When travelers head to Cambodia, most are envisioning the fabled ancient temples of Angkor Archaeological Park. This sprawling 400-square-kilometer complex is dotted with hundreds of stone temples and structures.
From the 9th to 15th centuries, this was the heart of the Khmer Empire. Then, when the civilization died out, most structures in the complex became abandoned and slowly reclaimed by the wilderness. The sight of the jungle covering stone in thick canopy only adds to the enchantment of the ancient city.
As many temples there are to see in the expansive complex, there is one that stands out: Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat: The Heart of Cambodia
Angkor Wat is not only the most popular of the Angkor temples, but it’s also the largest religious monument in the world and one of the most inspired architectural achievements in history. It was originally built in the 12th century to serve as a Hindu temple for the god Vishnu, but it went on to become a Buddhist temple towards the end of the century.
The temple is such a huge part of Cambodia that it’s even front and center of its national flag. And it’s no surprise why as the mega-temple is truly a sight to behold.
Many temples in Angkor has been abandoned, but Angkor Wat has been in use since it was built, making it the best-preserved one in the collection. A testament to human vision and creativity, the breathtaking temple is filled with bas-relief sculptures and other artistic carvings that depict daily life in the Angkor era as well as Hindu mythology.
Angkor Wat is said to be designed as a representation of the universe with the five central towers depicting Mount Meru, the sacred home of the gods.
Beyond Angkor Wat: The Other Great Temples of Angkor
While Angkor Wat is undoubtedly the main attraction, it would be a loss not to visit other temples in Angkor Archaeological Park. There are hundreds of temples to choose from with some travelers even opting to hop on a scooter and hunt down small, lesser-known ones to escape the crowds.
Ta Phrom is another favorite with massive trees and their gigantic roots wrapped around the stone structures. Visit Angkor Thom and the temple at its heart, Bayon, which features pristine bas-relief sculptures and 54 towers in the upper level with a total of over 200 gigantic faces of Avalokiteshvara.
At the end of the day, climb to the top of Phnom Bakheng to witness the sun setting over the ancient city.
How to Get to Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is just six kilometers north of Siem Reap, so those who are traveling to Cambodia specifically to see the temple city will likely make this city their base. Many tourists simply hire a tuk-tuk to take them from their hostel or hotel in Siem Reap to Angkor Wat and tour them around. Others rent a bicycle to explore the ruins on their own.
For a stress-free and informative experience, join a day tour from Siem Reap to the top attractions in the Angkor area.
Where Is Cambodia?
A southeast Asian country, the Kingdom of Cambodia is bordered by the Gulf of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. It followed the great Khmer Empire that presided over the lands that are now Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Best Time To Visit Angkor Wat
When it comes to the weather, November to February is the ideal time to visit Angkor Wat as it’s generally warm, dry, and pleasant during these months. In particular, December and January are very tourist-friendly. However, it should be noted that these months usually see the costs of flights, hotels, and other tourist amenities rise.
On the other hand, the months beyond May sees a lot of rain, which can be a big hassle for tourists who want to explore the grounds of Angkor. Prices are lower during these months, but it’s important to consider that your temple tour may be wet and muddy.
Things to Remember
While the Angkor area is a tourist spot that sees millions of tourists from all over the world, remember that it is at its core a religious site. Make sure you wear appropriate clothing to show respect, specifically clothes that cover the shoulders and knees. Lightweight clothing is ideal as well as a cap, just in case it gets to be too hot.
Book a tour of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom with KKday to see all the best attractions in Cambodia in a single day!