For both history buffs and travelers, Angkor Wat is a must-see. The Angkor Wat is one of the most celebrated temples in Cambodia. For many years, Angkor Wat was totally isolated from the Western World. Large, thick jungles covered the area. The French colonialists were the first westerners to get exposed to Angkor. Angkor Wat can be seen on the national flag of Cambodia, since the introduction of the first version. There’s something magical about the the Angkor Complex that let’s you feel like you’re discovering a secret world. Angkor Wat is a Cambodia must see attraction, so actually there aren’t high or low season. Don’t Underestimate the size of the city– It’s huge. 400 square meters. Siem Reap is the closest city to Angkor Wat attractions, lies 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) south away.
Do your research so you are familiar with the basic history of Angkor Wat. Angkor Complex is an ancient city in Cambodia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the center of the Khmer empire. The most popular temples are Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom, and Angkor Thom. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century. Angkor Wat came to be known by its present name since the 16th century. Prior to that, it was known as Pisnulok, after the posthumous title of its founder, Suryavarman II. As with most other ancient temples in Cambodia, Angkor Wat has faced extensive damage and deterioration by a combination of plant overgrowth, fungi, ground movements, war damage and theft. The war damage to Angkor Wat’s temples however has been very limited. Since the 1990s, Angkor Wat has become a major tourist destination.
Don’t buy Angkor Wat tickets or tours from unauthorized people. Be prepared to walk a lot. Put on good shoes. To avoid Heat its best to get up very early. The best time to visit is before sunrise, which means you should aim to be there around 5 a.m. Bring a lot of water, and don’t forget to hydrate all day. If you are going to Cambodia take $ with you. Cambodia uses USD in most places. If you are staying in Siem Reap make sure to look around for the best way to get to the Ancient City. We hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us around for three days. His was charging us 20$ for a full day. This way we had a freedom of deciding what we want to see and when. They know how to get you in and out in the best possible way. Your driver will drop you off and give you plenty of time to explore, and he will meet you at the other end. Tuk-Tuk in Cambodia is a carriage that is attached to the back of a motorbike. We meet people who have cycled through the park and raved about it, but it sounds terrible to me. You have to remember how much Heat you will encounter during your visit and how huge the City is. What you don’t see in a lot of the pictures of the Angkor temples is how crowded it is. Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat is one of those bucket-list items that many travelers are obsessed with. I didnt care much for it, but we did wake up at 4 am just to do that. From my experience sunrise and sunset activities are almost always a disappointment.
For some reason there’s a great deal of confusion on the internet about how tickets work. There are passes for one, three, and seven days and they dont need to be used on consecutive days. I would recommend getting a 3 multi-day pass for your visit. Everyone needs a permit to enter the Angkor Temples unless you are Cambodian or related to a Cambodian. 3-day multi-day pass was perfect for us, but for sure you can do more then that, if you want to see everything there is to see. First of all, the place is huge. Plan which temples you want to see ahead of time, because you can get overwhelmed with the amount of them. You should look at the map and pick what you will see for each day. You need to be in good shape to do all the Temple Exploring, all the climbing, so remember about that. You need to pace yourself, because Temple fatigue sets in quickly. Angkor Wat is open from 5 am to 6 pm, every day. I suggest you to get a good map or a guide book of Angkor Wat.
Be prepared for the weather
Go in low season if you want to avoid crowds, but be ready for unpredictable weather. Bring umbrella everywhere with you and remember to wear respectful clothing. It is still a temple. The second thing to consider about visiting Angkor Wat is the heat. Take a lot of sunscreen with you, plenty of water, and be armed with mosquito repellent. Oh and dont forget your Hat. Always carry your ticket with you. The tickets are personal with your name and photo on it.
You think all temples look alike – They don’t.
There are common routes to go around. Small Loop: Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm + 4 other temples. Big Loop: Same big Temples + 10 other smaller temples. We mix a little bit more then normal turist would, as we had 3 days there. The Sunset in Angkor Wat happens between 5:15 and 6 pm. I suggest you to watch the sunset on your first day visiting the Angkor Wat temples, and the sunrise on the second day. Angkor Wat and Bayon (temple of Buddha´s faces) are the most crowded temples. I suggest you trying to do the tour in the opposite direction then everyone else during the day.
Ta Prohm, more commonly known as “The Tomb Raider Temple”. Try to visit it first in the morning or late at evening, because you will be surprised with it completely overrun with tourist. If I had to do it over again, I would go to Ta Prohm first thing in the morning or immediately after watching the sunrise at Angkor.
Banteay Srei, “Citadel of Women” referred to as the Lady Temple, is the most the most unique temple we visited. Banteay Srei is constructed out of hard sandstone with a lot of beautiful carvings with distinctive red/pink color. Banteay was by far my favorite temple.
There is etiquette which protects both the site and other travelers. Avoid: making too much noise and disturbing others, blocking paths, littering, wearing inappropriate clothes , making others wait too long when taking pictures, and stepping or climbing on prohibited parts of the ruins.
We visited Angkor during probably the best month of the year (end of March) in terms of weather. Despite the scorching heat and the large crowds, I really enjoyed my time there. It’s definitely worth visiting, and it lives up to the hype. I’m not sure of how many temples we visited, and the names of all them. The best way to visit Angkor Wat is to follow your heart and your own path.
Side note. The list of scams on the Cambodian border is long. So be aware of that.
The easiest way to get to Siem Reap is by plane. Fly to Siem Reap via Bangkok or from Ho Chi Minh City. You can take a bus from Phnom Penh as well. Its pretty painless.