Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire represented the pinnacle of Cambodian power and influence in Southeast Asia. From around AD 800 – 1400, this city embodied Cambodian power, architecture, religious symbolism, and devotion. It is here that the magnificence and beauty of the temple complex of Angkor are on display. Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world is arguably the 8th Wonder of the World and a must-see for anyone in Southeast Asia. Lonely Planet describes it as follows: ‘Angkor is one of the world’s foremost ancient sites with the epic proportions of the Great Wall of China, the detail and intricacy of the Taj Mahal and the symbolism and symmetry of the pyramids all rolled into one.”
Here’s what you need to know before seeing this wonder.
Before Going to Angkor Wat
Before going to Angkor Wat, some research is definitely in order. Questions you may want to ask yourself:
- What is the historical and cultural impact of the temples?
- Take the time to just research beforehand the impact of Angkor. This will maximize your experience while there. UNESCO provides a brief synopsis here. Check it out.
- When is the best time to go?
- This is best determined by your personal budget and tolerance for staggering heat/people. The general consensus seems to be if you love crowds: November – March, if you love staggering heat: April and May and if you love rain: June – October.
- Which of the 72 temples do I want to visit?
- There is a lot to see here and it may depend on the time you’ve allowed and your tour guide. I was able to see: Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm, and Banteay Kadei.
- What is the appropriate dress?
- As mentioned, Angkor Wat is a religious site. Covered shoulders and legs up to the knee should be fine.
- When during the day is best to see the temples?
- Sunrise and Sunset especially if you are traveling during the hot months.
- What is my budget?
- Allow costs for a tour guide, entrance, excursions etc. More on that below.
Getting to Angkor Wat
I stayed in Siem Reap, a city in Northwest Cambodia considered the gateway and hub to the temples. (Side Note: Temples aside, this city is still one to be enjoyed on its own with many attractions and offerings.) One of the lessons learned while visiting the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh was the necessity of hiring a guide. Whether private or group is your choice but it’s definitely worth it. Ultimately, the value you receive not only enhances the experience but solves a lot of the potential transport logistical nightmares. Depending on your itinerary, you can get you access to the various temples, return transport from hotel and lunch. Check out Viator for tour options and excursions here. Note: Confirm the inclusion/exclusion details of the package as it may not include the entrance fee to the temple complex.
- One Day Pass: $37
- Three Day Pass: 62
- Seven Day Pass: $72
At Angkor Wat
Take it all in! You’ve made it. In retrospect, I would have devoted three days to a week here to get the most from this experience. But nevertheless, this experience has been one that meets and exceeds all expectations. From the sheer magnitude and scale of the sculptures to receiving a Monk’s water blessing, Angkor Wat is a bucket list dream item for any traveler.