You need two full days to explore The Temple of Angkor. This will allow you plenty of time to relax, explore and enjoy the incredible wonders found here. Additionally, two-days will allow you to somewhat avoid exploring temples during peak tourist times as well as avoiding the infamous Angor heat a little bit.
Angkor Wat Sunrise
- You should get picked up on your first morning at 5am by your tuk-tuk. Head straight for Angkor Wat. Sunrise is all the rage there and for good reason - it is incredible.
There is a small pond in front of the left side of Angkor Wat. Post up here for sunrise. Watch the sun's glow light up the dark sky. Don't leave when everyone else leaves. Stay to observe the circular orange ball (the sun) magically rise up from behind the temple. Definitely grab an iced coffee from the nearby locals as you wait between the initial glow and the actual sunrise. Delicious and a much needed energy boost!
Make sure to set your expectations properly about the number of tourists. There are going to be hundreds of them following the exact same plan. Try your best to ignore them. Enter your own zen like moment. Focus on the beauty and not on the other people. Don't get upset about things outside of your control!
Beyond watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat, you also need to actually walk around the inside of the temple. Skip this part for now and head back to your tuk-tuk.
Extra Temples & Sleep - Have your driver take you to a couple of temples that are not part of our must see temple list (Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm). Bantaey Kdai and Pre Rup are good ones to check out. The purpose of viewing these extra temples it to help paint the picture of just how incredibly massive Angkor is. Additionally, you will be blown away by temples that are not on our must see list. Even secondary attractions at Angkor are incredible.
By now the heat has reached an uncomfortable level and you are exhausted from waking up at 4am. Head back to your hotel to get lunch and rest for a couple of hours. Of course you can continue exploring additional temples if you're feeling up for it. Just remember that tomorrow you are waking up at 4am and you still have sunset plans this evening.
Angkor Wat Inside & Sunset - You should plan to arrive back at Angkor Wat by 3:30pm. This is a good time to explore because it will be cooler and most of your fellow tourists will be crammed in at the highly overrated sunset temple - Phnom Bakheng (more on that in the FAQs below).
Take your time and plan to spend 1-2 hours slowly enjoying the detailed stone carvings covering the walls. There are multiple levels and you definitely don't want to miss any of it.
You should finish up your Angkor Wat exploration on the front steps, watching the sunset in the distance. You'll be exhausted at this point, but you will have a huge smile on your face.
Have your tuk-tuk take you straight into town, enjoy a few beers with dinner and make sure to get to bed early.
Alone at Bayon
- The best time to visit Bayon is for sunrise. Now some people would disagree, because you really don't get a good view of the sun there, but the temple is virtually empty at sunrise. Greeting the 216 ancient faces of Bayon is a completely different experience in the dark morning hours alone vs. saying hello with a thousand friends under the hot afternoon sun.
Have your tuk-tuk pick you up at 5am and head for Bayon. It will still be dark when you arrive, so make sure to have a cell phone or a headlamp to help guide you into the temple. Most likely you will be alone, unless the bats happen to be out on that particular morning.
Walk around very slowly and observe all of the faces. Try to line up three of them in a row and take a photo. Let some time pass, make sure to relax and eventually the sun will rise out through the forest. You should be able to get a cool view/picture of the sun rising right next to one or more of the faces.
Ta Prohm - Drive to Ta Prohm after Bayon. The best time to visit Ta Prohm is at sunrise as well, mostly due to having virtually no tourists around at this time. Unfortunately you are going to be at Bayon, making it impossible to be at Ta Prohm for sunrise. That is ok though. You will finish up at Bayon and make it to Ta Prohm before the hordes of people arrive on the standard tour bus route.
Get lost amongst the trees and find the perfect place to update your outdated Facebook cover photo.
Angkor Thom - Angkor Thom is the larger area that contains Bayon. It is an interesting area to drive around and explore. If you see something that interests you, have your tuk-tuk stop and you can head out on foot and explore.
You're Choice - You've seen Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm all at the very best times. Spend the rest of your time at Angkor exploring a couple of temples that you find to be intriguing. You've earned it.
Banteay Srei is the most popular temple that we don't include on our itinerary. It is far away and we didn't find it to be a must on our visit. If you're feeling up for it, head out there and decide for yourself in the afternoon. Your driver will ask you for a little extra gas money and you should also set your expectations on the number of tourists you will be sharing the temple with.
If you only have one day to visit Angkor, you can still see the three must see temples, however it will be hot and crowded. It's better to see these places hot and crowded, than to not see them at all, so don't hesitate to make a visit if you only have one day.
Have your tuk-tuk pick you up at 5am and head for Angkor Wat. Watch the sunrise and explore the inside of the temple. From there head to Bayon. Then head to Ta Prohm. If you still have additional time, check out the Angkor Thom area (the larger area surrounding Bayon). Feel free to substitute something else that piques your interest for Angkor Thom.