Some Cambodians humorously claim that the country has three seasons – hot, hotter, and hottest. However, in reality, Cambodia experiences distinct dry and wet seasons, each offering a unique experience in this captivating Southeast Asian nation.
The High Season (November-March): Ideal Weather for Temple Exploration
The high season in Cambodia, particularly during the “cool season” months of November to February, is the most popular time to visit. The temperatures are milder, making it pleasant to explore the temples. However, it’s also the busiest time at Angkor, so it’s best to book accommodation in advance, especially during Christmas, New Year, and Chinese New Year.
The Shoulder Season (July-August): Perfect for Families
Despite being the wet season, July and August are a great time for families to visit. While it may rain occasionally, it doesn’t disrupt travel plans significantly. This period aligns with the long school holidays in Europe and North America, allowing families to take advantage of discounted prices at hotels and resorts. Additionally, there are fewer tourists at Angkor during this “green season,” offering a more intimate experience.
Pro Tip: Beaches on the coast, like Ko Rong and Sihanoukville, can be wet and windy during this time.
The Low Season (April-June & September-October): Bargain Hunters’ Delight
While these months may not offer the best weather, they are the perfect time to find great discounts. Temperatures can reach scorching levels in April and May, while September and October are characterized by heavy rains. However, luxury hotels and resorts offer their best deals during this period. Moreover, the rainy season brings lush green landscapes and dramatic cloud formations.
A Month-by-Month Planner: Festivals and Events
Cambodia’s major festivals follow the lunar calendar, often spanning multiple months. Here’s a guide to what you can expect throughout the year.
January-March: The Busiest Time of the Year
This period marks the peak tourist season in Cambodia. Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and the South Coast teem with visitors. Festivities like Chaul Chnam Chen (Chinese New Year) and Tet (Vietnamese New Year) add an extra dose of cheer to the country.
April-June: Festivals and the Start of the Rains
As the monsoon arrives, regular rain showers commence, lasting until October. April is particularly important for Khmers, as they celebrate the Cambodian New Year. Despite the scorching temperatures, this month offers a unique cultural experience. Festivals like Chaul Chnam Khmer, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, and Visakha Puja take place during this time.
July-September: Celebrations and Backpacker Buzz
July and August witness a rise in tourism due to summer holidays in Europe and the US. Backpackers flock to Cambodia and the Mekong region, taking advantage of their university breaks. September, the wettest month, coincides with P’chum Ben, a festival where Buddhists pay respects to the dead.
October-December: Warm, Dry Winds and Festive Spirit
October marks the transition from the rainy season to warm, dry winds. Despite occasional floods, the countryside turns into a vibrant green paradise. Bon Om Tuk (Water Festival) and the Angkor Photo Festival are major highlights during this period. Additionally, the international New Year’s celebrations attract visitors from all over the world.
Remember, Cambodia offers a multitude of experiences throughout the year. Plan accordingly and immerse yourself in the rich culture and natural beauty this country has to offer.