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Angkor Wat Temple And Siem Reap


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Kerstin Levinson



Welcome to the magical land of Cambodia, home to the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat Temple and the vibrant city of Siem Reap. Cambodia is a country rich in history, culture, and natural beauty, making it an irresistible destination for travelers from around the world.


At the heart of Cambodia’s cultural heritage lies the magnificent Angkor Wat Temple. Built during the Khmer Empire in the 12th century, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the largest religious monuments in the world. Its grandeur and architectural marvels attract visitors seeking to immerse themselves in the country’s glorious past.


The city of Siem Reap serves as the gateway to the Angkor Wat Temple complex, and it has evolved into a vibrant and cosmopolitan destination in its own right. With its bustling markets, stunning temples, and a wide range of accommodation options, Siem Reap offers a perfect blend of traditional and modern experiences.


Whether you are a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or simply seeking an unforgettable adventure, Angkor Wat Temple and Siem Reap have something to offer everyone. From exploring ancient ruins to discovering the local cuisine and enjoying vibrant nightlife, this region will leave you with lasting memories.


Join us as we delve into the rich history of Angkor Wat Temple, uncover the secrets of its architecture, explore the wonders of Siem Reap, and provide tips on how to make the most of your visit to this captivating corner of Cambodia.


History of Angkor Wat Temple

The history of Angkor Wat Temple is deeply intertwined with the rise and fall of the Khmer Empire. The construction of this magnificent temple complex began in the early 12th century during the reign of King Suryavarman II. It was originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu but later transformed into a Buddhist temple complex.


Angkor Wat Temple served as the political and religious center of the Khmer Empire, which was one of the most powerful and prosperous empires in Southeast Asia at the time. The empire reached its peak during the 9th to the 15th centuries, encompassing parts of present-day Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos.


The temple was built to reflect the cosmic world of Hindu mythology, with its five towers representing Mount Meru, the mythical home of the gods. The intricate carvings and bas-reliefs on the temple walls depict scenes from Hindu epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana, along with exquisite portrayals of daily life during the Khmer Empire.


Despite its architectural and artistic achievements, Angkor Wat Temple remained largely unknown to the Western world until the mid-19th century when French explorer Henri Mouhot rediscovered it. Since then, it has become an iconic symbol of Cambodia and a major tourist attraction.


Throughout its history, Angkor Wat Temple has faced various challenges, including changing religious beliefs, political turmoil, and natural disasters. At times, the temple was abandoned and left to the mercy of the dense Cambodian jungle. However, the temple has managed to withstand the test of time and has been meticulously restored and preserved by UNESCO and the Cambodian government.


Today, Angkor Wat Temple stands as a testament to the incredible architectural and engineering prowess of the Khmer Empire. Its majestic beauty and historical significance continue to capture the imagination of visitors from all over the world, making it a must-visit destination for history buffs and culture seekers.


Architecture of Angkor Wat Temple

The architecture of Angkor Wat Temple is a masterpiece of Khmer design and engineering. It showcases the ingenuity and artistic skills of the Khmer Empire, creating a harmonious fusion of religious symbolism and exquisite craftsmanship.


The temple complex covers an area of approximately 402 acres (162 hectares), making it the largest religious monument in the world. It consists of a series of concentric galleries, towers, and courtyards, surrounded by a moat, all built with sandstone blocks sourced from nearby quarries.


The most distinctive feature of Angkor Wat Temple is its five towers, known as prasats, which dominate the skyline. These towers represent the peaks of Mount Meru, the mythical residence of the gods in Hindu mythology. The central tower, standing at a height of 213 feet (65 meters), is the tallest and is surrounded by four smaller towers.


The temple is designed to symbolize the cosmological universe, with the central tower representing the center of the universe and the four smaller towers representing the cardinal directions. The intricate carvings on the towers and walls depict celestial dancers, mythical creatures, and scenes from Hindu mythology.


One of the most impressive features of Angkor Wat Temple is its extensive bas-reliefs. These intricate carvings cover the walls of the galleries and depict various themes such as the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, the Battle of Kurukshetra, and scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. The level of detail and artistry in these carvings is truly remarkable and provides a glimpse into the life and beliefs of the Khmer people during the temple’s construction.


The temple’s layout is also meticulously planned, following a precise axial arrangement. The entrance is through a grand causeway leading to a series of galleries. Beyond the galleries is an inner courtyard where the main towers are located. The entire complex is surrounded by a moat measuring approximately 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) in length, which not only served as a defensive barrier but also symbolized the mythical cosmic oceans.


Angkor Wat Temple’s architectural style is a blend of elements from Indian temple architecture and indigenous Khmer traditions. This fusion of influences creates a unique and awe-inspiring structure that continues to captivate visitors to this day.


The meticulous craftsmanship, grandeur, and symbolic significance of Angkor Wat Temple make it a true architectural marvel. It stands as a testament to the engineering capabilities and artistic vision of the Khmer Empire, leaving a lasting impression on all who have the privilege of visiting this extraordinary site.


Importance of Angkor Wat Temple

Angkor Wat Temple holds immense historical, cultural, and religious significance, making it a place of great importance not only for Cambodia but also for the world. Here are some reasons why Angkor Wat Temple is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia:


1. Historical Significance: Angkor Wat Temple stands as a testament to the glory and power of the Khmer Empire, which once ruled over vast parts of Southeast Asia. It provides valuable insights into the political, social, and cultural achievements of the empire during its peak period.


2. Architectural Marvel: The temple’s architectural achievements are remarkable. Its grand scale, intricate carvings, and meticulous design showcase the engineering prowess and artistic skills of the Khmer people. It serves as a prime example of the unique Khmer architectural style that influences temple designs throughout Southeast Asia.


3. Cultural Heritage: Angkor Wat Temple is deeply intertwined with the cultural heritage of Cambodia. It is a symbol of national pride and identity, representing the rich history and traditions of the Khmer people. The carvings and bas-reliefs on the temple walls provide insights into ancient Khmer society, religion, and mythology.


4. Religious Significance: The temple has played a crucial role in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It was initially built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu but later transformed into a Buddhist site. It remains an important place of worship for both religions, attracting pilgrims from around the world.


5. Tourist Attraction: Angkor Wat Temple draws millions of visitors each year, contributing significantly to the economy of Cambodia. Its immense popularity as a tourist destination has helped raise awareness about the country’s rich history and cultural heritage.


6. UNESCO World Heritage Site: Angkor Wat Temple was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, recognizing its universal value and the need for its preservation. This designation has helped in the conservation and restoration efforts to safeguard the temple for future generations.


7. Educational Value: The temple complex provides a unique educational experience for tourists, historians, archaeologists, and researchers. It offers a firsthand glimpse into the ancient Khmer civilization and its architectural achievements, allowing for a deeper understanding of Southeast Asian history.


Angkor Wat Temple’s significance extends beyond its physical presence. It is a symbol of human creativity, resilience, and the enduring legacy of the Khmer Empire. Its preservation and appreciation are vital to understanding and appreciating the rich heritage of not only Cambodia but the entire region.


Siem Reap: Gateway to Angkor Wat

Siem Reap, located in northwestern Cambodia, serves as the gateway to the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat Temple complex. This vibrant city has grown in popularity and has blossomed into a bustling hub that caters to the needs of tourists exploring the ancient wonders of Angkor Wat.


Siem Reap offers a perfect blend of old-world charm and modern amenities. Its lively markets, traditional Khmer architecture, and warm hospitality make it a delightful destination for visitors from around the world.


One of the highlights of Siem Reap is the Old Market, also known as Psar Chas. This bustling market is a sensory delight, with its vibrant colors, aromatic spices, and eclectic array of products. Here, you can find everything from fresh produce and local handicrafts to souvenirs and traditional Khmer clothing. It’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in the local culture and sample delicious street food.


Another must-visit attraction in Siem Reap is the vibrant Pub Street. This bustling strip comes alive at night, with its lively bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a long day of temple exploration and mingle with fellow travelers. Whether you’re in the mood for live music, traditional Khmer dance performances, or simply enjoying a refreshing cocktail, Pub Street has something for everyone.


Siem Reap is also home to a plethora of beautiful temples that are worth exploring. The iconic Bayon Temple, with its stone faces, is a must-visit for its architectural wonders and spiritual ambiance. The serene Ta Prohm Temple, famous for being engulfed by tree roots, will transport you to a mystical world straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.


For those seeking a more peaceful and tranquil experience, Siem Reap offers an opportunity to connect with nature. Explore the Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and witness the floating villages and diverse wildlife that call it home. Take a boat ride along the river and marvel at the breathtaking sunset over the water.


Siem Reap also boasts a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury resorts and boutique hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses, there is something for everyone. Many of these accommodations exude traditional Khmer charm and offer a comfortable retreat after a day of exploration.


With its warm and welcoming locals, delicious cuisine, and an incredible array of experiences, Siem Reap has become a must-visit destination in its own right. It serves as the perfect base to explore the wonders of Angkor Wat Temple while offering its own unique charm and attractions.


Whether you choose to indulge in the vibrant markets, immerse yourself in the rich history and culture, or simply bask in the warm hospitality of the locals, Siem Reap promises an unforgettable experience that will leave you captivated and yearning to return.


Exploring Siem Reap

Siem Reap, Cambodia’s vibrant city, offers a treasure trove of experiences for visitors to explore. From ancient temples to bustling markets and cultural attractions, here are some of the highlights to discover while in Siem Reap.


1. Temples of Angkor: Of course, the main attraction in Siem Reap is the magnificent Angkor Wat Temple complex. Spend days exploring the various temples, each with its own unique charm and architectural wonders. Be sure to visit iconic sites like Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm Temple, and Banteay Srei for an unforgettable journey back in time.


2. Old Market (Psar Chas): Immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere of the Old Market, where you can find a cornucopia of goods, including spices, handicrafts, clothing, and souvenirs. Sample local street food and bargain with the friendly vendors to bring home a piece of Cambodia.


3. Artisans Angkor: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Artisans Angkor, a social enterprise dedicated to preserving traditional Khmer arts and crafts. Take a guided tour to see artisans at work, creating intricate handicrafts such as silk weavings, wood carvings, and stone sculptures. Support the local community by purchasing unique handmade souvenirs.


4. Floating Village of Kampong Phluk: Embark on a fascinating boat tour to witness the floating village of Kampong Phluk. Explore the stilted houses and observe the way of life of the local residents. Marvel at the seasonal changes of the Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and learn about the challenges faced by the communities living on the water.


5. Phare, the Cambodian Circus: Experience the vibrant and energetic performances of Phare, the Cambodian Circus. This contemporary circus troupe combines acrobatics, theater, music, and dance to tell stories inspired by Cambodian folklore and history. Be captivated by the agility, talent, and artistry of the performers.


6. Cambodian Cuisine: Indulge in the flavors of Cambodian cuisine, which boasts a unique blend of influences from neighboring countries. Try signature dishes like Fish Amok, a fragrant fish curry steamed in banana leaves, or Lok Lak, a stir-fried beef dish served with a tangy sauce. Don’t forget to sample the delicious street food offerings and tropical fruits available throughout the city.


7. Cultural Performances: Immerse yourself in the rich culture of Cambodia by attending traditional dance performances, such as the Apsara dance, which showcases graceful movements and elegant costumes. These performances provide a glimpse into the country’s rich heritage and are a feast for the senses.


8. Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve: Explore the unique biodiversity of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, a designated UNESCO site. Take a boat tour to see the rich birdlife, floating gardens, and flooded forests. This ecological hotspot is home to many rare and endangered species, providing a great opportunity for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.


Siem Reap offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to all interests and preferences. Whether you are an architecture enthusiast, history buff, or food lover, this enchanting city has something to offer everyone. Embark on a journey of exploration and discovery in Siem Reap and be captivated by its wonders.


Accommodation Options in Siem Reap

Siem Reap offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses, you’ll find a place to stay that meets your needs and ensures a comfortable and memorable stay in this vibrant city.


1. Luxury Resorts: Siem Reap is home to an array of luxurious resorts that offer world-class amenities and service. These resorts often feature stunning pool areas, spa facilities, fine dining restaurants, and beautifully landscaped gardens. They provide a tranquil retreat after a day of temple exploration and pamper guests with their lavish amenities and impeccable hospitality.


2. Boutique Hotels: For those seeking a more intimate and personalized experience, boutique hotels are an excellent choice. These smaller-scale accommodations often feature unique designs, stylish interiors, and a warm and welcoming ambiance. You’ll find boutique hotels that cater to different tastes, whether you prefer a contemporary and minimalist aesthetic or a more traditional Khmer-inspired atmosphere.


3. Guesthouses and Budget Accommodations: Siem Reap also provides numerous guesthouses and budget-friendly accommodations for travelers on a tighter budget. These properties offer comfortable rooms, friendly staff, and a more local and authentic experience. They are ideal for budget-conscious travelers who still want a clean and comfortable base for their Siem Reap adventures.


4. Eco Lodges: For those who value sustainable and environmentally conscious travel, there are eco lodges available in Siem Reap. These accommodations focus on reducing their environmental impact by implementing eco-friendly practices such as using renewable energy, promoting responsible tourism, and supporting local communities. Staying at an eco lodge allows you to enjoy your trip while minimizing your carbon footprint.


5. Homestays: To immerse yourself in the local culture and get a glimpse of everyday life in Siem Reap, consider a homestay experience. Homestays provide an opportunity to stay with a local family, learn about their customs, and even participate in traditional activities. It’s a fantastic way to gain a deeper understanding of the local way of life and create meaningful connections.


No matter which type of accommodation you choose, the friendly and hospitable nature of the Cambodian people ensures a warm welcome and a pleasant stay. With an array of options available, you can find the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate after exploring the wonders of Angkor Wat Temple and experiencing the cultural delights of Siem Reap.


Getting to Angkor Wat Temple

Angkor Wat Temple is located just a few kilometers north of Siem Reap in Cambodia. Getting to this magnificent temple is relatively straightforward, and there are different options available to suit your preferences and budget.


1. Tuk-Tuk: One of the most popular and iconic modes of transportation in Cambodia is the tuk-tuk. These small, three-wheeled vehicles offer a convenient and affordable way to travel to Angkor Wat Temple. Tuk-tuks can be easily found throughout Siem Reap, and you can negotiate a price with the driver for a round trip or hourly hire. Riding in a tuk-tuk allows you to enjoy the breeze and take in the scenic views along the way.


2. Bicycle: For the more adventurous and eco-friendly travelers, renting a bicycle is a great option to get to Angkor Wat Temple. Siem Reap provides numerous bicycle rental shops where you can easily hire a bicycle for the day. The journey to the temple complex is relatively flat and provides an opportunity to enjoy the countryside and rural landscapes. Keep in mind that the temple complex is vast, so be prepared for some cycling within the complex itself.


3. Motorbike: If you have experience riding motorbikes, renting one can offer flexibility and convenience in reaching Angkor Wat Temple. Motorbike rentals are available in Siem Reap, and they allow you to have more freedom in exploring the temple complex at your own pace. Just ensure you have the necessary licenses, take precautions, and follow all traffic rules.


4. Private Car: For those seeking comfort and convenience, hiring a private car or booking a car with a driver is a viable option. Many hotels in Siem Reap offer transportation services, or you can arrange a private car hire through a local tour operator. Having a private car allows you to have a more comfortable and air-conditioned ride, and you can customize your itinerary to include other attractions in the area.


5. Group Tours: Joining a group tour is another convenient way to visit Angkor Wat Temple. Many tour agencies in Siem Reap offer guided tours with transportation included. These tours often provide a knowledgeable guide who will share insights about the temple’s history and significance. Group tours can also be an opportunity to meet fellow travelers and share the experience together.


It’s important to note that an Angkor Pass is required to enter the temple complex, and it can be purchased at the ticket office located just before the entrance. The pass allows access to various temples within the complex and is available for one-day, three-day, or seven-day durations.


Before visiting Angkor Wat Temple, ensure you are dressed modestly, with shoulders and knees covered out of respect for the sacred site. Bringing sun protection, water, and comfortable footwear is also recommended, as you’ll be doing a fair amount of walking and exploring.


Regardless of the transportation option you choose, reaching Angkor Wat Temple is an adventure in itself, offering glimpses of the beautiful Cambodian countryside and preparing you for the awe-inspiring experience that awaits at this iconic temple complex.


Tips for Visiting Angkor Wat Temple and Siem Reap

Visiting Angkor Wat Temple and exploring Siem Reap can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. To make the most of your trip, here are some helpful tips to consider:


1. Plan Ahead: Research and plan your itinerary in advance to make the most efficient use of your time. While it’s tempting to see everything in one day, consider purchasing a multi-day Angkor Pass to allow ample time to explore the temple complex at a relaxed pace.


2. Beat the Crowd: Angkor Wat Temple can get crowded, especially during peak visitor hours. To avoid large crowds, consider visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Not only will you enjoy a quieter experience, but the lighting during these times also creates a magical ambiance for photography.


3. Dress Appropriately: As a place of religious significance, it’s important to dress modestly when visiting Angkor Wat Temple. Both men and women should have their shoulders and knees covered. Wearing comfortable and lightweight clothing is also recommended due to the warm tropical climate.


4. Stay Hydrated: The tropical climate can be hot and humid, so it’s essential to stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle with you and make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. There are also vendors selling cold drinks near the temple complex.


5. Engage a Knowledgeable Guide: Consider hiring a knowledgeable guide or joining a guided tour to enhance your understanding of the temple’s history and significance. Guides can provide valuable insights, stories, and lesser-known facts that will enrich your experience.


6. Respect the Temple Grounds: Angkor Wat Temple is a sacred site, and it’s important to treat it with respect. Follow any instructions or guidelines provided by the authorities. Do not climb on fragile structures or touch any carvings, as this can cause damage to the delicate artwork.


7. Explore Beyond Angkor Wat: While Angkor Wat Temple is the star attraction, don’t miss the opportunity to explore other temples within the complex, such as Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm, and Banteay Srei. Each temple has its unique charm and architectural wonders.


8. Experience Khmer Cuisine: Siem Reap offers a fantastic culinary scene, so make sure to sample the delicious Khmer cuisine. From street food to fine dining restaurants, there’s something to cater to every taste bud. Don’t miss trying local favorites like Fish Amok, Beef Lok Lak, and Khmer Red Curry.


9. Practice Responsible Tourism: When visiting Angkor Wat Temple or other attractions in Siem Reap, be mindful of the environment and local communities. Respect the local customs, dispose of waste properly, and support responsible tourism practices. Consider opting for locally owned businesses and ethical tour operators.


10. Take Time to Relax: Exploring temples can be physically demanding, so make sure to take breaks and find time to relax. Siem Reap offers numerous spas, wellness centers, and beautiful resorts where you can rejuvenate and unwind after a day of exploring.


Remember, Angkor Wat Temple and Siem Reap offer a wealth of cultural and historical treasures. Embrace the experience with an open mind and immerse yourself in the beauty and charm of this incredible destination.



Discovering the wonders of Angkor Wat Temple and exploring the vibrant city of Siem Reap is a journey that will leave you captivated and inspired. This enchanting corner of Cambodia offers a unique blend of rich history, breathtaking architecture, and warm hospitality. As you wander through the ancient temples and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, you’ll be transported to a world that seems like a magical time capsule.


Angkor Wat Temple, with its grandeur and intricate carvings, stands as a testament to the architectural achievements of the Khmer Empire. Its historical significance and religious symbolism make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts, spiritual seekers, and cultural explorers.


Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat, is not just a place to rest your head but a destination in its own right. Its bustling markets, vibrant nightlife, and mouthwatering cuisine offer a glimpse into the modern-day Cambodian way of life. The warmth and friendliness of the locals will make you feel at home as you meander through the charming streets and soak in the local vibes.


Whether you’re captivated by the architectural marvels of the temples, intrigued by the rich cultural heritage of the region, or simply seeking a memorable adventure, Angkor Wat Temple and Siem Reap have so much to offer. From exploring the ancient ruins to indulging in delicious Khmer delights, every moment spent in this captivating land will be etched in your memory.


As you navigate the temple complex, immerse yourself in the vibrant markets, and connect with the local community, remember to be respectful and responsible, preserving the beauty and authenticity of this remarkable destination for future generations.


Embark on this incredible journey of discovery, and let yourself be enchanted by the grandeur of Angkor Wat Temple and the vibrancy of Siem Reap. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture lover, a food enthusiast, or simply an avid traveler, this corner of Cambodia will capture your heart and leave a lifelong impression.