We stayed in Siem Reap, Cambodia for 5 days and had a fantastic time exploring the nearby Angkor temples complex, including Angkor Wat, one of the world’s largest religious sites.

Here’s our complete guide to the temples, based on our experience during our visit which we hope will help you in planning a trip to the wonderful Angkor temples.

The first section lists many handy things to know for your visit and the second section is a guide temple by temple in the order that we explored them.

What is Angkor Wat?

Angkor Wat front Cambodia

We were a bit confused about this before we visited. Angkor Wat always turns up on those ‘top 100 places to see before you die’ lists but what exactly is it and why is it so important?

Angkor Wat is just one of the 50 plus Angkor temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park and Siem Reap Province which stretches across some 400 square kilometres. Angkor was the vast capital city of the Khmer Empire, which ruled over much of Southeast Asia from the 9th to 15th centuries. It is estimated that the city supported up to 1 million people at the empire’s height.

Angkor Wat is the most famous of all the remaining Angkor temples today, being the best-preserved thanks mainly to continual use since its construction in the 12th century. It has 5 distinctive towers in the central temple which when viewed from the front create the iconic 3 towered image which features on the Cambodian national flag. 

However, looking beyond Angkor Wat, there are an amazing array of ancient Angkor temples to explore. Not all of them are accessible to visitors today but the core of 20 or so sites is more than enough to keep you interested.

As you explore the Angkor temples it’s worth to remember that these solid stone structures were reserved for the highest and most revered in Khmer society such as kings and monks. There would have been tens of thousands of common people living on the edge of these sites in simple wooden structures which of course are long gone.

Angkor Tickets Explained

You only need to buy 1 admission ticket or ‘Angkor Pass’ to explore all the temples included in the Angkor Archaeological Park. This one ticket will cover you for all the Angkor temples mentioned in this guide. Nice and simple.

You can buy a ticket which is valid for a 1, 3 or 7-day visit.

Prices Updated for 2019:

  • 1 day ticket = $37
  • 3 days ticket = $62
  • 7 days ticket = $72

If you buy a 3-day ticket you can use it on any 3 days within the 7 days from the date of purchase which is very handy. It used to be consecutive days only but it has changed so ignore any old information on ticket validity.

You will need your passport or country ID when purchasing your ticket before entering Angkor, don’t forget this and waste time heading back to your hotel. At the window they will take a picture of your face which is printed onto the ticket to prevent fraud, clever stuff, just remember to smile.

Also if you’re visiting the park without a Tuk tuk or guided tour make sure you head to the ticket office first which is just off of Apsara Road, northeast of Siem Reap. All tours will stop here on your first day for you to obtain tickets.

Angkor Ticket Temples Cambodia

How Many Days do I Need to visit Angkor Temples?

So now you know your ticket options, what should you opt for? Well, that really depends on how much time you have to spare but we would suggest getting a 3-day ticket.

Unless you’re a huge Khmer temple fan or want to explore super slowly, we’d say that 7 days is a bit too much.

Equally, 1 day just isn’t enough. If it really is your only option then plan your time wisely to avoid peak times at each of the main Angkor temples included below, and get ready for a long sweaty day.

We stayed for 5 nights in Siem Reap which gave us 4 days to explore. With our 3 day ticket, we went temple exploring on day 1, 2 and 4 of our stay. The 3rd day was a casual stroll around the town and some rest time before diving back in on day 4.

We realise this is a luxury but if you can do it, this is what we would recommend time wise. Regardless of how many days you have, see the notes below about ‘temple fatigue’ and how to avoid it.
Angkor Wat monk Cambodia


Download this article as a self-guided walking tour on your smartphone.

  Check out our Angkor Temples guide on gpsmycity.com  


How do You Tour the Angkor Temples?

The chances are you’ll be staying in Siem Reap where the majority of hotels and hostels are to be found. It’s a buzzy little town which is geared up to cater for the 2 million plus visitors that visit Angkor temples each year.

Central Siem Reap is around 6 km south of Angkor Wat temple with many of the other temples in the park several kilometres apart.

Walking isn’t such a great option for most of us when you factor in the distances covered within the temples.

Cycling is one option if you are feeling fit and we saw quite a few people exploring Angkor by bike. Bikes can be hired in Siem Reap for around $2 a day, just ask at your hotel or hostel. Make sure you get a decent lock included as you’ll need to leave them unattended outside the temple gates at most sites.

Motorbike travel will involve less pedalling and again can be hired in town. Alternatively, go via your hotel but beware of the old scratches/damage scam. Take lots of photos when hiring it to ensure you’re not accused of adding some superficial damage with a hefty fine.

Tuk tuk is the way we explored Angkor temples and it’s what we would recommend. We booked via our lovely hotel at a cost of $17 per day and the driver dropped us right outside the gates to each temple. He also recommended a good restaurant amongst the Angkor temples and was flexible with the route we took over the 3 days.

Having a waiting Tuk tuk is also brilliant when you stagger out of a temple in a state of exhaustion. You can just jump in and rest your legs as you zoom off to the next site. It also provides mobile shade from the intense sun or shelter from the tropical rain.

Private tours can be booked from most hotels in Siem Reap or in advance online. Prices start at around $40 per person for a half day tour with a guide and a Tuk tuk.

If you are travelling as a family, here is everything you need to know when visiting Angkor Wat temples with kids. 

Dude. Where’s my Tuk tuk?

If you do go for the Tuk tuk option remember to take a photo of yours with the driver too. Around some of the temple car parks, there are lots of very similar looking Tuk tuks waiting for their customers, so make sure you don’t lose yours.

Also be very clear with the driver where you are meeting them when you exit each temple. Sometimes this might be on the opposite side of the site so confirm which compass direction it is and what to look out for there i.e. toilet block.

Exploring the Temples Angkor Cambodia

Don’t get ‘Temple Fatigue’

Where possible, it’s really worth taking your time over a visit to Angkor temples. It’s a special place and deserves enough time to fully appreciate this ‘8th wonder of the world’ as some have called it.

Our top tip is… slow down.

Take the time to look around and appreciate the subtle differences between the temple sites. If you rush around the park just to ‘do Angkor’ you might end up feeling that the temples ‘all look the same’. But the differences are to be found in the carvings, layouts, orientation and eras which you might overlook if you’re in a hurry.

Another reason to take it easy is the heat. Angkor is in a jungle in Southeast Asia so yes it is very humid and you will sweat. A lot. It can be a real killer when the sun is beaming down and some of the temple areas offer little shade so go steady and keep well hydrated.

When Should You Visit?

In terms of the best time of year to visit Angkor, we would opt for the rainy season which runs from June until September. Call us mad but the sites will be much quieter and the looming clouds offer great protection from the sun. Plus the jungle surroundings will be at their most lush and green.

When it did rain the storms didn’t last that long and over 4 days there was more than enough dry weather to explore. Maybe we were lucky but the rainy season often isn’t as wet as people imagine.

November to March signals the peak travel season with the coolest dry weather so the temples can get packed out. Follow the advice of your driver if you have one. They do this every day so will know the best times to visit each temple site.

Ta Prohm temple Angkor Cambodia

What Should You Wear?

As stated on the admission tickets make sure you cover shoulders and knees when visiting Angkor, dressing like Lara Croft isn’t recommended. Overall this isn’t enforced too strictly by the guards but it’s a simple sign of respect in a very sacred place if nothing else.

We did see one person refused entry to the top of Angkor Wat because she had a strappy top on and a scarf covering her shoulders was not deemed good enough.

So to be on the safe side wear a t-shirt or similar and knee-length shorts at least. This is also good for sun protection as burnt shoulders are not much fun the following day.

For footwear, we would suggest decent trainers (sneakers) or sturdy closed-toe sandals. The surfaces are uneven everywhere and with the large amounts of walking involved you need to keep your feet comfy. Hiking boots would only really be needed if it had been raining for days on end.

Food and Drink

Before we visited we weren’t sure how to plan our day around our meals but there’s no need to worry. Food is available outside the entrance and exit points to most of the larger temple sites.

These are pretty basic open food stalls with tables and chairs set out by a small kitchen offering mostly noodle and rice dishes. They also sell canned and bottled drinks as well as some welcome fresh smoothies, juices and coconuts.

There are also several restaurants scattered around the park where dishes typically start from $5 and up. If you’re feeling the heat there are a few with aircon at a slightly higher price.

We visited in the quieter wet season and most of the food stalls around the temples were offering a few dollars off the listed prices. Dishes are usually around the $5 to $6 mark but we got some for around $4. Water was usually $1 for a large bottle.

A cheaper alternative would be to bring snacks and drinks with you and there are plenty of stores in Siem Reap to grab some at a lower cost than in the park.

Angkor Temples Guide

What’s the Grand and Small Circuit?

You might see tours labelled as Grand and/or Small when looking into hiring a Tuk tuk or when cycling around the park. Simply put they both run via Angkor Wat and through Angkor Thom, past Bayon, where the main bulk of visitors go but the Grand Circuit then extends eastwards to cover the smaller temple sites.

This can be a bit confusing because they both cover many of the same larger Angkor temples but if you are booking a tour or Tuk tuk for 2 or 3 days they will cut the grand tour into 2 or 3 parts. There’s only really 1 main road that runs past any of the temples so just reference the map against the guide below to work out your best route.

Also, you might see the Roluos Group mentioned in tour itineraries. This small group of temples are located 13 km east of Siem Reap and are also included in all Angkor Pass tickets.

Map_of_Angkor_Archaeological_Park

Image: Stefan Fussan via Wikimedia Commons

Full Angkor Temples Guide

So now you have an idea of what a visit to Angkor involves we’re going to run you through each of the temples we visited. This will be in the order we saw them as it worked out really well for us but this is meant as a general guide so you can mix and match to suit you.

Day One

We met our driver and left the hotel at 9am to head to the ticket office and buy a 3-day pass. As mentioned before, don’t forget your passport or ID before heading off to buy tickets.

1. Pre Rup

Built: Late 10th century

Best time to visit: Anytime

Time needed: 20-30 minutes

Highlights: Finely detailed carvings on the doorways as pictured below. There’s lots of restoration and preservation happening here. You can climb to the upper level for a good view over the surrounding forest so it was a good place to start off our tour.

Map coordinates: 13.434964, 103.921170

Pre Rup temple angkor


Download this article as a self-guided walking tour on your smartphone.

  Check out our Angkor Temples guide on gpsmycity.com  


2. Banteay Srei (Citadel of the Women)

This temple is around 25 km north of the main temples of Angkor. Our driver offered to take us here after seeing that we were up for maximum temple viewing on our first day. Admission is included in the Angkor Pass.

We paid an extra $10 for the trip out and back which took around 40 minutes each way. This can be done as a separate half day tour and combined with the nearby Cambodian Landmine Museum.

Built: the 10th century

Best time to visit: Early morning or late afternoon

Time needed: 1 to 2 hours

Highlights: Both the wonderful pinkish stone and the intricate carvings combine to make this temple stand out from all others at Angkor. The more remote location adds to the sense that you’ve found something a bit special and we’d recommend adding this to your ‘must see’ list.

Apsaras, celestial nymphs in Hindu tradition, feature prominently across many of the detailed carvings here and contribute to the mystical charm. The site has benefitted from huge investment and now boast modern toilets, shop, visitor centre and cafe. 

Map coordinates: 13.598855, 103.963311

Banteay Srei temple angkor

3. East Mebon

Built: the 10th century

Best time to visit: Anytime

Time needed: 20 – 30 minutes

Highlights: Very similar in appearance to Pre Rup the mountain style temple rises 3 levels above the ground. Look out for the Elephants still proudly guarding the corners of the remaining ruins.

Map coordinates: 13.446652, 103.919793

East Mebon temple Angkor

4. Ta Som

Built: the 12th century

Best time to visit: Anytime

Time needed: 1 hour

Highlights: The tree growing over some of the ruins acts as a preview to the famous Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider Temple) and this feels like a more intimate, quieter version. There are many Deva (Hindu term for deity) carvings in great condition. Also, don’t miss the smiling faces above the main gateway.

Map coordinates: 13.464613, 103.913942

Ta Som temple Angkor

5. Neak Pean

Built: the 12th century

Best time to visit: Anytime

Time needed: 30 minutes

Highlights: To get to this small temple you cross a long walkway through a lake, it’s a rather dramatic setting. What remains of the temple might be a slight anti-climax but the small island surrounded by a lake gives it a very different feel to any of the Angkor temples. We think it’s the only one you can’t walk right through and have to view from a distance.

Map coordinates: 13.463296, 103.895003

Neak Pean temple Angkor

6. Preah Khan

Built: the 12th century

Best time to visit: Anytime

Time needed: 1 hour

Highlights: This large ruin complex was great fun to explore and feels like a real adventure as you can walk right through the corridors from one side to the other. It was thought to be constructed as a Buddhist monastery and you can still feel the tranquillity today. It’s a great place to get some stranger free shots due to the size and maze-like layout.

Map coordinates: 13.461957, 103.872315

Preah Khan temple Angkor

Day Two

Today we left the hotel at 8am as we were heading to the biggie and wanted to avoid some of the later crowds and coach tours.

7. Angkor Wat

Built: Early 12th century

Best time to visit: Many people visit Angkor Wat on day trips from other cities or even countries so the earlier you can get there the better. There’s always the option to come for sunrise and grab an iconic photo of dawn breaking over the towers. Equally later in the day many of them will head off so it can be a good time to pop by, particular as the sun shines on the front in the afternoon.

Time needed: 2 – 4 hours

Highlights: Angkor Wat is massive, stunning from every angle and lives up to just about every cliche you can throw at it. As you approach the site the sheer size and splendour strike you first, the huge moat running around the perimeter met by walls which are 1300 meters x 1500 meters long.

The main causeway runs across the moat up to the gateway and then onwards into the central temple buildings. This is the busiest area and it’s difficult to get a good photo here but due to the size of the temple, it’s easy to find a quieter spot. Head around the perimeter to the back of the temple buildings for a clearer view and better photo opportunities.

Walk around the exterior walls of the lower level to see the fantastic bas-reliefs which depict stories and characters from Hindu mythology. Sit down for a while and absorb the fact that this structure is well over 900 years old and still so magnificently imposing.

Also, don’t miss the staircase that leads you up to the higher level under the towers. There’s a great view back towards the main gate from here but you might have to wait up to 1 hour at peak times as the number of people allowed up is limited. We waited around 20 minutes.

Map coordinates: 13.412480, 103.867522

Angkor Wat temple Cambodia

8. Prasat Kravan

Built: Early 10th century

Best time to visit: Quiet anytime but afternoon for best light

Time needed: 10 – 20 minutes

Highlights: This is a nice quick stop after the might of the bigger Angkor temples. It was reconstructed by the archaeologists in the early 20th century and is the only temple here with brick bas-reliefs. The temple faces away from the road so make sure you walk around to see the impressive carvings inside the towers which look stunning in the sunshine.

Map coordinates: 13.419771, 103.900225

Prasat Kravan temple Angkor

9. Sras Srang & Banteay Kdei

Built: Late 12th to early 13th century

Best time to visit: Anytime 

Time needed: 40 minutes – 1 hour for both

Highlights: On opposite sides of the road you have a monastic complex (Banteay Kdei) and a baray (Sras Srang) which is a large rectangular lake. The lake offers a good spot to watch the sunrise way from the crowds but there are very few remains here today. The landing platform, pictured below, is flanked by naga balustrades and guardian lions.

Across the road, you’ll feel slightly unsafe amongst the chaotic ruins of this former Buddhist monastery. It’s a stark contrast to the solid buildings of Angkor Wat and the lack of restoration here gives it a magical feel, just mind your head.

Map coordinates:
Saras Srang 13.430314, 103.903648
Banteay Kdei 13.430001, 103.898648

Srah Srang Angkor Cambodia

10. Ta Prohm

Built: Mid 12th to early 13th century

Best time to visit: Quieter in the mornings

Time needed: 1 hour

Highlights: Since it served as a backdrop in the 2001 movie Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie, Ta Prohm has secured its place on the must-see temple list at Angkor. It has been left partially restored with the trees growing over and right through the temple structures.

It really helps to bring home the age of the temples at Angkor. As you stand there, try and imagine what it must have been like to first rediscover them in amongst the dense jungle. Take your time here and be patient, if you’re after some great photos Ta Prohm won’t disappoint.

Map coordinates: 13.434836, 103.889594

Ta Prohm Temple Angkor Cambodia

Read more: Cambodia Travel Guide

Day Off

As we mentioned earlier, we split our Angkor visit with a break on the 3rd day and explored Siem Reap instead. This really helped us pace things nicely and we felt refreshed heading back for day 3 at Angkor.

Day Three

On our final day of exploring the Angkor temples, we started out at 8am again. We found that the earlier you can start exploring the better to help avoid the heat and crowds a little.

11. Phnom Bakheng

Built: Late 9th to early 10th century

Best time to visit: Anytime before sunset when it gets very crowded being the ultimate vantage point conveniently located closest to Angkor Wat. Maybe look for other sunset locations as numbers allowed up around dusk are now limited due to the restoration works. 

Time needed: 1 hour including a walk up and down.

Highlights: This was the first temple built at Angkor and is still the highest today, sitting proudly upon a natural hill and overlooking the jungle for miles in all directions. The gentle climb up is worth it for the views alone as there is not so much to explore in terms of the temple structure. You’ll need a decent zoom to get a clear shot of Angkor Wat, as you can see below, it’s around 1 km away.

Map coordinates: 13.423818, 103.856490

Phnom Bakheng temple Angkor Cambodia


Download this article as a self-guided walking tour on your smartphone.

  Check out our Angkor Temples guide on gpsmycity.com  


12. Bayon

Built: Late 12th century

Best time to visit: Early or late to avoid the tour groups

Time needed: 40 minutes – 1 hour

Highlights: Famous for the smiling faces staring out over the site from the numerous towers, Bayon is another temple for the must-visit list. You can walk right inside to the upper levels and literally come face to face with the happy giant stone carvings which surround you. It’s actually difficult to find a spot where their eyes won’t be watching you.

Don’t miss the detailed bas-reliefs on the lower levels of the exterior walls which depict a wide range of scenes from Khmer life in amongst those of a battle.

Map coordinates: 13.441381, 103.859097

Bayon temple Angkor Cambodia

13. Angkor Thom Temples

Map_of_Angkor_Thom

Image: Stefan Fussan via Wikimedia Commons

There are several temple buildings and parades just to the north of Bayon but within the huge walled and moated area of Angkor Thom, sometimes called Big Angkor. As you come into the site it’s worth a quick stop at one of the impressive bridges and gates which still serve as the only entrances today.

We have grouped the structures in this area together here as they are so close together it really counts as one complete stop on a tour.

Built: Late 12th century to early 13th century

Best time to visit: Anytime due to the size of the site

Time needed: 2 – 4 hours

Highlights: 

Baphuon – immediately north of Bayon, a grand raised walkway leads you down to the massive temple mountain structure which you can climb up for a nice view across the site. Make sure you walk all the way around it to the back to see the massive reclining Buddha formed of huge stone blocks which were added to the temple in the 1500s.  

Map coordinates: 13.443781, 103.856747

Phimeanakas – is just to the north of Baphuon and hiding in amongst the trees, we almost missed it. It has taken a battering over the years so there’s not much detail here but it is the highest point in Angkor Thom if you fancy a climb up for the views.

Map coordinates: 13.445764, 103.856854

Terrace of the Elephants – runs north to south along the entranceway to Phimeanakas for 300 meters and stands 2.5 meters tall. It features impressive elephant carvings all the way along and some fantastic sculptures to the northern end.

Terrace of the Leper King – is at the northern end of the Terrace of the Elephants. Having been restored you can now walk between the outer and inner wall to see some amazing carvings along this section including five headed horses, warriors and dancers.

Map coordinates: 13.446255, 103.859214

Terrace of the Elephants Angkor Thom Cambodia

14. Chau Say Tevoda & Thommanon

Built: Early 11th – 12th century 

Best time to visit: Anytime

Time needed: 30 – 40 minutes

Highlights: Chau Say Tevoda – a great example of what restoration work can achieve at Angkor. Take some time to read the info boards on the way in to fully appreciate the work that has gone into what you see here today.

Thommanon – just across the road is a small temple built roughly the same time as Angkor Wat which is reflected in the well-preserved tower structures found here.

Map coordinates: 13.446104, 103.877485

Chau Say Tevoda Angkor Cambodia

15. Ta Keo

Built: Late 10th to early 11th century

Best time to visit: Anytime 

Time needed: 20 – 30 minutes

Highlights: One of the plainest temples at Angkor with a lack of carvings but the steep steps up present an interesting challenge. It’s quite a climb to the top and, unfortunately, the views are not so great. You wouldn’t be missing too much if you’re tight on time or just done for the day.

Map coordinates: 13.444691, 103.882553

Ta Keo Angkor Cambodia


Download this article as a self-guided walking tour on your smartphone.

  Check out our Angkor Temples guide on gpsmycity.com  


Have you visited the Angkor temples? Which one was your favourite? Let us know in the comments below… 

guide-to-angkor-temples-cambodia-1