Angkor Wat is a large ancient temple complex in Northern Cambodia, left behind by the Khmer empire and dating from the early 12th century. The site had been claimed and subsequently reclaimed from the jungle, making for a spectacular show of Man Vs Nature. It is an iconic symbol of Cambodia, even making it onto the national flag. Angkor Wat is the top tourist attraction in the country. This may well mean heavy crowds, but the people are there for a good reason. Make Angkor Wat your next destination and wonder at the magnificence of a past empire.
Where to stay
The closest city to the Angkor site is Siem Reap. Only 6km away, Siem Reap will serve as your base. It is a fantastic city in its own right, catering to everyone from budget backpackers to higher-end travellers. Accommodation is cheap, expect to pay between $3-$8 for a dorm bed. Some hostels offer free breakfast, and many have swimming pools, perfect for cooling down after a hot day exploring the temples. You can find private rooms from $8 and up.
The ticket office can be found on route to the site if you are coming from Siem Reap. You have an option of a 1, 3 or 7-day pass:
1 day – $37
3 days – $62
7 days – $72
- Children under 12 go free, bring their passport for proof
- Cambodians can also enter for free
- 1-day tickets are only valid on the date purchased
- 3-day tickets are valid for 10 days and you can visit any 3 days within that time period
- 7-day tickets are valid for 1 month and you can visit any 7 days within that time period
- Payment is by cash or card
- Your photo will be taken and put on the ticket, so they are non-transferrable
DON’T LOSE YOUR TICKET ON SITE! HEAVY FINES APPLY.
How to get around
It is a very large site, so I wouldn’t recommend walking. These are the 3 options:
- Hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day. This will be very easy to arrange in Siem Reap as every tuk-tuk you pass will be trying to book you in! Try and sort this yourself directly with a driver, instead of through your hostel or hotel. This means the driver will keep all of the fees you pay them. They will pick you up from your accommodation and take you on the best routes around the temples. Expect to pay around $20-25 for the whole day. The tuk-tuk can take up to 4 people, so once you split this between everyone it becomes very cheap. Don’t try and haggle for less than this as they really do provide a great way to see the temples.
- Hire an electric bike. If you want to explore on your own, then you can hire an electric bike from Siem Reap. Make sure to buy your tickets before entering the site and have a map handy! There are charging points around the Angkor site.
- Hire a bicycle. This is probably better in the cooler months.
What to see
There are 2 routes around Angkor Wat, the small circuit and the grand circuit. If you only have one day, I would recommend the small circuit, as this includes stops at all the favourite spots.
This temple is the main reason most people visit the site. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and is a grand example of Khmer architecture and engineering. It was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II and took 40 years to complete. From the entrance, you will walk down an impressive walkway, over the moat and towards the temple in the centre. The 5 iconic towers are said to be based on the lotus flower. There are three levels to the temple, and it is possible to climb to the top. From here you will have amazing views of the temple and the surrounding jungle. It’s a steep climb but definitely worth the effort!
Angkor Thom translates literally to ‘big city’; this isn’t just another temple it’s a whole other city to explore. The city is surrounded by a wall with 4 gates, which you will pass through to enter. It is 10km² in size and contains many temples and monuments. It was built by King Jayavarman VII, who changed the Khmer religion from Hinduism to Buddhism.
Bayon is a temple found in the centre of Angkor Thom. It is very distinctive thanks to its 54 towers, and 216 faces carved into the walls spookily looking down at you. It also has a series of carvings on the walls depicting events and scenes from the Khmer age.
This temple is slightly different to the others as it is still much in the same condition it was in when it was found. The other temples have been reclaimed, however, Ta Prohm is still thickly surrounded by jungle and has huge trees growing from the ruins. The large tree roots’ wrapping themselves around the stone is an impressive sight, making it one of the most popular temples in the Angkor Park. It was used as a location in the film Tomb Raider.
There are plenty of food stalls to be found in the park to refuel during the day. The food here is more expensive than in the centre of Siem Reap, expect to pay $5-8 for a noodle or rice dish. There are also vendors selling cold drinks, fruits and fruit shakes, from $1-2.
- If you buy your ticket after 5 pm, it will be valid for the next day. However, it will also allow you to enter the site that evening to watch the sunset!
- Cover your legs and shoulders. This is a religious site and you won’t be allowed in if your shoulders or knees are showing.
- The temples on the Grand Circuit have fewer crowds.
- Definitely try and catch a sunrise or sunset (or both). It is absolutely stunning.
- Try not to buy from child sellers, as hard as it can be (it encourages kids not to go to school).