The highlight of our trip to Cambodia, and a must-visit if you’re there is Angkor Wat. Officially Angkor Wat is one temple, but it’s now often the name for the whole area with several temples. During your visit to Angkor you’ll see the original Angkor Wat temple as well as several other temples.
Planning your trip to Angkor Wat
The town close to the Angkor Wat temples is Siem Reap. Siem Reap has an airport that has connections to Laos and Thailand and it’s reachable by mini-van from Phnom Penh. It’s best to book a hotel in Siem Reap and reserve at least one full day (from sunrise) for Angkor Wat and the other temples.
It’s best to already arrange your tuk-tuk driver the day before. You probably want to visit the temples early to watch the sunset and avoid the hottest part of the day. If you ask a tuk-tuk driver the day before to pick you up, you’ll be sure to have a ride.
Keep in mind to wear appropriate clothing and comfortable walking shoes.
Tickets Angkor Wat
It’s not possible to buy your tickets to Angkor Wat online beforehand. The ticket shop, just South East of Angkor Wat, opens up every morning at 5am. You can buy a 1 day ticket, 3 day ticket or 1 week ticket. When we were there we paid 37 US Dollars for a 1 day ticket per person. The three day ticket gives you access on three days in the same week, the 1 week ticket gives you access for 7 days in the following 30 days. They take your picture at the ticket booth and it’s printed on your ticket.
Keep your ticket with you the whole day as they’ll ask for it at several entrances.
At the ticket shop is an ATM and there’s a bakery to get a muffin as breakfast while you wait for the sun to rise.
Getting around at Angkor Wat
I always thought you’d have to walk around to area from temple to temple, but the region is much larger than I thought. The best option is to arrange a tuk-tuk driver for the day. You can choose between a small circle with around 7 stops or the large circle where you visit 2 or 3 more temples. In general the driver will charge 15dollar for the small circle or 18 dollars for the big circle. If you want to be picked up before sunrise they usually charge 3$ extra.
If you want to see the sunrise it’s smart to be picked up at 4:30 am as you’ll need some time to drive to the ticket shop and from the ticket shop to Angkor Wat.
The tuk-tuk driver will drop you off quite close to Angkor Wat from where you can walk over the bridge to the entrance of the temple. He’ll wait for you there so you can hop in again after your visit.
We did the small circle and felt like we saw everything we wanted to see.
Angkor Wat is definitely the most famous temple of Cambodia. It’s the largest temple in the world and one of the seven wonders of the world. Watching the sun rise from behind the temple is a wonderful experience, although there’s no guarantee for clear skies of course.
If you get there around 5 or 5:30 am you can getter with all the other tourists by the pond in front of the main temple, so that you can see the reflection in the water when the sun rises. It’ll probably still be dark when you get there (depending on the month of your visit) so be prepared to wait for a bit. We waited around 40 minutes, but it was never boring as it gets lighter bit by bit and every 5 minutes you’ll have a different view because of that.
At the entrance of the gate, after the tuk-tuk driver has dropped you off, there will be tour guides waiting that want to give you a tour of Angkor Wat. In general they’ll ask around 20$ or a bit less if you skip the first few and wait until you’re closer to the temple. We picked our guide right before the bridge and paid 15$.
For the other temples that you’ll visit that day you don’t necessarily need a guide, but I do recommend getting one at Angkor Wat. Your guide won’t only tell you about the Angkor Wat temple but also something about the other Hindu and Buddhist temples and symbology that will give you a bit of background for the rest of the day.
After we watched the sunrise, the guide took us around for about an hour and after that you have time to explore the Angkor Wat temple complex on your own.
After exiting Angkor Wat you’ll find a restaurant and a Golden Monkey food truck selling toast.
Angkor Thom South Gate
Probably the first stop after Angkor Wat where your tuk-tuk driver will take you is the gate that marks the South entrance of Angkor Tom. It has 4 large Buddha heads on top and a high and narrow entrance. It was this high because elephants needed to pass through in ancient times. There’s a bridge lined with statues leading up to the gate. If your tuk-tuk driver intends to drive through, you can ask him to drop you off and wait for you at the other side of the gate so that you have time to take a closer look at the bridge and the gate.
Angkor Tom used to be the capital city of Cambodia. It’s now a large ground with several wonderful things to see.
You’ll probably start at Bayon. Even though I thought this temple was wonderful, I was quite annoyed by the large amount of tourists looking for the perfect picture there. So we walked through it quite fast to discover the other sights at Angkor Thom.
The Baphuon Temple has been restored for a large part. It must have been a huge puzzle for the experts to put the 300,000 stones back in place. At the end of your visit to Baphuon Temple you’ll see a lying Buddha and some signs explaining how they’re working on the restoration.
Terrace of the Elephants
Right next to Baphuon Temple is the Terrace of the Elephants. It used to be a viewing platform for ceremonies in the old days.
Next to the Terrace of the Elephants you’ll find several clothing and souvenir stands and again the Golden Monkey food truck selling toast. The Papa Toast with omelet and cheese is vegetarian.
A little East of Angkor Thom you’ll find the Ta Keo temple. This sandstone temple was finished around the year 1000.
Often named ‘Tomb Raider temple’, nature took over at Ta Prohm. You’ll see the remains of the temple as well as hundreds of stones that fell down and trees that took over. The big roots of the trees made the walls split and show that nothing is stronger than nature. It’s a beautiful sight to see the ancient temples and the trees growing through them. You’ll feel like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft indeed.
The Banteay Kdei is build in the late 12th century and was finished in the early 13th century. After you’ve passed this entrance gate, a beautiful temple ground awaits you. But just as all temples at Angkor Wat, the Banteay Kdei also needs renovation.
Bat Chum is a smaller temple. It’s made from brick and used to be in really bad shape. It’s currently being renovated, so it will look better and better.
After you’ve explored all the temples, it’s time to explore the city you’re probably staying in: Siem Reap.