Angkor Wat, a remarkable architectural and sacral jewel in the midst of a Cambodian jungle six kilometers north from Siem Reap is praised as the 7th wonder of the world. Built in the first half of the 12th century and covering a rectangular area of about 208 hectares, its name translates to the ‘The city of temples’.
Get inspired by an impressive temples, towers, chambers, galleries, courtyards and try not to get lost once exploring this replica of the universe in stone representing an earthly model of the cosmic world.
One day pass ticket to Angkor archeological park costs $37 and is only valid for the day of the purchase. A three-day pass costs $62 and is valid for any 3 days within 10 days from the date of purchase. Seven-day pass ticket is $72 and is valid for one calendar month from the date of purchase when you can visit the Angkor temples on the seven days of your choice.
To get to the Angkor Wat you can bike, hire a tuk tuk or take a private van with a guide.
Siem Reap Travel Map:
The last capital of the Khmer Empire was a home of priests, officials, military, with residences and buildings for administering the kingdom. Since these structures were made of wood they have disintegrated with time but remaining stone monuments attest why Angkor Thom deserved to be named the ‘Great City’.
Located right in the center of Angkor Thom lies a Buddhist temple, the Prasat Bayon temple, about 1500 meters from the south gate of Angkor archeological park. The temple stands impressive and awe inspiring with its 54 towers decorated with 216 gigantic smiling faces of deity Avalokiteshvara signifying the omnipresence of the king. Additionally, an array of 1.2km outstanding bas-reliefs charter more than 11,000 figures.
Preah Khan Temple
Preah Khan (Sacred Sword) is one of the largest monastic complexes at Angkor with vaulted corridors and towered enclosures, towers, ceremonial spaces, courtyards and shrines full of carvings occupying an area of 138 acres. Most famed for a two-story pavilion, the once-bronze-plated sanctum sanctorum, and a Hall of Dancers.
Terrace of the Elephants
Impressive, two and a half-meter tall and over 300-meter long terrace wall adorned with full-size sculptures of elephants is located in the Royal Square of Angkor Thom. According to a legend, the terrace was once covered in golden-framed mirrors used to reflect the events taking place in the courtyard below the terrace such as religious ceremonies and parades. More than worthy of the attention is also the five-headed horse bas-relief and the carvings of Khmer warriors and dancers.
Terrace of the Leper King
North of the Terrace of the Elephants is a 7 meters high platform with a huge statue sitting on top of it. A terrace wall features carved demons and other mythological figures. There are a few theories as to how the terrace got the name and one of them is how after the statue was first discovered it had moss growing on it in such way that it resembled a person with leprosy.
There is also a legend how at least two of the Angkor kings had leprosy and the statue represented one of them. Still, today is mostly considered how the huge statue found at the site represented Yama- the Lord of the Dead, and some believe the site served as a royal cremation platform.
To the west side of the Terrace of Elephants is situated temple Phimeanakas whose name means celestial temple. It symbolizes the Sky Palace with the three tier pyramid measuring the height of about 40m. The legend connected to this temple speaks of a gold tower (Phimeanakas) where a serpent-spirit with nine heads lived.
The Khmer king had to sleep with her every night when the serpent would appear to him in a form of a woman. If he would miss coming even just for one night, it was believed he would die. From the top gallery, you get a great view of the neighboring temple of Baphuon.
Between the Royal Palace and the Prasat Bayon is located state temple Prasat Baphuon in the shape of a stepped pyramid. The temple erected in the 11th century was converted into a Buddhist temple when part of it was demolished and the material was used to build a large image of reclining Buddha who was never completed and is hardly recognizable today. From the top, you can enjoy a great view of Phnom Bakheng and Phimeanakas.
A Hindu and Buddhist temple built in a form of a 67 meters high mountain famed for being the place for best panoramic views and views of golden hued sunsets over the Angkor. Although many are missing, Phnom Bakheng’s 108 towers, excluding the Central Sanctuary tower, represented the four lunar phases with 27 days in each phase. The levels number seven towers and are matching the seven heavens of Hindu mythology.
Although Neak Pean is a small temple compared to others, located in the east of Preah Khan, this temple is special as it where princesses laid their offerings of wrought gold and poignant perfumes. Neak Pean is located on a large square man-made pond surrounded by four smaller ponds. Temple rising from the water definitely makes for one fairy like sight.
Some refer to Tam Som as a charming pile of stones. It is a temple undergoing restoration works with vegetation growing among the ruins which add to the sense of being in an ancient place that was hidden from the world for centuries and in the meantime nature came to take back what is hers. Take note of temple’s five towers forming an ‘X’ pattern. The temple is not as heavily visited by tourists so you can enjoy the temple in peace.
A temple dating from the 10th century was built on a small island in the middle of now dry large artificial lake East Mebon. It is rising three levels and has five towers, a typical motif of many Angkor temples seeking to represent Mount Meru, the location of the Hindu “heaven”. One of the first things you will notice is large elephants at the base carved from a single block of stone. Gateways in the center of each elephant lead up to the second and third platforms.
Among the lesser known and quieter temples on the Angkor circuit is Pre Rup, with recent claims how it was once used as a burial site. Climbing on a 12 meters high upper platform gives a great view of the surrounding forested panorama. The steps leading to the upper platform are a bit steep so you will need to be careful when climbing.
Srah Srang – The Royal Bath
Located in the Eastern area of Angkor Wat, Srah Srang is a large lake surrounded by lush trees and other greenery. This place is argued to be one of the most beautiful spots to watch the sun setting over the Park of Angkor. The landing stage with leads to the pond is in the shape of a cross with mythical creatures watching over.
Banteay Kdei Temple
Banteay Kdei Temple meaning “A Citadel of Chambers” and also known as “Citadel of Monks’ cells”, is a Buddhist temple similar in plan to Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, but smaller and less complex. It had been occupied by monks at various stages over the centuries till the 1960s. It is now undergoing renovation.
Yet another part of Angkor that transfers you straight to the fantasy world where unbelievable ancient structures fought the battle with invading jungle that threatened to swallow them. Still, with some human help, the jungle was restrained, and there are only the largest trees left adding to a very special atmosphere of the site.
Inscriptions provide information how almost 80,000 people were required to maintain or attend at the temple, of which more than 2700 officials and 615 dancers. One of the most popular spots here is the so-called ‘Tomb Raider tree’, where Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft picked a jasmine flower before falling through the earth. Best time of the day to visit Ta Prohm is early in the day with at least two hours to set aside for a visit in order to explore the whole area.
Located around 25 kilometers north east from the Angkor Tom, Hindu temple Banteay Srei is one of the smallest temples in Angkor area. Its name translates as ‘Citadel of the Women’ since the carvings were considered too fine to be made by a man. There is a small reservoir behind the temple where you can take a boat trip around the lotus pond.
A temple that was never completed with five 50-meter tall towers and a 22-meter tall pyramid. King Jayavarman V wanted to see the construction of Ta Keo being a state temple of the Khmer Empire one day but he died before the temple was finished.
Two following kings tried to finish the temple, but they couldn’t finish it either. The legend has it how once a lightning struck one of the towers all works stopped interpreting the lightning as a bad omen. Today, the temple is one eerie place.
The Banteay Samre is among most complete complexes at Angkor and is rather flat compared to other temples. It is a bit away from most of the other Angkor temples, near the southeast corner of the East Baray. To get to the temple enjoy a 3km road trip or walk through villages and paddies.
Downtown Siem Reap:
Wat Preah Prom
A 500-year-old Buddhist temple with a statue of a reclining Buddha in Siem Reap is lying by a river on big grounds hosting several buildings such as the main hall, a university building, and ornate towers scattered around.
The replica of a boat with a monk in it is a tribute to a legend of a monk whose ship sank in a nearby river after he was attacked by sharks, but he managed to swim ashore in the prow of the boat. Wat Preah Prom Rath is a nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap.
Once in Siem Reap and its downtown, you can spend your time roaming and exploring night markets where you can buy fresh produce, grab a bite and look for authentic Cambodian craftsmanship. These markets are great places where you can expose yourself to the town’s unique culture and history, live music performances and different workshops.
Siem Reap’s Royal Gardens
The Royal Gardens are the Siem Reap city center’s only open public green space. Lots of benches to sit on, rest and many nice spots for a picnic, especially next to a river bank with neat palms and many birds and butterflies to keep you company. On the northern side of the gardens is the impressive Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor with a small indoor-outdoor gallery that houses exhibitions of sculpture and photography with free entry.
Passed the Raffles Hotel there is an avenue of towering trees, a home to a colony of giant fruit bats that live here and that you can see hanging at any time of the day. At the southern end of the avenue is the small Temple of Phomchek Phomchom with neighboring shrine as the center of lively activities in the park with worshippers, musicians and monks offering blessings.
Asian Traditional Museum
A collaboration between India, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam in order to promote tourism and culture resulted in Asian traditional museum where one can take a look at textiles from these countries with an insight into the traditional skills and textile crafts. Unfortunately, the museum workshops on painted narratives, embroidery, and folk motifs are only for children between 5 to 16 years.
Built to the same floor plan as Angkor Wat, located about 68km northeast of Siem Reap, overpowered by jungle and mostly in ruins, Beng Mealea is a destination for Indiana Jones enthusiasts and adventurers who seek thrill in rock-hopping and climbing that is permitted on some parts of the site.