Angkor Wat Archeological Park is an enormous temple complex situated just outside the Cambodian city of Siem Reap. It is thought to be the biggest religious complex in the world.
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Although the site was once the centre of the Khmer Empire, by the 1800’s most of its many building and temples had sustained extensive damage due to earthquakes, war and forest overgrowth. In the early 1900s the French who ruled Cambodia for much of the 20th century established a restoration committee, although most major works didn’t happen till the 1960s. In 1922 the site was made a UNESCO World Heritage site which now safeguards this symbolic complex.
The archaeological park can be extremely busy! Over 2 million visitors pass through the site each year, with thousands every day trying to catch a glimpse of the sunrise over its masterpiece, Angkor Wat. This majestic structure lies at the heart of the archaeological Park and is one of Cambodia’s most loved temples. You will also find many tourists posing for selfies in and around the temple of Ta Prohm which was made famous by the film Tomb Raider staring Angelina Jolie. If you want to get away from the crowds then you really need to visit the outlying temples, some of which are in my opinion more beautiful!
Although many people may be put of by the number of tourists that now flock to Angkor Wat, a visit to this amazing archeological site is a must! You will be in awe of the sheer size of the complex and diversity of each structure. As you wander through many of the sites you will marvel at the beautiful detailing, intricate carvings and wonderful architecture. You will see it’s pioneering system of reservoirs and waterways, that form a complex irrigation system that helped the Khmer people thrive. Most of all, you will be amazed at how it was all built centuries ago!
How to get to Siem Reap:
Siem Reap International airport (REP) is situated approximately 6 km out of the city. The city can be easily reached by Tuk-tuk or private taxi. Many hotels also include a free pick up service. For the best flight deals I recommend Skyscanner!
Siem Reap can also be reached from other nearby destinations such as Bangkok by bus. However these although cheap an be long tiresome journeys! Me and a friend I was travelling with arrived via bus from the Thai Island of Koh Chang which was a long 10 hour journey. One thing to remember if crossing via land border is to watch out for scams!
The Bus from the Thai side will stop shortly before the border crossing where you have to get off, take your luggage and walk to the border. Here you will get you visa and then get on another bus which will take you to your final destination. However some bus company employees will tell you a few tales before making your way to the border. Don’t let them intimidate you, its all just a scam! Examples include:
- 1.Telling you there are no ATM’s in Cambodia so taking you somewhere to get out cash before you cross the border, usually somewhere with high exchange rates! No need though, there are plenty of ATM’s in Cambodia especially in the cities!
- 2.Getting you to pay them to get your Cambodia visa for you, making out it will be so much faster and you won’t miss your connecting bus on the other side! Don’t! They will charge you extra and the bus will wait for you. There was no issues or delays getting my visa or the connecting bus.
Admittedly I was a little scared about the border and did a lot of research beforehand about possible scams. I just politely declined any offers of help and had no issues at all. Most of the other travellers on the bus did the same and nobody seemed to have any issues so don’t be put off it travelling this way. A useful app at finding the best transport options around Asia is 12Goasia.com I used this so many times for booking trains, buses and ferries throughout Thailand and Cambodia during my travels.
If planning ahead of time you may actually get a great deal on flights which may be similar prices as taking the bus! For finding the best flight deals I use the Sky Scanner App
If budget is not an issue you can also travel between Siem Reap and other Cambodian Cities such as Phnom Penh by private taxi. Expect to pay around $100.
Angkor Wat: Where to stay
There is no shortage of accommodation in Siem Reap, whatever the budget you will find somewhere suitable. Most mid-range hotels are situated around the old town near the famous ‘Pub Street’ with its many bars and restaurants. Whereas the most luxurious are slightly outside the old town towards the quieter North.
Hostels can be found for around $5 a night, if ya not sure if hostels are your thing then check out my guide on how to survive staying in hostels.
During my trip I had opted to stay in hostels and guesthouses with an average price of $10 a night, however my stay in Siem Reap also coincided with my birthday so I decided to stay somewhere a bit more fancy! After a lot of research, I choose to stay in the fabulous Angkor Elysium Suites. This hotel was located just outside the city close to the airport in a rather peaceful location offering some tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of the city! Although it wasn’t close enough to walk into town, it did offer free drop off and pick up tuk-tuk rides to Pub Street. The hotel was amazing with some of the biggest rooms I’ve ever stayed in, swim-up bar, spa and an amazing restaurant! All this and only cost $40 a night! They even surprised me with a birthday cake!
Angkor Wat: Best time to visit
Cambodia’s dry season runs from November to February so naturally this is the best time to visit, although its also its busiest time of year! Meaning Crowds! I decided to take a risk and travel during the rainy season in September. This turned out to be a great choice as the weather was hot and sunny virtually everyday with just the occasional rainy downpours.
In my opinion, any time of year is a good time to visit just be prepared for some sudden downpours! Although they don’t tend to last long.
Angkor Wat Tickets:
All foreign nationalities much purchase the Angkor Pass to gain entrance to the Archaeological Park. Tickets can be purchased at the official ticket centre located about 5 km from Siem Reap town. The office is open from 5 am to 5.30 pm everyday.
There are three types of tickets available:
- 1-day pass – US$ 37
- 3-day pass – US$ 62
- 7-day pass – US$ 72
The 3-day pass is valid for 10 days from the issue date, the 7-day pass is valid for 1 month from the issue date. So with both of these passes it’s not necessary to plan your visits on consecutive days.
Tickets cannot be bought in advance, although if you buy after 5 pm they are valid for the following day. If you choose to to explore by tuk-tuk or private taxi then they will take you to the office to purchase tickets before taking you to the park.
Angkor Wat: Getting around
There are many ways to to get around the Archaeological Park such as by bike, taxi or tuk-tuk. Don’t even attempt to walk as the site is huge and you soon regret it! Even think carefully about hiring a bike, there is a lot of distance between each temple and the heat can be really tough! I choose to book a tuk-tuk via our hotel which cost $25 for the day, although you can hustle with the drivers in town and probably get it a bit cheaper at $20. I was happy to pay $25 knowing I was definitely going to be picked up, this also included bottled water and umbrellas to use.
Our driver picked us up early in the morning and took us straight to the office to purchase our tickets. There are a number of different routes to take around the park depending on which sites interest you the most. We just wanted to see the main attractions in one day so we just chose the short circuit.
This was the first temple we visited. We knew it was going to be busy inside by the sheer number of tuk-tuks parked up outside! There seemed to be hundreds of them! Our driver parked up and off we went to explore our first Cambodian temple.
Surprisingly, once inside the temple we found large parts of the site to be completely empty.
We walked along its long corridors and admired all its intricate detailing along its 600 meters of walls.
Bayon temple is located inside Angkor Thom and was one of my favourite temples to explore!
From a distance the site looks like a pile of rubble and rocks but as you get closer you see all the intricate detailing. Exploring these fabulous ruins and seeing the famous large faces carved into the stone was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
The next temple was Baphuon, which was a pyramid like temple offering amazing views of the surrounding area!
These consist of the Terrace of the leper King and the Terrace of the Elephants. These terraces were once used an audience hall and for public ceremonies.
Ta Prohm is probably the second most visited site in Angkor Wat due to the Film Tomb Raider! This temple was lost to to jungle and is famous for its huge trees and massive roots growing out of its walls. Although I enjoyed walking around, it was extremely busy with selfie takers! Beware of lots of uneven ground!
The final temple of the day was the peaceful Banteay kdei. This temple was lovely to walk around with not another tourist in sight!
Dress appropriately, remember Angkor Wat is a religious site! Both men and women should have shoulders and legs covered.
Bring plenty of water! Do not underestimate the heat! The temperature inside the complex seems to be hotter than anywhere else in Cambodia!
Bring a parasol or umbrella! Our tuk-tuk driver offered us the use of some but we politely declined thinking we knew better! Wrong! We struggled so much with the heat and in many sites there is little shade from the sun.
Wear comfortable shoes, you will be walking around a lot! Also, be aware of lots of uneven surfaces.
Whilst walking around the complex watch out for monkeys, you can even buy bananas from sellers to feed them.
There are plenty of places around the complex to stop, catch a drink, a bite to eat and even buy some souvenirs. You may find the Prices are a little more expensive than in town but still pretty cheap compared to western standards.
So there you have it, my guide to exploring Angkor Wat Archaeological Park. Hope you have enjoyed reading, if so let me know in the comments below, subscribe and feel free to share.
Are you travelling to Phnom Penh before or after a trip to Siem Reap? If so check out my post about exploring Cambodia’s dark history.