Armed with a DK guide and mixed expectations, my journey started at Dubai Airport with a stopover in Singapore Changi before with flying with Silk Air to Siem Reap Intl. Airport.
This cute little airport is serving over 3mil. passengers annually.
The Kingdom of Cambodia is a country located in the Southeast of Asia. Its total landmass is 181,035 square kilometres (69,898 sq mi),and it’s bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
With a population of over 15 million, Cambodia is the 70th most populated country in the world.
Most visitors, myself included, travel to Cambodia to fulfil a travel bucket list dream, to see one of the largest and most amazing religious monuments in the world…Angkor Wat. It is located near the city of Siem Reap (meaning “Defeat of Siam”) and has a population of around 180.000 people.
Siem Reap is a lovely city with a busy centre filled with markets (Psar chaa/Central Market ), restaurants and bars ( Pub Street ). Besides exploring the temples you can take cooking classes or visit the War Museum to learn about Cambodia’s troubled past under the Khmer Rouge.
I would recommend a stay in one of the small hotels in the city centre, to really enjoy everything within easy walking distance. Big international chains are opening many hotels, but they nearly all located on the outskirts of the city.
Planning Your Trip :
- The best months to visit Angkor Wat are November to February. The weather is pleasantly warm with no rain. As this is peak holiday season, expect crowds and of course higher prices for accommodation.
- Main Entrance to Ankgor complex takes 20 min ( 7 km ) ride by tuk tuk
- Entry Pass is to be paid in US Dollars. US$20/1 day, US$40/3days and US$60/one week
- Always carry you Entry Pass with you
- Angkor Wat opens at 5am for sunrise and closes at 6pm
- Allow a minimum of 2 days to see the most interesting temples in Angkor area.
- Hire a local guide with knowledge of the best photo angles and most importantly, who knows the crowd timings, so you can enjoy the temples almost on your own ( I can recommend a good one )
- Rent a motorbike and explore the amazing country side and discover remotely located temples/ruins and feel like the real adventurer.
- You will need to apply for an e-VISA online HERE / US$37
- Direct flights from major Asian Cities. Best from Singapore, Bangkok, or Kuala Lumpur. Read HERE review of Silk Air
Angkor Wat Temple :
The Worlds’ largest religious monument and an architectural masterpiece.
The colossal temple with 5 towers rising 55m above the ground is filled with mythological carvings, mysterious corridors, and chambers with spectacular Hindu decor.
Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th century and constructed by King Suryavarman II within a 30 year period.
As you would expect, it is an extremely popular place, so prepare to be patient as there will be crowds. The temple is at its most stunning during sunrise and sunset.
You can explore for up to 5 hours and still not see everything. Be sure cover your shoulders while if you want to enter the temple.
The entire Angkor area contains over 50 temples . I have visited 16 of them and 8 of my favourites are described in this post below.
Bayon Temple at Ankor Thom :
The last city of Khmer Empire is located 2km from Angkor Wat and contains two adjacent temples.
The main temple Bayon, features gigantic serene and smiling stone faces on the many towers. It needs to be seen to believe it. Build in the late 12th century.
The best time to visit is the morning as most of the crowds are enjoying sunrise at the Angkor Wat.
Ta Prohm Temple :
Ta Prohm is a popular temple on the tourist map because it was featured in the Tomb Raider film.
Gigantic roots are intertwined with ancient structures and crumbling stones overgrowing lengthy corridors. It gets your imagination running and I wish the walls can reveal all their secrets.
Don’t miss this place during you stay at Siem Reap! It’s only 7km away from Angkor Wat.
Banteay Srei Temple :
This 10th century temple is over 35 kms away from Siem Reap and best is to include in a full day motorbike tour.
Like that, you can experience the real Cambodia. Picturesque countryside with little children playing, farmers with water buffalo’s and women making palm-sugar candy by the road.
Temple is made from pink sandstone with many extraordinary carvings of mythical creatures. The statues of sitting monkeys are extremely photogenic.
Pre Rup Temple :
This “ temple mountain” was made of brick, laterite and sandstone in 10th century and its name means “turn the body”.
Funerals were conducted at the temple, with the ashes of the body being ritually rotated in different directions.
The tallest squared pyramid, measuring 50 m at its base, rises in three steep tiers in height to a 35 m , offering a great view especially during sunset.
Most importantly, Pre Rup is less busy than other temples, so enjoy the tranquility and great photo opportunities. Easy to reach within 20min ( 9 km ) from Angkor Wat.
Beng Mealea Temple :
My favorite temple, largely unrestored, with trees and thick brush thriving amidst its towers and courtyards. For years it was difficult to reach, but a road recently built brings more visitors to the site. It is an official UNESCO heritage site.
Built in 12th century and now concealed in a thick jungle, covered with cobwebs and dust. All of that makes this big temple the perfect “playground” for adventurers.
To access the best parts, you need to climb over piles or stones, climb up walls and swing around trees . It’s like in the movie, but the real thing.
Best to enjoy as a part of motorbike full day tour as it is 77km away from Siem Reap.
Chau Srei Vibol :
Remotely located and hidden ruins with unique atmosphere guarantees, that you will have the entire place for yourself.
Don’t expect delicate murals but climbing, crawling and exploring every corner without limitations.
You can include this temple in motorbike day tour which in my opinion is the best way to experience more of this unique country and its people. Bring some crayons, note pads,or sweets for kids.
Located 60km away from Angor Wat.
Ta Keo Temple :
Its particularly massive appearance is due to the absence of external decorations, as carving had just begun when the works stopped around 10th Century.
It was first ever temple build entirely from sandstone in a shape of a 5 tier pyramid.
Ta Keo isn’t the best temple,or the most visited, but great way how to escape the crowds of Angkor Wat, that’s why is so worthwhile. Only 6km from Angkor Wat.
MAP of Central Angkor Area :