Angkor Wat, a wonder of the world
Angkor Wat is just one of the temples of the Angkor complex and was once the Capital of an Empire which ruled much of Southeast Asia. The Mighty Khmer first rose to being in the year 802 CE and dominated the region until 1,431 CE. Although the Khmer have faded into history, their wondrous constructions still remain giving testament to the building skill of its people. Rightly, today Angkor Wat is listed as one of the wonders of our world, surpassed by none in its architectural beauty.
Consisting of over one thousand jungle shrouded temples covering 400 square kilometers, to see, is to believe, and only by visiting can one truly begin to feel the magnificence of this fabled mythical wonder.
Getting To Angkor Wat
The sprawling temple complex of Angkor is located just 5 kilometers to the north of Siem Reap, a travelers haven in the northwest of Cambodia. Most people when visiting only explore this corner of the complex as the others are spread out over this historic corner of the country. If you wish to see them all it would take a very long time indeed. To this day, new temples are still being unearthed, which makes this area a treasure trove for archeologists.
Being one of Cambodia’s biggest tourist hubs, Siem Reap is easy to reach. While you are there you can wander through the markets, eat at beautiful restaurants and also visit the famous Pub Street. Drinking on Pub street is the cheapest place you will ever drink. It is possible to get a beer for just one dollar.
One thing to remember is that in Cambodia you will always pay in USD. When you take money from a cash machine you will receive USD. Only when you get change from a food vendor or market stall will you be given Cambodian Riel . It is amazing the amount of things in Cambodia that cost $1.
Best time to visit
The cooler drier months of November to March are the most comfortable time to visit Angkor. However, these months are also the busiest, with throngs of tourists as far as the eye can see. For a quieter visit, the months of June through to October are less hectic, although the afternoons are plagued by storms.
April is the Khmer New Year and partys rain throughout the month. Expect crowds and festival activities if you visit at this time of the year.
Costs of visiting Angkor Wat
Cambodia has some of the cheapest places to stay in all of Asia. In Siem Reap you can find hostel dorm rooms available for as little as $2. They may not be the most comfortable places to stay in the world, but with free WiFi and sometimes even a free breakfast for only $2, you can not fault them.
If hostels and shared rooms are not your thing, do not worry, Siem Reap caters for all. Guesthouses are readily available which offer rooms with TV, hot shower, air conditioning and also a free breakfast. These rooms will cost you just $12 a night for a single and around $16 a night for a double room.
If you are traveling for a short time and not trying to save money, Siem reap also has plenty of nice hotels where you can stay for a minimum of $20 a night. Diving into the hotel pool on a hot day is worth every cent of the $20.
Angkor Wat ticket prices
Being a wonder of the world, the ticket prices for Angkor Wat are quite steep. However, the price is more than worth it. If you are Cambodian, entry to the complex is free, if you are a tourist you have three different ticket options:
- A one day pass: $37
- A three day pass: $62
- A seven day pass: $72
A little tip to get an extra couple of hours at the park is to buy your ticket after 5 pm. If you do this, you can enter the next day with your ticket free of charge. This applies for all ticket prices and is a great way to get some extra temple time. Most people choose to watch the sunset over the Angkor Wat temple and then head back to town. Now that the prices of the tickets has doubled this year, we expect many more people to be taking this option.
How to travel around Angkor Wat
What most people do not realise is that Angkor is a complex consisting of many different temples, with Angkor Wat being the most famous. The site itself is huge and shrouded in jungle, which still hides temples that have not been found even to this day.
When visiting, you will start your day at Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise. After you have explored this incredible place, you will then take a circuit and visit all of the other temples in the complex. This is why you can buy a one, three or seven day pass.
If you are visiting just to see the temples and not to immerse yourself into the history of each of these magnificent places, you can see the site in one day. Others choose to take the three day pass and do it more slowly. Normally it is only the scholars and history students who take the seven day pass.
The easiest way to see as much as you possibly can in one day, is by renting a Tuk-Tuk. These drivers do this route day in and day out, so know all of the temples and the fastest routes around the park. Renting a Tuk-Tuk in Siem Reap will normally cost $25. If this is split between three or four people, the cost is literally nothing.
If you are going to rent a Tuk-Tuk to tour the complex, make sure that you arrange everything the day before. Your driver will pick you up at 4:30 am and get you to the park for dawn.
Another way to see the park is by bicycle. If you are fit enough and prepared to ride around 20-25 kilometers throughout the day, this is a great way to see the park. Do make sure that you are constantly drinking water however, as the days in Cambodia can get very hot. You can rent a bike from Siem Reap for $4 per day.
Highlights of The Complex
Angkor Wat Temple
This is the biggest temple in the entire complex and gives it name to the site. Angkor was first built as a hindu temple by Suryavarman in the early 12th century. Slowly over time, it was transformed into a buddhist temple, but much of the hindu architecture still remains. The temple reliefs are carved to perfection and can still be seen today offering a window into the past. Surrounded by water, this is truly one of the most spectacular places you will ever visit.
The Bayon Temple is another of the pieces in the jigsaw which makes this place a wonder of the world. This in our opinion is the best site of the complex, consisting of 54 towers and 216 and incredible carved faces. The skill that went into building the Bayon Temple is simply amazing. Located at the heart of Angkor Thom, Bayon was constructed a little after Angkor Wat at the turn of the 12th century. The giant smiling faces of the temple have watched over the lands for 900 years and are a wondrous sight to behold.
Made famous by the movie Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm still lies covered in the Cambodian jungle and is the place where some of the most iconic pictures of the complex have been taken. Wandering through these ruins, is a great way to see the past before your very eyes. The temple has been left exactly how it was found and is an enchanting place to explore. If you think of yourself as a modern day explorer, this is the place for you.
Terrace of the Leper King
Another part of the incredible Angkor thom, is the terrace of the Leper King. Built in the 13th century, this incredible seven layered terrace is covered with strange statues. Dedicated to the god of the underworld, his naked statue stands at the top, above all others.
Preah Khan is one of the biggest sites in the Angkor complex and was also once a huge Buddhist University. If these ruins could tell their tales, they would be amazing indeed. Preah Khan has taken many guises in its time, a palace , temple and university. Archeologists even think that a great battle took place here far back in the depths of time. Today this wonder lies in jungle covered ruins and is an amazing place to explore.
Sunrise over Angkor
What every visitor aims to do is arrive in time to see the sunrise over the complex. To be honest, it does get that busy with wide eyed tourists, that maybe it is better to head to another temple first. However, catching the first few glimpses of the dawn makes for a spectacular photo opportunity.
What you can expect to see
The Angkor complex is one of the few places in the world where you can actually get up close and personal with history. Other ancient sites around the world are now protected from tourists such as Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids of Egypt. For the moment at least, at Angkor you can actually climb the ruins themselves.
This beautiful saffron robed statue of the Buddha stands inside the Angkor Wat temple. It is a brilliant display of colour against the cold stone of the temple.
As you can see, even after all these long years, the details of the carvings are still there to be seen. It is these and other such works of art which make Angkor Wat the greatest temple of them all.
Getting our poses on at a wonder of the world.
One of the great things about the Angkor complex is how jungle overtook many of the temples. You will see the tree destroyed ruins of Ta Prohm nowhere else on earth. There are currently no plans to remove the trees which is how it should be. Most of the temples discovered have been left exactly how the were found.
Another shot of the overgrown ruins of Ta Prohm. If this place looks familiar to you, you may have seen them in the movie Tomb Raider. When wandering about the ruins of Angkor, it is easy to imagine yourself at Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.
The future of Angkor
Angkor Wat, this UNESCO protected heritage site, is one of the most amazing places that you will ever visit. Two million tourists descend upon this corner of Cambodia each year and leave with a deep respect for the craftsmanship of the ancient Khmer. Angkor Wat is truly one of the greatest places that we have ever visited.
However, this can not go on forever. Two million visitors each year is an awful lot and they are slowly taking their toll on the old ruins of Angkor. Who knows how much longer this can go on before free exploration of the site is stopped for good. Angkor is a huge boon for the Cambodian Government bringing in millions of dollars in revenue each year. So for the moment at least, nothing will change. Eventually however, change must come, or the beautiful details of the ruins of Angkor will be lost forever.
As one final note, if you have the extra cash, you must take one of the incredible hot air balloon rides. To ride high above the complex gives you a completely different perspective of the site and is something that you will never forget. Also, how many people can say that they have rode in a hot air balloon above one of the wonders of the world? A ten minutes balloon ride over the temples costs just $15.
Thank you for reading, if you have also visited this incredible place, we would love to hear about it. Send us a message.