Visit Angkor Wat
A Discovery of the Ancient Khmer Civilization
Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat is an experience like no other. Given that it’s set in a location that is nothing short of magical, spending a day here should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. This guide has everything you need to help you prepare for your visit to Angkor Wat.
About Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is considered to be the largest religious monument in the world. Interestingly, the temple was originally constructed as a Hindu place of worship in the early 12th century, by the Khmer King Suryavarman II. Built on a site measuring 1.626 km2, the 5 iconic towers of Angkor Wat represent the peaks of Mount Meru, home of the gods. Then at the end of the 12th century, Angkor Wat became a Buddhist place of worship, which it remains to this day. It is now often referred to as the ‘Hindu-Buddhist temple’.
Visiting Angkor Wat at Sunrise
Undoubtedly the best time to visit Angkor Wat is at sunrise. Watch as the sky turns all shades of pink, orange and yellow, as a bold silhouette of the beautiful temples is reflected in the water before it. Visiting Angkor Wat at sunrise is a magical experience. Some embark on a spiritual journey as they delve into the history, religion and culture of Cambodia’s most iconic Buddhist temple. Others visit simply to take in the view of the temple as the morning light creates a blissful silhouette of the 5 magnificent towers in the still moat.
The Angkor Archaeological Park
Angkor Wat is just one specific temple in a complex of many. Actually, the Angkor temple complex consists of 72 major temples in addition to hundreds of smaller ones. Once the capital city of Khmer Empire, this enormous site is thought to have been established between the 9th and 15th centuries. The entire area covers approximately 400 Km2. A mind-blowing site by any measure.
After the fall of the Khmer Empire, the temples of Angkor were abandoned for centuries. Since the ruins of Angkor are located in forests, many of the ruins were reclaimed by nature. Nowadays gigantic trees tower overhead, their roots clinging to the ruins below them. A light moss covers most surfaces, giving the entire place a very natural and calming ambience. Bodies of water reflect silhouettes of the carefully crafted temples, as fallen rocks create a cascade of stone from the ruins to the water. Due to the historical and cultural significance of the site, in 1992 Angkor Archaeological Park was recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Planning your Visit to Angkor Wat
How do you get to the Angkor Archaeological Park?
The Angkor temples are located 5.5km north of Siem Reap in Cambodia. Conveniently several airlines fly directly into Siem Reap, and depending on your citizenship, you can get a 30 day visa on arrival for $30. Alternatively, buses and minibuses connect Siem Reap to other cities around Cambodia, and even from neighbouring countries.
From Siem Reap, we recommend hiring a tuk tuk with a driver to take you from the city to the ruins, and then between the ruins during your visit. Since the archaeological site covers such a large space and there are so many temples to see, using a tuk tuk to move between them only makes sense. Many tuk tuk drivers also offer their services as a guide which can be a great option if you’re interested in learning more about the ruins and perhaps seeing some of the lesser known ruins.
What time does Angkor Wat open?
Angkor Archaeological Park is open between 5am and 6pm each day. If you’re planning to catch the sunrise over Angkor Wat temple, we recommend either arriving incredibly early (around 4.40am) to get there before the crowds and find your spot by the water. Alternatively, consider going around the other temples first and stopping at Angkor Wat at sunset on your way out of the park. Obviously you won’t get the iconic pink sky photo this way, but there will definitely be far fewer people. Either way, sunrise in the Angkor park is incredibly beautiful, with soft lighting and the peaceful sound of the jungle waking up to start the day.
How much does it cost?
Entry to the Angkor Archaeological Park costs $37 for 1 day, $62 for a 3 day ticket, or $72 for a week long pass. Be sure to keep your ticket on you at all times, as visitors may be fined for failing to show it upon request. With an early start, you can see a good number of temples in one day. If you’re particularly eager to delve deeper into the history and ruins then you may prefer to spread your visit over several days.
Receive a Blessing from a Buddhist Monk
A memorable activity to partake in during your visit to Angkor Wat is to receive a blessing from a Buddhist monk. Monks are present around the sacred ruins offering their blessings to visitors. Take off your shoes, sit on the mat, and donate what you can. Then, open your heart to the spiritual blessing your about to receive. You will be splashed with holy water as the monk chants a blessing for a happy life and good luck, a ritual that is often accompanied by the burning of incense. To conclude the blessing, the monk will tie a coloured string around your wrist. This string should not be removed, it should be worn until it falls off.
Top 10 Temples of Angkor
There are so many ruins at Angkor that it’s highly unlikely you’ll have time to see them all. For a selection of the most unique and impressive architecture, we recommend visiting the following temples:
• Angkor Wat
• Bayon Temple
• Angkor Thom
• Ta Prohm
• Ta Keo
• Banteay Kdei
• Pre Rup
• Preah Khan
• Phnom Bakheng
• Banteay Srei
Etiquette & Customs
• Keep your shoulders and knees covered at all times
• Respect the temples, and the fact that this is a religious site
• Be polite when taking photos
• Do not smoke whilst in the park
• Respect the monks – ask before taking a photo, and never touch or get too close to a monk
• Say no to begging – children are often seen asking for money or sweets. Giving is tempting, but it simply feeds into the cycle of poverty
• Prepare for the heat – bring sunscreen, a hat or umbrella, and plenty of water
• Wear comfortable shoes (sandals are allowed)