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Visiting Cambodia’s majestic temples of Angkor Wat is simply unmissable. It’s probably the first thing that pops into your head when you think of when you’re making your way to Siem Reap, and for good reason- this ancient city is pretty damn amazing to explore! For myself, and I presume many of my fellow backpackers, it will be a once in a lifetime experience. Personally, I often find main tourist attractions to be hyped up so much that I end up feeling a bit underwhelmed, but this isn’t the case. It’s every bit as awesome as you imagine.
But with the city spanning over 400 square km and there being so many temples to see, it’s hard to know where to start. So to help you make the most of your time exploring the temples, here’s my guide to visiting Angkor Wat.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
Angkor was actually once a city itself that was built in the 12th century by the Khmer Empire who at the time ruled most of Southeast Asia. The main temple was originally built as a Hindu temple but is now, of course, a Buddhist temple. The Khmer Empire fell in the 15th century but thankfully for us, much of this amazing city still remains.
GETTING AROUND ANGKOR
There are 3 types of ‘Angkor Passes’ Available- 1 day ($37), 3 day ($62) or 7 day pass ($72). Jess and I opted for a 3 day pass and to be honest, the site is amazing but I think 7 days of temples would be overkill. The best way to get around is to find a Tuk Tuk and driver who will show you the sights for the 3 days. We spoke to the guys working at our hostel and they helped to arrange our Tuk Tuk so definitely do this – just make sure you settle on a price at the beginning.
There are 2 main loops around the temples to explore which is the perfect way to see the main sights. Have a look at this map here to get an idea of where the circuits go. It’s well worth taking a guidebook with you to get an idea about the history of each of the temples. Have a look through the bookshelves of where you are staying as the chances are there will be one to borrow.
SEEING ANGKOR WAT AT SUNRISE
You know those amazing pictures you’ve seen all over the web? Well here is your chance to see it for yourself! It means a 4.30am start but the views can be amazing. Unfortunately for us, it was overcast but it was still worth it. Our Tuk Tuk driver did his best to recommend which day he thought would be best for the sunrise and was so flexible, but be prepared for Mother Nature to not be completely on your side. Afterwards, avoid the crowds by not heading into Angkor Wat- explore somewhere else and come back when the sunrise crowd has shifted.
3 DAY ITINERARY
DAY 1 – The Small Tour Circuit
Pre Rup, East Meban, Ta Som, Neak Poan and Preah Khan
DAY 2 – The Grand Tour Circuit
Angkor Wat sunrise (weather permitting), Bayon, Phimeanakas and Royal Palace, Elephant Terrace, Leper King Terrace, Thommanon, Ta Phnom and Angkor Wat
DAY 3 – Exploring Further
Banteay Srei and Banteay Samre
- Wear comfy shoes as you will be doing a LOT of walking
- Dress appropriately and take a thin scarf or sarong with you to cover up more if needed
- Take an umbrella or waterproof jacket as you’re outside a lot of the time and the weather in Cambodia can change a lot
- Take some snacks and plenty of water
- Don’t forget to step away from your camera and really soak it all in!