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Headed To Cambodia? 5 Temples To Visit That Aren’t Angkor Wat


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Riva Rutherford



Cambodia, known for its rich history and stunning architectural wonders, is a popular destination for travelers seeking to explore ancient temples. While Angkor Wat is undoubtedly the most famous temple complex in the country, there are several lesser-known temples that are equally captivating and deserve a visit. These hidden treasures offer a unique glimpse into Cambodia’s fascinating past and provide a quieter and more intimate temple experience.


In this article, we will take you on a journey to discover five remarkable temples in Cambodia that are worth exploring beyond the iconic Angkor Wat. From the intricately carved sandstone masterpiece of Banteay Srei to the majestic mountaintop sanctuary of Preah Vihear, each temple has its own story to tell and offers a different perspective on Cambodia’s ancient civilization.


Whether you’re an avid history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply a traveler seeking to venture off the beaten path, these temples will leave you awestruck with their beauty and cultural significance.


Let’s delve into the captivating world of Cambodia’s lesser-known temples and discover the hidden gems that await you.


Temple 1: Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei, located about 25 kilometers northeast of the main Angkor Archaeological Park, is a true gem of Khmer architecture. This 10th-century temple is known for its remarkable intricate carvings, making it one of the most intricately decorated temples in Cambodia.


Translated as “Citadel of Women,” Banteay Srei is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and stands out for its pink sandstone construction, which gives it a unique and enchanting appearance. The delicate carvings on the walls depict scenes of Hindu mythology and are astonishing in their level of detail.


Visiting Banteay Srei is like stepping into a fairy tale. The tiny size of the temple, compared to other grand structures in the area, creates an intimate atmosphere that allows visitors to appreciate the intricate craftsmanship up close. It is truly a photographer’s paradise, with every corner offering a stunning photo opportunity.


As you wander through the temple grounds, be sure to explore the intricately carved libraries, towers, and sanctuaries. The “Devatas,” or celestial nymphs, depicted on the walls are breathtaking in their beauty and add a touch of mystique to the temple.


Banteay Srei is best visited in the early morning or late afternoon, when the soft sunlight casts a warm glow on the pink sandstone, accentuating the intricate carvings. It is a place that will transport you back in time and leave you in awe of the extraordinary talent and dedication of the Khmer artisans.


Temple 2: Preah Vihear

Sitting dramatically atop the Dangrek Mountain range, Preah Vihear is a stunning temple complex that offers breathtaking panoramic views and a sense of awe-inspiring grandeur. Located near the border with Thailand, this ancient Hindu temple is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most impressive architectural feats in Cambodia.


To reach Preah Vihear, you’ll embark on a scenic journey up the mountainside, passing through lush forests and winding roads that add to the sense of adventure. As you ascend, the temple slowly reveals itself, perched on the edge of a cliff, commanding a majestic view over the surrounding Cambodian plains.


Preah Vihear was built during the reign of the Khmer Empire in the 11th century and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The temple is renowned for its intricate carvings and architectural details, showcasing the mastery of Khmer craftsmanship. As you explore the temple complex, you’ll be mesmerized by the elaborate bas-reliefs and towering structures that have stood the test of time.


One of the highlights of visiting Preah Vihear is the breathtaking view from the temple’s elevated location. On a clear day, you can see for miles, with the lush Cambodian countryside stretching as far as the eye can see. It’s a perfect spot to capture mesmerizing photographs and immerse yourself in the peacefulness of the surroundings.


However, it’s important to note that due to its location near the border, accessing Preah Vihear can sometimes be challenging. It is recommended to check the current travel advisories and ensure you have the necessary permits and permissions before planning a visit.


For those seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure and a chance to experience Cambodia’s ancient wonders, Preah Vihear is a must-visit destination. Its stunning architecture, breathtaking views, and historical significance make it a true hidden treasure waiting to be discovered.


Temple 3: Beng Mealea

Tucked away in the jungles of Siem Reap province, Beng Mealea is a mystical temple that offers a sense of adventure and exploration like no other. Often referred to as the “Indiana Jones temple,” Beng Mealea is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by intrepid travelers.


Unlike the well-preserved temples of Angkor, Beng Mealea is in a state of beautiful ruin. Covered in lush vegetation, fallen stones, and intricate tree roots, the temple has a captivating and otherworldly atmosphere. As you make your way through the maze-like corridors and crumbling passageways, it feels as if you’ve stumbled upon a lost world frozen in time.


Beng Mealea was built in the 12th century and is believed to have been a prototype for Angkor Wat. The temple showcases the typical Khmer architectural style, with stunning galleries, courtyards, and towers awaiting exploration. The sense of discovery and the opportunity to wander off the beaten path adds an element of excitement to your visit.


One of the highlights of Beng Mealea is the massive central tower, which lies in ruins but still retains its grandeur. Climbing atop the fallen stones and admiring the intricate carvings that have stood the test of time offers a unique perspective on the temple’s rich history.


Visiting Beng Mealea is an adventure in itself, as you navigate through the jungle and traverse makeshift bridges to reach the temple. It is recommended to hire a local guide who can share stories and legends about the temple and help you find hidden nooks and crannies.


Overall, Beng Mealea is a temple that embodies the spirit of exploration and offers a glimpse into the mysteries of Cambodia’s past. It’s an opportunity to step off the well-trodden tourist path and immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of a forgotten temple.


Temple 4: Koh Ker

Located in the remote jungles of northern Cambodia, Koh Ker is an ancient temple complex that was once the capital of the Khmer Empire. This hidden gem is nestled amidst dense forest and offers a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience for adventurous travelers.


Koh Ker is known for its distinct architectural style, different from the temples found in the Angkor Archaeological Park. The temple complex features towering pyramid-like structures, known as prasats, which give it a majestic and imposing presence. As you explore the site, you’ll be amazed by the intricate carvings and the sheer scale of the temples.


One of the highlights of Koh Ker is the Prasat Thom, an impressive seven-tiered pyramid that stands at a height of over 98 feet (30 meters). Climbing to the top of the pyramid rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding jungle, making it a perfect spot to witness a magical sunrise or sunset.


Besides the Prasat Thom, there are several other temples worth exploring in the area. The Prasat Prang offers a glimpse into the intricate craftsmanship of the Khmer Empire, with intricate carvings adorning its walls. The Prasat Neang Khmau, which translates to “Black Lady Temple,” stands out with its unique black sandstone construction.


Visiting Koh Ker requires a bit of effort, as it is located about 120 kilometers northeast of Siem Reap. However, the journey is well worth it for those seeking a truly off-the-beaten-path temple experience.


Being relatively lesser-known and less visited than Angkor Wat, Koh Ker offers a sense of tranquility and serenity. It’s an opportunity to explore ancient temples in a peaceful environment, away from the crowds.


If you’re an adventurous traveler with a love for history and unique architectural wonders, a visit to Koh Ker should definitely be on your itinerary. Discover the hidden treasures of this ancient capital and immerse yourself in the majesty of the Khmer Empire.


Temple 5: Preah Khan

Situated just off the Grand Circuit in the Angkor Archaeological Park, Preah Khan is a captivating temple complex that offers a fascinating glimpse into Cambodia’s history and culture. Built in the 12th century during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, this sprawling temple is dedicated to his father and was once a center of education and religious devotion.


Preah Khan, meaning “Sacred Sword,” is renowned for its grandeur and architectural beauty. As you enter through the towering stone gateways, you’ll be greeted by a labyrinth of narrow corridors, grand halls, and courtyards. The temple’s layout and design evoke a sense of mystery and exploration, with hidden corners and secret passageways awaiting discovery.


One of the most remarkable features of Preah Khan is the extensive collection of intricately carved stone steles and lintels. These carvings depict mythical creatures, deities, and scenes from Hindu and Buddhist mythology, adding both artistic and historical value to the temple complex.


While exploring Preah Khan, be sure to visit the Hall of Dancers, where you can admire the graceful Apsara dancers rendered in stone. The central sanctuary, with its towering prang-shaped towers, is also a must-see, offering an impressive view of the temple from above.


Unlike the more popular temples like Angkor Wat and Bayon, Preah Khan offers a more secluded and tranquil experience. The temple is off the beaten path and sees fewer crowds, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in its rich history and appreciate the architectural details without distractions.


Additionally, the surrounding area of Preah Khan is also worth exploring. The temple is surrounded by a dense forest, and the nearby Preah Khan Baray, an ancient reservoir, adds to the tranquil ambiance of the site.


Visiting Preah Khan provides a unique opportunity to connect with the past and witness the remnants of a once-thriving empire. The rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, and peaceful atmosphere combine to create a memorable temple visit that should not be missed.



Cambodia is a treasure trove of ancient temples, and while Angkor Wat may be the most renowned, venturing beyond it unveils a world of hidden architectural wonders. From the mesmerizing carvings of Banteay Srei to the majestic mountaintop sanctuary of Preah Vihear, these lesser-known temples offer a unique and immersive experience for travelers seeking to delve deeper into Cambodia’s rich history and culture.


Exploring temples such as Beng Mealea, Koh Ker, and Preah Khan allows visitors to escape the crowds and witness the beauty of ancient structures in a more intimate and tranquil setting. These temples, though not as widely visited, possess their own historical significance and architectural marvels that will leave you in awe.


Not only do these lesser-known temples provide an insight into Cambodia’s past, but they also offer a chance to connect with nature. Surrounded by lush forests and nestled amidst scenic landscapes, these temples create a serene and peaceful atmosphere that enhances the overall experience.


It’s important to note that visiting these temples may require a bit of effort, as they are located off the beaten path and may require special permits or arrangements. However, the journey is well worth it for the intrepid traveler seeking a unique and unforgettable adventure.


Cambodia’s lesser-known temples offer a different perspective, allowing you to delve deeper into the rich tapestry of Khmer history and culture. Whether you’re an avid history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply a traveler seeking something off the tourist trail, these temples will captivate your imagination and leave you with lasting memories.


So, the next time you plan a trip to Cambodia, set aside some time to explore these hidden gems. Discover the intricate carvings, breathtaking views, and serene surroundings that await you in Banteay Srei, Preah Vihear, Beng Mealea, Koh Ker, and Preah Khan. Uncover the secrets of Cambodia’s ancient past and create a truly unforgettable temple adventure.