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Exploring the ancient temples of Angkor Wat is a truly memorable experience which should not be missed during a holiday to Cambodia.

by Thea Gillingham

Located in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat is the name of both the temple complex and its most famous temple, which is believed to be the largest religious monument ever constructed.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat is undoubtedly the most impressive of all the Angkor temples and it’s one of the most iconic sights in the world; however, there are many more magnificent temples to see in the surrounding area.

The Angkor temple complex consists of hundreds of temples and monuments which were built by the Khmer empire between 800AD to 1300AD. After the fall of the Khmer empire they were abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle for centuries, but many of the temples have now been restored and more than two million tourists visit Angkor Wat each year.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the centrepiece of the Angkor temple complex. It’s surrounded by a moat and an exterior wall measuring 1300 metres x 1500 metres. The temple itself is 1km square and consists of three terraces crowned by five lotus-like towers. This arrangement reflects the traditional Khmer idea of the temple mountain in which the temple represents Mount Meru, the home of the gods in Hinduism.

Sunrise is spectacular at Angkor Wat. The sun rises behind the temple creating a stunning reflection in the pool in front of Angkor Wat, however there are always huge crowds at the West Gate at this time of day.

Our top tip is to enter via the East Gate just before dawn and you’ll find that its relatively quiet compared to the front as crowds gather round the pools. If you’re lucky you’ll have the chance to get some photographs without any tourists in them.

Just remember to go back outside before the sun starts to rise to take the iconic sunrise picture. Once the sun has risen most of the big tour groups go back to their hotels for breakfast so this is the perfect time to explore the temple further without the crowds.

Bayon

Built by Jayavarman VII, Bayon is the central temple of the ancient city of Angkor Thom and it’s known for its 54 gothic towers featuring over 200 huge stone faces which glare down from every angle. Bayon has 1.2km of incredible sculptures incorporating more than 11,000 figures, depicting everyday life in 12th century Cambodia.

Bayon (also known as Face Temple) is mysterious, fascinating and well worth a visit.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm, which featured in the film Tomb Raider, is the most atmospheric temple of the Angkor temple complex. Still covered by the jungle, Ta Prohm makes it easy to imagine how the whole complex looked when it was re-discovered in 19th century. The jungle setting and the original state of the temple makes it one of the most visited Angkor temples.

Ta Prohm is most impressive in the morning and we recommend that you allow at least two hours to fully explore this iconic temple.

Preah Khan

Preah Khan is a sprawling monastic complex which has remained largely un-restored and is in a similar overgrown style to Ta Prohm with trees growing among the ruins.

Praeh Khan has much fewer tourists, and visitors can often enjoy having this temple complex to themselves.

Elephant Terrace

The Terrace of Elephants is not a temple, but a 350m long viewing platform, intricately carved with human and animal figures, including, of course, elephants.

It was used as a viewing stand during public ceremonies and served as a base for the King’s grand audience hall to listen to the complaints and problems of the citizens of Angkor.

We suggest visiting early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.

Pre Rup

Pre Rup is a Hindu temple located within the Angkor temple complex. With its three central spires, it looks like a smaller version of Angkor Wat.

Pre Rup is a means ‘Turning the Body’ and refers to a traditional method of cremation in which a corpse’s outline is traced in the cinders: this suggests that the temple may have served as an early royal crematorium.

This temple is made of gray sandstone, which is less durable than the pink sandstone of some of the other temples at Angkor and many of the complex carvings have been worn away by rain and erosion. It’s a crumbling temple but it’s still magnificent in size and structure and well worth a visit, especially at sunset.

Angkor Wat Information

Location

Angkor Wat is located just a few kilometres north of Siem Reap. The main ticket office is located on Charles de Gaulle Road which runs north/south between Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.

Tickets

Tickets are sold as one-day, three-day and seven-day passes. The seven-day ticket can be used over a 30 day period, which is ideal if you plan to travel in the area and then return to Siem Reap

Dress Code

 Visitors are advised to wear clothing that covers their shoulders and legs down to the knees..

Getting Around

 Angkor Wat can be reached from Siem Reap by taxi, tuk tuk or bicycle. Your hotel will be able to assist in finding a reliable taxi, tuk tuk driver or bicycle rental shop. We recommend hiring a tuk tuk driver/guide who has extensive knowledge of the different temples, plus they can also advise the best time of day to visit each temple, avoiding the big tour groups as best as possible. If you’re on a Wayfairer tailor-made holiday we will arrange for you to explore the temples by tuk tuk with an expert guide.

Although the core area of Angkor can be discovered on a bicycle, you should bear in mind that the temples are spread over a vast area and you may find it exhausting cycling from one site to another. To cycle from the centre of Siem Reap to Angkor Wat (in the primary cluster of temples) is 6.5km and getting from this central cluster to Banteay Srei, is another 25km.

Duration

Whilst it is possible to see the highlights of Angkor Wat in one to two days, we suggest a minimum of three days. Some of the smaller temples can be visited in less than an hour, however for larger temples, such as Angkor Wat, you may wish to spend two-three hours exploring the site.

If you book a Wayfairer tailor-made holiday to Cambodia our Luxury Travel Specialists will plan your Angkor Wat itinerary based on your preferences.

Opening Hours

The temples are open daily from 7:30am – 5:30pm. However, three temples have extended hours to allow for sunrise/sunset visits:

    Angkor Wat: The famous sunrise location. Open from 5am-5:30pm

    Phnom Bakheng: Set on a hill, Phnom Bakheng is a popular spot for sunset: Open from 5am-5:30pm

    Pre Rup: The only temple in Angkor that is open to accommodate sunrise and sunset visits, this is a great place to escape        the crowds at Angkor Wat and Phnom Bakeng. Open from 5am-7pm

If you’d like to plan a trip to Cambodia to explore the temples of Angkor Wat, contact our Luxury Travel Specialists on 0203 143 4293 or send an online enquiry to start your journey.

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