What is the Angkor Wat Temple?
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What is Angkor Wat?
A vast and ancient temple complex sits nestled in the depths of the sprawling Cambodian jungle, a relic of the Khmer Empire. Measuring around 400 square kilometers, Angkor Archaeological Park contains many temples and monuments and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Angkor Wat is the principal temple of Angkor and holds the title of the world’s largest religious monument, making a visit to the site one of the best things to do in Cambodia. Complete with exquisite bas reliefs and boasting a symmetrical structure with five grand towers, it is the epitome of Khmer culture.
Angkor Wat History
The capital city of the Khmer Empire, Angkor was once the world’s largest city. Angkor Wat was built in the 12th Century by Suryavarman II, the Khmer King, in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu. Although first constructed as a Hindu place of worship, it later became a Buddhist temple.
Angkor Wat represents Mount Meru, a spiritual mountain with five peaks believed to be at the center of the universe. Angkor Wat’s five towers embody the five peaks of Mount Meru, the outer walls symbolize mountain ranges, and the 190 meter-wide moat surrounding the temple signifies the world’s oceans.
The temple itself is made of sandstone blocks and comprises three levels. The five towers are on the upper level and can be accessed for the best views. The temple contains meticulous bas reliefs which depict stories, battles, and religious Hindu scenes.
Where is Angkor Wat?
Angkor Wat is a temple in the Angkor region, located in the Siem Reap province in northwestern Cambodia. Angkor Wat is 6 km north of Siem Reap city – the gateway to Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is a small but bustling tourist hub known for its welcoming locals, great restaurant scene, and lively nightlife. Here you can find accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. It takes just 20 minutes to drive from Siem Reap to Angkor.
Visiting Angkor Wat
There are several ticket options for visiting Angkor.
- The one day ticket ($37) which must be used on the day of purchase.
- The three day pass ($62) which can be used on any three days in the ten days following purchase.
- The seven day pass ($72) which can be used on any seven days in the one month following purchase.
- Note: The three and seven day passes may be used on non-consecutive days.
- Tip: Tickets bought the afternoon before your visit allow you extra access that same evening –perfect for watching the sunset. Head to the ticket office at around 4.30 pm to enjoy this bonus!
- The ticket office is located at Angkor Enterprise, Street 60, Krong Siem Reap and is open from 5.00 am until 5.30 pm.
- The site opens at 5.00 am. Get there before gates open to secure the best viewing spot by the ponds and watch the sunrise.
- Sport suitable footwear (ideally sneakers) as you’ll be walking up and down steps and on uneven surfaces.
- Take a bottle of water, a hat, and sun protection. You may even need a thin waterproof depending on the season.
- Wear loose-fitting pants and make sure to cover shoulders and knees. Dress respectfully, this is a Buddhist site.
- Bring a torch if you visit for sunrise or sunset.
- Drinks and snacks can easily be bought at the site.
- Go with a knowledgeable guide or read up before in a guidebook to get the most out of your visit.
What to do in Angkor Wat
- Explore! There are two circuits, a small one of 17 km and a big one of 26 km. You can by all means follow your own itinerary and use the circuits as guidelines. Aside from the must-see Angkor Wat, there are plenty of temples to discover, each with something different to offer! Highlights include the following:
- Angkor Thom is an ancient walled city north of Angkor Wat. Inside you will find many temples worth visiting.
- Bayon is a Buddhist temple located in the center of Angkor Thom. Bayon is renowned for the smiling stone faces – of which there are over 200 – carved into its towers.
- Ta Prohm is a truly atmospheric temple famed for its appearance in Tomb Raider. Left to the natural world, here tree and temple intertwine.
Getting to Angkor Wat
A common way to get around Angkor is by tuk tuk, and it’s easy enough to find a driver in Siem Reap. The cost per day is about $15, but expect to pay more to see temples which are located further out from Angkor Wat (or the small circuit). You’ll also pay a few dollars extra for a tuk tuk getting you there for sunrise. A more comfortable option is a private tour (with guide) in a car or minibus (around $50 per day). Cheaper alternatives include renting a bicycle ($1 a day) or motor bike (around $8 day with a driver).
When to go to Angkor Wat
The months of November to February see tourists descend on Angkor Wat as the climate is drier and cooler, with temperatures at around 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). March through to May is dry and hot, with temperatures reaching over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). Wet season falls between June and October, leaving the ground muddy. However, the advantages of visiting in low season include cheaper prices for food and accommodation, as well as less tourists in Angkor.
Cambodia’s national treasure, Angkor Wat and the Angkor complex are a feast for the eyes, combining spirituality, ancient culture, and visually stunning architecture. Discover the capital of the Khmer Empire. For more information about visting the Angkor Wat temple or booking a Mekong River cruise, please contact us or call 1-888-215-3555.