Cambodia’s world heritage site Angkor Wat is set 7 km outside of the tourist hub of Siem Reap, and should take around 20-30 minutes to reach.
The temple city or in Khmer “city of temples” was built by the king Suryavarman II and stretches over 400 square kilometers and contains the remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire reign through the 9th to the 15th centuries. The whole site has a moat that’s 1.5 km x 1.3 km surrounding the Temples. ‘Wat’ is the Khmer (Cambodian) word for temple and was declared an Unesco World heritage site in 1992.
Legend has it that the sandstone blocks from the Phnom Kulen mountains some 50 kilometres away were sent along the Siem Reap river on rafts and moved and built by a 300,000 workforce and over 5000 elephants.
The Lotus bud towers are dominant on the approach through the main entrance, and flanked by the 2 moats, which is where you will be able to get the iconic sunrise shot most mornings, along with the hundreds of others who will be with you. It’s an early rise to get a prominent spot near to the lakes, so set that alarm clock.
Tickets and prices
$20 1 day pass – $40 dollars 3 day pass(can be used over 7 days) and $60 for 7 day pass (can be used over 1 month). There are numerous guards and ticket inspectors around all the sites, so ensure that you keep your pass safe, and a good idea if you’re visiting over numerous days to put into a plastic sleeve around your neck, as you will be getting it out to show guards often and in sweaty conditions.
You can purchase the ticket the evening before, and can use it to enter the park after 17:00 to view the sunset. Only buy the pass from from the official Apsara Authority counters and not from other vendors, and definitely not second-hand. You will have a photograph taken and printed on your pass to make sure they are non-transferable. Regular checks for the pass are performed at almost all sites within the park, so carry your pass with you at all times.
We had prearranged our transport with our driver Savuth through his website. He had collected us from Siem Reap airport and took us to our hotel, and then arranged to return for us to buy our Angkor Tickets and catch our first glimpse of what awaited us at Angkor for the sunset that evening.
He picked us up at 5 am the next morning for the sunrise at Angkor, and then took us around for the next 3 days to all the major sites and also a return back to the airport. Savuth made the experience one to remember, and told us snippets of info as we scooted between sites, and always had a supply of ice cold waters for us after temple traipsing all day.
He and his team come highly recommended, and further information for bookings and other trips can be found on the website here. Also a big mention goes out to Leonard who organised our itinerary in advance and was flawless, thanks dude.
Main sites and tours
Angkor Thom Bayon temple
The Bayon, sits at the heart of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, built by and for King Jayavarman VII. It was built in the the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, and there are 54 towers of four faces for you to hunt down.
Baphuom Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom or “Great City” was the last capital city of the Khmer empire and was established in the late twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII. At it’s centre sits the Bayon with other sites situated in close proximity. Angkor Thom was abandoned around the early 1600’s, and as legend has it housed a population of over 100,000 people.
Built during the reign of king Jayavarman VII and is best known as the temple where trees have grown and intertwined with stonework. This location was used in movies such as Tomb-raider and Indiana Jones and is a popular temple after Angkor Wat and the Bayon.
Jayavarman VII’s first capital city before the completion of Angkor Wat. This site gets fewer visitors than the others, and is worth the time to visit. The temple is around 3 kilometres of Angkor Thom. It’s is one of the largest sites in the Angkor temple complex. The site was a previous palace of Yasovarman II and Tribhuvanadityavarman, who proclaimed himself king of Cambodia.
located around 12 miles north of Angkor. The name means “Citadel of the Women”. The carvings in pink sandstone and small scale makes this place worth a visit, watch out for the fire ants on the viewing deck at the side, a nasty surprise if you don’t realise.
East Mebon has five towers and a central platform to climb. In it’s day it was surrounded by water as an island, and has some intricate stone works on offer.