Angkor Wat Temple Complex
Just over 3 miles north of Siem Reap is a stunning collection of remarkable Hindu and Buddhist temples known as Angkor Wat. This UNESCO World Heritage site, was the majestic capital of the powerful Khmer Empire from 9th to the 15th centuries.
The temples were built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century and bear witness to the Khmer’s enormous wealth, impressive cultural and artistic abilities. It is largest religious monument in the world, on a site measuring 162.6 hectares or 402 acres.
For 600 years, Angkor underwent many architectural and religious transformations – from worshiping the Hindu god Shiva to Vishnu, and finally, by late 13th century, Angkor adopted Theravada Buddhism. However, with the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century, the golden age of Angkor ended. The temples receded into the jungle but thanks to the Theravada Buddhist monks that took over Angkor Wat,the temple remains mostly intact.
Angkor Wat consists of five central shrines, encircled by a massive moat and three galleries. The pillars and ceilings of the galleries were decorated with lotus rosettes, apsaras (heavenly nymphs), dancing male figures on prancing animals and motifs of gods, as well as walls showing scenes of legends and ancient combats.
The five central shrines have three levels, connected by numerous exterior staircases. The temple culminates in the sanctuary, a great central tower pyramidal in form with towers surmounting the terraces of the two upper levels.
For the best weather and general comfort, the best time to visit is November through March as the air is (relatively) cooler and drier. The Months of April & May can be extremely hot in this region and June through October, Angkor Wat is less crowded between but be prepared for hot and potentially wet weather.
All foreigners have to purchase a pass to enter the Angkor park. These can be purchased at the front gate for 1-day (US$37), 3-day (US$62), or 7-day (US$72) duration. A 3-day pass is valid for any 3 days within a week. A 7-day pass is valid for any 7 days within a month.
Cambodians enter for free so your guide or driver will not need a pass. You can enter the park after 5pm to view the sunset without it counting as use of a day on your pass.
Tuk-tuk drivers in Siem Reap may try to make you hire them as your guide. Their English and their knowledge about Angkor Wat is likely to be limited. Golden Banana For Men Hotel can help arrange a qualified English-speaking guide and transport. Hiring a guide is a really good idea as there is so much to see; a guide can help make sure you optimize your available time.
Only purchase Angkor Park passes from official Apsara Authority counters – not other vendors, and NEVER second-hand. A dress code has been introduced in 2016 that requires visitors to have their knees and shoulders covered whilst exploring the ruins.
Besides Angkor Wat, the three other “must-sees” temples are the Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm. The smaller temples, Neak Pean and Ta Som are also worth exploring.