Siem Reap and its Angkor Archaeological Park is one of those places that you have to see to believe. The history, culture and heritage is incredible and not to missed if you are traveling to Cambodia. The Angkor Archaeological Park is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and where the capital of the ancient Khmer Empire was located. Angkor is home to dozens of ancient temples and ruins, and hundreds of thousands of people flock there every year to visit for the famous Angkor Wat sunrise, Bayon for its intricate carved-stone faces and Ta Prohm for the overgrown trees that now cover the ruins of the temple.
If you are visiting Siem Reap for the first time and only have a day to spare, read this article for 5 top temples you must visit in the Angkor Archaeological Park to help plan your trip. However, if you have a few more days to spare and want to get off the beaten path in Siem Reap and explore a little deeper beyond Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm, read on!
Here is a quick refresher on some general travel tips and advice for visiting the Angkor Archaeological Park.
What you should know before you visit the Angkor Archaeological Park
In order to enter the Angkor area you will need to buy a pass that grants access to all the temples and monuments. It’s priced at US$20 (1 day), $40 (3 days) or $60 (1 week). The ticket is a small slip of paper so do not lose it, especially if you are purchasing a multi-day pass – there are people at every temple that will ask to see your ticket before you’re allowed to enter. Your photo is taken and printed on the ticket so it is non-transferable.
The ticket office opens at 4 am – this is a photo of the ticket office at 4:30 am. Just look at the hordes of people!
*Validity of the multi-day passes: Your 3 day pass can be used on non-consecutive days within a week, and your 7 day pass can be used on non-consecutive days within a month.
Siem Reap is hot throughout most of the year, in general you can expect it to get up to the mid-high thirties (Celsius), so the best time to visit the Angkor temples is bright and early in the morning as it starts to get hot and crowded at around 9 am. Peak season is from November to March, but we have been twice in both April and May and the crowds tend to thin out (but the heat goes way up).
Code of Conduct in the Angkor Archaeological Park
Angkor remains an active religious and spiritual site so it’s important to respect the community who engage in worship. It’s important to observe the following when you are visiting any of the temples around and within the Angkor Archaeological Zone.
- Cover your shoulders and knees – you might get away with it and not get turned away (as you would if you were not properly dressed to visit churches in Italy), but respectful dress is strongly encouraged.
- Don’t touch the monuments – many of the carvings and structures are extremely fragile. Don’t sit on the balustrades or lean on the walls.
- Keep your voice down – it goes without saying that loud conversation should be kept to a minimum!
- Follow the signs – most of the temples, especially ones that are more maze-like, will have directions that you should follow as you walk through. Follow these directions!
- Don’t smoke and litter – Angkor is a smoke free site. Make sure you don’t litter and take any trash with you or place it in one of the many trash cans. I saw a monkey playing with a plastic bottle that someone had obviously chucked to the side – not great!
- Respect the monks – this is a big one and hits close to home for me, especially after hearing all the horror stories about what goes on during alms giving ceremonies in Asia. Read more about my thoughts on alms giving in Luang Prabang here. You may see processions during your time at Angkor, and the beautiful saffron robes are eye-catching, but please don’t charge towards the monks and start snapping away. It’s not a human zoo! Monks are revered and respected – if you want to take photos, please ask for permission. If you are a female tourist you should not touch the monks.
- Skip the drone – flying drones requires a permit from the APSARA National Authority.
*Adapted from the official Apsara Angkor Visitor Code of Conduct pamphlet.
5 Lesser-Known Temples in Siem Reap That You Shouldn’t Skip
These temples don’t tend to make it onto the “must-visit” lists but are all underrated and magnificent in their own right. If you have already visited the most famous temples within the Angkor Archaeological Park then it’s time to check out some of these lesser-known ones and get off the beaten track in Siem Reap. Bonus: because they aren’t as well known, they tend to be much less crowded too!
Baphuon Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, located in Angkor Thom next to the famous Bayon. It was converted into a Buddhist temple in the 15th century and features 3 separate levels that offer a view of the long stone pathway leading to the temple’s entrance.
The route to explore Baphuon goes in a clockwise manner starting at the main entrance, followed by a very steep climb up (and back down) a steel ladder. Once you are at the top of the temple, take the time to walk around to check out the panoramic view on all sides.
2. Banteay Kdei
Banteay Kdei is located close to the “Tree Temple”, Ta Prohm. It is in the Bayon architectural style with tall cone-like stone pillars but is more similar in layout to Ta Prohm or Preah Khan with multiple doorways and windows. As you walk through the temple you should pay close attention to the reliefs and carvings on the walls. Though this temple is not in the best shape, it’s quiet and extremely peaceful.
3. Prae Roup / Pre Rup
Prae Roup (AKA Pre Rup) is a crowd favorite sunset viewpoint (featured image). It is a temple mountain that is red/burnt orange in colour and has steep stairs on all 4 sides leading up to the pinnacle. The view from the top of the lush green surroundings is stunning, and it is worth heading here early to nab a spot if you want to watch the sunset.
Have a limited amount of time in Siem Reap and want to make sure you see the iconic sights? Click here for the top 5 most visited temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park!
4. Ta Som
Ta Som is a small temple on the eastern end of the Angkor Archaeological Park. It is popular for the tree that has overgrown the eastern entrance and is reminiscent of Ta Prohm on a much smaller scale. If your tuk tuk driver drops you off on the frontside of the temple, make sure you walk through the temple all the way to the easternmost side in order to view the crawling tree.
5. Neak Pean
Neak Pean is probably my favorite temple among this list of temples, as the wooden pier leading up to the temple is surrounded by a beautiful lake with waterlilies. Neak Pean is a 12th century large square man-made pond surrounded by four smaller ponds. A small circular island temple sits in the middle with 2 stone snake statues as well as a horse statue in front of the east entrance.
Where to stay in Siem Reap
During my first two trips to Siem Reap stayed at a lovely little boutique hotel called Navutu Dreams Resort, located just 10 minutes away from the entrance to the Angkor archaeological site. As part of the (very reasonable) room rate, you also get a private tuk tuk driver for 12 hours who can take you around to the different temples and night markets. If you love fresh & healthy food, practicing Yoga, beautiful pools and private cabanas then Navutu Dreams is the place to be! Stay tuned for my full review or click here to book your stay at Navutu Dreams!
If you are looking for something a little more low-key and private, House Jane is another fantastic option. This boutique hotel only has a handful of rooms and is a short 15-20 minute walk away from the Old Market.
The villa-style hotel has its own pool surrounded by greenery and can help you organize tours to Angkor, Tonle Sap and beyond. It even has its own poolside massage cabana for in-house treatments. Click here to book your stay at House Jane!
Where to eat in Siem Reap
There are many restaurants, cafés and training facilities in Siem Reap dedicated to helping young Cambodian people gain valuable work skills and employment opportunities. If you are planning a visit to Siem Reap to visit the incredible temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park, you can also get your fill of delicious food while ensuring that your tourism dollars are going towards sustainable community development and ethical projects. Read on for 7 socially responsible restaurants and cafés to check out in Siem Reap!
Have you been to any of these temples? Do you have any suggestions to add to this list? Comment and tell me all about it below!
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