Entering the Angkor Wat complex and seeing the lost city and the temple ruins for the very first time is a magical, awe-inspiring, rewarding experience that you and your children will remember for a lifetime. Magnificent Angkor temples, monasteries and different capitals from the once-thriving Khmer Empire surround you. With every step you take, the journey takes you deeper and deeper into the past. There is no better way to teach your kids about this amazing place, than to let them explore it with you.
Choosing the place to stay, especially if you are traveling with kids, is very important, so try to find a hotel as close as possible to the site. A luxurious option is Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, which first opened its doors as The Grand Hotel d’Angkor in 1932. Located less than five miles from the Angkor Wat temple complex, is the ideal starting-off point to explore this mystical and archaeological masterwork, and close enough for you to shuttle between the hotel and the sites so that your kids are comfortable.
It is impossible to cover the park in a day without rushing and missing out on important sites. Think about getting a 3-day pass to explore the complete park including the smaller temples. Kids under the age of 12 are free to the temples. If you have kids close to this age bring their passports (or a photocopy, or a photo on your phone) as proof.
Your kids need to be with you to get their tickets, and this is the case even when their tickets are free. You have to stand in the queue and each of you will have your photo taken and you will be provided with a printout of your ticket with your picture on it.
Some of the temples require visitors, including older children, to cover their knees and shoulders.
Exploring Angkor Wat with kids, especially young kids, can be trying. The complex is exhaustive and can get confusing. You could spend a week or more exploring just the Angkor Wat temple, but there is so much more to see, and so many things to learn along the way, that need to be efficient with your time.
Youngsters have a limited attention span, and if you overdo it, they will not appreciate the magnitude of the place, or be able to take in all of the information. Importantly, the distance could be a challenge for little legs, and your children might not be able to cope with the heat while exploring the temples.
Therefore, the best way to see Angkor Wat is by hiring a private driver and English-speaking guide. You can choose to ride in a tuk-tuk, which will generate a cool breeze as you drive through the countryside and prove to be a fun and authentic experience for your kids.
Alternatively, you may prefer the more expensive option of an air-conditioned vehicle to take you and your family in comfort around to the temples that you wish to see. Either way you will always have a guide to explain the highlights of the temples, engage with the kids by keeping it simple and asking them for their observations.
Exploring the park might be a little tedious for little ones and not all of the temples and ruins have continuous shade from the sun. So, grab a map from your hotel, get your kids involved and ask them to decide which temples they want to visit. You can then prepare a plan of the sights, choosing what you think is feasible for your kids to see in the time that you have available. Be sure to buffer in a lot of breaks.
Part of Angkor Wat’s allure is its role as the largest temple in a complex of ruins that make up a literal lost city in the middle of the Cambodian jungle. However, it is characterized by a tropical climate, which entails hot temperatures of 86 °F (30 °C) to 97 °F (36 °C) all year round.
Peak temperatures above 104 °F (40 °C) are not unusual. Furthermore, the climate around Angkor Wat has a high humidity, which can increase to more than 90 percent, especially in the rainy season. This is why being able to return to an air-conditioned vehicle, after each temple that you visit, will enable you to keep the kids comfortable so that you can keep going.
Carry an umbrella to use as shade from the sun. The best time to visit Angkor Wat is during the dry season from late November to mid-March.
If you wish to beat the heat, the sun and the crowds, visit early. The park opens at 5:30 am and the temples look even more mesmerizing in the first rays of light. Try to get a spot facing the Angkor Wat on the left pool to see the reflection of all five temples in the water. You can use the rest of the morning to explore before returning to your hotel for breakfast at about 10 am.
The Angkor Wat complex is the world’s largest religious structure. This ‘City of Temples’ covers more than 400 acres. After the decline of the Khmer empire in the 15th century, the beautiful city was lost in time, and the reason is still a mystery. Children love mysteries.
Angkor Wat temple is the largest and the most spectacular of the Angkorian monuments. This architectural masterpiece is listed as one of the Wonders of the World. The sheer size, luxury, symmetry, balance and sculpture make this monument one of the finest structures ever built. The inside is remarkable to explore, and your kids will enjoy wandering through the hallways, into the different rooms and observing all the intricate details and carvings.
Kids under the age of 12 are not permitted to climb the steep steps to the Upper Tower in Angkor Wat. Note that there are only 100 people allowed up the top at any one time so you may be waiting a while (it might be wise to tell your kids to visit the toilet first). Make sure you carry a hat, sunscreen, water bottle, snacks, chocolates, and a first aid kit. Do not push kids, as over exhaustion and dehydration are common.
Out of all the Cambodian Temples, this is the one that your kids will probably want to see most of all because it was made famous by the 2001 action-adventure movie, ‘Tomb Raider’, starring Angelina Jolie. The real-life legend goes that Ta Prohm was a monastery, and the queen mother’s tomb was placed inside, enclosed by diamond walls.
Unlike neighboring temples, Ta Prohm has been progressively invaded and claimed by the surrounding tropical jungle with giant tree roots perfectly framing the buildings and creating a truly photogenic arena. Even if your kids have not seen the movie, they will have loads of fun playing hide-and-seek within the many nooks and crevasses.
Youngsters are guaranteed to smile in this beautiful temple of the smiling faces. This magnificent monument has over 11,000 figures carved into its walls. All of these structures are surrounded by 51 smaller towers all with faces of their own. Ask your guide to share the stories of the carvings to explain the history.
The temple is built as a square and is exactly positioned to the north, east, south and west. It represents the intersection between heaven and earth. This temple is not too far away from Angkor Wat, and is easy to access.
Banteay Srei, with its carvings from Hindu mythology on its pink walls, is like something out of a storybook. These delicate carvings and animal-headed guardians make this intimate pink citadel a favorite for children and adults alike. It is touted by many as Angkor’s most beautiful temple.
This spectacular temple reassembles two different art eras of the Angkorian Empire. Here, you can see the influence of the Angkor Wat and Bayon temple designs. Minimalistic carvings on the walls and the progression of chambers are the main features. Banteay Kdei means ‘A Citadel of Monks’ Cells’. It is a much smaller temple than most, so it should hold your children’s attention.
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