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Top Tips for Visiting the Temples of Angkor Complex in Cambodia

Rob is an avid traveller and a keen photographer who showcases his work on Flickr and sells his images through Adobe Stock and Shutterstock.

Angkor Wat Temple Complex. Trees taking over the Temple of Ta Prohm

Angkor Wat Temple Complex. Trees taking over the Temple of Ta Prohm

Planning a Visit to the Temples of Angkor

The historic temples of Angkor are a genuine world-class tourist attraction, familiar to people all over the world. The temple complex is a truly international site, receiving more then two and a half million visitors from all over the world each year.

Without these temples of the Khmer Empire, I suspect that only a tiny percentage of these visitors would still make the trip to Cambodia.

The temple complex is located a few kilometres outside of the city of Siem Reap. There’s no accommodation at the site so you’ll inevitably be based in Siem Reap. There are a number of ways in which you can visit the complex including visiting independently, as part of a group or with a private guide.

Visiting Angkor Wat with a Tour Group

Generally, this option is more targeted towards people visiting the complex from elsewhere. Tours are operated from Thailand and Vietnam, as well as from Phomn Penh. The tour will likely include transportation, tour guide, accommodation, meals and entry to the complex. Be prepared for a large group and long travelling times. Most of the organised tours don’t arrive on site until well into the day, by which time the crowds can be huge.

Visiting the Angkor Wat Temples by Tuk Tuk from Siem Reap

If you’re already in Siem Reap then a popular option is to hire a Tuk Tuk driver for the day. You can either do this independently by negotiating with a driver on the street or you can do it through your hotel. Annoyingly they have a per person price of around $15 so unfortunately, unlike in a normal taxi, getting more people on board doesn’t bring down the price.

The Driver will pick you up from your accommodation before dawn and will drive to the complex and drive you around all the temples all day before returning you back to your hotel. It’s worth doing some pre-trip planning to identify which temples you want to visit. If you turn up unprepared the driver will likely just give you the bare minimum.

Exploring the complex on bikes

Exploring the complex on bikes

Visiting the Angkor Wat Temples by Bicycle

This is the cheapest way to visit the temples and also the one that gives you most freedom to do what you want when you get there. Many hotels and hostels rent bicycles for as little as $1US a day (although the quality varies). Hire a bicycle and be sure to double check the directions and then set off before dawn.

The route is really easy: it’s just a single straight road heading out of town, just be sure to stop at the check-point located a couple of kilometres before the complex (you’ll need to purchase your entrance ticket here). Make sure that the lock works as you’ll be locking it up several times during the day whilst you go and explore the temples. You should make it just in time to see the sunrise, which is pretty much the same time all year.

Most people will head straight to Angkor Wat for sunrise so you can pretty much have all the other temples to yourself if you like. Angkor Wat is most convenient however, as it’s near the main entrance point.

A Guide to the Angkor Temple Complex

There are loads of temples at the Angkor complex. There are also some temples scattered around the region that you need to travel outside of Siem Reap to see. You can decide what type of ticket you want to get. You can get a ticket that covers a single day, three days or seven days if I remember correctly. Seven days of temples is just a little too hardcore for me so I was happy with the one day ticket. I have listed below the temples that most appealed to me during my trip.

The Temples of Angkor being reclaimed by nature

The Temples of Angkor being reclaimed by nature

Of course you have to explore this temple when visiting here. It’s very busy at sunrise but as soon as the sun comes up the crowds disperse and there’s a much quieter period until the bus tours start to arrive later in the morning. The temple is huge and can take a while to walk around. You can’t help but be blown away by its vast size and imposing quality – especially when you think about how it was built in the 12th century.

Guides will hang around the walkway up to Angkor Wat but its your call whether you want one or not. Personally, I didn’t have one and was quite happy. We saw some people who looked bored to death as they listened to how tiny carvings were made or countless unsubstantiated ‘legends’.

The Temple of Angkor Wat

The Temple of Angkor Wat

Ta Prohm: The 'Tomb Raider' Temple

This is now known as the ‘Tomb-Raider temple’ ever since it was featured in the Lara Croft movies. Although not many people will know the name of this temple many people will recognise images of it. Think trees twisting their long roots around doorways and vines hanging down over walls.

This one is my favourite temple of all. Possibly because it’s so much more photogenic than Angkor Wat or the others. You get a real sense of a battle taking place between the man-made stone structures and the trees which are seemingly intent on reclaiming their space. Unfortunately the trees are causing serious damage, and although the authorities don’t want to remove any trees there are some major problems to be resolved in order to preserve the structures.

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Dinosaur carvings? Engraving Detail at the Temple

Dinosaur carvings? Engraving Detail at the Temple

There’s also a really cool spot in this temple where there’s a decorative carving in the stone façade. It looks like a dinosaur but there are no records to indicate that these people could have any knowledge of dinosaurs. The existence of dinosaurs was not known until much more recently. Or was it?

Visiting the Angkor Thom Temple

The Angkor Thom Temple is another huge temple, although not as big as Angkor Wat. There are many intricate carvings within the site of this temple and some interesting faces which are remarkably well preserved.

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom

Getting to Beng Melea

This temple is a fair distance outside of Siem Reap, away from the main Angkor complex. You pay a separate entrance fee here as its not covered by the temple complex ticket. The price is only around $5US if my memory serves me correctly. You need to get here by either hiring a scooter or taking a tuk tuk.

For a price of around $30US you can hire a tuk tuk with a driver. I recommend visiting this site. Chances are you’ll be the only visitors there and you can therefore really absorb the feel of the place. It’s more lush too, making you feel like the surrounding vegetation is slowly turning the site back into jungle.

Beng Melea - reclaimed by the jungle

Beng Melea - reclaimed by the jungle

After visiting Cambodia I had to pause and ask myself, ‘Would Cambodia still exist if there was no Angkor Wat?’ If it did it would undoubtedly be in an even worse state than it is today. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. It’s way down there in the league tables, and it’s not hard to see why, when you pass through the country. It’s a very interesting country to visit and a very rewarding place to travel, but it is very poor.

If you have enjoyed reading this article or have found it useful then please leave a comment below. You can also read more practical guides and top tips for other sights and attractions in South East Asia by clicking on the links to some of my other articles below.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Robert Clarke

Comments

Robert Clarke (author) from UK on June 22, 2013:

Many thanks for reading and for the kind comment travelholidays. Bicycle renting is certainly the way to go!

travelholidays from India on June 22, 2013:

Clear picturesque about all the famous temples in Cambodia. Bicycle renting is attracting concept for visiting Angkor Wat temples. Voted up 'Iammattdoran' :)

Robert Clarke (author) from UK on June 02, 2013:

Hi puncoast, thanks for the comment and kind words. There's a couple of other places in Cambodia that I really liked but it's a small country where you don't need much time to see a lot.

Viet Doan from Big Island, Hawaii on June 02, 2013:

I really enjoyed your article on Angkok Wat Temples. What an amazing place! Thanks for all the excellent travel tips. Cambodia is on top of our travel wish list and we can't wait! Voted up.

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