The #1 must see in Siem Reap, Cambodia – Angkor Historical Park. A place where you see incredible temples, have an insight into interesting history and take some ‘Instagrammable’ shots. Spanning over an impressive 400 square km and dating as far back to 9th century this majestic UNESCO site is one for your itinerary.

Early Morning Start

One of the must see’s is Angkor Wat at sunrise. Although it might not seem it at the time, it’s worth it to wake up (extremely) early! Ticket sales open at 5.00am, be sure to get here early as – 4:45AM is enough. Believe it or not, the queue will be quite large by this time. Or, if you’re prepared you can always get these a day in advance. The drive to the historic park itself is quite a while so be prepared.

A $37 ticket will get you a pass to explore the park for one day. There is also the option for a 3 day pass and a 7 day pass too. Moreover, a tuk-tuk for the day to take you around is usually $20. There are more budget-friendly ways to do this like renting a bicycle and exploring yourself.

Angkor Wat

Now you are at Angkor Wat. Temple #1 of the day. Putting aside the harassing vendors, un-bearable heat and millions of tourists. Angkor Wat is truly breath-taking underneath the colour palette on the sky. Endless rays splash the clouds from hazy purples, to rosey pinks and reds. Illuminating the prior nights sky.

Once we got the shot and admired it’s beauty, we headed in. This is probably the most well-known, popular temple in Angkor’s Historical Park. Only part one of the show.

This intimidating masterpiece, was built between 1113-1150AD. Translating to the literal term of ‘temple city’, it was rumoured to originally be built as a Hindu temple as a shrine to the god, Vishnu – the preserver. Then later converted to a Buddhist temple by the king. As by this point, Cambodia was converted to a primarily Buddhist country, as it still is today.

Bayon aka Angkor Thom

A further 10 minutes out will take you to stop #2. Bayon Temple. This is another very popular temple in this complex, known for the face carvings – 216 in fact. Unlike many, this temple is not surrounded by protection like moats or walls. Instead, an enigma of unique, awe-inspiring faces in stone. Rumoured to be the last temple built in the area. Whilst walking around this temple, you will start to notice the mysterious be-headed, crumpled statues. These were stolen by thieves when Angkor was infiltrated by the Khmer Rouge. Lucky the regime left the ruins virtually untouched during their reign.

Other temples nearby

Now seeing as it’s located nearby, you can walk to where a couple of other interesting temples stood;

  • Baphuon – Located North-West Bayon. It’s an easy walk to explore more of the ancient ruins. Rumoured to be the most poorly constructed temple out of this site means it’s impossible to know how it once looked. This is due to having no original plans. You can just make out an obscure reclining buddha on the west side of the temple mountain.
  • Phimeanakas – A short stroll through the gardens, you will arrive here. A small temple that resembles a pyramid. Apparently, this archaic temple is one that the King had to go to every night for his duty (watch). However, on the first night he was not allowed to be with his wife, but instead another woman. After this, the queen was then allowed. However, if he missed one night, his days as king would be numbered.
  • Terrace of Elephants – This is a temple that is how it sounds. A striking treasure with the carvings on elephants. Used back in the day as a viewing platform to seek the enemy.

Ta Phnom

Next on the agenda was Ta Phnom. The last one of the 3 major most-visited temples in the park. Known as the temple in which has a battle between nature and urbanisation. Or, home to the beloved 2001 Tomb Raider movie. This temple is un-like the others. This one is where the forest is reclaiming this eerie territory. History believes that this was the main centrepiece of Angkor. Dedicated to the king’s mother, it was a Royal monastery. This abandoned, neglected temple is one not to miss. As you walk through this treacherous maze, you start to glimpse at the unusual building. Silk-cotton and fig trees strangle the structure by appearing inside, on top and between the ruins.

Last stops

Before calling it an end, due to being up since 4am. These are the last stops you could include;

  • Preach Khan Temple – This is a temple dedicated to the king’s father. Translated literally to ‘Royal Sword’. A large, unique temple built in 1151. This was a home to nearly 100,000 dedicated servants, farmers, priests and dancers. In fact, here is where you can physically see a well-preserved, Hall of Dancers. This is a maze of narrow corridors and fine historical carvings.
  • Neak Pean – Associated with Preach Khan Temple, this is the nucleus of the structure. This is a small island temple located within the lakes behind the above temple. A must-see in the area.


Obviously, there’s many many more temples you can see. Some of which are still being discovered today. This is only a half-day worth of activities which include the most popular, beloved ones.


  • Get here early enough to buy tickets (or the day before) and get to the site way before sunrise
  • Take a pack lunch/breakfast with you as the restaurants are quite pricey
  • Dress appropriately – no scarfs are allowed in the temple as a substitute to sleeves shirts/tops.
  • Remember what your tuk-tuk guy looks like as before you know it, there will be thousands of people!
  • Pay your tuk-tuk driver when finished and have arrived at your hotel. Otherwise, they will obviously, leave you there. Meaning you will have to pay another person to guide you around and take you home!

About The Author

Wanderlust Lab is a collaboration between Abbie and Luke for the sharing of travelling knowledge to help backpackers and travellers all across the globe. Live Wanderlust.

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