Private Angkor Wat Tour

best angkor sites

Ultimate Guide to Explore the Best Angkor Sites in Cambodia

Publisher: Rain Proun
Date: February 17, 2024

The top of the to-do list for travelers visiting Cambodia is to explore the stunning temples of Angkor. With hundreds of captivating ancient temples, palaces, and structures within the vast Angkor Archaeological Park to explore, it can be overwhelming trying to choose which to see; visiting them all is impossible on a short visit. To assist you and enhance your journey through these ancient city landmarks, consider booking a private Angkor tour guide to ensure you see the best Angkor sites. Embark on a captivating adventure through Cambodia’s rich history and explore the best Angkor sites. Uncover the secrets of iconic temples with our expert guides. Plan your journey to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of Angkor. Discover more at Private Angkor Wat Tour.

A recommended Angkor tour guide will plan a flexible itinerary and ensure your tour is not simply a tour, but an immersive exploration of the heart and soul of Cambodia’s rich history. They will unlock the mysteries that shroud these enigmatic temples, share stories you will not find in the guidebooks, and provide invaluable insights into Cambodia’s diverse and dynamic culture. For more information on bespoke tours, highly recommended Private Angkor Tours will provide more information on the best Angkor sites to visit. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of Angkor and discuss a few things you should consider before visiting.

Angkor Wat passes:

angkor wat ticket
angkor wat entrance ticket in Siem Reap

When visiting, Angkor Wat passes are essential and can be easily obtained online or at the ticketing office en route to the main entrance of the Angkor Archaeological Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). If you are using a private guide, they will happily help organize your Angkor pass and transport in advance. Prices are as follows: $37 for a 1-day pass, $62 for a 3-day pass, which is valid for 10 days from the date of issue, or $75 for a 7-day pass, which is valid for one month from the date of issue. Cambodian nationals and children under the age of 12 enter free of charge.

Understanding the Park’s Large and Short Circuits of the Park
Angkor’s temples are usually explored using two main circuits: the large circuit and the small circuit.

  • The Small Circuit: focuses on the central area in and around the world-famous Angkor Wat, taking in iconic sites such as Bayon and Ta Prohm. This circuit is perfect for those with limited time.
  • The Large Circuit: Perfect for those with more time, this circuit goes further into the park, covering major temples like Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Preah Khan, and Neak Pean, making it ideal for a more comprehensive exploration of the park. Allow for a full day to see them all, giving you time to absorb the temples’ grandeur and intricacies.

There are also many fascinating Angkorian temples that are off-the-beaten-path and far away. Should you have more time to spare, private tours and transport are available to reach these hidden gems. The ticket prices for these temples vary, as some are not included in the terms of your Angkor pass.

Now let’s take a virtual tour of the best Angkor sites

  • Angkor Wat

best angkor sites
best angkor sites

Begin your journey with the iconic Angkor Wat, Angkor’s crown jewel and the world’s largest religious monument. Constructed in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, the magnitude and majesty of this temple complex are mesmerizing! The temple’s silhouette (which is instantly recognizable and depicted on the national flag) is a sight to behold, especially popular to view from a distance at sunrise and sunset, etching an unforgettable image in the memories of all who visit. Once across the moat and inside the central sanctuary, there is a huge statue of the Hindu god Vishnu. Marvel at the intricately carved bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythology in the seemingly endless corridors, and climb to the topmost levels of the ornately carved towers, which offer panoramic views of the lush surrounding landscape. There are no words; it is simply a mesmerizing and awe-inspiring place. Although it is the most recognized temple, it is quite possibly one of the best Angkor sites and a testament to ancient Khmer architecture.

  • Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple angkor site
Bayon Temple angkor site

Continue the adventure by visiting the enigmatic Bayon Temple in the heart of Angkor Thom to explore the enigmatic Bayon Temple. Angkor Thom was once the capital city of the Khmer Empire, and Bayon Temple is known for its gigantic carved stone faces. Each of the unbelievable 216 captivating faces smiles serenely down from the towers they adorn. There is debate as to what the faces depict—perhaps a likeness to King Jayavarman VII—but do ask your guide for other theories. Each face exudes a sense of calm, creating an unforgettable ambiance that you will carry with you for a long time. Bayon also has incredibly detailed bas-reliefs depicting scenes of everyday life in ancient Khmer society (some of which are quite humorous), which is why it is best to have a guide to narrate the many stories held within these stunningly crafted walls.

  • Ta Prohm

taphrom
taproom

Let your journey continue to yet another of the best Angkor sites: the mystical Ta Prohm. This fantastical temple is a firm favorite with tourists because the ancient ruins appear to be being swallowed by the jungle, and ancient ruins and nature intertwine. The giant tree roots appear to be strangling the temple, and as you make your way through the courtyards and corridors under the dappled sunlight, you will feel the power of nature in this hauntingly beautiful site. This stunning temple, also known as the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple, as it was one of the locations for the famous Hollywood movie. This atmospheric temple should not be missed on your tour; it is so uniquely different that it sets itself apart from the other temples and is one of the “best Angkor sites.”

  • Banteay Srei

banteay srie angkor site
banteay srie angkor site

Although not on the official circuits yet adored by many visitors, the delicate, pink sandstone darling temple of Banteay Srei is often referred to as the “Citadel (or temple) of Women.” While this temple is smaller than other sites, it is a gem due to the exquisite artistry of its carvings dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The phenomenal precision of the miniature divine beings carved into the walls depicting Hindu mythology is yet another testament to the Khmer Empress’s stunning craftsmanship during the Khmer Empire. Located

About 25 kilometers from the main Angkor complex, the beautiful Banteay Srei stands out as a jewel on its own, and time permitting, it should not be overlooked.

  • Preah Khan

preah khan
preah khan

This grand and sprawling temple complex once served as a temporary residence for King Jayavarman VII while Angkor Thom was being constructed. The name Preah Khan means “Royal Sword,” symbolizing the power of the Khmer Empire. It went on to serve as a Buddhist monastery and educational institution. The temple boasts intricate carvings and grand entrances, and with a maze-like layout, it has long corridors and courtyards, making it an exciting place to explore. Preah Kahn is nestled among lush greenery and huge trees that have grown around and inside the temple complex. This not only creates a mystical and captivating atmosphere but also makes for wonderful photographic opportunities. Preah Kahn is one of the best Angkor sites to appreciate the Khmer people’s spiritual essence and serenity. It is not a very crowded temple, but to have a more immersive experience and enjoy its peacefulness, it is always best to visit during the non-peak hours.

  •  The Beng Mealea and Koh Ker temples

Koh-Ker-temple-5-day-Private-tour
Koh-Ker-temple-5-day-Private-tour

Beng Mealea and Koh Ker temples are located 40 km east and 120 km northeast of Siem Reap, respectively, making it possible to visit both temples in one day. Because they are both extensive sites, those who want to explore in greater detail may find it more rewarding to visit each independently.
Beng Mealea (Banteay Meanchey), like Ta Prohm, is often called a “jungle temple” due to its fallen stones and overgrowing vegetation. It is less crowded than other temples, although it is one of the best Angkor sites to explore due to its hidden passageways and courtyards, giving you a real Indiana Jones feel! The temple has Angkor Wat-style intricate carvings and grandeur, typical of Khmer Empire architecture. There are wooden walkways constructed around the temple to provide access to the ruins. It is a very picturesque temple, offering excellent photographic opportunities thanks to the play of light and shadows created by the lush jungle canopy. This temple is a must for those travelers seeking adventure off-the-beaten-path.

Continuing along “the road less traveled” to the remote area of Koh Ker (once the capital of the Khmer Empire), you will discover the unusual pyramid-like temple of Prasat Thom. The seven-tiered temple is unique in the Angkor region, offering a very different architectural style. A newly constructed wooden stairway makes A newly constructed wooden stairway makes the climb to the top of Prasat Thom easier, and you will pass each tier adorned with a shrine. The temple The temple’s top provides panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, once rich with jungle, and shows the vastness of the ancient cityscape. Koh Ker, still an archaeological site, also has numerous other temples, structures, and linga sculptures, providing great insight into the religious and cultural practices of the time. When visiting, it is important to respect the archaeological site and any restrictions while enjoying your time exploring this unique and historical location.

  • Preah Vihear Temple

preah vihea angkor site
preah vihea angkor site

Perched high on a clifftop on the border of Cambodia and Thailand, a real jewel of the Khmer, Preah Vihear, rests. This exceptionally beautiful World Heritage Site is around 220 km from Siem Reap and takes between 4 and 6 hours by road. There are several reasons to visit Preah Vihear. This has to be one of the most dramatic locations; situated in the Dangrek Mountains on a steep escarpment, the temple offers breathtaking views and scenery. Pre-dating Angkor Wat, this 9th-century temple, adorned with beautifully intricate carvings dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, became a site of pilgrimage.

Because of its location, design, and intricate décor, which blends Hindu and Buddhist cultures, it provides a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the rich Khmer history, culture, and religious beliefs it offers. The temple’s elevation provides serene, dream-like, atmospheric vistas. Taking the series of ornate staircases to the summit only adds to this amazing adventure. It is a less crowded and peaceful location, so the ambient setting makes it one of the most unique sites existing from the Angkorian era in Cambodia.

Conclusion

Angkor invites visitors on a journey of adventure, intrigue, and wonder. Each temple is more than a collection of stone ruins, but rather a series of individual tales from different eras of a world gone by. The fact that they are so well preserved today allows us to delve into the grandiose history of the mighty Khmer Empire. From the iconic Angkor Wat to the lesser-known gems that lie hidden within the jungle, each site uncovers a chapter in the book of Cambodia’s history. It is difficult to evaluate which are the “best Angkor sites,” as, quite frankly, they all offer something uniquely fascinating. The well-trodden circuits of the Angkor Archaeological Park, as well as their convenient proximity to Siem Reap, offer something so special; we are spoiled for choice. Venturing further afield and off-the-beaten-track to

 

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