The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Angkor Wat

You absolutely must see Angkor Wat and the other temples of Angkor when you visit Cambodia. There's a reason that Angkor Wat is on the Cambodian flag and that 50% of visitors to Cambodia go just to see the Temples of Angkor. Put simply, it's awe-inspiring. 

Seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat was definitely in the top 3 moments of our 3 month trip to South East Asia, and really if I think about it, in our last 3 years of travelling... We can't wait to share our Angkor Wat tips with you:

What you'll get from this Angkor Wat blog post

  • What is Angkor Wat
  • Is it worth seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat?
  • Explanation: What are the Temples of Angkor? 
  • Which temples you should see at Angkor
  • Hot tips for visiting Angkor Wat and the Temples of Angkor
  • Where to stay when visiting Angkor Wat

What is Angkor Wat?

Angkor Wat is located in Angkor, near Siem Reap, which is on the Western side of Cambodia. Angkor Wat is the the most famous temple of Angkor, it's the one that's on the Cambodian flag, the one that's featured all over Instagram, the one with the sun rising spectacularly behind it. It also happens to be the largest religious monument in the world, measuring 402 acres. 

Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century, making it younger than Stonehenge, the Pyramids and the Colosseum, but older than Machu Picchu.

Is it worth going to Angkor Wat for the sunrise?

Is it worth going to Angkor Wat for the sunrise? 

As Tanbay hates getting up early, and we'd heard that the sunrise isn't always spectacular and visiting to Stonehenge for the sunset was a cloudy disappointment, we thought long and hard about going to Angkor Wat for the sunrise. In the end we went, and were SO glad we did because it was SUPERB. But here are the cons:
  • You have to get up early (duh) - how early depends on how close your hotel/hostel is (ours was close) and how you decide to get there (we took a tuk tuk). Even so we still had to get up at 5am
  • There's a chance it will be cloudy and you won't even see the sunrise
  • It gets SO crowded
But the pros definitely out-weighed the cons
  • Getting up early means you'll have more time to see the other temples (also duh)
  • The weather is much more reasonable that early, by 9am the temperatures in Cambodia are generally blistering 
  • It's one of the most spectacular moments we've seen in our whole lives
  • The crowd wasn't rowdy, everyone respected each other and the atmosphere was great
  • Even with the crowds, it wasn't difficult to get a viral Instagram photo: 

Really, (Tanbay) getting up early one time isn't going to kill you, and even if the weather is bad at least you've still been to the sunrise at Angkor Wat (you can still tick it off your bucket-list)! We were worried it would be overrated, but if anything it's underrated. I mean look at it:

What are the Temples of Angkor?

There is a difference between Angkor Wat and the Temples of Angkor: 

Angkor used to be the capital of Cambodia and the word 'Angkor' comes from the Sanskrit word for city. There are actually over one thousand temples in Angkor, including Angkor Wat.

Your ticket to see Angkor Wat will include access to the other temples of Angkor. As these are also spectacular, you're going to want to see those too, but with over one thousand temples to choose from, which Temples of Angkor do you make sure you see?

Which temples should you see at Angkor

Luckily no matter what your taste in temple: crumbling vs restored, popular vs empty, etc, Angkor can cater for you. We're going to start with the most popular Angkor temples because, quite frankly, there is a reason they are the popular ones:

Angkor Wat - the one with the sunrise

Okay you know all about this one now, but just so you know - sunset isn't as good as sunrise but it's still better than a slap in the face, go to both! 

Angkor Thom - the one that's great

After Angkor Wat we highly recommend you head over to Angkor Thom (Thom = great). This is a great temple complex with lots of cool temples including:

Bayon Temple - (the one with the faces)

Bayon Temple is famous as the one with the big faces. Like Angkor Wat, Bayon was pretty crowded when we went to see it but there were still sections inside devoid of people, they were also devoid of sunlight which was a welcome respite as by this point, 10am ish, the heat was already sweltering. 

Terrace of Elephants - the one with... the elephants

You can just about walk from Bayon Temple to the Terrace of Elephants. It's probably less than a 5 minute walk but with the heat it will feel like 5 hours. People will sell you over-priced drinks on the way if you like, and you might because they are ice cool. If you're lucky they might give you some ice too. 

I was worried that the Terrace of Elephants was a terrace where you could ride elephants. Luckily it is an actual terrace with elephants carved into it and it is magnificent.

Unluckily, we did still see people riding elephants, despite the fact that this is unbelievably cruel and wrong. 

PLEASE: Do not ride elephants at Angkor, or indeed anywhere, and please take it a step further and sign this petition to end elephant riding at Angkor Wat.

Ta Prohm - the one with the trees

Ta Prohm is another famous temple in Angkor. This time it's been made famous by the magical battle going on between the ginormous trees and the temple. The trees grow straight through the walls, and they are so large! 

Be warned though, Ta Prohm has a weird one-way system that may mean you get lost. Our driver dropped us on one side and said he'd meet us on the other. We walked through the temple, were impressed by the trees, found the tree most people pin (it was really crowded), and then decided we were too hot and it was time to go, we were nearly at the exit when we luckily looked at a strategically placed map and realised that we were leaving by the entrance. That was annoying. 

Still, there are worst places to be lost in

Further information
For more on Bayon and Ta Prohm, check out our YouTube video:

For us, a visit to Angkor Wat for sunrise, followed by visits to Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm and a few unnamed ones in-between, then going back later for the sunset at Angkor Wat was more than enough. 

Whilst we can appreciate their beauty and age, after a while it is a bit like 'when you've seen the famous ones you've seen them all'. Like I said, the famous ones are famous for a reason. We did stop at a few little temples in-between, and the advantage of those was having the temple to ourselves. 

Hot Tips for Visiting Angkor Wat 

1. Don't ride elephants, please just don't

2. Take water! It is unbelievably hot

3. Don't cycle for the sunrise, it's further away from Siem Reap than people realise, I don't want you to get to Angkor and it be ruined because you're tired. Hiring a tuk-tuk for the day is not expensive and so worth it!

4. If you go for the sunrise, get your tickets the night before: a) you won't have to get up as early and b) the queue is SO long in the morning! We were worried we'd miss the sunrise

5. When you see the sunrise, know you don't have to 'pitch up camp'. We were there a bit later than some people (thanks to the ticket queue) and there were no places to sit in front of the lake on the left. This wasn't a problem though, we could still hold our cameras over those people's heads AND we got photos from lots of different angles.

Where to stay when visiting Angkor Wat

Pavillon d'Orient, Siem Reap
Prices from £46.50 for a Deluxe Room

We stayed at the Pavillion d'Orient when we were visiting Angkor Wat and they helped make our trip perfect: if you book online, Pavillion d'Orient will provide a free tuk-tuk driver for your stay. I can't tell you how much of an asset this is! And yes the tuk-tuk driver will take you to Angkor Wat for sunrise, take you back to your the Pavillion for breakfast, and then back to the temples. Additionally, they provide you with a map of Angkor, a guide book, and they offer the option of making a packed breakfast for you to take to Angkor Wat.

Find the best rates here

Heritage Suites Hotel Siem Reap
Prices from £70.20 for a Classic Room

The Heritage Suites Hotel is a boutique luxury property only 6km from Angkor Wat. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here, the food was delicious, the massages were perfect and we had a steam room in our room. We didn't visit Angkor from here, but we stayed here the next day and it was the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate after the 'strain' of walking round Angkor Wat. 

Find the best rates here

Palm Garden Lodge
Prices from £3.60 for a Double Fan

If you're travelling to Siem Reap on a budget, Palm Garden Lodge is the place for you. Palm Garden Lodge is a cute hotel in an excellent location. With prices from £3.60 they are very reasonable, especially when you consider the fact that: pick-up, wifi, breakfast and tea and coffee are all complimentary! 

Find great rates here


Visiting Angkor Wat and the other temples was one of the main highlights of our Asia trip, and really of our lives so far!! It really is a beautiful magical place and I hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did. Tickets are $20 for 1 day, $40 for 3 days and $60 for 7 days. Personally, we felt 1 day was enough, but maybe if we'd bought a 3 day pass we wouldn't have rushed so much and wouldn't have been sick of temples by the end of the day? You tell us!  

Check out 29 other top things to see in Asia

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© Copyright 2014 - 2016 | Author: Laura Cody All Rights Reserved. Ask for permission before using my content. 

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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