, it gives us some direction for where we can focus on where we may be able to make a small difference.
    Keep up the good work with all you are doing, I am looking forward to perusing more of your posts on places of interest.
    Thank you once again,

  6. Hello Gary – thanks so much for your kind comments. We’re really pleased our site was helpful to your travels. Are you considering settling into Siem Reap for a while? We’ve now been here a year, so always happy to help new arrivals. But please don’t hesitate to leave comments on any posts on places you’re travelling to if you need further info or we can assist with trip planning, or just email, as many people do.
    I have had Maison 557 on my list actually, so will definitely get in touch with Jeff now. I think we’ve experienced some 50-60 hotels now – I need to do a tally – but that’s on my list of next places to try/inspect.
    Tara and the CCT team are truly doing some amazing work in Battambang and Tom, the full-time restaurant advisor/manager has worked a miracle with Jaan Bai, with a little help from incredibly talented and experienced advisors like John Fink and David Thompson. The waiting staff are some of the most professional and friendliest we’ve found in the whole of Cambodia and the atmosphere is fantastic – just what the city needed!
    Thanks again for the comments – we really appreciate it. We travel a lot for work (obviously), but please do contact us if you’re in Siem Reap again and let’s meet for a drink if we’re in town. In the meantime, happy travels!

  7. Cambodia is on our bucket list. Hopefully one day. We’ve bookmarked your story for when we go :-).

  8. Pleased to hear that! We just love it – and are loving living here. Lots more stories on Cambodia on the site – for now click on Siem Reap and Phnom Penh to find them, however, we’ll be re-launching the site very soon and it will be easier to find stories by destination. Let us know if you need tips when planning your trip, too :)

  9. Old pagodas, colonial architecture, grand mansions–sounds as though Battambang deserves UNESCO world heritage site designation. I’d love to do an architecture walking tour there!

  10. They are actually endeavouring to get listed and there is a rumour they’ll get a tentative listing next year. The town certainly needs it to stop business owners from erecting the ugly hoardings that are covering some of the beautiful colonial facades.

  11. I really enjoyed Battambang. You are quite right – initially it doesn’t seem to have much to offer, but once you get out and about it’s glorious.
    Did you visit the circus too – Phare Ponleu Selpak? That was amazing- both for the acrobatic show and for the work that the organisation does with the kids

  12. Hi Jane – so pleased you liked Battambang. Yes, Phare Ponleu Selpak is incredible isn’t it? I included it in this guide to the arts and architecture in Battambang here and wrote about the history of the circus here Terence also reflects upon his visit to shoot the kids for a story we did for CNN here
    Did you get to the circus in Siem Reap also?

  13. Hello,

    A friend and I are leaving on Sunday for 23 days in Cambodia. We are flying from the US into Phnom Penh, spending 4 days there before heading to Battambang. I think we have a good idea of lots of wonderful things to do there. We were intending to take a cooking class at a kitchen mentioned in a guide book. However, on one of your links (eating safely in Cambodia?) I saw a negative mention of a cooking class that is listed in some guide books. Can you email me with this information? I’d love to take a cooking class while there but want to be sure it’s a good one…not one using packaged Knorr chicken bouillon and meat packaged unsafely. Any advice? Thank you

  14. Hello Kat

    We don’t recommend that cooking class in Battambang. The problem with some of these guidebooks is that the authors don’t actually do the classes themselves, they just research them and list them.

    You are far better off doing a cooking class in Siem Reap. We highly recommend the cooking class by Chef Sothea of Mahob Khmer restaurant, which he offers on his organic farm, and the cooking class by Malis Restaurant, which includes a market tour and lunch.

    Unfortunately a lot of chefs include chicken powder amongst their ingredients – even when they’ve made their stock from scratch – they believe, it adds extra punch. But inclusion is optional and they won’t use it if you ask them not to. The problem with the cooking class in Battambang was that they didn’t make their stock from scratch, and their meat storage was very unsafe.

    Do get back to us if you have any more questions. I just spent a few days in Battambang, but back in Siem Reap now.

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