The ruins of Angkor are the remains of the largest ancient city in the world and the symbol of Cambodia. The locals are proud of this special place and this is also reflected in the country's flag. Not only compatriots are attracted to the temples, including the famous Angkor Wat, but also travelers from all over the world. In our article we tell you what makes Angkor so unique, the most important travel tips and which temples you should not miss!
What makes Angkor so unique?
You may think to yourself, what a question, of course the Angkor Wat! This is the main temple, but only a small fraction of the huge city, which exceeds the size of today's New York! Which is hard to imagine, because we're talking about a city from the 12th century. Incorrectly, the entire complex is often referred to as such. But it is not only the Angkor Wat, but the mix of the different temples and there are really many of them! Furthermore, the enormous size of the former metropolis is fascinating. Endless seeming streets lead through the dense jungle, past ancient walls and huge trees. Again and again we imagine how it probably looked back then, when Angkor was rediscovered in 1860.
Travel tips for Angkor
The temple complex is located in the immediate vicinity of the city of Siem Reap, which offers tourists everything they need. Western restaurants are adjacent to small local eateries. There are cafes, bars and even a pub street. There is also no shortage of shopping opportunities. In addition, there is accommodation for every budget. All in all, the city is completely designed for tourism.
The journey depends of course on your starting point, but buses run from neighboring countries either directly to Siem Reap or via the capital of Cambodia. From Phnom Phen, there are some providers that will get you to your destination within 6 - 7 hours, starting at $9. But patience is often needed, an unpunctual departure and countless stops are included in the fare in Cambodia.
However, the most important point is the entrance ticket. This is divided into 1, 3 and 7-day tickets. You can take breaks between the days, for the 3-day ticket, for example, you have a week to redeem it. We would not recommend visiting the ancient city in just one day. There are countless temples, the distance is not to be underestimated and quickly you would only see stones. We ourselves chose a pass for three days. You can only get this at one point of sale, the Angkor Wat Ticket Office on Street 60 just outside the city center. The opening hours are daily from 5 - 17:30. Here you can pay the entrance fee either in cash or by card. The 3-day ticket costs $62 per person, which is a high price, but definitely worth it.
As mentioned earlier, the site is huge and certainly not doable on foot. There are several options for getting around, either rent a bike for $5 or a scooter for $12 per 24 hours or have a tuktuk driver take you around the ruins all day for $18.
10 things you should not miss
#1 Angkor Wat
On the first place of temples that you should not miss is, of course, the Angkor Wat, which, by the way, translated means city temple. It represents the center of the ancient city and consists of three terraces and five gigantic towers. However, we must confess that at first glance we were not that impressed. We have probably already seen too many ruins in Southeast Asia. But on the second day at the latest, Angkor Wat blew us away! Especially when you walk the long way to the entrance gate. All three levels can be visited, for the top one you climb up a steep staircase. Before Corona, long queues formed here, but at the moment a visit is still possible without waiting. You should not miss the sunrise at the two small ponds in front of the main temple, even if it is teeming with visitors.
Almost as impressive as Angkor Wat is the Bayon Temple. With its thousand faces smiling benevolently at you, it is very different from the rest of the temples. It also forms the center of the city of Angkor Thom and was built about 100 years after the Angkor Wat. The faces represent the rulers of the world and are supposed to protect, bless and watch over the people.
#3 Gates of Angkor Thom
You should not miss a short stop at the entrance gates of the city of Angkor Thom. A bridge with countless statues of demons and gods leads across the surrounding moat to the gates with the smiling faces. In total, the 9 km² square city has four such entrances, but the most worth seeing are certainly the South and North Gates.
#4 Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm is an absolute must-see during your visit. But it is best to try to be at the gates of the complex as early as possible, because due to its fame from the Hollywood film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the temple is a fixed part of the daily tours, which, however, come to the complex only in the midday hours. A share in the fame of the temple certainly contribute the huge trees with their roots, which slowly entwine and overgrow the walls.
#5 Phnom Bakheng
Phnom Bekheng is one of the most popular temples of Angkor. On top of a hill is a building in the shape of a pyramid, which can only be reached on foot. Thus, you have to accept the climb of about 15 minutes to experience the view over the surrounding area and the temples. During the day it is relatively quiet, only at dusk the tourists flock here, because the Phnom Bakheng is the most popular spot for an incredible sunset over Angkor.
Next to the Bayon is the Baphou Temple. A 170 meter long bridge supported on pillars leads you to the entrance gate. If you have enough time, you should definitely explore the five levels of the temple and even at lunchtime very few people stray here. It's best to enjoy the view and the silence on the highest level for a while before moving on again.
#7 Ta Keo
Just after the east gate of Angkor Thom, the temple mountain Ta Keo extends over two terraces. You reach them via steep stone steps. The higher you get, the narrower the steps become! Once you have climbed the highest tower with its 20 meters, you have a fantastic view. It was built in the 11th century and was supposed to be the new state temple. However, a lightning strike during construction was considered a bad omen, so all work on Ta Keo was stopped and another temple was built on a new site.
#8 Banteay Kdei
Few visitors stray to Banteay Kdei, which was built in the 12th century. Due to the quiet atmosphere and the shady place, the temple is the ideal place for a little breather on your way to Ta Prohm. Some parts of the complex have already collapsed or are supported by constructions. Also, isolated trees with their huge roots grow on the walls.
#9 Neak Pean
A somewhat different temple is definitely the Neak Pean, far away from the well-known Angkor Wat. The special feature is the huge water basin with an artificial island as the center. Over a long bridge you reach the entrance of the small structure, which, by the way, used to be a hospital and was built at the end of the 12th century.
#10 Pre Rup
The pyramid temple Pre Rup, with its steep steps and very imposing height definitely has a wow effect. And if you have finally reached the top level of the most important temple of the 10th century of Angkor, you should take a short break and look at the towers and the jungle. By the way, the east towers are male, while the west towers are female.