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Angkor Who, Where and Wat

Exploring Cambodia’s Most Famous Ancient Temple

Here is our handy travel guide to one of the world’s oldest religious sites, perfect for day-trippers or those seeking an immersive, multi-day experience.

angkor wat siem reap

Cambodia Travel: Get Prepared

The enigmatic Angkor Wat, near the city of Siem Reap, is certainly one of the top things to visit when travelling to Cambodia. You can equip yourself with some history and understanding of the temple’s traditions with a visit to the Angkor National Museum. It will help make your experience much more meaningful — and a trip to the museum shop may equip you further with some traditional souvenirs.

Siem Reap is hot! Before you go temple-hopping, be sure to apply sunscreen, wear walking shoes, and bring a hat, water bottle and fan; make sure to dress for (very) warm weather. Out of respect for temple traditions, cover up your shoulders and wear at least knee-length shorts. If you’re bringing young children, leave the pram behind and bring a baby carrier instead. Also think about hiring a tour guide to accompany you around the temples, both for an extra set of hands and also for their in-depth historical knowledge.

Angkor Wat spans 400 square kilometres, so be sure to pick up a map beforehand and plan your route. Rise early to give yourself more time for a full experience, as the park closes by 6pm.

Angkor Wat: One-day Itinerary of the Highlights

Start the day by soaking up a breathtaking sunrise at the tower of Angkor Wat — getting out of bed this early will be worth it, we promise. You will also beat the heat. (Did we already mention that Siem Reap is really hot?!)

Here, you can roam the Buddhist-inscribed bas-relief corridors of the temple, lined with imagery that depicts scenes from Hindu mythology. Before you leave, be sure to grab a sunrise selfie out front with the temple reflecting in the lake. A must-have pic!

From there, head to Angkor Thom, once home to over one million people as the last capital of the Khmer empire. Next, read the stone-carved expressions of the 54 faces at The Bayon before heading to Baphuon, a temple built in tribute to Hindu god Shiva. Nearby is Terrace of the Elephants, once a royal grand stand for public ceremonies.

Continue your journey eastward via tuk-tuk to the ancient ruins of Ta Prohm. Featured in the 2001 movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie, Ta Prohm has been abandoned since the 15th century. It is especially serene in the morning, when you can explore in the misty light how the temples façade has gradually fused with the surrounding trees, with roots wrapped around temple walls and doorways.

Take your time to discover the ancient mysteries of the temple grounds before enjoying a panoramic sunset view at the mountain temple of Bakheng, overlooking the fields of Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat: A Deeper Dive Itinerary

Travellers who dedicate more than a day to exploring the historical site will be well-rewarded.
Venture off the beaten path to monuments like Prasat Neak Pean, a tranquil pond with a central island built by King Jayavarman VII. Originally designed as a hospital, it was believed that the four connected pools representing water, earth, fire and wind would balance the elements and heal the sick.
Pre Rup stands out as one of the better preserved temples in Angkor Wat. Known for the reddish glow of its brick and sandstone exterior, this temple was a site for Buddhist funeral rituals. Nearby, you can find East Mebon, home to some elaborately carved monoliths in the form of elephants, lions and deities.
Hinduism not only celebrates life, it also acknowledges death. Witness this at the Terrace of the Leper King, where archaeologists excavated a statue of Yama, the Hindu Lord of the Dead, presiding over what is likely to have served as a cremation platform.

Angor Wat: Where to Eat and Rest

While Angkor Wat has no shortage of roadside vendors selling all kinds of refreshments, here are some nearby dine-in food options to get out of the heat.
Blue Pumpkin Angkor Café serves up familiar all-day breakfast classics and a mix of Western and Asian dishes. Wrap up your refreshment break with your pick from an array of home-made ice creams and sorbets.
Be greeted warmly at Chez Sophea & Mathiu, a rustic hut that serves first-class Khmer favourites like chicken curry and fish amok alongside French fare like foie gras, confit and fresh coffee. Cuisine Wat Damnak is another traveller favourite with a beautiful ambiance and phenomenal tasting menus.

Angkor Wat: More Than Just History

Beyond the historical splendour of Hindu temples, experience another side to Angkor Wat and travel 25 kilometres up north to Banteay Srey District.

Boasting the only major temple not built by a royal, Banteay Srey District offers charming village activities from home stays to boat tours and is also home to the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity. Within the village, be sure to try their local speciality nam ben chok, rice noodles deliciously seasoned with fish or curry gravy.

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