No matter how many photos you have seen of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Temple Complex, nothing can prepare you for seeing it close up. It’s nothing like you have seen before and undeniably more magnificent than you could ever imagine. Part of the appeal is due to its incredible setting.
Visiting this ethereal temple city is a bucket-list dream of many and reason alone to visit Cambodia. There’s hardly a trip that could be more rewarding.
The history of Angkor Wat at a Glance
Angkor Wat is the world’s most prized Buddhist and Hindu temple complex on a site measuring 162.6 hecaters. Built nearly 900 years ago by King Suryavarman II, who ruled over the Khmer Empire at the time, the ancient city is about four times the size of Vatican City.
Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire for well over 600 years. It was the largest city built anywhere in the pre-industrialized world, home to more than a million people.
After the Khmer Empire was defeated in the 15th century, this once mighty city crumbled into oblivion. It remained hidden behind a wall of wilderness for over 400 years. A French explorer named Henri Mouhot stumbled upon the ruins in 1860 – and immediately recognized their importance. He reported that he’d rediscovered something grander than anything the ancient Romans or Greeks ever left behind.
Even today, after it has been protected by UNESCO for decades and become Southeast Asia’s most prized highlight, Angkor Wat feels like the wilderness will reclaim it at any moment.
This is undoubtedly one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places you could ever visit.
How to make the best of your visit to Angkor Wat
The Angkor complex is colossal and slightly overwhelming. For an enjoyable visit, some pre-planning is in order!
Know what you want to see – Angkor is home to 72 major and many minor temples. You can’t possibly see them all, even on a 3-day pass. Rather than walking around aimlessly, have a plan of action in mind. Here are the Top Angkor Wat Temples to See. Combined, they offer a fantastic overview of the complex.
Pay a local tuk-tuk driver for the day – They’ll ferry you from your hotel to the complex and in-between the temples you want to see. You’ll see so much more and will tire so much less!
Mind the dress code – No matter how hot and steamy it gets, remember that Angkor is a religious and sacred complex, and demure attire is required. Visitors should cover their knees and shoulders.
See the main Angkor Wat Temple at sunrise – Yes, it’s in all the guide books, but this is one ‘tourist’ highlight that never disappoints, especially if you’re into photography. You will be braving big crowds, but it WILL be worth it!
See fewer temples in-depth – The startling thing about the Angkor temples is the intricate detail of their design and the way they have blended into the wild environment. Rather than rush from one to the next, take more time to see fewer temples. Admire the more minor details and be entranced by the devotion and care that went into constructing this insanely fascinating place.
Have you been lucky enough to visit Angkor Wat? What’s the ONE insider tip you wish everyone who is visiting should know? Tell us in the comments and share the experience!