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Phare: The Cambodian Circus

October 26, 2023

Phare: The Cambodian Circus isn’t just a nightly show; it’s a stirring tapestry of artistic disciplines that collide in a breathtaking spectacle. Here, contortion meets juggling, acrobatics soar alongside aerial arts, and theatre and modern dance forms weave in and out of each other like age-old friends.

What to Expect at Phare

phare circus show siem reap performance
Photo courtesy of Phare Ponleu Selpak.

Originating in 1986, the circus was conceived as a powerful form of therapy, allowing Cambodian children to heal emotional wounds left by years of war.

Its roots run deep in Battambang, where the first performances unfolded like whispered legends. Yet, by February 2013, Phare had expanded its horizons, presenting its inaugural outdoor show in Siem Reap.

The aim was to share its mesmerizing narratives with a global audience. Since that time, the circus has ascended to the rank of Siem Reap’s top non-temple attraction, second only to the ancient wonders of Angkor Wat and its siblings. It’s hands-down one of the best things to do in Cambodia.

Each show is a vivid tapestry of Cambodian culture and history. You may find yourself engrossed in tales steeped in beliefs of the supernatural, or heart-rending stories reflecting the hardships of Khmer children in a nation striving to rise from its past. Alternatively, you might be plunged into the seductive and complex drama of Phnom Penh’s bar scene.

Phare Circus was sculpted by the hands and hearts of Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), an organization that came into being with the idea that art has the power to metamorphose lives.

This philosophy extends beyond the circus tent. PPS nurtures the next generation of Cambodian artists, providing education and training in both performing and visual arts. It’s more than just a show; it’s a professional stage for young Cambodians to realize their artistic dreams.

As you anticipate the night’s performance, the aroma of Khmer cuisine wafts from the onsite cafe, inviting you to partake in a pre-show culinary journey. Here, you can savor traditional dishes, offering yet another pathway to immerse yourself in Cambodian culture.

And if your travels take you to Battambang, you have the chance to experience the aura of Phare at its birthplace, its original campus. The atmosphere here is soaked in an intimacy and a raw, untamed energy that only the land of its origin can provide.

So, whether it’s your first time in Cambodia or you’re a seasoned traveler eager for fresh adventures, Phare: The Cambodian Circus offers more than entertainment. It offers a deep, vibrant connection to the soul of Cambodia—a must-visit for anyone eager to engage authentically with this captivating country.

How to visit the Phare Circus Show

Phare Circus Versus Battambang Circus Show

The Phare Circus performance in Siem Reap boasts a significantly superior production quality compared to its counterpart in Battambang, which still operates as a local Cambodian social enterprise focused on its mission of supporting local children in the Battambang area.

Featuring graduates from Phare Ponleu Selpak, the Siem Reap show is a refined and comical spectacle divided into six acts, set in a venue better equipped for Cirque-style acrobatics.

This Siem Reap circus show is not just a show, but an all-encompassing experience—complete with opportunities for dining and shopping before and after the performance.

How to Book Tickets to Phare Circus Performances

Tickets are available for direct purchase through the organization, as well as via their GetYourGuide listing.

When Does the Phare Circus Show Start?

The show kicks off at 8 pm, but the Phare Boutique and Phare Cafe open their doors two hours earlier, offering a selection of unique, locally-crafted gifts and pre- or post-show dining options.

How to Get to the Phare Circus Show

Navigating your way to the Phare Circus show in Siem Reap is fairly straightforward, especially given its proximity to the areas where most travelers tend to stay—the venue is a quick and convenient ride away.

You’ll probably want to take a tuk-tuk, which are eveywhere in Siem Reap. Tuk-tuk drivers generally charge between $3 and $5 to ferry you to the circus from most central locations in Siem Reap. You could also take a taxi for a few dollars more.

And don’t worry about the ride back; the parking lot at Phare Circus is a hive of tuk-tuk drivers post-show, all eager for a fare. So, you’ll have no trouble finding a ride to whisk you back to your accommodation, or perhaps to a late-night spot where you can continue soaking in the city’s vibrant energy.

Where Else Can You See Phare?

The troupe occasionally tours internationally, and those tour dates are always listed on their site.

Nightly shows at 8PM, doors open at 7:30PM. It is essential to book tickets in advance. Cafe open from 6pm.
Phare Circus Ring Road, south of the intersection with Sok San Road, Siem Reap