On any stop in Cambodia, seeing the temples of Angkor, located a stone’s throw away from Siem Reap, is a must-do. You will be left speechless and overwhelmed by the detailed temples that are scattered among Angkor. Angkor stretches a whopping 400km and dates to the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century. This site was by far one of the most important sites in Southeast Asia. Here is a complete guide on which temples to visit, where to stay, how to get a driver and costs of visiting.
This is the main temple and it is said that this is the most important religious monument on Earth. It’s also famous for those incredible sunrise snaps you might see throughout the internet. Thousands of tourists fight over the best place to get that perfect photo. Yes, it is worth getting up early and visiting then, not only because of the photos but it gets hot so it’s good to explore this temple just as the sun is going up and before the tour buses start to roll in. This 7th world wonder took 30 years to complete in the first half of the 12th century. This temple is by far the best preserved. It will take you a while to explore every inch of this place. The incredibly detailed carvings and intricate architectural design are jaw-dropping. We spent a good couple of hours walking around and you could quite easily get caught up just in this one place!
The Bayon is probably the second most popular place to visit. Famous for the hundreds of faces that are carved into the stones. There was said to be about 200 of these faces throughout the Bayon. This place is packed with tourists and you will notice that more than Angkor Wat as it’s not so spread out. The carvings on the first level of the outer walls show you what everyday life would have been like in Cambodia in the 12th century. You will be absolutely stunned by the detail and the reliefs will blow you away!
This was one of my favourite temples that we visited. This place is often missed by tourists. In fact, when we were there, there was only 1 other person. This Hindu temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built in the middle of the 10th century. You can climb to the top but the stairs are in very poor condition, however there is one staircase that seems to be in better condition than the others situated at the back. I would highly recommend stopping off at this one for a quick look, it’s worth it!
This huge temple is an impressive piece of architecture. Although it is in bad condition it’s still clear to see some details of the temple and it’s worth stopping for a wander. The Baphuon was taken apart bit by bit for preservation but during the Khmer Rouge Regime, all the records were destroyed leaving archaeologists with all these pieces but no idea where to put them. Nowadays the temple has been partially restored leaving it in a not-so-fantastic condition, which is a shame. This temple is located near Bayon.
Terrace of the Elephants
This terrace was used by the King as a sort of viewing platform so he could see his returning army. You can clearly see the elephant carvings on the east side which is how this terrace got its name. It won’t take long to explore around here but it’s a great little stopover point.
Unfortunately, this was closed for entry when I was exploring in Angkor but I got some great photos of this marvellous Hindu temple. It is located near the Terrace of the Elephants and just down from the Bayon. Apparently, this temple used to be named the Gold tower but these days you cannot see the signs of this. A beautiful temple nevertheless!
There are two temples that will make you feel like you have stepped on the set of Indiana Jones. We choose Ta Som over Ta Prohm because we heard there would be fewer people at Ta Som and it’s just as beautiful. We were glad we picked this temple over the other. There were hardly any people here and we got some fantastic photos and had a really good time just slowly checking out this place. Although it’s a little bit further out than the other temples, it’s a nice little drive and your driver may even offer to stop for some lunch on the way. There are plenty of smaller temples around this area that looks fantastic as well.
Guide to Angkor
Getting a ticket: To get into Angkor you will need to purchase a ticket to the Angkor Archaeological Park. This must be purchased on the day so if anyone tries to sell you a ticket the day before is a scam. You can purchase a 1-day pass ($37USD), 3-day pass ($62USD) or a 7-day pass ($72USD) to Angkor. Unfortunately, at the start of the year, the prices were raised due to the number of tourists visiting this site every year. A day ticket used to cost $20! All tickets must be purchased at the entrance before you enter. If you are taking a tour with a rickshaw then the driver will automatically stop for you before you go in. Make sure you keep your ticket handy as there will be people checking them throughout the day.
How long should you spend there? Depending on how much time you have in Siem Reap and how much you love temples will decide which kind of ticket you go for. I decided to do the 1-day pass as I love temples but I couldn’t imagine spending a full three days exploring them. For me, 1 day was the perfect amount of time. We got to see all the ones we picked off the list and we arrived back at our hotel just after lunch (we started the day at sunrise hence the early afternoon finish).
Getting a driver: There are plenty of drivers that will take you to the temples you choose. We paid $25USD for the day ($15USD half-day, $20USD full-day, $5uSD extra because we wanted to go at sunrise). Our day started at about 4.30am where we were picked up from our hotel and taken to the entrance to buy our tickets. I wouldn’t recommend our driver as the tuk-tuk was nearly falling apart and the driver got a little creepy towards the end. You can usually ask your hotel to organise you a driver or you can simply ask one of the tuk-tuk drivers racing along the streets.
Dress code: Please be respectful. Cover your shoulders and wear clothing that goes below your knees. Angkor is still used by Buddhists today so if you do not meet the dress code you won’t be allowed in.
Where to stay: The hotel I stayed in Siem Reap was perfect and very affordable. The hotel was called Xing Angkor. It was a short walk to the centre where you can find pub street and the markets. The staff were super friendly, the breakfast was good and the swimming pool was lovely after a long day at Angkor. I highly recommend this hotel! Prices start at $16USD per night for a double room.
I hope this guide was helpful if you’re planning on visiting one of the most visited religious sites in the world. If you can visit out of peak season to avoid mass crowds and unbearable heat. Walking around Angkor in the heat is a challenge!
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