Perhaps you already know the best time to go to Angkor Wat, but another rather critical consideration is where is Angkor Wat exactly? And how might you get there? A thorough understanding of its location will give you a much better idea of how to get there, and also a surprising insight into its cultural relevance and construction.
For those whose geography is a little rusty, we thought we’d better make that clear for starters and provide you with a little recap about the country. Cambodia is located in the southern section of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. The land is surrounded by other countries including Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast and Vietnam to the east. It has a population of over 16 million people, four main ethnicities and four main religions. The predominant ethnicity is Khmer, taking up 97% of the population! Other ethnic groups include Chinese and Vietnamese, with a huge 30 different types of hill tribes. Indigenous people in hill tribes survive on the northeastern side of the country, in the highlands. The most common religion followed is Theravada Buddhism, which is followed by 96% of the country.
Cambodia is believed to have been in use for a very, VERY long time. Caves in pre-historic Cambodia are credited to have been first inhabited around 7000 BC, a long 5000 years before the indigenous began to grow food and domesticate animals in 2300 BC. The first civilization in the area arose about 150 AD in the Mekong River delta in South Vietnam. This river is still traveled to this very day on our own Mekong River cruises. Cambodia was originally divided into rival states until the beginning of the 9th century – a king named Jayavarman II founded the Khmer Empire in Cambodia. He was so inspirational that we even have a luxury Jayavarman vessel named after him.
Angkor Wat is located in the Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia, in the jungle-shrouded archeological site of Angkor, 5.5 km north of the city of Siem Reap, the capital of the province nicknamed the gateway to Angkor. In 2007 modern satellite technology established that the entire Angkor site was once the largest city in the world at over 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) in area. The Angkor Wat temple complex itself covers just 1.63 square kilometers (0.63 sq mi).
Geographic location is not the only point of interest, but the general positioning of the construction is rather interesting also. Features of the temple are said to be of celestial importance, observing the temples unconventional east to west orientation, specific towers happen to be at the precise location of the sunrise on a solstice!
As a temple complex containing one of the largest and iconic religious monuments in the world, Angkor Wat is so critical to Cambodian culture that it has even made its way onto the Cambodian flag, adorned as a white symbol over their striking red and blue stripes.
The area is registered as one of the 1092 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, allowing UNESCO to work with the Cambodian authorities to make sure that no tourism access or development compromises this historical jewel. If you are lucky enough to see this fabulous site, you will truly feel part of the narrative in the story of Cambodian history.
A few kilometers away from Angkor Wat, back in the city of Siem Reap, hidden down a small side street and inside a cottage courtyard you will find an equally impressive “Angkor Wat in Miniature”. This painstakingly recreated to-scale model of Angkor Wat was built by the sculptor (and architect) Dy Proeung from secret drawings he made of the temple in his youth which he had to keep hidden for many years for fear of execution.
To get to Angkor Wat, you first need to get to Siem Reap which can be reached by bus, train, or flight. Siem Reap is roughly a 6-hour car or bus ride from Phnom Penh. Angkor Wat itself is close enough to Siem Reap to reach by bicycle. However, if you plan to visit multiple temples and want to avoid the sticky heat you might consider hiring a tuk-tuk or knowledgeable driver for the day. If you’re feeling very brave (and have experience) you could rent a motorbike for the day.
Alternatively, why not take a Mekong River cruise with a privately guided land tour extension to explore Siem Reap and Angkor Wat with Rainforest Cruises? Let our destination experts happily help you organize every detail. If you have any questions at all about your options on how to get to Angkor Wat and how best to explore, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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