The vitality of Cambodia’s festivals is really something special. Often spiritual and tradition-heavy affairs with a focus on coming together with family and as a community, the layered meaning of these festivals can be difficult for foreigners to grasp. We’ve compiled a list of the key occasions to keep in mind when planning your travels in Cambodia.

April

Khmer New Year

Avoid travelling during this time if you can. The country closes down almost entirely as locals head to the provinces to celebrate with extended family. The only reason to travel in Cambodia during this time is if you have an 'in' with a local who can score you an invite to their family home. Dates change annually according to the lunar calendar.

May

Royal Ploughing Ceremony 

During this ancient festival, oxen are let loose on a variety of foodstuffs and what they eat is closely observed and analysed by the Royal Palace astrologers, who are Brahmin priests. The priests then predict the outcomes of the next year’s harvest for a number of important crops. While not all Cambodians take the prediction seriously (many will openly scoff at the prophecies) the pageantry draws a respectable audience in person and when played on television. Exact date and location change every year.   

September

Pchum Ben

This 15-day festival is for honouring the dead and making sure they don’t return to feast upon the pus and blood (yes, it is that specific) of the living. Many Cambodians living and working in Phnom Penh head to the provinces and devotees descend on Cambodia’s wats with offerings of food and cash for monks and beggars. Unlike Khmer New Year, however, things keep operating. If you are in Cambodia during this time, head to a wat (temple) for an interesting look at a unique tradition.

November

Bon Om Touk (Water Festival)

When it’s not cancelled due to drought (which is pretty common) the Water Festival draws millions of Cambodians to the banks of Phnom Penh’s Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers to watch traditional boat races. Be prepared for the city’s already crowded streets to reach new heights of congestion. Security and crowd control have improved slightly since the deaths of 353 people during a stampede at the festival in 2010, but this is still a fairly chaotic event. Don’t expect to be able to get in – or out – of the capital with ease in the days before or after the festival.  

Kampot Readers and Writers Festival

While it hasn’t operated every year since its inauguration, the Kampot Readers and Writers Festival is definitely worth checking out if it coincides with your visit. The cafes, bars and sidewalks of this sleepy town make a tranquil setting for the literary festival, which features Cambodian and foreign artists in performance and in discussion.

 

You can find a comprehensive, up-to-date rundown of Cambodia’s public holidays at World Travel Guide.

Click to return to Cambodia FAQs

Our tours in Cambodia

18 Days From 1695

Travel into the heart and soul of South East Asia on this comprehensive tour of Vietnam...

9 Days From 805

Travel from Vietnam to Thailand on a South East Asian adventure that explores Cambodia...

18 Days From 1870

Follow the ancient trails through Cambodia and Vietnam. Explore Angkor’s temples,...

14 Days From 1310

See the Best of Cambodia on a trip from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, via the...

9 Days From 740

Follow the ancient trails on a trip to Thailand and Cambodia. Explore the temples of...

Tailor-Made trips

Take two or more on an exclusive trip and tailor your itinerary

12 Days From 820

Hit Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City on a 12-day Lonely Planet Experience through Cambodia...

13 Days From 2365

Uncover the dramatic histories of these two beautiful countries on a trip through the...

9 Days From 1120

See the best of Cambodia, learning about its history and customs as you cycle, trek and...

30 Days From 3365

Travel into the heart and soul of South East Asia on this comprehensive tour of...

6 Days From 1030

Unearth the essence of Cambodia on a leisurely journey that spends time seeing the...

9 Days From 554

From Bangkok you'll hit the ancient streets and temples of Angkor in Siem Reap, get...

22 Days From 1319

Bounce from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island, through Phnom Penh, Kampot and Siem Reap, then head...

12 Days From 820

Travel to Cambodia on a 12-day Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid, from Ho...

22 Days From 1465

Explore South East Asia on a 22-day Lonely Planet Experience through Vietnam, Cambodia...

26 Days From 1745

Experience the best of South East Asia with Lonely Planet. Marvel at the Angkor complex...

12 Days From 711

Dive headfirst from Ho Chi Minh City into real Cambodia, visiting Phnom Penh, Siem Reap...

9 Days From 1060

Munch your way through Cambodia on this mouth-watering food adventure from Phnom Penh...

13 Days From 1880

See Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand from two wheels on this 13-day adventure from Ho Chi...

23 Days From 2020

Explore vibrant Vietnam, charismatic Cambodia and beguiling Bangkok on this awesome...

20 Days From 3060

Get to know Vietnam and Cambodia, each with their own uniquely enchanting culture and...

10 Days From 1320

Set out on a small group adventure from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and see the incredible...

23 Days From 1350

Take a trip with the lot – Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hue, Phong...

35 Days From 2835

Take an epic tour to the best of South East Asia with Lonely Planet and Intrepid, to...

35 Days From 2601

Join us for the South East Asian trip of your dreams – a little bit of Bangkok, a pinch...

8 Days From 825

Encounter Cambodia's complex history and welcoming culture on a small-group family...

15 Days From 2080

Combine the excitement of Vietnam with the friendly warmth of Cambodia for an exotic...

17 Days From 2635

Journey through the best of Cambodia and Vietnam, experiencing local life, culture and...

3 Days From 383

Discover the secrets of Angkor on an Intrepid tour through Cambodia's temples of Angkor...

20 Days From 2900

Taste the true flavours of Vietnam and Cambodia, feasting on local food and catching...

8 Days From 815

See past Angkor on an outlying Cambodian adventure. Beginning in Phnom Penh, see jungle...

27 Days From 3550

Gear up for an energising and rewarding cycling tour that takes in the best of...

18 Days From 2070

From Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, explore Cambodia's fascinating history and impressive...