The mysterious temples of Angkor are a main attraction in Cambodia! The intricate stone ruins covered with vines and banyan trees are a once-in-a-lifetime sight. Though seemingly a very pleasurable experience, exploring the temples requires the right planning in order to enjoy the surroundings without becoming exhausted. It’s hard to know what to plan without having been there! So here are the things you should consider and plan to make your time at Angkor Wat as enjoyable as possible.
Which ticket is right for me?
There are several ticket options for the temples of Angkor, ranging from 1 day to 7 days. The 2 day pass is the most popular because there are two main tours: the “small circuit” tour and the “big circuit” tour. You purchase the tickets upon arrival the Angkor park. If you are an architecture fanatic and a museum enthusiast, the 7 day ticket might be worth it for you. If you know you want to see the majority of the popular temples before you leave, the 2 day ticket is great. Keep in mind that, for most people, the temples start to blend together after seeing about 4 in one day.
I bought a one day ticket and thought it was perfect. I was so “templed out” after seeing 6 in one day that I couldn’t imagine going back for another full day. But I was on a quick-paced backpacking trip in Southeast Asia with only two days in Siem Reap. Choosing a ticket all depends on your interest in temples and the type of trip you have planned.
Bike or Tuk Tuk?
Definitely reserve a Tuk Tuk for your whole trip! The expanse of the park and the distance between temples is really long. Do not underestimate the size of this place, or the heat! I was there during the coldest part of the year and it was still some of the hottest weather I had ever been in. The cyclists looked absolutely miserable. It costs about $10-20 a day for a Tuk Tuk to drive you (and up to 3 other people) around from temple to temple all day. It’s a bonus if they have a coolor on their rig so that you can keep food and water cold!
Borey the “Rock n’ Roll Tuk Tuk”
This one specific Tuk Tuk was a highlight on my entire trip in Southeast Asia. If you go to Siem Reap YOU HAVE TO find Borey. He has a whole sound and lighting system rigged in his Tuk Tuk with a little TV so that you can DJ your music or watch Angkor history videos while driving around. He wears a microphone while driving and sings along with the music and shouts things like “IS EVERBODY HAPPY?!!” “ROCK n ROLL BAABYYYY”. Needless to say, he keeps the energy high all day and cares deeply about making the group happy. My group had heard about him from a friend and we tried googling him. We tried a few numbers at the front desk of the Golden Temple Villa in Siem Reap, and then suddenly the manager walked in and said “Oh, Borey? The Rock n Roll Tuk Tuk? He is my neighbor, I will call him for you!” We were stunned and so excited that we found him.
Do the Angkor Small Circuit in Reverse
The huge crowds will swarm to the main Angkor Wat temple to watch the sunrise and start from there. If you start the popular small circuit tour in reverse order of the temples, you will get the first few temples all to yourself for sunrise. This is what we did and we didn’t really hit the big crowds until mid-day.
Start before Sunrise
Leave Siem Reap at 5am. This way you will get one of the temples to yourself and can watch the sunrise in peace. It also gets really really hot by mid-morning. You will enjoy moving around the temples and climbing stairs a lot more while it’s cool in the morning!!
Bring Water and Snacks!
Go to a grocery store the night before your tour and buy lots of big water bottles and snacks. You will be drinking waaay more water than you usually do with all the hiking and extreme heat. Hopefully your Tuk Tuk will have a cooler to store them in.
Dress with Respect
Keep in mind that you are visiting temples; a very holy destination for the locals and many people who visit. You won’t be denied if your shoulders and knees aren’t covered (like most other temples in Southeast Asia) but dress with respect. It’s smart to wear shorts with some Thai pants over them in the morning while it’s still cool, and a modest shirt or tank.
Must See Temples:
Angkor Wat – This is the most famous temple of Angkor. It’s the largest and most crowded, especially at sunrise when all the tours start.
Bayon – This temple is best known for the stone smiling faces.
Ta Prohm – Also known as the “Tomb Raider Temple” because it was featured in the movie with Angelina Jolie. You’ll recognize the twisted tree that sits over the ruins.
Preah Khan – This temple is similar to Ta Prohm with its stone piles covered in vines and trees, but without the crowds! This was by far my favorite temple.
Banteay Srei – This one stands out from the rest because it is made of red sandstone. The stone carvings and architecture are much more intricate than other temples.
Explore the town of Siem Reap
Don’t forget to spend a day exploring the town of Siem Reap! It was one of my favorite towns on my trip in Southeast Asia. I loved using the bikes from my hostel and exploring the Old Market and the great restaurants. My favorite hotel in town is the Golden Temple Villa. My friends were staying there and it was amazing! Upon arrival they treat you to refreshing drinks and snacks in their lush restaurant lounge, the rooms are beautiful, the wifi is fast, and the front desk is incredibly helpful. Here is a quick list of things you should definitely do in Siem Reap:
- Shop at the Old Market
- Get Massages
- Get a Fish Pedicure!!
- Eat Dinner at “The Lane”
- Check out Pub Street and the Night Market
- Have drinks on the 5th floor of the Yellow “Submarine” Beatles themed restaurant.
Have you been to the temples of Angkor?
Do you have any tips?
Photos Property of Emma Toll