I’d say a visit to Angkor Wat is a must when staying in Siem Reap. The famous temple complex is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in all of Southeast Asia, and for good reason. Spanning 400 km2, this amazing place is perfect for exploration. One day may not be enough, but you’ll still be able to see plenty and experience its magical surroundings.

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Location & Things to know before going

Angkor Wat is located in the Northern province of Siem Reap: 5.6 km or 15mn by car.

  • Visa: you’ll need a visa to enter the country. You can choose to obtain a visa on arrival (cost $30) or you can also obtain your e-visa in advance (cost $36)> more information here
  • Dress code: you must dress respectfully, i.e. cover your shoulders and knees
  • What to bring: water, sunscreen, hat, good shoes (you’ll be doing a lot of walking)

A little history

Angkor Wat

Originally built as a Hindu temple by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century, it was the state temple and political center of his empire. At the end of the same century, it became a Buddhist temple and remains so today.

Angkor Wat has suffered a great deal of damage: natural disasters and even wars. Bullet holes from the barbaric Khmer Rouge regime can even be seen on its outer walls. But many countries participated in the restoration of this incredible site and, in 1992, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The temple is a symbol of pride for Cambodians, and even features on their national flag.

Best way to visit

tuk tuk
Photo by Chetan Hireholi on Unsplash

If you want to make the most of your experience, book a tuk tuk to pick you up from your accommodation, drive you all day to the temples and drop you off at the end of the day.

Don’t hesitate to ask the establishment where you’re staying – they’re used to it, as many travellers choose this option.

You can also take a guided tour if you have a larger budget.

How much to get inside Angkor Wat?

As Angkor Wat attracts around 2,000 foreign visitors a day, prices have risen considerably over the years.

  • 1 Day Pass: $37
  • 3 Days Pass: $62
  • 7 Days Pass: $72

The official ticket office is located on Apsara Rd, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodge.

One day itinerary idea

First of all, you need to buy your ticket. If you want to visit before sunrise (5:30 to 6:30 depending on the time of year) and you’re an anxious person, I’d advise you to buy your ticket in advance the day before after 4:45 pm. The ticket will then be valid for the following day.

You can also buy your ticket the same day when the ticket office opens (5.00 a.m.).

Sunrise

Angkor Wat sunrise itinerary
Photo by Sebastian Latorre on Unsplash

The famous sunrise at Angkor Wat is likely to surround you with tourists like yourself, but it’s well worth it, especially if you want to start your day early and explore as much as possible in one day.

And if you still have an empty stomach after the early rise, don’t worry, there are plenty of stalls to allow you to refuel before exploring the vast temple.

From the temple-mountain to the numerous galleries, let yourself be seduced by the magnificent architecture and the many devatas (divinities) sculpted on the walls.

Angkor Thom & Bayon Temple

Angkor Wat temple

Located in the center of Angkor Thom, the Bayon was my favorite of all the temples I saw that day. Its original name Jayagiri or “Victory Mountain” was only changed in 1880 by Etienne Aymonier (French linguist and explorer), as the Bayon was supposed to be the earthly reflection of the kingdom of Indra (King of the Devas).

On your way here, you’ll first see a bridge representing the battle between the Devas, who represent good, and the Asuras or evil side.

Here are the Asuras in the photo below, you can see their grumpy unsmiling faces, definitely the bad guys!

Asuras statues in Angkor Wat

Perhaps it’s because of the multitude of impressive faces – said to have been modelled on the face of King Jayavarman VII – or just the general ambience of the place, in any case the Bayon had me spellbound.

Phnom Bakheng

Phnom Bakheng is the highest and one of the oldest temples on the archaeological site, and is prized for its sunset views over Angkor Wat and the Tonle Sap River. Built on top of a hill, its unique pyramidal structure and more than one hundred towers are a sight to behold.

I spent a good deal of time meandering through its various passages, taking photos of all the sculptures and details. It’s easy to see why it took so long to create such a work of art. Just thinking about all the memories and history that have passed through these corridors was enough to fill me with wonder.

And if you’re not too tired already and absolutely want to admire the view at the end of the day, get ready to climb the steep steps to the top.

Bear in mind that you need to arrive fairly early (between 3 and 4 p.m.) to get a good seat, as only 300 visitors are admitted at a time.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat
Photo by Daniel Lienert on Unsplash

The trick is to get there early or get lucky. Why is that, you may ask? Because this is the famous Tomb Raider temple, of course. So it can get crowded, as it’s on the bucket list of many travelers, gamers and non-gamers alike.

It’s easy to see why they chose it as a filming location when you find yourself in the middle of the jungle, with the roots of the marvelous tree reclaiming its territory from the temple.

It’s like dreaming of being Lara Croft right here, right now, isn’t it?

Preah Khan

Preah Khan temple in Angkor Wat
Photo by Serg Alesenko on Pexels

Like Ta Prohm, we can see that Mother Nature grows among the ruins, as the site is maintained but not really restored.

After building the previous temple in honor of his mother, King Jayavarman VII built Preah Khan for his father. With around 100,000 assistants and servants at the time, it had multiple roles: city, university and temple.

Seeing the ruins reminds me once again that a lot happened here, and these sacred places steeped in history really do stir my emotions.

Conclusion

Visiting Angkor Wat for a day was an extraordinary experience. Walking around, exploring the many alleys and temples, wondering what happened there or who took these same paths, enchanted me.

Time passed so quickly that day that I didn’t really want to leave. The magic and serenity of the place made me forget my aching feet and cranky stomach.

To this very day, I know that I’ve been very lucky to have been able to see even a small part of the Archaeological Park before it might be further destroyed by tourism or natural disasters.

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4 Comments

  1. I visited Southeast Asia a few years ago but didn’t make it to Cambodia. Hope to make it back soon to visit some more places around the region that I missed, like Cambodia. Thanks for putting this together and including the history, I wasn’t familiar with they had temples dating back to the 12th century.

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