ANGKOR ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK –
1 DAY – $37 – VALID ON THE DAY OF PURCHASE*
3 DAY – $62 – VALID FOR TEN DAYS
7 DAY – $72 – VALID FOR A MONTH
*The 1 day ticket can be purchased after 5pm the day before to allow you to see sunset at the Temples.
OTHER DESTINATIONS – One Day Passes only
PHNOM KULEN – $20
KOH KER – $10
BENG MEALEA – $5
Angkor Archaeological Park
The UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Archaeological Park is the main reason people come to Siem Reap, and eOcambo can ensure you don’t miss out on seeing as much as you wish.
There are over 50 temples and monuments in the Park!
The Park contains Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm, the three ‘must see’ temples.
But that is just a few of the amazing temples in the park, you can also explore the numerous other temples and the monuments in the Imperial Capital of Angkor Thom.
Outside the two main areas of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are Preah Khan, Ta Som, and the old East Baray containing East Mebon. You can explore Pre Rup, Banteay Kdei as well as a plethora of smaller temples and monuments from the Golden Age of the Angkor Empire.
There are two main circuits through the park; the Big Circuit a full day around 40 kms, and the Small circuit, 17 kms which can be done in half a day.
Our tip for sunset is to buy the Angkor Archaeological Park Ticket after 4.30pm. It will be dated for the next day but still allow you to enter the Park after 5pm to see the sunset. This also leaves you with the option to see the sunrise the next day. The best sunset locations in the Park are Phnom Bakheng, Srah Srang and Pre Rup.
For sunrise you must depart at 4.30am and already have your Angkor Archaeological Park ticket ready. The sunrise at Angkor Wat is the most popular by far, but if you wish to avoid the crowds, walk around the temple to find a less crowded vantage point, or go to Phnom Bakheng. Angkor Wat is busy straight after sunrise and usually least crowded between 7-9am.
Major Temples and Monuments
Angkor Wat – The World’s Largest Religious Monument
The most famous Temple of the Angkorian Empire was built in less than 40 years. Begun in 1113, it was dedicated to Shiva in 1150 by King Suryavarman and became his mausoleum. It is a microcosm of the Hindu Universe.
Angkor Wat is now a Buddhist Temple, or Wat, it was converted from Hinduism by King Jayavarman VII in the 13th century.
Angkor Wat was never abandoned and still remains a working temple, and the most sacred in Cambodia.
Angkor Thom – Jayavarman VII’s Imperial City
Angkor Thom means Big (Thom) City (Angkor). It was the largest of all Khmer cities and at its height, one of the largest cities in the world. London, for example covered 2.62km, Angkor Thom was much larger at 92kms! The city was built in the 12th Century by King Jayavarman VII and remained the Capital until the Empire moved the court south in the 15th Century.
Angkor Thom was built around an existing city which already contained temples and monuments, so several different architectural styles can be found within its walls.
Ta Prohm – Jayavarman VII’s Monastery Dedicated to his Mother
Better known today as the “Tomb Raider” Temple, it is covered with strangler figs and silk-cotton trees. These trees have been deliberately left in situ and they give the temple an atmospheric feel. Ta Prohm had more than 80 thousand people attending to its needs and around 13 thousand of them lived within its walls.
Preah Khan – Jayavarman VII’s University Dedicated to his Father
Preah Khan means Royal Sword and it was built on the site of Jayavarman’s victory over the Cham in 1191. It was a centre which combined the roles of city, temple and Buddhist University: there were 97,840 attendants and servants, including 1000 dancers and 1000 teachers.
Preah Khan contains the only two story Angkorian monument still surviving.
Phnom Bakheng – the 1st State Temple at Angkor
The “Strong Hill” is a natural hill and when the Capital City moved to this area in the 890s, the first Angkorian State Temple was built on the hill.
Phnom Bakheng affords some wonderful sightseeing; the views over the plain are spectacular with the spires of the temples poking out of the jungle. It is especially worth visiting for sunrise and sunset.
Banteay Samre – Restored Angkor Wat Style Temple
This Temple, the “Citadel of the Samre” is relatively isolated and receives fewer tourists.
It has been thoroughly restored and is almost complete, this gives the viewer a better idea of how it may have looked when in use 900 years ago.
The location and lack of crowds makes this temple a beautiful, peaceful place, absolutely perfect for photography.
Rohal Village – Art and Handicrafts
Rohal Village is an artist’s village and many of the artists are teenagers. As well as stunning paintings, a range of handicrafts and traditional musical instruments are made in the village.
You can meet the makers and buy a souvenir directly from them. This will be a real souvenir as you will have a story about where it was made and by whom. The village is set in rice fields and will give you a glimpse into traditional village life.
Neak Pean – Jayavarman’s Hospital
Neak Pean was built by Jayavarman VII as a hospital on an island in the baray of Preah Khan. Four connected pools represent Water, Earth, Fire and Wind. Each is connected to the central water source, the main tank, by a stone conduit “presided over by one of Four Great Animals namely the Elephant, Bull, Horse, and Lion, corresponding to the north, east, south, and west quarters. They believed bathing in the water would help cure illness.
Ta Som is a small temple built by Jayavarman VII to honour his father. It has been left largely unrestored, it is surrounded by a moat and laterite walls on three sides. This is a charming little temple which you will probably have to yourself. The trees overgrowing the temple give it a “lost to the jungle” feel.
Chau Srei Vibol – The old and the new
Chau Srei Vibol is located in an enormous moat on a small hill. It was built in the 11th century and not a great deal is known about the temple. It is set in a charming spot that is perfect for picnics. Nearby is a modern Wat which give a great juxtaposition of the old and new. Archaeological investigations using ground penetrating radar indicate there are several other ancient structures close by.
Srah Srang – Peaceful Baray with a Tranquil Vista
Srah Srang is a Baray, a water reservoir built around a thousand years ago to provide water “for the benefit of all creatures…except for the dyke breakers” (elephants).
It was remodelled two hundred years later and became known as Srah Srang, “The Royal Bath”. The Terrace was built at this time and is contemporary with Banteay Kdei, opposite. There was probably a small temple or sanctuary in the centre of the lake. It is perfect for sunrise or sunset.
Banteay Kdei – Citadel of the Cells
Banteay Kdei was named for the monk’s small, cell like dwellings and was built by Jayavarman VII probably in honour of his tutor.
It is a smaller temple making it easy to visit. It has been left unrestored beyond stabilisation
It is a lovely temple with beautiful photo opportunities
The Bayon is the Royal Temple of the Imperial City, both built by Jayavarman VII. There are 218 Smiling Faces looking out over the former city, it has been suggested the faces are modelled on the King, but they are supposed to represent the Buddha. The Bas-relief depicts the lifestyle of the people, mythology, history and even how the temples were built.
Baphuon – The Temple Mountain
Baphoun was built before Angkor Thom as a Hindu State Temple. It was so magnificent that the Chinese diplomat Zhou Dagun wrote at the end of the 13th Century:
“North of the Golden Tower (Bayon)… rises the Tower of Bronze… a truly astonishing spectacle, with more than ten chambers at its base.” Baphuon was restored by completely dismantling it and rebuilding it. It was known as The World’s Biggest Jigsaw when the plans were lost during the dark years of the 1970s.
The temple was the focal point of Suryavarman I’s capital and within the former Royal Palace walls. It predates Angkor Thom and was built during the reign of Rajendravarman (from 941-968). There are no visible remains of the Palace as it was not built of stone.
Originally the temple pyramid was topped with a tower which was crowned with a golden pinnacle. The view from the top is spectacular
Terrace of the Leper King Terrace of the Elephants
These two terraces were used for Royal Processions and Ceremonial Occasions. The Terrace of the Leper King received its name from a statue of the Hindu god of Death found at the site; it was covered in moss, looking diseased. The statue fits with the Cambodian legend of an Angkorian King, Yasovarman I who had leprosy.
Temples Outside the Park
Banteay Srei – “Jewel of Khmer Art”
Is the most exquisitely carved and beautiful of all the Angkorian Temples. The intricate carving in the beautiful pink sandstone brings the sculptures to life. The name is modern and translates to Citadel of the Women, but it has nothing to do with women, although the name may come from the most beautiful female deities, known as “devatas”, carved into the pink sandstone walls. There is a legend that female soldiers were trained here, but no other evidence that this occurred.
These temples are the oldest surviving structures built by the Angkorian Empire in the 9th Century. Best of all, they are usually missed by most tourists so you often have the temple complex to yourself. This was the site of the second Capital city of the Khmer Empire and the first on the Angkorian Plain. The different styles of architecture demonstrate the change from the older Chenla Empire who built in brick to the Khmer Style of laterite and sandstone. There are four temples to explore, including Lolei and Preah Monti.
Rolous Group – Bakong
This is the highlight of the Rolous Group and is the first temple mountain of its style; it features five levels, with a centre tower, and boasts an impressive height of 15 meters. It was the state temple at the centre of Hariharalaya. It collapsed at some point but was reconstructed by the French between 1937 and 1945. It also features the beautiful Bakong Pagoda, which is modern and displays interesting murals. The pagoda is in great condition and is still in use. The modern village is named after the temple.
Rolous Group – Preah Ko
With statues of bulls surrounding it, it’s no wonder that this temple’s name means “sacred bull”. It features beautifully preserved carvings and six towers. Inside each tower is a small, active shrine. Preah Ko is the oldest temple, it was dedicated in 879 and dedicated to Shiva.
A restoration of the towers took place in early 1990s, financed by German government.
Lost Cities of the Khmer Empire
Beng Mealea was the temple in an important city on the ancient Royal Highway which once linked Angkor with the Empire’s other cities in what is now Laos and Thailand. This Temple is a mystery, its builder is unknown, although it is often considered to be the ‘blue print’ for Angkor Wat. The temple is also a movie star; Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 2004 movie about two tiger cubs ‘Two Brothers’ was beautifully filmed here.
Koh Ker – The Lost City in the Jungle
Arriving at Koh Ker can feel like travelling back in time to when the French first saw this jungle covered city. Don a pith helmet and drape a silk scarf to get into a 19th-century romantic French explorer vibe. The former city is now jungle, with unrestored temples and monuments, remote and usually deserted. There are 180 sanctuaries, temples and monuments are recorded in the area, but not all are accessible due to landmines. Take those Landmine signs seriously!
Banteay Chhmar – Citadel of the Cats
This enormous complex, which was a temple city, is one of the most intriguing in the Khmer Empire, both for its scale and its remote location. Never excavated, Banteay Chhmar fits the picture of a lost Khmer city with its ruined face-towers, carvings, forest surroundings and bird life flying through the temple. Banteay Chhmar originally enclosed a city with the temple at the heart. No traces of the city that surrounded the temple remain and it is still a mystery, there’s also no reference to cats
Preah Vihear – The disputed temple on the border
Situated on the edge of a plateau, Preah Vihear is dedicated to Shiva and dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. Preah Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built by the Khmer Empire, you can see into Thailand and Laos from the cliff it is perched upon. On July 7, 2008, Preah Vihear was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple has been the site of some conflict, Cambodia and Thailand both claimed the temple before being awarded to Cambodia in 2013. The bunker systems from this conflict are still being used as homes.
Sacred Rivers and Waterfalls
Phnom Kulen, translating to ‘Lychee Mountain’ is the most sacred mountain in Cambodia. It was from here Jayavarman II declared himself the King of the Khmer and the Angkorian Empire was born in 802.
Linga and Yonis were carved into the riverbed, which a King had diverted while they were being carved, to make the waters sacred and fertile. From there the river tumbles down two waterfalls, at the base of the larger one is a refreshing swimming area. Try the Red Bananas which are only grown on the mountain.
Wat Preah Ang Thom is a sacred to the Khmer and it is pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus. It houses an enormous reclining Buddha carved into the sandstone.
From the village are several bush tracks you can follow to find hidden jungle sanctuaries, there are temples and monuments scattered all over the mountain. It was a large city during the 800s and the first capital of the Angkorian Empire
Kbal Spean – The River of a Thousand Lingas
Kbal Spean, translating to ‘Bridge Head’ is stunning and worth the trip, and climb. It is about 50km from Siem Reap and then a 1500m trek up the mountain on a jungle path. At the end is a stunning waterfall with great swimming holes and tiny sand beaches, depending on the season. In the middle of the wet season the water roars over the waterfall and is impressive in its power, at other times of the year, you can stand under it like a refreshing shower. There’s even a natural water slide into a rock pool from the base of the waterfall.
It was a sacred watershed of the Angkorian Empire and the riverbeds were carved with Gods, Lingas, Yonis and other religious symbols. The King had the river redirected while these carvings were done. As the water passes over the carvings it is made sacred and fertile. It is still a site of pilgrimage for the Khmer people.
Tonle Sap and Floating Villages
The Tonle Sap was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1997. It is the beating heart of Cambodia, and not just because of geography. Annually it increases in size 16 times. The lake is one of the world’s most significant wetland ecosystems with exceptional biodiversity. The extraordinary variety of life on Tonle Sap was documented as early as the 13th century by the Chinese scholar Zhou Daguan.
The lake also supports a diversity of human lifestyles as well. It is home to ethnic Vietnamese, Cham, Khmers, Christians, Buddhists and Muslims. Over a million people live on the lake. Their economy and lifestyle is deeply intertwined with the lake, the fish, the wildlife and the cycles of rising and falling waters.
People live in floating villages, which move with the annual flooding, and also in stilted houses, which tower above the ground in the dry season.
During the wet season, the Mekong River’s water level rises and overflows into Tonle Sap River which, instead of draining the lake as it does during the dry season, is forced to change direction and flow back ‘up’ into the lake. This is one of only two rivers in the world to flow in two directions at different times of the year
Kampong Khleang – The Town on Silts
Kampong Khleang, is located on the northern edge of Tonle Sap lake about 35Km east of Siem Reap. The locals live on stilted houses rising up from the ground about 10 to 12 meters in the dry season, and seeming to float in the wet. Kampong Khleang is a permanent community within the floodplain of the lake, with an economy based on fishing, and surrounded by flooded forest.
Kampong Phluk – The village on Stilts
The name means “Harbour of the Tusks”. The community largely depends on fishing for survival, spending Cambodia’s wet season (May – October) fishing. During the dry season (November – April) as the river thins due to receding water, many turn to farming to supplement their income. Tourism, which started in the village approximately 10 years ago, is also a growing part of the local economy.
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary and Floating Village
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary in the Tonle Sap World Biosphere Reserve is an internationally important reserve of over 22 thousand hectares. There is also a floating village of the same name which moves with the flooding of the lake and supports the sanctuary with eco-tourism and former poachers are now wildlife rangers. The sanctuary is home to more than 150 species of birds and at least seven endangered species.
Chong Khneas – Close and easy
Chong Khneas is the closest and most visited of the floating villages. You will take a boat ride out to one of the floating restaurants in the lake, many double as a crocodile farm. This is the easiest and quickest way to get a taste of life on the lake, but beware the rice scam. You may be approached to buy rice for the local school; you will be taken to the vendor and sold hugely overpriced rice which is then returned when you leave.