Angkor Archaeological Park

Angkor is an astounding complex of temples, near Siem Reap in North-West Cambodia. Angkor Wat is the best-preserved and the centrepiece, although others are hugely impressive in different ways; the diversity is one of the attractions.

The vast complex is a compelling reminder as to the strength of the Khmer empire that dominated the region between the 7-15th centuries and established Angkor as their capital. We’d already seen their impressive handy-work at Wat Phu in Southern Laos.

It’s set on a huge flat plain – with many temples succumbing to the jungle, sporting trees wrapping around the stone work. There is also a lot of water here – moats, lakes, reservoirs etc – after all, this was a large living city that supported many people.

What makes Angkor so special is the number of structures, the architecture of the buildings, the detail of the decoration and the sheer scale of the temples.

Angkor in numbers

  • Wrapped around the four walls of Angkor Wat is an 800 metre long beautiful carving telling the stories from the ages… reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry of the same period (less than an eighth of the size)
  • Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious structure
  • The moat around Angkor Wat is nearly 200 metres wide for 1.5km by 1.3km. A moat 200 metres wide!
  • The Bayon temple has 54 towers, each with 4 large carved heads = 216 enormous heads!
  • The Bayon also has 1.2km of carvings featuring more than 11,000 figures
  • The city of Angkor Thom is 10sq km in size, and in its pomp had ~1,000,000 people…at the time London had 50,000
  • One of the man-made barays (reservoirs) is 8km x 2km

Angkor Archaeological Park has got to be one of the greatest man-made attractions on the planet, nestled in the jungle, with shimmering water and hidden wonders around every corner. Here are some of our favourite photos that illustrate the diversity:

 Angkor Archaeological Park

The beautiful faces of the Bayon temple, within the city of Angkor Thom

 Angkor Archaeological Park

Angkor Wat is the best known temple and it doesn't fail to impress, especially at sunrise and sunset

 Angkor Archaeological Park

The beautiful designs and petite rooms help to make Banteay Srei known as a fairy-tale temple

 Angkor Archaeological Park

Baphuon, a truly mountainous temple currently being painstakingly restored

 Angkor Archaeological Park

The Bayon gave us our biggest wow! moment touring it's maze of corridors, climbing all the steps, taking in the breath-taking smiling faces and enjoying the ornate carvings. Our favourite at Angkor.

 Angkor Archaeological Park

The detailed carvings at The Bayon depict ceremonial scenes

 Angkor Archaeological Park

Named The Tomb Raider temple as part of the movie was filmed here

 Angkor Archaeological Park

One of the entances at Ta Som spectacularly overgrown

How to visit Angkor
Fly to Siem Reap
Angkor is a short drive away from the town of Siem Reap, which is suitably tourist-friendly with many hotels, bars and restaurants. In the heart of the town is ‘pub street’ which is jam-packed full of tourists eating and drinking. Intriguing alleyways connect the bigger roads and add personality to the town centre. We flew into Siem Reap from Pakse, Laos, and the airport is modern with a slick visa on arrival system.

Do it by tuk tuk
Due to the size of the temple complex it isn’t feasible to visit it on foot (or even by bicycle unless you’re super-fit). There are tours you can join – but you’ll be bussed around in a large group, queuing to enter each temple. We hired a tuk-tuk each day – costing around $15 per day – and armed with only a guide-book we relied on the driver to be our make-shift tour guide and route planner. Ensure the plan is agreed upon before setting off and it works well. We probably would have gained more insight into the major temples if we’d hired a tour guide but they’re quite pricey.

Go for the 3 day ticket
Tickets can be bought in 1, 3 or 7 day versions – with the 3 day ticket valid over a week period and the 7 day version valid for a month. Very handy as trekking up all the steps at each temple makes a rest day or two a necessity. Plus, you don’t want to get templed-out! 3 days was enough for us, including a 5am start to get the classic sunrise photo at Angkor Wat – a nice photo if you can barge your way to the front of the crowds!

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