One of the most important landmarks in Southeast Asia and certainly the best known in Cambodia: Angkor at Siem Reap, the city of temples with the phenomenal Angkor Wat as the largest temple. Between the 10th and 12th centuries, the successive kings of the Khmer Empire built a wealth of special temples, all with their own atmosphere. Here, you can construct your days and go from temple to temple. Let yourself be enchanted by the mysticism and beauty of all the temples, imagine how people lived here before and enjoy the appearance of the temples in the landscape. A visit to the temple complex is the highlight of your trip through Cambodia. This also means that it is very busy: as many as 2.5 million visitors came in 2017.
More than just Angkor Wat
Although Angkor Wat is the most famous and largest temple in the area, there are still more than 100 other temples, of which you must at least see some. So, it is almost impossible to be here for just one day. You have to hurry because some are far away from each other. It is better to buy a ticket for 3 days. If you have even more time, buy a ticket for 7 days. Tickets can be bought at a large office on your way to Angkor Wat. If you do this one day in advance, you can take full advantage of your time at the temple complex. It is also wise to plan in advance what you want to see and when. There are two routes: a “small circuit” and a “grand circuit”. By driving your route cleverly, you avoid a lot of criss-cross travel through the area.
The temples not be missed
This immense structure is world famous and you can spend hours there. It is certainly advisable to view the sunrise here. That means you have to leave at 5 am. You are certainly not the only one who wants to see this, so it is difficult to find a quiet spot. It is busiest at the large lake, at the smaller lake there is less of a crowd. You can also decide to visit the whole temple right then, it is still “quiet”. Moreover, the queue for the steep staircase to the beautiful third floor is not so long. In the middle of the day you could stand here for an hour.
This temple served as a backdrop for the film “Lara Croft: Tomb raider”. The temple complex is overgrown by the large forest giants of the jungle. The big roots hang over the temples as it were. When you visit this temple early in the morning, most likely you will miss the hordes of screaming Chinese.
The heart of the Angkor Thom area is the Bayon temple. The many towers in this temple are beautifully decorated with no less than 216 images of the King Avalokiteshvara. This temple also has three floors.
Here you can see the most beautiful stone inscriptions and images in all Angkor. The temple is a beautiful red in colour. The name means Citadel of the Women. The story goes that this temple was built by women. The temple is further out of the way, but worth a visit.
By naming only these temples, we are doing the others an injustice, because they are all beautiful too. If you have little time, try to set up your schedule so that you see the temples listed above.
Practical tips for visiting Angkor Wat
- Make sure you always bring the ticket with you. There is an active check. When you can’t show a ticket, you get a huge fine!
- If you have the time: at least one ticket for a 3-day booking. In a day you really would see too little.
- Arrange a tuk-tuk driver. Check if he can speak English well and if he knows the area a bit! In any case, write down his telephone number if you do not find it in the parking lot between all the thousands of tuk-tuks that are waiting. Take note of how he looks, including how the tuk-tuk looks. If necessary, take a picture of driver and his tuk-tuk.
- Visit Ta Prohm as early as possible. We were already able to enter at the official opening of 7:30 am and had the temple almost to ourselves.
- The sunrise at Angkor Wat is beautiful, but very busy. Just by the small lake it is less crowded.
- The sunsets we found disappointing. You have to be there early to have a good spot and you actually see the sun going over the forest. There are a lot of nicer sunsets to see in Asia!
- Make a selection and prepare yourself, read up on it. Or rent a guide at the entrance of each temple. Don’t go around like crazy with your tuk-tuk along all the temples and catch just a glimpse. That’s what the Chinese do!
- Don’t go by bike, it’s a waste of your time and the distances are too vast. It is also very warm in February, not to mention March and April.
- Keep to the clothing regulations, there is a strong check on that.
- Bring enough water, a hat and sunscreen. It’s very hot in the afternoon!