One of the most visited attractions in Southeast Asia is undoubtely the Angkor Archaeological Park. Whilst most people only take one day to explore the main temples, I’ve compiled a guide on what to do and see if you have more than one day. Enjoy!
About Angkor Archaeological Park
Named the largest religious site on the planet, the Angkor Archaeological Park only started to attract more and more tourists 10 years ago. Built by the Khmer empire in the 12th century, the temples have over time been reclaimed by nature. You’ll find old structures overgrown with moss and stunning buildings that have slowly submerged with the adjacent jungle and its numerous trees.
The park is located just a short drive from Siem Reap. Siem Reap can be reached by bus from other Cambodian cities and it has it’s own airport with regular flights to and from Thailand and other Asian countries.
Once you get to Siem Reap, I’d highly advise on hiring a tuk tuk driver for the day (usually around $25-30) to take you around. Not only do they know the best routes, it’s also the quickest way to get around. You can also hire bikes although that does get very sweaty quickly and the distances between the temples are quite long!
Finding Your Route
It’s often recommend to pick up your ticket for the park the day before after 5pm as you will get entrance from that time onwards (which means you can see the sunset that day!) and the next day.
There are 3 different ticket types: A 1-day pass is $37, 3-day is $62 (you can choose 3 days with in a week to go), and 7-day is $72 (valid for 7 days entrance in a one month time span). We picked up our 3-day tickets in the morning around 5:30am and there was no queue, however the queue for 1-day tickets was huge!
Depending on how much time you have, find the route that suits you best. We did go for the sunset at the main temple on the first morning, then went on the grand circuit afterwards. One of the girls had the glorious idea to go anti-clockwise as most drivers will take you clockwise. Then the second day we did the small circuit and on our last day we visited only for sunset. If you only have one day, I’d suggest doing the small circuit to see the most famous temples
What To See & Do
The most popular sunrise destination is the small lotus pond near the Angkor Wat temple. Unfortunately we happened to see the sunrise on a very foggy day and it wasn’t as good as I imagined, but it was still nice to see.
After seeing the sunrise, we headed back to our tuk tuk driver to start the big circuit. We were about to leave when my friend Jess asked him which direction we were going and suggested to go counter-clockwise as everyone else was heading to clockwise. That turned out to be the best idea ever since we got to the Pre Rup Temple very early and had it all to ourselves!
I loved how the red colours of this temple that is built from laterite and brick glistened in the early morning sun! It was so peaceful there!
We climbed to the top and explored the main structure as well as the well-preserved walls of the outer structure.
On our way to Pre Rup, we also stopped at Srah Srang, a reservoir from the 12th century that has nice sunrise views and you can even see people fishing there early in the morning!
We soon got to one of my favourite temples: Ta Som. It’s a small temple, off the beaten path but well worth a stop!
Ta Som is one of the most fragile temples and when you get there you’ll see why. Most structures are overgrown by plants and trees. My favourite was this passageway:
The temple features two entrance ways which are both stunning.
We also saw some other smaller temples on the first day and left at around 1pm when it wasn’t only boiling hot, but also super crowded. Advice number one when visiting Angkor: Go early!
The next day we did the small circuit and started off with the famous Ta Prohm Temple. Most people will recognise this temple from the film Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie.
The temple is among the most visited one’s in the park and famous for the trees that seem to grow out of the temple structures, making it a very photogenic spot!
Within Angkor Thom, the last capital city of the Khmer Empire lies the Bayon temple. Another popular temple that is famous for the stone faces that are featured on numerous towers on the upper terrace.
The detail of the 216 faces is incredible and the style in which this particular temple is built seems very different from other temples you will see in the park.
Last but not least, we visited the Angkor Wat temple. You know how they always say “Save the best for last”? That’s what I’d recommend you to do as well, otherwise you might not appreciate the other temples as much.
Whilst the other temples are stunning simply because it’s fantastic to see how nature has reclaimed them, the architectural work of the Angkor Wat Temple was by far the most impressive!
The temple has five towers in total and the largest one is shaped like a lotus flower. It’s possible to climb to the top of the largest tower, something I’d definitely do again to get an overview of the complex and it’s surroundings.
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