Angkor Archaeological Park: Walking Among the Ruins of Khmer Empire

Angkor Archaeological Park is the most visited place in Cambodia. Its historical and cultural significance, along with its breathtaking architecture, attracts a large number of tourists from around the world.

Where to stay

Siem Reap best known as the gateway to the magnificent Angkor Archaeological Park is just 8 km away from the Airport and a mere 6 km from the ancient site, making it a convenient starting point for exploring this magnificent destination. It is the second-largest city in the country after Phnom Pen and the largest city and capital of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia. Over time, for this reason, it has become a popular destination for travelers from all over the world who are interested in history, culture, and adventure.

Find out what Siem Reap has to offer and what to do in Siem Reap province.

Angkor Archeological Park

Angkor, derived from the ancient Khmer language meaning “city,” served as the capital of an empire that greatly influenced the history of Southeast Asia from the 9th to the 15th century. The vast religious complex of Angkor comprises more than a thousand buildings, spanning an expansive area of 400 square kilometers (160 acres): it marks the high point of Khmer architecture, making it the most important archaeological site in Cambodia and the most significant in Southeast Asia.

It typically takes almost a week to fully explore Angkor Archeological Site, so the itinerary that follows is not an exhaustive list of things to see in the area, but rather a selection of the must-see highlights. If you have few time, you can choose to see the “Small Circuit” only, that features the absolute highlights of the area. If you have more time, you can consider to visit the small and the grand circuit and why not, some other ancient site.

Tickets

The Angkor Ticket Office (Angkor Enterprise) located on Road 60, is the only place where you can purchase entrance tickets for the Angkor Archaeological Park. Tickets purchased elsewhere are not valid. Since 2019, it is also possible to purchase an Angkor Pass online. To learn more, go to the official site: https://www.angkorenterprise.gov.kh/

Angkor Pass price 2023:

  • USD 37 for a 1-day pass (valid for 1 entry during a period of 5 days)
  • USD 62 for the 3-day pass (valid for 3 entries during a period of 10 days)
  • USD 72 for the 7-day pass (valid for 7 entries during a period of 30 days)

Opening hours:

  • Angkor Archeological Park: every day, from 5:00am to 5.30pm

Dress Code

it is mandatory to wear clothing that does not expose the shoulders or legs above the knee. Sleeveless shirts, tank tops, shorts, and skirts above the knee are not permitted. It is recommended to wear loose, comfortable clothing that respects the cultural and religious significance of the site. It is advisable to wear comfortable sneakers or walking shoes to protect your feet and provide good support. Sandals or flip-flops may not be ideal as they may not provide enough comfort or protection during long walks and while navigating uneven surfaces.

How to get around

To get around and visit the Angkor Archaeological Park, is very simple, there are many options available.

  • You can rent bicycle o motorbike: bikes are common choice for visitors who prefer a more active and independent experience. Renting a motorbike provides flexibility and allows you to reach the temples quickly. However, driving in Cambodia can be challenging, so this option is recommended only for experienced riders.
  • You can hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day or for specific trips to take you to different temples within the park. Tuk-tuks are a popular mode of transportation in Siem Reap, but if you don’t use Grab app, negotiate the price and itinerary beforehand.
  • You can hire a Private car or taxi if you prefer a more relaxed and air-conditioned option. Many hotels provide this service to their guests, often including a guide for a guided tour experience.

Day 1-Small circuit

This tour is perfect for one-day Angkor Pass holders as it covers the must-see temples of Angkor. This rout includes: Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng, South Gate, Angkor Thom, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King, Victory Gate, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang, Prasat Kravan. (By walking, the complete tour takes approximately 3 hours of time, excluding any stops along the way).

Angkor wat

Angkor Wat: Built in the early 12th century, is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992 due to its cultural and historical significance.

It is the largest and most famous temple in the Angkor complex and the largest religious monuments of the world. Commissioned by King Suryavarman II, this monumental temple was intended as an elaborate funerary complex to house his mortal remains. The construction of Angkor Wat, a remarkable feat of engineering and artistry, is estimated to have lasted approximately three decades. It was originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, but later became a Buddhist temple. The temple is known for its beautiful bas-reliefs, intricate carvings, and towering central spires. It is also known for its stunning sunrise and sunset views.

Angkor Thom

As Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is an ancient walled city located just a few kilometers north of Angkor Wat. It served as the capital of the Khmer Empire. The city is surrounded by an 8-meter high wall and encompasses an area of approximately 9 square kilometers. Access to Angkor Thom is through grand entrance gates adorned with impressive stone carvings. The most famous gate is the South Gate, featuring giant faces known as “The Bayon-style” smiling down on those entering the city. Within Angkor Thom, there are numerous significant sites and structures to explore. The most iconic and prominent among them is the Bayon Temple, the Terrace of the Elephants, and the Terrace of the Leper King.

The Bayon temple is characterized by its many massive stone faces carved into the towers. These serene and enigmatic faces are believed to represent either the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara or King Jayavarman VII himself.

The Terrace of the Elephants was used for royal ceremonies and served as a viewing platform for public events.

Terrace of the Leper King is renowned for its intricate carvings that depict various mythological figures and scenes.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is an ancient temple built in the 12th and 13th centuries as a Buddhist monastery. It is famous for its overgrown trees and vines that have intertwined with the temple’s structures over time. The temple gained international recognition as a filming location for “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.” Visiting Ta Prohm allows you to witness the harmonious coexistence of ancient architecture and nature’s relentless reclamation.

Phimeanakas

The temple’s name, Phimeanakas, translates to “Celestial Temple” or “Heavenly Palace,” unfortunately, has suffered significant deterioration over the centuries, and much of its original splendor has faded. Phimeanakas is a three-tiered temple pyramid, constructed during the late 10th to early 11th century. It was once considered a sacred site and was used by the Khmer kings as a place for important religious ceremonies and rituals. The temple’s architectural style reflects the Hindu influences of the period.

Banteay Kdei

Banteay Kdei, meaning “Citadel of Chambers,” It was built in the mid-12th to early 13th century during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, who was known for his extensive building projects. Banteay Kdei is a Buddhist temple complex that features intricate carvings and elaborate architectural details. Banteay Kdei is known for its atmospheric and serene atmosphere, with trees and vegetation growing among the ancient ruins.

Day 2-Grand Circuit

Are part of the so-called Grand Circuit the temples: Pre Rup, East Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean, Preah Khan (Banteay Prey), North Gate, West Mebon. (By walking, the complete tour takes approximately 4,5 hours of time, excluding any stops along the way).

Neak Pean

Neak Pean is a small but significant temple known for its unique design and religious symbolism. Built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, Neak Pean is part of the larger Preah Khan complex.

The temple is situated on an artificial island in the middle of a large rectangular pool. It represents a mythical lake, believed to be a symbol of the Anavatapta, a sacred lake in the Himalayas known for its healing properties. The pool is fed by four surrounding smaller ponds, each representing one of the four great rivers of ancient India. The central feature of Neak Pean is a square platform with a tower at the center. The tower is adorned with four sculpted heads facing the cardinal directions, representing various mythological creatures and deities. Surrounding the tower are eight smaller heads, depicting water deities.

Preah Khan

Preah Khan, meaning “Sacred Sword,” was built in the late 12th century during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, known as one of the most prolific builders of the Khmer Empire. Preah Khan was dedicated to his father and served as a Buddhist monastery and a center of education.

The temple covers a large area and is surrounded by a moat, similar to other temples in the Angkor complex. It features impressive architectural elements, including intricately carved stone walls, towers, and elaborate gateways. The temple’s layout is complex, with numerous galleries, courtyards, and corridors. The walls are adorned with detailed bas-reliefs depicting various scenes from mythology, historical events, and everyday life during the Khmer Empire. A highlight of the temple is the Hall of Dancers, which showcases exquisite carvings of Apsara dancers.

Pre Rup

It was built in the 10th century and is known for its pyramid-like structure and reddish appearance. The temple consists of three tiers and is adorned with intricate carvings. Visitors can climb to the top for stunning views of the surrounding area. Pre Rup is renowned for its beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

These listed temples are just a few of the principal temples in the Angkor complex, but there are many more to explore!

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