Discovering Angkor, a Unesco world heritage site
The first thing that jumps to mind as soon as we talk about Cambodia is the imposing remains of the Angkor temples complex, the evidence of the glorious Khmer Kingdom, which experienced its heyday between the 9th and 16th centuries. UNESCO heritage since 1993, the temples of Angkor are one of the most popular attractions in all of Southeast Asia and receive the visit of at least 2 million tourists every year.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit Cambodia and Angkor is during the dry season, especially in December, January and February when the temperatures are cooler. This period corresponds to the high season, so be prepared to share the wonderful archaeological site with thousands of other tourists. The months of March, April and May are, instead, scorching and muggy, with temperatures that can reach 40 degrees, while the monsoon season runs from June to the end of October.
HOW TO REACH ANGKOR
The temple complex is located in the northwest of the country, near the city of Siem Reap. Siem Reap International Airport is mainly served by low-cost airlines and connected to the main Asian countries, including Thailand, China, Singapore and Vietnam. So, if you are heading to Angkor, the most practical way to reach Siem Reap is to stop in Bangkok. If you are in Phnom Penh, you can reach Siem Reap by domestic flight, bus or minivan. The bus ride takes 5 hours and 30 minutes, and costs between 9 and 12 euros. To find the means of transport to reach Siem Reap from Phom Penh or the flight from an Asian country, you can use the search engine 12go.Asia.com, one of the best sites to move around Asia.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND
The Angkor complex stretches on a truly vast plain, and you will need to hire your own mean of transport. In Siem Reap, you will have the option of renting a bicycle (it costs around USD 3 per day), a minivan with a driver (if you are a larger group – ask at your hotel), or get around by tuk-tuk. If you decide to take the tuk-tuk, the daily cost to rent this world-famous motorized tricycle is approximately 30 USD. Remember to haggle with the driver, and maybe you will even get a better price. The last option is to rely on one of the many local operators and book a private tour.
ENTRANCE FEES AND OPENING TIME
The entrance ticket can be bought directly at the Angkor Ticket Center, located along Road 60. The 1-day pass costs 40 USD, the 3-day pass costs 62 USD, while the 7-day pass costs 72 USD. Passes include the visit to almost all temples, excluding Beng Mealea and Phnom Kulen, which cost an extra 20 USD. The pass is strictly personal, with a pic of yourself taken on the spot. In general, the site opens at 7.30 am and closes at 6 pm, but the opening time of the temples may vary from each other.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN SIEM REAP
One of the most frequently asked questions is how long it takes to complete the Angkor complex tour. The site is really huge and includes many beautiful temples. The best thing is to take your time without running. Two days are ideal for visiting the most beautiful and interesting temples, but we suggest spending at least 3 days in Siem Reap to have the charming boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake and visit the floating villages.
WHERE TO SLEEP AND EAT
Siem Reap offers a wide choice of accommodation to suit all budgets, ranging from hostels to exclusive hotels. The cost of the hostels is around 3 USD for the dormitory and 15 USD for a private room. The hotels instead range from 25 USD to over 200 USD, depending on the category you choose. We slept at Angkor Boutique Hotel, spending around USD 40 per night for a double room. As for restaurants and nightlife, head to Pub Street, Siem Reap’s best-known tourist street. It is an always crowded pedestrian street with numerous restaurants, bars and clubs where you can spend a nice evening drinking a cocktail or a beer.
HOW TO VISIT ANGKOR WAT COMPLEX
Spreading over 400 sq/km, the archaeological site boasts around 72 temples, some of which have not been completed or are left in a state of decay. The classic tours are divided into the small circuit and the grand circuit. Both routes include many temples and take a day to complete. However, you can customize your route in case you want to spend a single day in Angkor.
1. Small Circuit: this route includes the most photographed and famous temples of the whole archaeological complex. It starts from the Angkor Thom complex with the tour of the Bayon temple, the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Lebrid King, and some interesting temples all within this area. Leaving Angkor Thom through the Victoria gate, you move to the Ta Keo Temple, dating back to the mid-10th century. The next stop is the well-known Ta Prohm, a jungle-shrouded temple complex made famous by the movie “Tomb Raider”. You should enter from the west side of the complex and have your driver wait for you at the east side car park. After the tour of the Ta Prohm, it goes on to the Banteay Kdei temple and, at the last stop, to the most important of the whole complex, the temple of Angkor Wat. If time seems short, skip the Banteay Kdei temple and go straight to Angkor Wat.
2. Grand Circuit: the route of the Grand Circuit always starts from the Angkor Thom car park, crosses the North gate (in case there are the ruins of minor temples such as Prasat Tonle Sgot and Krol Romeas) and reaches the Preah Kahn Temple. It is the largest temple in Angkor and undoubtedly the main attraction of the route. The next stops are the Neak Pean Temple and the Ta Som Temple. From here, you pass to the East Mebon Temple and the Pre Rup Temple and ends with the Prasat Kravat Temple.
Other temples: obviously, this vast area includes other less-visited temples outside the two main routes. Among them, we mention the small Banteay Srei Temple, which remains about 35 km north of Angkor. The name means “Citadel of Women” and refers to the size and delicacy of the decoration. It is also known as the “Pink Temple” for being erected in red sandstone. It is truly a little gem because every corner of the structure is decorated with finely carved floral motifs, snakes, animals (many elephants and monkeys), gods and demons.
- 5 temples not to be missed in Angkor.
Have you visited Angkor, and you want to share your experience? Are you planning the trip and need more information? Leave us a comment below!