Angkor Wat Archaeological Park is Cambodia’s top tourist attraction, with a record 2.2 million people visiting the sacred site in 2016. While Angkor Wat temple itself is the main draw, the park is spread across 400 square kilometres and is home to hundreds of ancient temples and religious monuments. Here are some handy pre-planning tips to help you make the most of your time at the temples.
If you’re lucky enough to catch a good sunrise then there’s nothing more magical than watching the night sky plunge into a palate of colour as the sun peeks above the spires of iconic Angkor Wat. But there is so much more to take in during a visit to Angkor Archaeological Park, meaning the first place to start is to decide how much of the sprawling site you want to see.
Which ticket should I buy?
Tickets to Angkor Wat are sold as one-, three- and seven-day passes; prices were recently hiked up to $37, $62 and $72, respectively. The seven-day passes should probably be reserved for those truly hardened history buffs, with one-day passes the most popular, offering enough time to take in the major temples: Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm.
With ticket time sorted out, the next step is deciding on transport. There are several ways to get around Angkor, with tuk tuk being the most popular. There’s no shortage of tuk tuks waiting to take visitors to the temples in Siem Reap city, with hotels and guesthouses also able to make arrangements (for about $30, but get your haggling hat on).
Private vehicles and taxis can also take guests around the park, and can be booked through travel agents around the city, or at your hotel. It’s a good idea to think about the environment and preservation of the site when considering cars or buses. Hire an electric bike or car from the front of Angkor Wat and the Terrace of Elephants.
Cycling is another option, with bikes aplenty for hire in Siem Reap city, starting from $1 a day. Check the bike out before you hand over your cash; make sure you check the route so you enter the park at the ticket gate, about 6km from Siem Reap centre; and pack plenty of water because you’ll pay more than double once you’re inside the gates. There are also various tour operators, such as Grasshopper Adventures, that offer bike trips through the temples.
A more extravagant way of viewing the temples is from above. If heights don’t leave you trembling, then take a helicopter or hot air balloon trip throughout the park. Restrictions prevent anything from flying directly above Angkor Wat itself, but great views are guaranteed.
Hire a guide or go solo?
The next point to think about is whether to go solo or seek help. Navigating the temples can be done alone, but you’ll obviously miss out on the in-depth knowledge a good guide provides. Everyone wants to know where the dinosaur carving is hidden at Ta Prohm, right? The why remains unsolved, but quizzing your guide on theories is fun.
A guide can be hired for about $20. Official guides will be registered with the Ministry of Tourism, and tips are well appreciated. Guide books to the various complexes are flogged at every corner of the more populated temples, and offer a snippet into the history of the temples. Again, travel agents offer guided tours of the sites and can be booked in the city.
Choose your time wisely
Then all that’s left to do is to pick your timing. The prime time is sunrise at Angkor Wat, with thousands flocking with their cameras poised to the lotus lakes that sit in front of the temple. Today, it’s a tourist trap, but it’s a tourist trap for a reason. Catching a stunning sunrise there is truly special.
The usual circuit then sees tourists spend a few hours exploring Angkor Wat, before heading to Bayon and on to Ta Prohm. If you fancy avoiding the crowds and having temples all to yourself, then don’t follow the crowds. Or, if you dare, skip sunrise at Angkor and head straight to Ta Prohm instead. It won’t be as stunning, but to have the root-entangled temples pretty much to yourself almost equals the Angkor experience.
Regardless of how you choose to tackle the temples, one thing is for sure: you won’t be let down.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.