Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples: everything you need to know

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Hi guys ! We explore Angkor Wat and all the surrounding temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park. And in this article, we'll show you everything you need to know before you go there. I hope that pleases you !

Angkor, a major archaeological site in Southeast Asia

Located just outside the city of Siem Reap, Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. The park covers an area of over 400 square kilometers and is home to the remains of different capitals of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from the 9th to the 15th century. It contains countless ancient structures and temples, ranging from small chapels to vast complexes like Angkor Wat. In this video we'll tell you everything you need to know about Angkor Archaeological Park. To make it easier to understand, we divide the park into three different zones. First of all, we will talk about Angkor Wat and the Small Circuit. Next, we'll cover the Grand Circuit, and finally, we'll talk about the important temples that are further away. For each section we will provide an overview of the highlights. At the end of the video, we'll also provide more information on how to get around, how to get your park pass, and suggested itineraries for a 1-3 day visit. Now, let’s dive in!

The Petit Circuit: the essentials of the archaeological park

First of all, we will talk about the Petit Circuit. This is a tourist route that covers the must-see temples in the central area of the Angkor Archaeological Park. Angkor Wat is the star attraction of all the ancient temples in the park. It was built in the early 12th century as a Hindu temple and later converted into a Buddhist temple. Today it is the largest religious monument in the world. Most visitors come to watch the sunrise over the temple's five towers, a magical experience. It can be very crowded at this time, but it is extremely beautiful and cannot be missed. After witnessing the sunrise, you can explore the surroundings of the temple at your own pace. Angkor Wat is a large complex with many different areas to explore. Be sure to visit the inner courtyard where you can admire the famous murals depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.

After touring the interior of Angkor Wat, you can return to the same sunrise spot and you will have almost the whole place to yourself. It's really quiet and peaceful here right now, just an hour or two after sunrise.

After exploring Angkor Wat, you can continue to the Small Circuit. The next highlight is Angkor Thom, a walled city that is home to many important structures and temples. You enter this ancient city through the south gate, with gigantic smiling faces, a bridge and a moat. The great temple of Bayon is located in the center of Angkor Thom. Dating from the 12th century, this fascinating temple is famous for its 216 imposing stone faces, which are believed to represent various deities. There still remains a certain mystery associated with this temple, such as its exact function and its symbolism. Just outside Bayon you will find the Baphuon Temple, which has an impressive causeway. The Elephant Terrace and the Leper King Terrace are also nearby. It's definitely worth exploring these structures too.

After leaving Angkor Thom, head to Ta Prohm, one of the most popular temples on the Little Circuit. It is known for its spectacular ruins overgrown with trees and lianas. Ta Prohm was also used as a filming location for the film Tomb Raider, making it even more popular with tourists.

Finally, a quieter rival to Ta Prohm is Banteay Kadei, which features ornate walls and a maze-like layout.

The Grand Circuit: the lesser-known temples of Angkor Park

Now we will talk about the Grand Circuit. This route extends beyond the Small Circuit and covers lesser-known temples outside the central area. From Siem Reap, the route is approximately 40 km, so be prepared to spend half a day there. The first temple along the Grand Circuit is Preah Rup. This 10th-century temple is notable for its pyramidal structure and intricate carvings. Its terraces offer a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. East Mebon, on the other hand, is a 10th-century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is adorned with beautiful statues of elephants and lions.

Ta Som, a small temple, is famous for its intricate stone carvings and delicate tree roots that have intertwined with the structures over time. It's a smaller version of the Tomb Raider temple, but attracts far fewer visitors.

This temple is definitely one of our favorites so far. It's really deep into the jungle and, uh, it's so peaceful, you can hear the birds and all the sounds of nature.

Then you can visit Neak Poan Temple. It is located on an artificial island in the center of a huge lake. You have to walk along the causeway to reach this unique and mysterious site.

Right next to the lake you can find Preah Khan, one of the largest resorts in the park. The temple, once a center of learning and religious devotion, features numerous halls, pavilions and corridors surrounded by lush greenery.

Finally, you can end the day by visiting Phnom Bakheng, the region's original temple mountain. It takes 20 to 30 minutes of walking to reach the top, where you will be rewarded with stunning views of Angkor Wat and one of the great temple pyramids. It is also a popular place to watch the sunset.

Other temples to explore

After the Small Circuit and the Grand Circuit, there is still much more to explore with more remote temples.

One temple that you can easily combine with one of the tours is Banteay Srei. Located about 30 km north of Angkor Wat, this temple is located in the middle of farmland, just below the Kulen mountain range. It features magnificent, well-preserved narrative bas-reliefs as well as ornate decorations that date back to the 10th century. There are also four other temples near Angkor Wat that are part of the Roluos group. We visited the three main ones, Bakong, Preah Ko and Lolei. This group of temples is located just 12 km east of Siem Reap city center. It can also easily be combined with a visit to the nearby floating village.

Practical advice for visiting Angkor

To get around Angkor Archaeological Park, consider hiring a tuk-tuk driver for the day if you want more flexibility and freedom. This allows you to create your own route. Another option is to rent a bike, but it can get very hot. You can also join a guided group tour if you want to save money with a French-speaking guide.

Essential Travel Tips for Visiting Angkor

First of all, when planning a visit to the park, you have the option of purchasing tickets online or at the park entrance booths. Three types of tickets are available: 1 day, 3 days and 7 days. If you are a history buff, we suggest opting for the 3-day pass. Before your visit, take the time to learn about the temples. Whether through a documentary, a book or a visit to the Angkor Museum in Siem Reap, gaining knowledge will increase your experience.

To ensure your comfort during your visit, wear appropriate shoes and clothing, as there will be a lot of walking involved. Your tuk-tuk driver or tour guide will likely have water, but you should also bring your own if needed as it gets very hot throughout the day.

Finally, show respect for temples and monuments by avoiding climbing on them in prohibited areas. Be careful not to touch the intricate carvings and carvings, and remember to dress modestly by covering your knees and shoulders.

We have also prepared some route options. We did 3 days ourselves, but if you are in a hurry you can choose the one or two day option. We have heard that some people visit Angkor Wat at sunrise and then all the other highlights in one day. In our opinion, it's a bit too fast because you won't be able to fully appreciate the story and intricate beauty at this speed.

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Clara & Danny

For several years, we have been traveling the world together in search of new experiences, cultures, and different landscapes.

Our passion for travel has led us to create our own blog, where we share our adventures, tips, and tricks for traveling authentically and responsibly.

We have been fortunate enough to explore many countries in Europe, South America, and beyond.

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