Lame jokes aside Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious building. The surrounding area which houses Angkor Wat is home to over 1000 other temples! Angkor Wat was authorised to be built in the mid 12th century AD by Khmer King Suryavarman II. It started out as a Hindu temple but eventually switched to a Buddhist temple. This reflected how the royal family changed their religion from Hinduism to Buddhism. The temple took around 30 years to finish.
All travelers wanting to visit Angkor Wat need to arrive in Siem Reap,Cambodia. This can be achieved easily by flying into Siem Reap International Airport directly or making an overland trip from Laos, Thailand or Vietnam. Another popular route is to fly into Phnom Penh then making your way to Siem Reap. The town centre of Siem Reap is 8 km away from the archaeological site.
To enjoy the Angkor Wat complex you need at least two full days. In doing so your mind won’t be “templed out” from the sheer number of temples.
Day 1: The first day should allow you to visit the temples in the inner ring of Angkor Wat for sunrise, Bayon, Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom.
Day 2: The second day will allow you to cover the temples in the outer ring which include but are not limited to Banteay Kdei, Ta Som and Preah Khan. The outer ring has less tourists as the temples are not as popular and there are more temples to choose from which spreads the crowds out. By going in anti clock wise direction on the outer ring will allow you to finish up at Angkor Wat in time for sunset. Furthermore you can revisit any of the day 1 temples if you require.
There are several ways to get around the temples.
1) Pedal Power: The cheapest option is to hire a bicycle. This is a viable option for those in decent shape and those wanting to cover the day 1 inner ring temples. I would not recommend this option for day 2 outer ring as you will need to cover a lot more territory. The negative aspects of hiring a bicycle are riding in the heat of the Cambodian sun and being exposed to the dust on unsealed roads.
2) Tour: There are a couple of ways to join a tour. The first is to join an open tour company which your hotel or hostel can book for you. This option allows solo travelers to meet up with other travelers. The next option is to organise a private tour where it is just for you or your group. The main benefits of a tour is the air conditioned bus or van. This allows you to escape the heat and dust. Another benefit is that you will have guide who can provide great information on the various temples. Joining a tour would be the most expensive option out of the three.
3) Tuk Tuk: There are plenty of tuk tuk drivers lurking around Siem Reap. You will usually see a couple hanging outside the front of your accommodation. The cost of hiring a tuk tuk falls in between that of hiring a bicycle and tour. In my opinion a fair price is roughly around $14 USD per day. Be careful with negotiating your price too low. I met people who did this and their driver would try to pressure them to skip a lot of temples so the tour would end quicker.
- The best tip I have is to do Angkor Wat for sunrise, Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom and Bayon. By going in this order you will be going in the reverse order of most tour operators. What this means is that there will be less people at the temples.
- I went to both sunset and sunrise. In my opinion sunset was better as there was less people.
- If you are going to use a tuk tuk and are going to the temples over several days I suggest you use the same driver. The driver will remember what temples you have seen, whereas a tourist will get lost with recognising which one is which.