The Most Important Festivals & Holidays in Cambodia 2019 -2020

If you’re planning to visit Cambodia for the festive atmosphere and traditional practice, this article is just for you. Below are the most important festivals and holiday in Cambodia selected by Asianway Travel.


Khmer New Year – The most important Holiday in Cambodia

khmer new year holidays in cambodia

When it happens: April 13th -15th

There is no doubt that Khmer New Year is the most awaited and celebrated festival in Cambodia, a yearly cultural event that has the most significance to Cambodian people. The festival lasts for three days, usually starts on 13th or 14th day of April which, if you’ve noticed, is much later than other Asian countries’ Lunar New Year. Called Bon Chol Chham Thmei in the original language, the festival marks the end of harvest season, also the time when farmers can enjoy their reward after a season of hard working ahead of the rainy season. Therefore the atmosphere in the country is absolutely light-hearted, exciting and festive.

Most of the citizens will head back home, usually for a week, to enjoy their time with their families, so expect main centers, such as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, to transform into empty towns. However, the country’s villages spring to life with parties, visits to local pagodas and plenty of food. The majority of businesses will close, including many restaurants, and those that remain open will operate with a skeleton staff. If you’re in Cambodia during this time, better book the hotels or tours in advance because the rates often hike up.

Pchum Ben – The Longest Holiday in Cambodia

When it happens: End of September or the beginning of October

As the longest festival to last in Cambodia, Pchum Ben is also the most spiritual cultural event to witness. Starts at the end of September or the beginning of October, the festival lasts 15 days with the last 3 days given as public holidays.

There’s a belief that during this time, the spirits of deceased ancestors back to seven generations will return to Earth. Therefore the Cambodian will get back to their homeland and visit 7 pagodas to give prayers, offerings to monks. 

Bamboal Krobei

This festival will be held on the very last day of Pchum Ben, at Vihear Sour Cheung in Kandal province which is located about 40 kilometers away from Phnom Penh. This small village will transform into a hive of activities as people flock from nearby areas to watch the exciting buffalo and horse racing. These animals will be decorated with colorful horns, necklaces and headbands. A dirt track will be prepared for the race. Only the strongest and most skillful men will be joining.

People see this as a form of entertainment for the spirits that have come back to earth, with all contestants spending time in pagodas praying before the race starts at 6 am. It is followed by Cambodian wrestling.

Bon Om Touk – The Cambodia Water Festival

When it happens: November

Bon Om Touk must be the most famous festival and the cultural event that tourists can join. Occurring on three days of November, both two biggest centers of Cambodia – Phnom Penh and Siem Reap – are filled with crowds of people from across the country. The festival marks the end of rainy season and the start of harvest moon or full moon in the Buddhist month of Kadeuk. 

The festival also marks the changing direction of the Tonle Sap River – the only waterway in the world that boasts this unique trait. Expect crowds, fireworks and other festivities. If you’re expecting the water fights that take over the streets during Thailand’s water festival, then forget it. Although, in villages, Cambodians often throw water and talc at one another. A boat race will be held on the river on the day after the boat parade. This is the most exciting activity at the festival.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony – Weather Forecasting Festival

Used as a forecast method of the forthcoming growing season and sowing the seeds for successful crops ahead, The Royal Ploughing Ceremony or Preah Reach Pithi Chrot Preah Neangkol is held at the start of the rice-growing season. The King will anticipate by leading the rituals and tilling a plot of land with a plow pulled by oxen.

After three rounds, the animals are allowed to fodder on a choice of rice, corn, sesame seeds, green beans, grass, water and wine. What they choose to eat will predict the outcome for the year ahead. Grains signal good yields for those crops. Wine suggests a slump in crime, water predicts flooding and eating the grass is seen as an upcoming spread of animal disease.

You’re planning to visit Cambodia during one of these festivals? See our best Itineraries:

Vietnam and Cambodia Itinerary for 10 Days

Places to visit in Vietnam and Cambodia in 14 Days

Cambodia Best Recommended Tours

Contact Asianway Travel to be consulted on visiting Cambodia during any of festivals and holidays above through email:

The Most Important Festivals & Holidays in Cambodia 2019 -2020
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