Angkor Wat Cambodia Travel Guide – Visiting The Temples – Map, Tours, & Photos

No traveler’s bucket list would be complete without a visit to the world famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It’s a profound and heavy experience.

Exploring Angkor feels a bit like stepping into The Jungle Book. These massive Hindu temple ruins are almost 1,000 years old, and you can tell it.

Everywhere you look, the once fantastic buildings have been shaped by time and nature — with broken walls, caved in ceilings, and huge tree roots and jungle foliage slowly consuming the temples.

What Is Angkor Wat? What Is The History?

The Angkor Wat was a group of temples built by the Khmer empire in the 12th century.

Angkor Wat means ‘temple city’ and the name fits, because it’s one of the biggest religious monuments in the world, covering over 400 acres (1.6 million square meters).

It originally started as a Hindu temple, but was later transformed into a Buddhist temple near the end of the 12th century.

It was rediscovered in the 1800s by a French explorer, who described it like this:

 

One of these temples, a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo, might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings.

It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.

Angkor was damaged over the centuries by earthquakes, plant growth, looting, and wars. There were even shootouts at Angkor during the Khmer Rouge control in the 1970s. Only the ruins remain now.

Today, the Angkor Wat is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and millions of tourists visit every year.

It looks completely epic, doesn’t it? King Louie would feel right at home!



Where Is The Angkor Wat?

The Angkor Wat is located on the outskirts of Siem Reap, in northwestern Cambodia.

The closest airport is Siem Reap International Airport (REP), which is served by a bunch of airlines. AirAsia often has $30 flights from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Siem Reap.

You can also travel to the Angkor Wat overland from Thailand, but I haven’t done that just yet.

Best Angkor Wat Tours

If you’re looking for a good Siem Reap driver/guide to show you around, Klook has shared day tours starting from $12 USD.

If you’re wanting the sunrise tour, which I highly recommend, they also have a private Angkor Wat sunrise tour by tuk-tuk for $19 USD or a shared sunrise tour for $12 USD.

All of these tours seem to have good reviews, and the prices are pretty competitive based on what I’ve paid in the past.


    

Map Of Angkor Wat

Here’s a rough map of Angkor and the Siem Reap area.

Angkor Wat is located about 4 miles (6.3 km) — or a quick 15 minute drive — from the town of Siem Reap.

There are lots of food and drink shacks scattered around the Angkor park, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble staying hydrated.

The part that actually dehydrated me the most was the rush to get to the sunrise spot in the morning, so it’s a good idea to bring at least one bottle of water to start you out.

This is a basic map of Siem Reap and the Angkor Wat temples. (Image is public domain, courtesy of Wikipedia / Holger Behr)
Visiting The Angkor Wat Temples

Most tours of the Angkor Wat start with a visit to the ticket office, where all foreign visitors are required to buy tickets.

The next stop is usually sunrise watching at the main temple, unless you opt out of doing this.

After the sunrise, Angkor tours are split into two main routes — small circuit or grand circuit. Both are worthwhile, but each of them takes roughly an entire day. More on that later.

You can tour the Angkor Wat by car or by tuk-tuk. A car with cold A/C is more comfortable and arguably safer on the road, but the tuk-tuk is cheaper and way more fun.

Either way, you’ll still spend a lot of time walking in the Cambodian heat, which can be brutal — so bring some $1 US Dollar bills to use at the drink stands scattered around the park!

Hours of Entry
  • Angkor Ticket Office: 5:00 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Angkor Wat: 5:00 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Phnom Bakheng & Pre Rup: 5:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • All Other Temples: 7:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Tickets & Entrance Fees

As of 2019, the Angkor Wat entry fees from the main ticket office are as follows.

  • 1 Day: $37 USD
  • 3 Days: $62 USD
  • 7 Days: $72 USD
  • Children: Free (Under 12)
  • Cambodians: Free

 
Yes, these fees are very high by Cambodian standards (the old fees were doubled in 2017), but it’s still worth it!

You can pay by cash (US Dollars, Cambodian Riel, Thai Baht, Euro) or credit card (Visa, Mastercard, UnionPay, JCB, Discover and Diners Club).
 

Ticket Durations

Take note that the 1 day ticket is only valid for the day of purchase. You can’t buy it and then use it a few days later.

However, the 3 day ticket is valid for 10 days from the date of purchase. You can choose any of those 3 days to visit the temples, so that means you can take a rest day between visits if you need it.

The same goes for the 7 day ticket, except it’s valid for a month from the date of purchase. You can pick any 7 days to visit the temples during that calendar month.

Dress Code

The Angkor Wat is a temple and religious monument, so there is a modest dress code for both men and women.

What you wear should cover your knees and shoulders, otherwise you may be denied entry. They’re serious about this. Shorts are okay as long as they go below the knees.


Sunrise At The Angkor Wat

Most tours at the Angkor Wat start by watching the sunrise at the temples. I would highly recommend doing this, and I wrote a mini-guide for it here that explains the best photo spots and how to get to them.

You’ll have to fight your way through crowds of tourists to get a front seat, but this is one sunrise you don’t want to miss!

It’s one of the most popular and beautiful sunrise spots in the world.

More info: Angkor Wat Sunrise Tips & Photos

Small Circuit vs Grand Circuit

All tours of the Angkor Wat are divided into two routes — small circuit or grand circuit.

Despite what the names would lead you to believe, both routes take roughly the same amount of time and visit roughly the same number of temples. You can spend a full day seeing either route. It’s not really possible to do both in the same day.

Which one is better? That’s a tough question. It’s really just a matter of personal preference and what you’re wanting to see.

For example, the ‘Tomb Raider temple’ (Ta Prohm) is on the small circuit. The grand circuit has some very nice things too. If I had to pick one, I’d probably give a slight edge to the small circuit, despite the name.

In the list below, you can see some of the highlights of both circuits, and decide for yourself which one looks the most interesting.

If you have enough time, see both!

Small Circuit – Things To See
Angkor Wat

Both the small circuit and grand circuit begin at the main temple of Angkor Wat. The sunrise here is epic, and the temple itself is huge too. It’s worth spending at least an hour exploring here.

Baksei Chamkrong

This is one of my favorite temples in Angkor. It’s a small, barely known pyramid temple near Angkor Thom. You might have to ask your driver to stop here, because most tours don’t include it in the normal itinerary. It’s a hidden gem!

Angkor Thom Gate

This is a gate on the south side of the Angkor Thom temple complex. It’s in poor shape, but you can still drive or walk through it, so it makes for some cool photo ops.

Bayon

Bayon is one of the most important temples in Angkor Thom, and it has some of the best wall carvings in the area. This is also where you can see the famous stone faces that you’ve probably seen in lots of photos.

Thommanon

This is one of the less known temples in Angkor Thom, and most tour groups don’t seem to go here. The carvings and doorways are good to explore.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is the famous ‘Tomb Raider temple’ used in the Angelina Jolie movie. There’s an incredible tree here that is growing on top of one of the temples. It’s a must see.

Banteay Kdei

More incredible trees and temples! The tree roots at Banteay Kdei are absolutely massive, and they’re taking control of the buildings.

Grand Circuit – Things To See
Angkor Wat

Both the small circuit and grand circuit begin at the main temple of Angkor Wat. The sunrise here is epic, and the temple itself is huge too. It’s worth spending at least an hour exploring here.

Preah Khan

Most of the main temple is ruined, but it’s cool to see how nature is reclaiming what’s left of it. This is one of my fave stops on the grand circuit.

Neak Pean

This is an island temple in the middle of a little pond. It looks better right after the rainy season. Late in the dry season there’s not much water left (pictured).

Ta Som

This is a smaller temple, but the best part is the stone doorway being consumed and held in place by a strangler tree.

East Mebon

This temple is not in great shape, but the highlight here would have to be the elephant statues in each corner of the temple.

Pre Rup

This is a big temple near the end of the grand circuit. Funerals were done here, so that may be why the temple looks so creepy. The buildings at the top of the pyramid are in the best shape, so be sure to take a look up there.

 

Beyond Angkor Wat – More Temples To See
Koh Ker Temple

This is a group of remote temples about 2.5 hours drive from Siem Reap. You can visit it on a day trip. The main building is a 7-tier pyramid in the forest, and a stairway leads to the top where you can get a nice view of the whole area.

Prasat Pram Temple

This is actually part of the Koh Ker area, but Pram temple is so awesome I thought it deserved its own separate mention. These are ancient temples being swallowed up by huge strangler trees and you must see them if you have time to take a day trip out of Siem Reap.

Bantei Srei Temple

This temple is a 1 hour drive from Siem Reap, and it can be combined with a grand/small circuit tour if you pay the driver a bit extra. The red sandstone colors are nice, and it’s known for having some of the best stone carvings out of all the Khmer temples.

Beng Mealea

This temple is about 1.5 hours drive from Siem Reap, and it can be combined with Koh Ker as a full day trip. The temple is mostly ruined, but that’s part of what makes it cool!

Roluos Group

This group of temples is only a 30 minute drive from Siem Reap, making it easy to combine with something else as a full day trip. The Roluos temples date back to the 9th century, making them some of the oldest Khmer temples in Cambodia.

 

Hotels At The Angkor Wat

The town of Siem Reap is just a 5 minute drive from the Angkor Wat, and that’s where you’ll want to book a hotel during your stay.

There are lots of great restaurants, hotels, and massage places in Siem Reap for very affordable prices.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the 4-star La Residence Blanc D'Angkor in Siem Reap. It was $18 USD per night for a clean double room with cold A/C, work desk, refrigerator, wardrobe, and more. There's also an on-site restaurant and pool.

The staff there is amazingly friendly, and I love the epic wall art showing scenes from the Angkor Wat. It sets the mood for exploring some Cambodian temple ruins.

Prices may fluctuate from time to time, so just keep an eye out for a good deal.

I stayed at this 4-star hotel in Siem Reap for $18 USD (Image courtesy of Booking.com)
 
This was the pool at my hotel (Image courtesy of Booking.com)
Is Cambodia Safe?

Yes, I think so, and I’ve visited Cambodia many times.

It is one of the world’s poorest countries, but violent crime and terrorism are not major issues here in recent years.

One problem in Cambodia is drive-by bag or phone snatchings, especially in Phnom Penh, but occasionally in Siem Reap too. The best way to prevent this is to keep your bag slung across your chest so it’s not easy to grab, and put your phone away when you’re riding around in traffic in a tuk-tuk.

Nowhere in the world is perfectly safe, but Cambodia receives millions of tourists every year, and most of them visit Siem Reap and the Angkor Wat.


When Is The Best Time To Visit Cambodia?

The climate of Cambodia is tropical, so the weather is hot and humid year round.

The rainy season runs from May to November (but especially the months of September and October), and the sunny season runs from December to April.

It’s still possible to visit Angkor Wat in the rainy season, but give yourself some extra days as a buffer in case of bad weather.

I’ve visited Cambodia several times in the month of May, and the weather was always bright and sunny without a drop of rain.

Happy travels!

Hotels In Cambodia
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