On our two week trip to Thailand and Cambodia, the ancient temples of Angkor left the greatest impact on us. It is an amazing place to visit, a place that has a feeling like time has stopped still. No wonder, as the building of the temples began as early as in the 8th century. Temples were rediscovered in the 19th century and in 20th century heavy restoration started by French researchers. Today this is the largest religious monument in the world and has been protected under Unesco World Heritage since 1992. The temples incorporate unique architectural styles, especially evident are influences from India. While most of the temples are Buddhist, some of them are also Hindu.
What you need to know about visiting the temples?
- The admission fee is high! You can choose between 1 day, 3 days and 7 days ticket. Since we had only two days in Siem Reap we opted for 3 days ticket and decided to spend two whole days exploring the temples. So, for two days of exploring the temples, we paid 124 $ (two persons), which, in my opinion, is a lot, but it was definitely worth it! 🙂
- Then for moving around the temples (the area is huge!), you will need to hire a tuk-tuk driver which is another 15 $ (depends on your bargaining skills). The other option is renting bikes, which might be a little bit cheaper, but remember that you would have to ride a bike in the unbearable heat and the distances are not the smallest. So, in my opinion, the best option is tuk-tuk and driver. Our driver, Mr. Rich, was very knowledgeable, knew exactly where to go and advised us on which temples to visit, which were less touristy and so on. If you wish to you can also hire a guide who will take you around the temples and explain you in more details about the history of these temples.
- To visit the temples you have to dress properly, as it is a sacred place. This means no short skirts or shorts and also no open shoulders for ladies.
- There are tons of vendors and everybody will try to sell you something, so be prepared to bargain hard.
The first temple that we visited is actually a large reservoir of water (called baray) which is a signature feature of Khmer architectural style.
Right across from Srah Srang is this fairly small temple. Somewhat similar to the much famous Ta Prohm and Preah Khan it has a central sanctuary. At this very temple we also tried our bargaining skills, and it turned out they were not so good. We bought a book of Angkor Wat for 15$, after lowering the price from 28$. Unfortunately, we later found out that we could have bought the exact same book for a dollar or two. 😛
Probably one of the most famous temples in the whole complex, it’s also one of the most fascinating ones to visit! It is a place where they filmed the Tomb Raider. The temple is almost completely overgrown with trees and this is what makes is so special. Also, the fact that although it was restored it was very much left in its “natural state” so the visitors can get the feel of how it really looked like when it was (re-)discovered in early 20th century. And it looks extraordinary! The trees overgrowing the temples and growing out of them are one thing, but then there are also these amazing carvings on the walls that will definitely leave you speechless. The best time of the day to visit Ta Prohm is at midday as it is situated in dense jungle and covered with trees so for all the photography lovers out there, make sure to plan your visit accordingly. And be prepared to take thousands of photos. 😀
This one is built high above the jungle and involves a little bit of climbing, but the views are amazing! It’s one of the oldest temples.
Bayon temple is probably the most famous for its giant face carvings which are present on all the 37 remaining towers. The temple is situated at the centre of Angkor Thom, which was at the time the capital of the Khmer Empire. the best time to visit is early in the morning or late in the afternoon to capture this temple during the golden hour.
Angkor Wat – the most recognised of all the temples, also depicted on Cambodian flag is also the biggest and one of the best preserved temples. It is, however, also the most crowded. The most popular time to visit the temple is definitely at the sunrise when hoards of tourists flock there to see it. After reading my blog posts and advice on whether it is better to see the sunrise or sunset we, like many others, also opted for sunrise. We got up at 4.30 and our driver picked us up at 5 am. When we got there about 20 minutes later, it was already packed. We somehow managed to squeeze through all the people and got almost in the front row to take the best photos 🙂 Seeing the sun rise behind the magnificent Angkor Wat was definitely worth waking up in the middle of the night. However, if you want an unobstructed view I would suggest going even earlier.
This temple is also a must visit! It’s similar to Ta Prohm in a way that many temples are overgrown by trees and the whole complex is surrounded by jungle. I loved this one especially for the amazing reliefs and statues on the walls.
The temple itself is nothing special (in comparison to others which are more magnificent), but a nice pathway leads you to the temple which is completely surrounded by water.
Small, not touristy and definitely worth visiting!
East Mebon & Pre Rup
We finished our two-day tour around Angkor Wat temples with these two Hindu temples. Different than others, both built a little bit higher with amazing panoramic views from the upper terrace are definitely worth visiting.
Angkor Thom South Gate
The gates leading to the once largest Khmer cities ever build are a fantastic sight itself. On each side of the causeway are 54 stone figures carrying a giant serpent, who depict a famous Hindu legend. The statues here are the best preserved and have been extensively restored.
What about you? Have you been to Angkor Wat? Which were your favourite temples? 🙂
Photos by: Jure Gačnik