Angkor Wat is the largest temple complex in the world and an absolute must on any Southeast Asia itinerary. Some even say you should visit Cambodia just for Angkor. Here is a complete guide to visiting Angkor Wat.
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Welcome to the Largest Temple Complex in the World
Originally, Angkor Wat was a Hindu site dedicated to the deity of Vishnu. Construction began in 1122 CE and took 28 years. At that time, the king of the region was Suryavarman II.
In the 12th century, the mighty Khmer Empire expanded and covered almost all of Southeast Asia. Toward the end of the 12th century, the Empire adopted Buddhism and the rulers converted Angkor Wat into a Buddhist temple complex.
At 1.62 square kilometers (402 acres), Angkor is today the largest religious monument in the world. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992.
In short, Angkor Wat is my favorite temple in Asia and I would recommend it to anyone traveling to the region.
Visiting Angkor Wat: the Basics
Visiting Angkor Wat is relatively straightforward, so here are the most crucial things to know.
The entrance to the site sits just five kilometers north of the city of Siem Reap.
The current Angkor Wat entrance fee is as follows:
- USD 37 for a one-day pass (valid for 2 entrances on 2 consecutive days);
- USD 62 for 5 entries during a period of 10 days;
- USD 72 for 10 entries during a period of 30 days.
You can buy your tickets at the entrance of the site or online. The prices will be the same.
Angkor Wat Guided Tour
There are many tours available online and on the spot. You can either do a full-day tour, a sunrise tour, or a two-day tour.
I recommend choosing this full-day tour.
By going on a full-day tour with a licensed Angkor Wat travel guide, you’ll get all the information and historical background.
The tour will take you to the main Angkor Wat temple, Ta Prohm, Bayon, sunrise point, several smaller monuments, and the sunset hill. The temples are located quite far away from each other, so it’s easier to go on an organized trip.
Why choose a full-day tour?
Angkor Wat is massive, and you’ll have trouble finding everything by yourself. Another reason to opt for a full-day tour is that you’ll get all the info on the first day and then you can go back by yourself the next day for sunrise and explore on your own (the ticket is valid for at least two entrances anyways).
As such, my recommendation is to take a one-day tour and then return on your own for sunrise. You can take a Grab tuk-tuk to Angkor Wat in the morning if the tour company doesn’t pick you up.
Best Time to Visit Angkor Wat
The best time to visit Angkor Wat and Siem Reap is between December and January when the weather is dry and sunny. Those months are, however, also peak tourist season.
April and May are the hottest months. Finally, the rainy season runs from June to November, but don’t get deterred by that. You will have rain, but fewer crowds and lower prices for hotels.
Angkor Travel Guide: Must-See Angkor Wat Temples
The main temple complex stretches over 1.6 square kilometers, but there are many other places to visit inside Angkor Wat. Here are the most unmissable temples.
The Main Angkor Wat Temple
The Main Temple is the one you always see in pictures.
It’s the largest and most impressive structure. The temple has five towers, innumerable wall carvings, galleries, and several layers of impressive rooms. You can also ascend to the highest tower to catch views of the incredible surroundings.
In front of the main temple, there is a large pool reflecting the image of the towers. It’s here where people come for sunrise as the imagery is genuinely magical.
Ta Prohm Temple
Ta Prohm is one of the smaller temples at Angkor, but it’s well-known because it was a filming set in the movie Tomb Raider (2000). One of the coolest aspects of this temple is that majestic trees grow through it.
Bayon is another massive temple structure at Angkor Wat. The temple has 54 towers, symbolizing the 54 states that formed the Khmer Empire during its construction. There are also lots of carved faces and other engravings.
Apart from architectural beauty, Bayon is full of monkeys. So, be careful with food and drinks.
Sunset Point (Phnom Bakheng)
Phnom Bakheng is another massive temple situated on Angkor’s highest hill.
From here, you’ll have excellent views over the lush surroundings and it’s the best spot to watch the sunset.
One of the smaller temples within the complex, but undoubtedly worth a visit thanks to its intricate statues and carvings.
How to Get to Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is part of the city of Siem Reap, so the easiest way to get to the site is to book accommodation in Siem Reap and stay there for a few nights. There are flights to Siem Reap from Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and other large cities in Asia.
From your hotel in the center, you can easily take a Grab tuk-tuk for around 5 USD. If you go on a guided tour, the company will pick you up.
Here’s how to get to Siem Reap.
How to get to Angkor Wat from Phnom Penh
From Phnom Penh, you can either fly, take a local bus, or take a tourist van to Siem Reap.
The flights are naturally the quickest option, but also the most expensive.
Local buses are cheap, but also extremely uncomfortable. The will cost you between 5-10 USD for a 7-hour journey.
The best option is arguably the tourist shuttle. Various companies offer the journey and they charge between 10-15 USD. The best way to book is to ask your hotel in Phnom Penh to book the shuttle for you.
They’ll take a small commission, but you’ll get picked up right in front of the hotel and don’t need to worry about the bus company overcharging you. The tourist shuttle takes about 6 hours.
How to Visit Angkor Wat from Bangkok
From Bangkok, Thailand, you can take a bus or flight to Siem Reap.
The bus journey will take around 10 hours and it will set you back around 30 USD. I would take a plane as they usually only cost between 50-60 USD with Air Asia, depending on the timing.
Can you visit Angkor Wat on a day trip?
The only way to see Angkor Wat in a day is to stay in Siem Reap. It’s doable, but I don’t recommend it. You won’t get to see the site properly due to its size.
As such, two days is the minimum you’ll need to genuinely experience the mighty Angkor Wat site.
Other Things to See in Siem Reap
- Tonlé Sap Tour: from Siem Reap, you can take an organized tour to the Tonlé Sap Lake and see how people live in traditional villages built on stilts;
- Pub Street: if you want to enjoy a night out in Siem Reap, there are enough options on the fabled Pub Street. Beer usually costs around one dollar, making it a price-worthy party destination.
- Angkor National Museum: If you want to know more about the history of the mighty Khmer Empire, the National Museum is a great place to check out;
- War Museum Cambodia: the War Museum is the only museum of its kind in Cambodia and tells the story of the country’s brutal civil war.
Where to Stay in Siem Reap
Siem Reap is by far the most-visited city in Cambodia. As such, there are accommodation choices for every budget and taste. You can stay in one of the smaller budget hotels around Pub Street or go for a more luxurious one on the outskirts of the center.
You can get a Grab tuk-tuk for 1-2 dollars to pretty much anywhere in Siem Reap.
I recommend Damrei Hotel, a beautiful spa hotel a bit outside of the city’s tourism core.
Find more places to stay in Siem Reap here.
Visiting Angkor Wat: My Story
I spent two full days inside the complex of Angkor Wat and thoroughly enjoyed it.
On my first day, I joined a guided tour (see the video) and on the second day, I explored on my own.
The area is full of ancient treasures and the site just keeps getting better the longer you explore. I visited in August 2022, when the post-pandemic tourism boom hadn’t started yet. As such, the site wasn’t super crowded, which improved the experience.
Having seen most of the New Wonders of the World, I believe that Angkor Wat should be one of them. It is an astonishing location and undoubtedly my favorite temple complex in Asia.