Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Battambang and how to experience them. Need help planning your trip? Check out our tips for visiting Battambang — you’ll find the best restaurants, where to stay, how to get around and more!
What to expect in Battambang
Battambang is one of the oldest cities in Cambodia, dating back to the 11th century and bursting with rich history. But don’t worry, Battambang isn’t stuck in the past, it’s a brilliant blend of old-world charm and contemporary culture.
In the morning you can be visiting an ancient temple, and by lunchtime you’re sitting in one of Battambangs delicious restaurants that are creatively adding modern twists to traditional Khmer dishes. Your afternoon can then be used to visit the Killing Caves or to discover Battambangs flourishing arts scene.
And don’t forget about the famous Bamboo Train, but more on that later!
If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-track destination in Cambodia, Battambang might be the place for you. Especially if you choose to stay in the countryside village of Wat Kor just outside of Battambang.
Top tours in and around Battambang
- Explore the Bamboo Train, Killing Caves, Kampong Pil Pagoda and a local village for $16
- Discover Battambang’s countryside by bicycle for $20
- Hire a tuk-tuk driver for the entire day for $20
#1 Ride the famous Bamboo Train
Listen to the click of the train against the track, breathe in the scent of rice fields, and enjoy the cool breeze while riding the Bamboo Train (also known as a “norry”).
The Bamboo Train is essentially a bamboo platform fixed to wheels and powered by a small motor. It was created as a grassroots solution to the lack of railway infrastructure after the Khmer Rouge, used to transport passengers, livestock, goods and just about anything they could fit on there.
Unbelievably, you’ll understand why we say that when you see it for yourself, this thing can reach speeds of up to 40 km/h. At that speed it’s a bumpy ride, so make sure to hold on tight.
Now, the majority of the tracks are left in disrepair with only 7km of the track kept in action for tourists. The Bamboo Train is a big reason why travellers visit Battambang. They want that unique experience too.
How to ride the Bamboo Train
To get to the start of the Bamboo Train, you can take on the 50-minute walk or hop in a tuk-tuk.
A tuk-tuk from the centre of Battambang should cost between $4-6. And the actual ride on the train itself costs $5 per person.
The tracks open at 06:00 as they’re still used to transport goods, livestock, crops etc.
The adventurous journey on the Bamboo Train ends in O Dambong Station, where you can get a tuk-tuk back to Battambang.
Fun fact: it’s a single track, which means that if there’s another cart coming in the other direction, someone has to give. The unofficial rule is that the lightest cart has to be removed and put back on the track once the other cart has passed.
For those tight on time in Battambang or if you hate organising logistics, we recommend joining this adventure-packed afternoon tour. It takes you to many of the popular spots in Battambang — the Killing Caves, Bamboo Train, Kampong Pil Pagoda and a local village, all for $16.
#2 Learn about Cambodia’s recent history at the Killing Caves
The Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau are deep-rooted in the violent history of the Khmer Rouge atrocities. These caves were used as an execution site by the Khmer Rouge who would line victims at the rim of the daylight shaft, kill them and then throw the dead body into the cave.
At the mouth of the cave now sits a beautifully decorated glass-walled memorial with the remains of those killed during this terrible regime. Next to it lies a reclining Buddha statue, which looks as though it’s guarding over the memorial.
It’s a heart wrenching sight and a good moment for us all to reflect.
How to visit the Killing Caves
The caves are halfway up Phnom Sampov Mountain, and visitors can access them via a concrete staircase, surrounded by rock formations and greenery. As it’s now a place of pilgrimage and locals gather there to sing and pray, be sure to cover your legs and elbows.
To get from downtown Battambang to these caves, a tuk-tuk will charge you between $10-$12. There’s a $3 entrance fee for the Killing Caves.
Check out this combined afternoon tour that takes you to many of the popular spots in Battambang — the Killing Caves, Bamboo Train, Kampong Pil Pagoda and a local village, all for $16.
#3 Visit Battambang Bat Cave for an incredible natural performance
Pair your trip to the Killing Caves with a visit to Battambang Bat Cave, but you’ll need to make sure you time it right.
Every afternoon, you can witness millions of bats pouring from the mouth of the cave. The experience can be slightly overwhelming, but it’s incredible. You can even feel a slight rise in temperature as the bats burst from the cave.
Don’t be scared, though — they will be on the hunt for small insects, not for you!
The bats usually wake up around 5pm, and the spectacle can last up to 40 minutes. If you only want to observe the bats, you don’t need to pay to get into the caves. You’ll find tables and chairs set up by food vendors, so you can grab a snack and watch the natural spectacle in comfort.
Top tip: To get another perspective, ask your tuk-tuk to drive down the mountain and stop on the road to observe the black swarm from a distance.
#4 Watch a performance at the Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus
Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus (otherwise known simply as Battambang Circus) is another big reason why travellers make the journey to Battambang.
It’s a spectacle to behold as artists juggle fire, walk across unbelievably thin wire and contort their bodies in ways you never thought to be possible. Alongside the ‘unusual’, you’ll also get to witness the exciting traditional Cambodian dance.
And you’ll be glad to hear that no animals are used in any of the performances.
Why you should watch a performance at Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus
All performers are trained by professionals of the famous Phare Ponleu Selpak Artistic and Social Centre, a generous non-government association dedicated to helping children, young adults, and their families through art.
Every year 1,000 students are empowered through their schools and programs. So, whilst you get to enjoy an unforgettable performance, you’re also helping a community.
How to watch a show
Shows take place every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7 pm. You can find the full schedule on Phare Ponleu’s website.
Circus tickets cost $14 for adults and $7 for children. Doors open at 18:00, and the show starts at 19:00. You may buy tickets at the door or email the organisation to reserve tickets ahead of time.
#5 Explore Battambang’s stunning countryside by bike
You could try and explore Battambang’s countryside by foot, but that’s going to take you a while. Instead, hop on two wheels and join a bike tour with a local student. This way you get to cover more ground, learn about the area from a local and burn some calories whilst you’re at it.
This half-day bike tour covers 22km, and takes you off-the-beaten-track. You’ll get to visit the Cambodian families who produce traditional products such as rice paper, dried bananas and bamboo sticky rice, that are still made in the same way as generations before.
Many people spend their time in Cambodia’s cities, but 70% of Cambodia’s population live in rural communities. Don’t miss out on seeing this side of the country.
Get your muscles pumping and discover Cambodia’s countryside by bicycle for $20.
#6 Enjoy panoramic views at the Banan Temple
After climbing 358 steps to Banan Temple, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of Battambang. Sitting on top of a hill 20km south of Battambang, you can see all of Battambang plus fantastic views of smaller villages, rice paddies and Sanker River.
The view is great, but the star of the show is the 11th century temple that is thought to be a model of Angkor Wat, just on a much smaller scale. The temple has been subject to looting, but some beautiful carvings still remain.
Adding bursts of colours to the ruins, you’ll likely see people offering prayers, flowers and incense. It’s a holy place to the locals, so make sure to dress modestly.
You may have seen the fact that there are 358 steps to the top and thought ‘hell no!’. Can we convince you by telling you that there are food stalls lining the path to the temple? We promise you, it’s great motivation.
How to visit Banan Temple
The entrance fee is $2 per person, and a tuk-tuk ride from the centre of Battambang should cost $10-15. Banan Temple is open from 7:00 to 19:00.
Top tip: Take a detour and explore the L’Ang But Meas cave, located just down the hill. Inside is a large stalactite with sparkling water dripping into a bowl below. Local legend has it that the water has mystical powers. You can approach a guide who has a torch and knows the cave by heart.
#7 Kayak down Sangkae River
The huge, albeit murky, river flowing through the middle of Battambang is hard to miss. It’s a focal point of the city, with communities building their houses on stilts along the river.
The best way to get a look at these houses and catch a glimpse of life in the countryside is to rent a kayak and paddle your way down the river. It’s a unique experience, and a relaxing one!
You can rent kayaks from Green Orange Kayaks, a NGO school who use the proceeds to fund local children’s education. Don’t worry, we’re not sending you off down the river by yourself, to never be seen again. You can join a tour that is run by a friendly English speaking guide.
#8 Enjoy a picnic at an 11th-century temple, Wat Ek Phnom
Climb huge blocks of stone, navigate tiny passageways and behold a timeless beauty.
Behind a modern pagoda and a massive Buddha statue is Wat Ek Phnom, an 11th-century temple. It’s not quite what it used to be, but it’s still impressive in its own way. The walls are made of reddish clay, and the water reservoir, fine carvings, and fallen bricks give the sense that you’ve discovered a forgotten temple.
The tranquil setting makes it a favourite picnic spot and pilgrimage destination during local festivals. Women trying to conceive also visit the temple, hoping to have their prayers granted.
How to visit Wat Ek Phnom
From downtown Battambang, you can take a 20-minute tuk-tuk for $5, and the entrance fee is $1. Take a sarong with you, or make sure to wear long sleeves and pants.
Top tip: On your way to the temple, ask the tuk-tuk driver to stop at local houses where they make homemade rice whiskey and rice paper.
#9 Take time to reflect at Wat Samrong Knong
Another temple to add to your list is Wat Samrong Knong. It’s more than a temple, and is also a memorial site for the 10,400 people that were killed there by the Khmer Rouge.
The 19th century pagoda, which can still be found here alongside the new pagoda, was used as a prison and place of torture during the regime.
Take the time to wander around the pagodas, reflecting on the devastating events that once occurred here.
Entrance to Wat Samrong Knong is free.
Rounding it up
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in Battambang, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. Not sure how to plan your trip? Our Battambang guide is here to help! You’ll find out how long to stay in Battambang, where to eat, how to get around and more. Happy planning!
The city of Battambang is fairly spread out, however, you’ll find the majority of accommodations are located centrally, near the Sangkae River.
The downtown area is less than 5km from the airport so taking public transportation or hopping in a taxi will be an easy & quick trip to your hotel. The bus terminal is located in the downtown area and will likely be within walking distance of your hotel, or just a short taxi ride away.
When looking for a great place to stay in Battambang, we recommend staying in one of these accommodations:
Pomme Hostel - Budget Friendly
Pomme Hostel, Bar & Restaurant is located centrally in the heart of Battambang. Just 200 m from Psar Nat, Riverside Night Market, and Battambang Museum, it’s a great place to stay to see the local sights.
While breakfast is not included with your stay, it’s only an extra $2 for a full English breakfast or a ‘build-your-own’ breakfast. The restaurant offers an array of local, Asian, and international meals for lunch and dinner as well. The hotel staff, who are known to be extremely welcoming and friendly, can also arrange local tours for you.
- Perfect location
- Build-your-own breakfast available
- Onsite restaurant
- Amazing staff
Private rooms start at $11 per night.
Family Batcave Homestay - Budget Friendly
Located amongst the rice fields and surrounded by beauty, this homestay is 15km from the city centre of Battambang. If this sounds a bit far, don’t worry, the homestay offers free bicycle rentals.
The hotel has a stunning garden and a relaxing terrace to soak in the sights. The owners and staff will treat you like family, offering a complimentary and delicious vegetarian breakfast every morning. The private bamboo bungalows are small slices of paradise.
- Surrounded by rice fields
- Free bicycles
- Amazing staff
- Complimentary vegetarian breakfast
Private bungalows start at $20 per night.
Muni Residence and Spa - Mid Range
Muni Residence is one of the most popular places to stay in Battambang. That’s mostly down to its almost perfect rating and incredible hosts, Liy and his family. They make you feel like you’re part of the family instantly, helping you with anything you need.
The sweet treats that they surprise guests with are such a memorable and considerate touch. The rooms are nicely designed and spacious, whilst the beds are super comfortable.
- Very popular
- Amazing host
- Free sweet treats
- Spacious and nice rooms
Private rooms start from $27 per night.
Cambana La Rivière Hotel - Treating Yourself
Situated in the centre of Battambang, Cambana La Rivière Hotel feels like an oasis where you can escape the noise. The pool area with comfy sun loungers and packed with plants is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring.
Or you can chill out and order room service to your private balcony. The rooms are luxurious, spacious and clean. You won’t want to leave your huge comfortable bed, but hopefully, the complimentary breakfast is enough to entice you.
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Private balcony
- Luxurious rooms
- Delicious free breakfast
Deluxe suites start from $60 per night.
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