The Temples of Angkor

#7 - Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Quick Description
Angkor contains the remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to the 15th centuries, including the largest pre-industrial city in the world. The 400km2 area in Cambodia contains the well known temple of Angkor Wat as well as the remains of many other magnificent temples. The entire collection of temples is commonly referred to as Angkor Wat.
Why AbsoluteVisit #7?
Angkor is home to the largest religious building in the world - Angkor Wat. Additionally the area is littered with a collection of jaw-dropping temples. The vast size of the temples, the incredible stone carvings found on each, the diversity between the buildings and their close proximity to each other easily make the Angkor Temples one of the top 10 places to visit in the world.
Slide 1
Angkor Wat Feelings
#1 Angkor Temples Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 2
The Many Faces of Bayon
#2 Angkor Temples Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 3
Ta Prohm Tree Killing
#3 Angkor Temples Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 4
Suffocating Ta Prohm
#4 Angkor Temples Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 5
Angkor Wat Lilly Sunrise
#5 Angkor Temples Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 6
Angkor Wat Columned Hallway
#6 Angkor Temples Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 7
Sleeping Stone Giant at Bayon
#7 Angkor Temples Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 8
Bayon at Angkor
#8 Angkor Temples Photo - Zhao Naidoo
Slide 9
Angkor Wat Fighting Walls
#9 Angkor Temples Photo - Brad Harbach
Slide 10
Angkor Wot at Dawn
#10 Angkor Temples Photo - Zhao Naidoo
Plan a Visit

Brad & Will's Quick Thoughts

We've visited The Temples of Angkor twice. The first time was in April 2010 for two days and the most recent visit was in March 2013 for three days. We find Angkor to be not only one of the most incredible places to visit in the world but we also find it one of the most fun to visit. Thinking about exploring the vast archaeological area from the backseat of a tuk-tuk brings chills to our spines.

On a trip to Angkor our favorite place to be is standing atop the Bayon Temple in the darkness, waiting for the sun to rise from the east, while hanging out with the 216 massive stone faces that have sat silent at Bayon for hundreds of years.

Here are a few pictures of us from our two visits.

Quick Facts & History

  • Angkor Wat is a temple located in Cambodia, built for King Suryavarman II in the city of Angkor. Its name means City Temple.
  • Angkor Wat is on the national flag of Cambodia.
  • While most Angkorian temples face east, Angkor Wat faces the west.
  • Angkor Wat is the largest religious building in the world.
  • The structure is made out of over 5 million tons (4,535,923,700 kg) of sandstone.
  • Engineers have observed that the arrangement of the temples in Angkor Wat are similar to the arrangement of the constellation Draco, indicating that the Khmer Kings may have been trying to replicate 'Heaven on Earth'.

Where are The Temples of Angkor?


Photos from The Temples of Angkor

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Angkor Wat Feelings
Ranked #1 by Brad Harbach
The Many Faces of Bayon
Ranked #2 by Brad Harbach
Ta Prohm Tree Killing
Ranked #3 by Brad Harbach
Suffocating Ta Prohm
Ranked #4 by Brad Harbach
Angkor Wat Lilly Sunrise
Ranked #5 by Brad Harbach
Angkor Wat Columned Hallway
Ranked #6 by Brad Harbach
Sleeping Stone Giant at Bayon
Ranked #7 by Brad Harbach
Bayon at Angkor
Ranked #8 by Zhao Naidoo
Angkor Wat Fighting Walls
Ranked #9 by Brad Harbach
Angkor Wot at Dawn
Ranked #10 by Zhao Naidoo
Dark Angkor Wat Sunrise
Ranked #11 by Brad Harbach
Ta Prohm
Ranked #12 by Zhao Naidoo


AbsoluteVisit 2013 Visit - Original Video
Tips On How To Visit
Brief Visit Introduction
The Temples of Angkor is a collection of ruinous buildings spread out over a vast 400km2 area. You will definitely not have time on your visit to explore all of them, unless you are an archaeologist on assignment in Cambodia for a few years. Don't stress though, you don't need to see every temple to understand and enjoy Angkor!
Get There
Everyone uses the town of Siem Reap as their base for visiting The Temples of Angkor. For those flying, Siem Reap has an international airport with lots of flights. For those on a budget, most come by land from Bangkok or Phnom Penh.
Stay and Sleep
You can reach the entrance to the temples in 15 minutes from almost anywhere in Siem Reap. Where you sleep is not important for viewing the temples. There are not any hotels that have a view of Angkor Wat. Just pick a place that fits your budget/style.
For those on a budget, we have found the Golden Mango to be a great place to crash.
No Budget
We recommend Le Meridien, as it is the closest hotel to the temples and it is very comfortable. Being close isn't that important, but it is nice if you are going to take breaks during the afternoons to relax in the air-conditioned room or take a dip in the pool.
Must See Temples
There are three temples that everyone who visits Angkor needs to see. If you don't see these temples, you have not seen Angkor. If these are the only three that you have time check out, don't stress too much, you have seen the best there is to see and you get it - The Temples of Angkor are unrivaled.
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is the premier temple at Angkor and the one you have definitely seen in hundreds of pictures before. It is the largest religious building in the world and on its own it would make the AV Top 100. The place is absolutely surreal and it will surely be one of the most incredible places you ever step foot in your life.
Bayon is the temple with all of the faces. We're talking about 216 massive stone faces that are each individually larger than you are. These faces are usually the second picture used to show off Angkor, after the classic pond picture of Angkor Wat.
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm is the temple with all of the trees. It is also known for providing an epic backdrop for the film Tomb Raider. Over the years the temple has been taken over by massive trees that have used the temple as a sturdy base for their roots. Tough times for the temple walls, but great for practicing your photography skills!

How to Get Around
There are many transportation options available to you at Angkor, but in our opinion the choice is not difficult. Hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day to take you around from temple to temple. For $18 USD (as of March 2013) a tuk-tuk driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you around from 5am until after the sun sets. Not only is that ridiculously cheap, but the tuk-tuks are a lot of fun! Don't worry too much about the heat, the open design of the tuk-tuk provides a cool breeze as you make your way to the next temple.
Visit Itinerary
The AbsoluteVisit Way
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.
Day #1
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.

Day #2
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.

Short on time...One Day Itinerary
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.

Visit FAQs
How do you reserve/pick a tuk-tuk?
Ask your guest house to reserve one for you (of course make sure they don't charge you more than the standard $15-$18 USD a day ($18 is for 5am pickup). If they aren't able to provide any help, then you just need to pick one out of the hundreds of them hanging around the main downtown area in Siem Reap. This can easily be accomplished before or after dinner on your first night. All of the drivers have the map of Angkor tattooed permanently into their brain, so the only differentiator is attitude and their ability to speak English. Try joking around with a couple of them downtown and pick whichever driver you connect with most.
Do you need a guide?
For your first day visiting - absolutely. You can hire an English guide for a full day for $25 USD (as of March 2013). The guide will help communicate some brief history and point out many details on the temples that you otherwise would miss. The guides all seem to be very genuinely nice and interesting to talk to as well. After you develop a relationship with your guide, feel free to bring up a few non-Angkor topics to enhance your cultural visit. Where did you live before Siem Reap? What did you do before you were a guide? How has the recent Cambodian Genocide impacted your family?
Can you enter multiple times on the same ticket?
Yes. You can come and go as you please throughout the entire day that your ticket is valid for. This allows you to go back to your hotel for lunch or a nap in the middle of the day.
Do you recommend Phnom Bakheng for sunset?
No. This one is highly debated, so let us explain. The view of the sunset does not include any visible Angkor temples (besides the relatively mediocre one you are sitting on). It is just the sun setting over a vast field, something you surely could find near your home. Also, the view of the sunset is obstructed by trees. Lastly, Phnom Bakheng gets incredibly packed for sunset. This is the last place to go to enjoy a quiet, romantic sunset.

Some people argue that there is a good birds-eye view of Angkor Wat from the top of Phnom Bakheng. You can see Angkor Wat from the the top, but it is very far away and nothing you are going to take a picture of unless you get a really clear day and are a professional photographer. We carry loads of semi-professional Nikon equipment and take photos every day for a living. Our photos of Angkor Wat from Phnom Bakheng are worthless. We wouldn't even show our moms. For those that don't care about photography, your eye sees the same view that a lens does, if it looks bad on film it generally is not interesting to the plain human eye either and it wasn't to ours.

Other Questions?
Send us an email at We'll quickly respond to you personally and add it to our FAQs permanently if it is helpful for others.

Top Blog Posts

Submit a new Blog Post
Angkor Wat is incredible. The sheer size of the temple, the details of the carvings and the fact that it was built in the 1100’s make it more than impressive. Brad and I soaked it all in as much as we could. Our expectations were very high for Angkor Wat and they had been exceeded. Even with all of this, I wasn’t sure where it ranked in my head of things we had seen thus far on the trip, but knew that it was near the top and very special. The rest of the day would be spent touring 4 other temples. While talking about it the previous night, our expectations for these temples was very low. We as...  read more
Submitted By: Brad Harbach
Submitted On: Apr 30, 2012
One day in Angkor. Guidebooks recommend spending at least three to get the most out of it. I chose to do it in one, and a one-day Angkor itinerary, while not optimal, is absolutely possible. I put together this one-day guide to Angkor for people who appreciate temples, but don’t live and die by them. I’m not ashamed of admitting that I fall into that category. While I’m crazy about modern architecture, ancient temples don’t really do it for me. That being said, Angkor is amazing. Trust me, you’ll be impressed. But I could only take so much of it....  read more
Submitted By: Brad Harbach
Submitted On: Mar 28, 2013
The ride begins to become something really beautiful at the end of the 8km road from town, when you will turn left to ride along the south and then west stretches of the moat that surround Angkor Wat- the most famous of the Angkor Temples. Along the way we passed children playing in the moat water and monkeys scampering across the streets. Soon we arrived at the entrance to Angkor Wat- the view that launched a thousand postcards....  read more
Submitted By: Nadia Pidgeon
Submitted On: Dec 4, 2012
The temples and ruins of Angkor, near Siem Reap, Cambodia, are hundreds–some thousands–of years old. It is the largest preindustrial city in the world, covering nearly 400 square miles of land. Even if you purchase a three day ticket–which is the pass I would recommend–it’s still difficult to visit all of the sites. Since you’ll be pressed for time–unless you race from temple to temple each day beginning at sun up and ending when the park closes–it’s best to approach the UNESCO World Heritage complex with a flexible plan. Here’s my list of the best of Angkor Wat....  read more
Submitted By: Brad Harbach
Submitted On: Mar 29, 2013

Places That Are Nearby

Angkor Temples
Wat Phra Kaew
Shwedagon Stupa

Detailed Maps of The Temples of Angkor

AbsoluteVisit 2013 Visit - Original Video
# 1

Angkor Wat Feelings

# 2

The Many Faces of Bayon

# 3

Ta Prohm Tree Killing

# 4

Suffocating Ta Prohm

# 5

Angkor Wat Lilly Sunrise

# 6

Angkor Wat Columned Hallway

# 7

Sleeping Stone Giant at Bayon

# 8

Bayon at Angkor

# 9

Angkor Wat Fighting Walls

# 10

Angkor Wot at Dawn

# 11

Dark Angkor Wat Sunrise

# 12

Ta Prohm


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