Siem Reap is the gateway to the must-see temples within the Angkor Archaeological Park. This complex of temples includes the iconic Angkor Wat, as well as other popular temples like Ta Prohm and Bayon.
The entire park spans an area of nearly 400 sq km and it is also worth exploring a few of the lesser-known temples that will take travellers off the beaten track and away from the congested crowds. Overall, there are nearly 1000 temples to see at the Angkor Archaeological Park - although not all of the structures are architectural marvels, with many not much more than edifices full of rubble. However, a tour of the park on the Cambodia tours that includes the most popular temples means witnessing intricate carvings, narrow chambers, secretive passageways and endless corridors.
It is tough to decide on which temples to visit on a short one or three day pass, so we have highlighted the most impressive features of this ancient city that are certain to be worth noting on the travel itinerary.
Here are nine of the most beautiful temples to visit in Siem Reap:
The world famous Angkor Wat sits at the heart of the Angkor Archaeological Park. This temple is the country's most appealing attraction and the most spectacular temple in Cambodia. It is one of the world's largest religious buildings and perfect to explore in the early morning and see the sun rise. Originally built as a Hindu temple in the 12th century, Angkor Wat later changed to a place of worship for Buddhists. The entire temple spans an area of 162.2 ha to give tourists plenty to things to do in Cambodia. However, this iconic temple gets very busy, but is still definitely worth the effort to see for its spectacular architecture and views.
Bayon is a further well appreciated temple that is listed high on the tourist trail. This temple is known for its massive carved faces that appear on the stone towers. This temple is quite small compared to Angkor Wat and built in the 12th-13th century. This temple has experienced a lot of restoration work in an effort to maintain its original beauty.
Ta Prohm is a wonderful mixture of architecture and nature with its exposed tree roots that have encroached from the Cambodian jungle. This temple has never been fully reclaimed from the landscape and left to the clutches of the surrounding jungle. Ta Prohm was put in the spotlight when featured in the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider film which has made it a popular choice on the tourist route. However, even with this extra hype it is still well worth exploring. This is one of the oldest temples in the park and likely to be the first constructed entirely of sandstone. Many of the ruins have the root-ravaged walls to give a quite magnificent and unique sight.
Banteay Srei is approx 35 km from Siem Reap, which gives a wonderful break from the madding crowds that surround Angkor Wat. The drive to the temple is well worth the effort with local scenery including the stunning countryside with women doing laundry in the streams, farm workers busy in the fields, and plenty of children riding on their bikes. This miniature temple is built in a soft, pink sandstone with an intricate design.
Banteay Kdei dates to the 12th-13th centuries and built with a similar design to Ta Prohm, but it is a lot less crowded, easier to navigate and smaller.
Prasat Kravan is one of the more compact temples in the park and constructed in the 10th century. This temple is built with symmetrical towers in red brick. A great feature of Prasat Kraven is the stonework's orange hue that really makes this temple stands out. For the tourists planning a full tour of the park temples, this one is likely to be close to the front of the queue to visit.
Preah Khan (translates to ‘Sacred Sword’) is on the short list of most photogenic and mystical temples in the entire Angkor temple complex. This temple is covered with phallic symbols such as garudas holding snakes and giant serpents at the main entrances
For the travellers on the Cambodia tour packages looking for a quieter alternative to Ta Prohm and its massive root-threaded landscape, a perfect option is to visit Ta Som. This temple has the much lower foot traffic, but is still rich in the impressive architecture with its stunning entrance, secret crevices, untouched corners, exposed roots, and other places for visitors to delve into. Also, it is practical to wear the right footwear when exploring the temples. For instance, this Angkor temple has red sand everywhere and closed or covered shoes are more practical.
East Mebon is a quite sizeable temple with three-tiers and dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. It is built with quite impressive architecture features such as sculptures of guardian lions and elephants at the gateways and intricate carvings throughout. There is every opportunity to spend several hours at this temple without getting bored. Also, this is one of the many temples that is experiencing restoration work, but this does not in any way dampen the beauty and enjoyment of exploring the temple.
The cost of the temple pass has recently seen an increase in price: a one-day pass costs $37, a three-day pass costs $62, and a one week pass costs $72. The Angkor Archaeological Park is open for visiting from 5AM to 6PM (although Banteay Srei does close slightly early at 5PM). Carry plenty of bottled water because it gets extremely hot during the day. Also, for the travellers on the Indochina tours that wish to learn more about the temples, it is worth hiring the services of an English-speaking guide who has the local knowledge to tell facts and stories about the different temples.
Guide To Visiting the Angkor Temples