Angkor Wat is the most famous ancient temple site in Cambodia, and visiting the ancient Angkorian temples is the reason most visitors come to Cambodia, and to Siem Reap. With its five lotus-like towers rising 65 meters into the sky, it is truly a monumental, and awe inspiring sight. This UNESCO World Heritage site was at one time the largest pre-industrial city in the world, and is considered one of the ancient wonders of the world. Angkor Wat is the crown jewel of any visit to the temples of Angkor.
The ruins of Angkor Wat are located in the Angkor Archaeological Park, and the entrance to the park is located about 3km north of modern-day Siem Reap. There are no hotels within the park grounds, and most visitors to the ancient temples stay in Siem Reap, using it as a base from which to make daily visits to the temples. The most significant temple ruins are found 6 to 25km north of town, with the closest major temple being Angkor Wat. The Roluos Group of temples are 13km east of Siem Reap.
Good to Know & What not to Miss
- The amazing structure as a whole is best viewed in soft light. The best lighting conditions are after 14:00, and other than sunrise viewing, the first visit should not be made in the morning.
- Guided tours usually start with the bas-reliefs that cover the first level exterior wall, and which are perhaps the most beautifully done, and follow them around the temple in a counterclockwise direction.
- A popular location for sunrise viewing is the northern reflecting pool. You will need to get there early before sunrise starts, as the most beautiful colors are just before the sun breaks over the horizon.
- When the sun comes up behind Angkor Wat, it will give a silhouette of the distinctive shape of the towers of Angkor Wat against a beautifully coloured sky.
How to get to the Temples
There are two basic ways visitors get to the temples. One way is by a tour organized by a tour company, the other way is a do-it-yourself tour. Most all tours to Siem Reap include at least one visit to the Angkor temples. For independent travelers, hotels and guesthouse all offer tours to the temples.
Depending on the size of the group, transportation can be by bus, mini van, or tuk-tuk. For real hard-core independent types, you can visit the temples on the back of a motorbike. In recent years, cycling to, and around the temples has become increasingly popular. It may not look like it on the map, but the temples are a bit too far apart to comfortably visit them on foot. Although for intrepid hikers who have the time, several temples can be visited in this way.