Following years of being sealed off for tourism as a result of the health crisis, Southeast Asia re-emerged this year as one of the trendiest and most sought-after destinations among Westerners.
From the nightlife hotspots of Phuket and Pattaya in Thailand to the up-and-coming coastal resort of Mui Ne in Vietnam, both Americans and Europeans have been flocking to the subcontinent for a tropical vacation that won’t break the bank.
Other than the traditional tourist hotspots, this lesser-known, equally incredible, and ridiculously cheap country has also been surging in popularity lately, and it could be set for a historical 2024 now that it has just been confirmed as the home to the 8th Wonder of the World:
This Is Why Cambodia Should Be On Your Bucket List For 2024
Often forgotten in the grander scheme of things, the Kingdom of Cambodia is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to the jam-packed beach zones of Indonesia and Thailand as they hit new peaks of overtourism.
Bordered by Thailand to the Northeast, the landlocked Laos to the North, Vietnam to the East, and straddling the Gulf of Thailand, which provides its only access to the sea, it is one of the most ancient, traditional states in Southeast Asia.
Cambodia has retained a distinct character since at least the 9th century, when the Khmer Empire was formed, though it would later come under French influence following colonization attempts in the 19th century.
Though Cambodians, as a group, share a unique set of traits that set them apart from their immediate neighbors, whether it’s their Indian-influenced, flavorful cuisine or predominantly Buddhist demographic, they’ve also absorbed Western culture to some extent.
Colonial Heritage And Ancient Ruins
The decades under European control resulted in the makeover of many settlements across the then-mostly rural Cambodia, including in the capital city, Phnom Penh, remodeled with French-style buildings, wide boulevards, and an abundance of green spaces.
Still, Phnom Penh remained very much the cultural heart of Cambodia, and that foreign powers couldn’t erase: founded as early as the year 1372, it has an impressive selection of ancient temples, imperial palaces, and historical ruins dating back to the Khmer Empire.
Siem Reap, a resort town in the Northwestern region, is yet another major point of interest for visiting Americans, as it concentrates some of the most impressive stone buildings of the Khmer Kingdom, including Angkor Wat, which features on the Cambodian flag.
In fact, Angkor Wat has just been awarded the unofficial title of Eighth Wonder of the world, beating the ruins of Pompeii in Italy to claim this position.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the rediscovery of this complex is one of the main reasons why tourists are returning en masse to Cambodia lately, as it is the largest religious monument in the world and a massive fortification built with purpose and precision.
It was assembled by 12th-century King Suryavarman II and dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu, with five perfectly-symmetrical lotus-shaped towers representing Mount Meru, the ‘Olympus’ of the Hindu and Buddhist gods.
Beautiful Unspoiled Coastal Areas
On the Cambodian coast, the main destinations to visit are Sihanoukville, a small, laid-back city sitting on a peninsula stretching out into the Gulf of Thailand, bounded by an elongated, thin-sand beach, and Koh Rong, an island just off the mainland.
Full of sandy coves and dense patches of jungle and surrounded by a colorful coral reef, this hidden gem of an island is one of the last truly unspoiled nature reserves in Southeast Asia and a new favorite in the adventurous backpacking community.
There is a party beach at Police Beach, a small zoo in the island’s south, and the landmark High Point Rope Park, which is full of suspension bridges.
Tourists can also walk on rope crossings and zip line across the verdant landscape below.
One Of The Cheapest Tropical Getaways In Asia
With all this to offer, the crowd-free beaches, ancient cities and gorgeous nature trails, you would think Cambodia would be teeming with tourists from all over the world, but it is in fact one of the least-visited countries in Southeast Asia.
While its neighbors routinely welcome tens of millions, Cambodia hosted an all-time high 6.6 million tourists in 2019, and this year, though it’s on a recovery path following the pandemic, it still barely reached the 3 millionth mark.
This means it remains largely protected from the downsides of gentrification and overtourism, and prices can be much lower and far more attractive than Thailand, Bali, or any other regional sunny spot – which are already incredibly cheap compared to Western standards.
The beachfront Scarlet Sails Villa, located on a quaint, picturesque beach in Koh Rong Island costs only $63 to book per night this December, while the luxurious Plantation Urban Resort & Spa, in the forested Daun Pehn district of the capital region, has overnight rates starting from $97.
If you’re on a stricter budget, you can go even cheaper, with the House Boutique Eco Hotel in central Phnom Penh costing $24 to book, and non-luxurious yet moderately comfortable rooms at Le Casablanca Hotel available for a mere $14 on Booking.com.
Whether you’re on a luxurious getaway or you’re simply hoping to find a decent place to sleep as you set out to explore during the day, prices in Cambodia will not heavily impact your wallet.
On average, travelers have spent $16 per day on meals when traveling the country, $45 per night on accommodation, and a negligible $7.41 on transportation.
In total, a one-week trip to Cambodia that’s not too frugal will cost $865, making it one of the cheapest tropical destinations not only in Southeast Asia but the entire world.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com