The ultimate guide to Angkor Wat
Need a guide to Angkor Wat? Anyone who enjoys adventure will have a field day exploring these ancient temple ruins consumed by dense jungle – or even better – feeling like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. But if you think you can just valse in there and take one temple at a time, you’re missing something. Angkor Wat has over 1,000 temples and there are lots of things to be aware of, like when to go, prices, must-see temples and the HUGE lurking spiders.
In this post you’ll find a guide to Angkor Wat including my tips for making the most out of your visit. If you think spending more than 2 days is overkill, check out my other post about how to visit Angkor Wat in 2 days.
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Maybe you already know this, but Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. It contains the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Plus, it’s a UNESCO heritage site and considered the 7th wonder of the world.
HIRE A GUIDE
Okay, so first of all, you should consider hiring a guide. We rented one the first day and then the next day we explored on our own. A guide to Angkor Wat will not only give you the story behind the temples, he will also show you the best spots for photographs! If you don’t want to pay for a guide, ask your driver for advice. He might have some tips.
An English-speaking guide costs $20-$30 per day.
MUST-SEE ANGKOR WAT TEMPLES
As I mentioned, Angkor Wat consists of more than 1,000 temples so logically it’s impossible to visit them all. You’d probably want to know which temples have trees growing into them, which ones have unique face carvings, and where you can watch the sunrise and sunset, right? You’ll find all that below.
Note: This is a temple site so make sure to dress modest. Long pants or leggings, scarfs and hats help guard against the sun as well as local sensibilities.
The Bayon temple is known for its special face carvings. The temple has 37 towers and almost every one of them has four carved faces. This is one of the most photographed temples at Angkor Wat.
The Baphuon was built as a state temple of King Udayadityavarman II. It is located close to Bayon temple in the old Khmer capital city Angkor Thom.
Preah Khan is a monastic complex that originally served as a Buddhist monastery. Like Ta Prohm, many of the ruins are overgrown by trees.
Ta Som is a small, but not-to-be-missed temple. It is unique for the dense jungle surroundings, but also the huge tree growing into one of its doors.
You might recognize this temple from Tomb Raider. It is bound by massive roots of huge trees and is one of the most popular temples.
Angkor Wat is the centerpiece of any visit to the temples of Angkor. The three-tiered pyramid is crowned by five lotus-like towers rising 65 meters from the ground.
The best time for photographing the temple of Angkor Wat is sunrise and sunset. Some of the other temples like Bayon and Ta Prohm are covered by dense jungle so they’re best photographed in the afternoon.
You’ll find lots of hidden spots for photography all over the temple site. Make sure to ask your driver or guide for his advice. You will find great spots at Bayon and Ta Prohm.
WARNINGS & DANGERS
Angkor Wat is ancient and some of the structures are in poor condition. Watch out on the steps – they’re steep and narrow.
According to locals, there are no landmines at Angkor Wat, but stay on marked paths just to be on the safe side.
All travelers should get these vaccines: hepatitis A and B and typhoid fever. Beware of Japanese encephalitis and Dengue fever.
Bring water and sunscreen
It gets scorching hot and humid at Angkor Wat so remember to bring sunscreen and plenty of water (1,5 – 2 liters).
Children selling souvenirs
Avoid buying postcards, etc. from child vendors. This is organized begging controlled by local criminal groups.
Traffic selling souvernirsa
Driving in Cambodia is chaotic at best so if you’re touring Angkor Wat on bike or foot, beware of traffic.
PRICE GUIDE TO ANGKOR WAT (2018)
If you’re planning on staying more than 1 day, I’d advise you to buy a multi-day pass. These are your options:
- One day: $37
- Three days: $62
- One week: $72
Note: Although Cambodia has its own currency, most things are shown in US dollars. You can withdraw US dollars from the ATMs.
HOW TO GET AROUND
The Angkor Wat covers an area of 400 km2 so walking around is pretty much out of the question. I’ve tried tuk-tuks and taxi and I personally prefer tuk-tuks.
- Bicycles: $1 to $3 per day
- Motorbike taxi: $6 to $10 per day
- Tuk-tuk: $10 to $15 per day
- Taxi: $20 to $30 per day
WHEN TO GO
You can visit Angkor Wat all year round. I’ve visited both during high-season (in february) and low-season (in July) and there were pros and cons of both timings.
High season runs from November to March. In this period, you will get cool, dry days, but also lots and lots of people.
Low season runs from June to October. In this period, you can avoid the crowds, but you’ll also get hot and potentially wet weather.
Avoid visiting in April: it is boiling.
HOW NOT TO BE TEMPLED OUT
Divide it over several days. What worked for me was visiting Angkor Wat in 2 days. But if you only see two temples, don’t beat yourself up. You’re there to have a good time, not to force yourself through hours of temple-seeing.
Have some fun and check out the monkeys while you’re at it. They’re found on the road to Angkor Wat.
Have you been to Angkor Wat? Do you have any tips?
More posts from Cambodia you might like
- Why you should experience a Khmer Apsara Dance
- 12 fun things to do in Siem Reap (besides Angkor Wat temples)
- Hotel review: Angkor Palace Resort Spa, Siem Reap
- Siem Reap War Museum – All you need to know
- How to visit Angkor Wat in 2 days
What a great post, Miriam! This has to be one of the most informative posts I’ve read about Angkor Wat. Like many people, this is a must see for me. I didn’t know that there were so many temples, covering such a large area. I’m planning on travelling around by bicycle, so that’s my transport sewn up.
One thing I never knew about is the child vendors selling on behalf of criminal groups. I assume there are authorised souvenir points?
Aw, thanks Stephen! I’m so glad you found it helpful! Yeah, it’s terrible about the child vendors. There are so many and some of them really aggressive. I’m afraid criminal groups are exploiding children this way in many countries. They do it in southern Europe too.
Awesome guide to Angkor Wat!! Really informative and organized, with beautiful pictures.
We have been to Angkor three times, first time back in 2005 and last time last year. It has changed a lot over these years, the number of tourists have exploded and many of the stairs in the temples are now closed or they have built new wood stairs on top of the old ones. The best way to see the temples is by bike in my opinion, but tuk-tuk is also great fun. The next time we want to explore more of the remote temples, that are further into the jungle and not that overrun by tourists.
Thanks so much Maria. I agree! The site has changed a lot and there weren’t nearly as many tourists when I visited the first time 9 years ago. Biking sounds fun, but what did you think about the distance? Would you bike all the way to Ta Prohm? I saw a few people who did it, but personally I think it seemed a bit too far away.
Thanks so much for this! It’s really helpful. My husband and I are planning on visiting Angkor in March and are still trying to nail down our itinerary. Do you think a minimum of two days is needed, or could we hit the highlights in just one? I’m wondering how many temples any person can see before it’s just like, “Yep, that’s another super old rock carving.”
I’m glad to hear that, Molly! Sure, you can hit the highlights in one day. You should get a tuk tuk driver for the day (which will cost you around $12), and tell him to take you to these temples: Bayon, Preah Khan, Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat. In my opinion, they are the best ones. Plus, they are located within short distance.
ANGKOR WHAT is really beautiful more than my Hanoi
It’s definitely amazing, but Hanoi is beautiful, too!
Your post is great!!
My partner and I are heading to Southeast Asia in December & we’re both very excited!
You said that you hired a guide, how did you arrange one?
Thanks, Kirsten! You’re choosing the perfect time to visit SE Asia. We booked a guide through our hotel – the hotels in Siem Reap are dirt cheap, btw! You don’t need to prebook a guide so just find one when you get there. Try to avoid the guides at the entrance though as many of them don’t speak English that well.
Great information, thank you. Especially great for first timers.
We have been to Siem Reap for a couple of days in 2014. Just fantastic. Our tuk tuk driver took us out into the countryside where we climbed up through the jungle to a waterfall. The river had carvings in the base. Coming back in June for 6 days and would like to go back there. Can you help with the name of the place please
It sounds like a cool place, but unfortunately I’m not familiar with it. If I were you, I’d ask some of the tuk-tuk drivers or at the hotel when you get there. It will help if you have a photo of the place.
Hope you find it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this post. We are arriving tomorrow and planning on following your guide exactly. It’s so great to get recommendations from someone who’s been there.
Thanks again and please keep posting!
Thank you so much Siobhan, I’m so glad to hear that!
Have a great time at Angkor Wat 🙂
Am glad I included Cambodia with my 2 week upcoming Vietnam bag packing trip. These tips are really helpful to plan out the budget in advance and also plan it out.
Oh that’s great, Arnav! So good to hear.
Incredible read on both your guides! Out of curiosity, the Tuk Tuk drivers you hire, you pay them for the day, they stay where they drop you off, you return to them and continue Temple hopping? They literally wait for you? Doing Vietnam, Cambodia and possibly Myanmar (hopefully to see the Bagan archaeological park) next year, so your guide was the most helpful I’ve seen online!
I’m really glad you found them helpful, Carlo! Thanks for the kind words!
To answer your question – yes, the tuk tuk drivers wait for you. They’re used to travelers like us and everyone does this. You just find a driver at the beginning of the day and then arrange with him how long you need him and where you want to go. I didn’t pay up front, but things might have changed since I was there. If I were you, I’d probably try to negotiate and give him a small deposit if he demands the full amount up front.