When it comes to Temples, Angkor Was is the biggest religious monument in the world. Making this Khmer UNESCO one of the 7 Wonders of the World. When visiting Cambodia, Siem Reap should be on your itinerary. And with that being said, The City of Temples is a must do. It lies about 5 kilometers north of the city and stretches around 400 square kilometers. This Khmer Kingdom has more history than any place, site, or monument in all of SE Asia! Angkor is one of the largest archaeological sites in operation in the world. It’s really pretty crazy if you think about it. How much history lies in one spot. The kingdom is surrounded by a large moat with high walls, monuments, and ancient plans that will keep you busy roaming around for hours.
Every hotel/hostel will offer many different tours. You can do one, three, and seven-day passes. Prices ranging from $37-$70. There are many different temples to see when you get inside the actual Khmer site, so if you are wanting to see all of them, a one day pass won’t be enough. I, however found that after walking around in 35 degree weather for 9 hours looking at temples the entire time was enough for me for one day.
They offer sunrise and sunset tours. These are the most popular. Seeing though that Siem Reap has a big party rep, we decided not to wake up at 4am and fight the crowd to watch the sunrise. You chose to do the sunset tour. We picked out 4 different temples to see of the day, Angkor Wat being the first stop. Instead of booking directly through our hostel, we decided to take the cheaper route. We went outside on the street and flagged down a couple of tuk-tuk drivers and bargained with them for the cheapest price. He then picked us up at the hostel around noon and drove us to the entrance. Once we got there, we stood in line to get our day pass. Remember to bring your passport with you. They will take your picture and give you an ID card for your entrance. After that, our driver drove us around the entire complex. We told him which 4 temples we wanted to see, ending with the last one to watch the sunset. Our driver waited for us outside each stop and even gave us a little information on the way to each one.
The Temples we chose to see were Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm, and Phnom Bakheng. These four are the top sights to see at Angkor. So if you’re wanting to just do a day visit, these would be the ones I would suggest doing over all the other ones.
I would give yourself a solid 2-3 hours to walk around Angkor Wat. The city is so big and there is so much to look at and see. There are tons of shops and restaurants to take a rest or crab a bite to eat. Get lost walking around the high walls, or walking along the monuments and looking at the different architecture.
The entrance itself is stunning.
After we grabbed some lunch on the terrace inside Angkor, we headed to our next stop. Bayon Temple. This was the last temple to be built inside Angkor. It’s known for the all the smiling stone faces that surround the outside. Bayon actually sets inside Angkor Thom, which is a temple complex located to the East of Angkor Wat. There are a number of other temples located inside here that you can walk around and see, but we were short for time and still had two more stops.
Our third stop was the famous Ta Prohm where Tomb Raider was filmed. Here, you will find crumbled walls and towers with vines and tress growing all over the place. That’s what makes this complex my favorite. It looks very original and shows how old this place really is with the jungle growing all over and through it. Walking through this you will see massive trees right in the middle of the Temple. You will have to walk around and move vines to get through to the other side. It was also one of my favorites because you can walk inside the temples here and go pretty much anywhere you want. You can event lost in all the small corridors. I would give yourself at least an hour or more to explore here. Will be worth your time.
Our final stop was Phnom Bakheng. This is the most popular spot to watch the sunset. I will say though, in the end, it’s not really worth it. We needed up not even watching the sunset after we got to the top of the hill. You have to start heading there about an hour before the sunset happens. Then, you have about a 20 minute trek up a narrow path to the top of the hill where you will find some temple walls. Here, is where you and every other person at Angkor are waiting in line to get up to the actual temple to watch the sunset. We waited in line for over 30 minutes. When we got to the top, it was crowed, hot, and muggy. We decided to leave. At the bottom of the hill you will see a bunch of elephants dressed up. You can pay to ride one all the way to the top. I highly suggest not doing this because it’s very sad the way they treat the elephants. And for those of you that don’t know, riding elephants is really bad for them unless its bare back and your setting on their necks. Don’t be that person that contributes to animal cruelty.
We ended up getting back to our hostel around 730-8pm and was exhausted, I looked at my phone and saw we had walked over 13 miles. So be prepared with water and a good pair of walking shoes. You will need both. Also, hold onto your entry pass, it comes in handy for a good souvenir!