Planning a trip to see the Angkor temples in Siem Reap can, at first, seem daunting. From my own experience, I found some online information to be misleading and facts to not always be accurate.
To help first-time travellers plan their Cambodia itinerary, I have written this travel post to give you the best travel advice to help you plan the perfect trip to see Angkor Wat and the surrounding temple complexes.
You will find the answers to essential travel questions in this post, like how you get to the Angkor temples from Siem Reap, how you purchase a ticket to see Angkor Wat and the best time to visit the ancient temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park.
I have also advised how many days you should spend in Siem Reap to visit all the best Angkor temples. Is one day in Siem Reap enough to see Cambodia’s major tourist attractions, or should you embrace slow travel and stay for two, three, or even four days in Siem Reap?
Read on to find out all the very best travel advice on how to see the Angkor temples in Siem Reap.
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Where is Angkor?
Six kilometres from the town of Krong Siem Reap is the Unesco World Heritage site of Angkor Archaeological Park. Angkor is spread over a vast area and is home to the world-famous Angkor Wat temple and many other impressive Khmer temples.
Arrive in Angkor and step back to a time when the mighty Khymer civilisation built the magnificent jungle temple cities that appear on most travellers’ bucket lists. Once a thriving metropolis, the inhabitants disappeared without a trace, and the temple structures were reclaimed back by Mother Nature into the dense jungles they once dominated.
Did you know that Angkor Wat is the name of one temple, not the whole area?
A misconception that travellers make when planning a trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia is to refer to all of the Angkor temple complexes as Angkor Wat. This information is incorrect.
Angkor Wat is actually just one temple complex, albeit the biggest ancient religious monument in the world, comprising many structures. It is the most famed Angkor temple complex in Cambodia and appears on Cambodia’s national flag.
Angkor Archaeological Park is the correct name for the much larger area that houses all of the ancient temples. Within the archaeological park, you will also find the walled city of Angkor Thom, which houses the famous Bayon temple complex.
In addition to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, the park contains numerous other temples. These range from magnificently restored complexes such as Preah Khan and Ta Prohm to small scale ruins that visitors could easily pass by without a glance.
Explore Angkor Map
A map of the Angkor Archaeological Park is here. The blue outline denotes the rivers that run around the circumference of the temple sites.
Angkor Weather – Best Time To Visit Angkor
For cooler, more bearable weather in Cambodia, the months of November to March offer a reprise from the heat. These months are also when most tourists arrive!
The weather is scorching and humid between April and June, which means there are not so many crowds. I travelled in mid-April and can vouch for the high temperatures and humidity.
Expect rain and warm weather from June through to November, so not particularly pleasant for temple-hopping. But with this hot and humid Siem Reap weather comes fewer tourists, so weigh up your preferences. Better weather / more tourists or unfavourable weather / fewer tourists.
Prepare yourself to experience heat like never before, especially if you are a visitor from a country in the Northern Hemisphere. And make sure that you keep drinking bottled water as you travel around the temples because you will lose a lot of fluid in the heat through sweating and must keep your fluid levels up.
How Many Days Are Needed to See the Angkor Temples?
The answer boils down to time restraints, personal budget and what you want to see on your Cambodian temple trip. I stayed for four days in Siem Reap as I was nearing the end of my whirlwind 3-month world trip and wanted to experience Angkor in all its glory without rushing. I also wanted to have time to experience some of the other attractions in Siem Reap Town.
Don’t worry if you only have one or two days in Siem Reap; you can still get to see all the most famous Angkor temples albeit at a more hectic pace. Nevertheless, a guided tour will help you to achieve your mission giving you an insight into Cambodia’s impressive archaeological park.
Angkor Wat Temple Tours
If you want a guide to take you to the temples, you can book one of the many Angkor Wat Temple Tours. You will find the significant landmarks in Siem Reap are pretty near each other.
Visiting Angkor Without a Guide
You can quite easily visit Angkor Wat and the temple complexes on a self-guided tour. I did just that and loved the freedom it gave me to stay for as little or as long as I wanted in each temple. I arranged a tuk-tuk to take me to and from the temples and read up on the history of the Angkor temples before I went.
How to Get from Siem Reap Town to Angkor Archaeological Park
To reach the Angkor complex, we hailed a tuk-tuk from outside our hotel, agreed on a price and asked the driver to pick us up at the same time each afternoon to take us to see the temples.
He charged $25 (American dollars are the currency used in Cambodia) to spend 3-5 hours with us each afternoon. Of course, we paid him more as we felt $25 was such a low amount to pay for his time.
Remember your tuk-tuk driver is not a tour guide and will not enter the temples with you. Having said that, ours told us lots of valuable and interesting facts as we went around Angkor Archaeological Park.
Our tuk-tuk driver was also happy to stop for us if we wanted to take pictures away from the temples.
On one journey back to our hotel, we came across a family of monkeys, and he stopped so we could watch them play and interact with one another. On another occasion, he took us to a hidden temple not visited by many tourists, which for us, was magical.
After spending four days with him, we realised his time was more valuable than the $25 a day we had agreed and happily paid him more. The look of happiness on his face was worth every penny, and he told us it would really help his family. So please consider paying over the price given if you feel your tuk-tuk driver deserves more.
Travel Time from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat and the Temple Complexes
You’ll find the Angkor Archaeological Park around 6km north of central Siem Reap. Depending on which time of day you visit, it should take around 20 minutes by tuk-tuk, the most popular way to get around Siem Reap. Of course, you can also cycle to the temple or join an organised tour group.
The journey will take a little longer if you need to stop and buy your Angkor Park Pass.
How to Get an Angkor Pass
To enter any of the temples in Cambodia, you will need to buy an Angkor Pass. Visitors can only purchase the pass at the official ticket centre located 4 km from Siem Reap town and on the way to the Angkor temples. The ticket office is open each day from 4.30 am to 5.30 pm.
You can’t purchase your entrance ticket upfront. Entrance passes for a one-day visit are issued up to 5 pm, with a pass issued after 5 pm valid for the following day.
The pass will include your photograph (taken at the ticket office), so it can’t be transferred between friends and family.
You can buy the official Angkor Pass for various time lengths, from one to ten days. You don’t have to use the pass on consecutive days; for example, a 3-day pass is valid for ten days, so you can spread out your temple trips if you have a while to spend in Siem Reap.
You will need to show your pass to the Archaeological Park security checkpoint guard, who will hole punch the ticket on each visit.
We asked our tuk-tuk driver to stop at the ticket office on the way to Bayon Temple so we could buy our passes. We both purchased a 3-day Angkor pass and used it on consecutive days.
Angkor Temple Opening Times
Angkor Wat temple opens for visitors at 5 am each morning. Angkor’s other temple complexes open at 7 am and shut around 5.30 pm.
Dress Etiquette in the Angkor Temples
Wear clothes covering the knees and shoulders to respect the Buddhist and Hindu religions. If not, you risk being turned away from temple complexes.
Due to high humidity, light cotton clothing is best to wear when exploring Siem Reap.
Where To Eat in Angkor
Many families live in the villages within the park and so you will come across roadside stalls by the main temple complexes selling all manner of food, from meat skewers and rice dishes to fruit and fried insects! You will also find the occasional toilet by these stalls but remember you are in Cambodia so expect the unexpected – it is likely to be a hole in the ground.
If you prefer to eat in town, there are plenty of great community restaurants and cafes in Siem Reap.
Best Time of Day to Visit Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
One of the most frequently asked questions from travellers wishing to visit Angkor Wat and the temple complexes in Siem Reap is which time of day is the best – Sunrise or Sunset?
I am going to play devil’s advocate and say SUNSET! Why is that, you may ask when the photographs of the sun rising behind Angkor Wat are some of the most recognised images ever taken? Well, with the idyllic images come hundreds and hundreds of tourists.
That’s right. You aren’t going to be alone in this serene space even though it will be around 5 am. Instead, you will be fighting for a good position to capture your iconic photograph of Angkor Wat while dodging selfie sticks, IPads and telescopic lenses. And, don’t faint, but you will have to wake up at around 4 am to get to Angkor Wat in time for the sun coming up.
Of course, if you can’t do without getting the sunrise image of Angkor Wat, then go for it, but just be prepared for the crowds.
Why You Should Choose the Sunset Over the Sunrise at Angkor
I was once recommended to head to Angkor’s temples in the afternoon and stay for sunset. This would give me time to grab breakfast/brunch in Siem Reap, enjoy my hotel pool and most importantly, avoid all of the crowds that descend on Angkor Wat in the mornings for that all-important (but not for me) sunrise shot.
I followed the advice, and it worked out perfectly; I had most of the temples to myself! You get to see Angkor’s temples with fewer crowds by reversing the “normal” tourist choice of early morning visits to late afternoon/early evening visits.
So if you want to enjoy the temples with fewer people and at a more leisurely pace, then plan to see the Angkor temples at sunset.
Supposedly the best place to watch the sun setting is from the highest temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park on Bakheng Hill. This is one place in Angkor I haven’t visited myself, but I have it on good authority that it is a sunset hotspot. Bakheng Temple is 1.5 km northwest of Angkor Wat, and its elevated position gives visitors panoramic views of the whole area, including the legendary Angkor Wat.
Thoughts on the Angkor Temples in Siem Reap
No matter where you have been in the world, nothing quite prepares you for the ancient temples of Angkor. They are unique, mesmerising and downright incredible. To walk around structures built thousands of years ago is mind-blowing.
If you have ever visited the ancient Egyptian temples or the Aztec jungle ruins in South America and felt overwhelmed by their presence, you will get some idea of how the Angkor temples compare. It is easy to understand why Angkor Wat and the Angkor temple complexes make it onto many travellers’ bucket lists!
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