400AD-1400AD-Middle Ages Asia Cambodia Archaeological sites, ancient temples UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The Magnificence of Angkor Wat: A Breathtaking Travel Experience in the Khme Realm

Angkor Wat - Cambodia's most famous temple
In the mysterious heart of northern Cambodia rises a real architectural and spiritual miracle - Angkor Wat. An enchanting labyrinth of Buddhist temples, this monumental complex holds within its depths a fascinating legend: a divine architect is said to have erected these wonders in a single night, weaving past and present into a masterpiece of consummate beauty.

Tourist Information

TypeTemple, Archaeological site
Age870 years old
BuilderStarted by Suryavarman II, and completed by Jayavarman VII
Getting thereAirplane: Nearest airport: Siem Reap International Airport (IATA code: REP). From the airport you can take a taxi or bus to your hotel or accommodation and from there you can arrange temple tours.
Bus: There are buses and coaches that run between the city of Siem Reap and other major cities in Cambodia such as Phnom Penh. Tour buses can provide a more economical option to get to Siem Reap.
Train: There is no train station in Siem Reap. However, you can take the train to the neighboring town of Pursat and from there continue your journey by bus or taxi to Angkor Wat.
How you can visitOn foot – Check the map and make a plan related to what you want to visit.
Tuk Tuk – The best way to get around.
Car or Bus – For small groups.
Bicycle or e-bike – If you are in good physical shape and can withstand the sun and heat.
Bike or E-Bike – if you have exercise and you can resist the sun or hot weather 
Hot air balloon flights: This is a tethered balloon; it only goes up and down. 
Guides can be hired for about USD20 a day and are available for most major languages. Hiring a guide for at least the first day can help you get orientated to the temples and are particularly useful for finding and explaining the bas-reliefs, which can otherwise be rather overwhelming and/or difficult to understand.
A compass is handy when visiting large temples. Some temples are very large, it is easy to get disoriented and walk into the wrong exit. Always ask the driver where he is going to wait for you (such as “west entrance”) and write it down. 

Shoulders and knees must be covered

TicketsThe ticket office is 7 km away from the temple. If you can buy the tickets the day before.
Ticket prices:
1 Day – $37
3 Days – $62
7 Days – $72
Recommendation: the 3-day ticket which will allow you to visit everything at your leisure (don’t forget to catch a sunrise and a sunset. You can see the sunrise if you arrive at the temple at 4:00).
Check the official website for updated ticket prices and schedules.
When to visit·        Between November to March, the weather is mild and dry.
·        June to October is hot and potentially wet
·        The main archaeological park of Angkor is technically open from 05:00 – 18:00. Most of the temples don’t open until 07:30 and then close at 17:30.
AccommodationAngkor itself has no accommodation. the nearby town of Siem Reap, just 6km south.
RestaurantsFew restaurants inside the park
Official Sitehttps://www.angkorenterprise.gov.kh/
LocationAngkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia


Journey through the Sacred Realm: Exploring the Mysteries of the Temples of the Angkor Wat Complex

Angkor Wat, the main temple

One of the fascinating secrets of the main temple of Angkor Wat is related to its architectural design and its astronomical alignment. At the dawn of the summer solstice, the sun’s rays penetrate through one of the temple’s corridors and line up perfectly with the central altar. This precise alignment to the summer solstice suggests a deep understanding of astronomy and solar cycles by the ancient builders.


The temple is famous for its tall towers on which dozens of smiling faces are carved in stone. It is located in the center of the Angkor Thom complex and offers a fascinating view.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is also called the Temple of Roots. It is very popular because of the movie Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie but also because of the wild and mystical atmosphere in this temple created by the trees and plants that grow between the temple walls.

Banteay Srei

Considered to be the art gallery of Angkor, the small temple of Banteay Srei displays some of the most beautiful, fine, and elaborate stone carvings ever seen. It is also known as the “Women’s Citadel”.

Angkor Thom

The Angkor Thom monument was the last great capital of the Khmer Empire, and at its peak, it probably had a population of a million people. Measuring more than 10 square kilometers, the fortified city has walls eight meters high.

Phnom Bakheng

This is a small temple in front of the south gate of Angkor Thom. Many visitors visit Phnom Bakheng temple at sunset for outstanding views of Angkor Wat.

The South Gate of Angkor Thom

The South Gate of Angkor Thom (“South Gate” in English, “Prasat Sour Prat” in Khmer), is one of four massive gates leading into the fortified city of Angkor Thom. This imposing gate provides access to the archaeological complex and is a spectacular entrance to the ancient city.

Features and details about the South Gate of Angkor Thom include:

  • Statues of Elephants and Guardians: On both sides of the road passing through the South Gate, 54 statues of elephants and 54 statues of guardians are lined up.
  • Central Gate: The South Gate has a central entrance with three openings. This is flanked by two tower-like, pyramid-shaped structures decorated with bas-reliefs and sculptures.
  • Intricate decorations: The South Gate is decorated with remarkable carvings, including artistic representations of Hindu deities such as Shiva and Vishnu, as well as mythological and epic scenes.
  • Victory Road: The road that passes through the South Gate leads to the Bayon Temple and was called “Victory Road”. This road served as a ceremonial route for King Jayavarman VII’s triumphs and his processions to important temples.
  • Symbolism and Significance: The South Gate and its statues of elephants and guardians have deep significance in the religious and cultural context of the Khmer Empire. They symbolize the protection and power of the deities to defend the city of Angkor Thom and its temples.


Baphuon is a distinctive temple located in the Angkor complex in Cambodia. This temple, built in the 11th century under King Udayadityavarman II, is part of the larger Angkor Thom temple complex.

  • Unique Architecture: Baphuon is notable for its unique architecture. It was built in the form of a pyramid and originally included a massive statue of Shiva in a reclining position. This is a rare and distinctive feature of Khmer architecture.
  • Religion and Worship: Baphuon was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and served as a place of worship and religious ceremonies for the Khmer population. Mural paintings and wall sculptures, depicting mythological and religious scenes, were often used to communicate Hindu teachings and beliefs.
  • Decommissioning and reconversion: Over time, Baphuon was abandoned as a temple and went through various stages of use and reconversion. In a later period, it was converted into a Buddhist temple.
  • Panoramic view: Once at the top of Baphuon, visitors can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the surroundings, including the Angkor Thom complex and the surrounding jungle.

Terrace of the Elephants

The Elephant Terrace is an impressive architectural platform. This monumental terrace is an important part of the royal complex and represents a combination of architecture, art, and functionality.

  • Purpose and Significance: The Terrace of Elephants was built in the 12th century under King Jayavarman VII and served as a platform for royal ceremonies and parades. This was where the monarch and his high officials met the people and attended various public events.
  • Distinctive architecture: The Elephant Terrace is a long, rectangular structure with its sides decorated with stone reliefs depicting elephants, knights, dancers, and mythological scenes. The carved decorations give a picture of life in the time of the empire and religious rites.
  • Central Plateau: The central part of the terrace is wide and free of sculptures, being used for ceremonies and important gatherings. Here, the monarch could have stayed to take part in public events.
  • Link to Bayon Temple: The Terrace of the Elephants is connected to Bayon Temple by avenues and ceremonial roads. This provides an impressive pathway along which ceremonial participants could parade during festivals and other important events.
  • Religion and Cult: Despite its name, the Elephant Terrace has no direct connection with elephants themselves. It was used for religious ceremonies and processions, contributing to the Hindu rituals of the era.
  • Intricate Decorations: Above all, the Terrace of the Elephants is known for its carved friezes depicting war scenes, sacred dances, mythological scenes, and royal portraits. These intricate details provide a vivid picture of Khmer life and culture during that period.


Phimeanakas is a pyramid temple built in the 10th century under the reign of King Rajendravarman. It stands out for its massive steps leading to the upper part of the structure. The temple was built of large stone blocks and was originally covered with stucco.

  • Legend of the Golden Palace: Phimeanakas is said to have been the site of the legendary Golden Palace, where the Khmer king was supposed to spend a night with his new royal consort. Legend had it that an elf called “A Kes” or “Kou Prey” guarded the temple every night and transformed into a woman. The king had to meet this woman during the night to fulfill his ceremonial duty. According to legend, if the king had not visited the temple, he would have brought misfortune to the empire.
  • Nine-Headed Serpent-Spirit, Called Nāga: According to legend, during the ceremonial ritual where the king was supposed to spend a night with his new royal consort in Phimeanakas, a nine-headed serpent-spirit, called Nāga, is said to descend from the sky to watch over this special meeting. The nāga was considered a symbol of protection, fertility, and royal power, having sacred significance in Cambodian and Hindu mythology.

Preah Palilay

Preah Palilay is a small Angkor temple north of Phimeanakas.

Preah Palilay or Preah Pithu consists of a series of platforms, terraces, and small temples with similar architecture. These temples were built in the characteristic style of the Khmer Empire and were used for various religious and ceremonial purposes. Although not as well known as other major temples in the Angkor Wat complex, Preah Palilay offers fascinating opportunities for exploration and discovery for visitors who wish to venture beyond the more famous temples.

Terrace of the Leper King

The Terrace of the Leper King directly adjoins the Terrace of the Elephants to the north.

The Terrace of the Leper King refers to Khmer King Jayavarman VII, who built this platform.

  • Architecture and Design: The Terrace of the Leper King is a long, rectangular platform built of stone and provided with reliefs and decorations. It served as a gathering place for ceremonies and important events. The floor of the terrace is carved with friezes and mythological motifs, and the walls and columns are decorated with detailed carvings.
  • Decorations and Sculptures: The Terrace of the Leper King is decorated with reliefs depicting mythological scenes, sacred dancers, soldiers, animals, and war scenes. These carvings provide a picture of life during the Khmer Empire and had a ceremonial and artistic role.
  • Royal and Ceremonial Scene: The Terrace of the Leper King was used for royal and ceremonial gatherings. Its large platform was where the king and his officials could gather to take part in public events, processions, and important discussions.
  • Mythological Significance: The relief and design of the terrace reflect Hindu teachings and Khmer mythology. The carved scenes often depict mythological gods and heroes as well as aspects of everyday life.

Visiting the Terrace of the Leper King provides a fascinating insight into life, art and ceremonial during the Khmer Empire.

Prasat Suor Prat

These towers are also called the Towers of the Rope Dancers, in total there are 12 towers.

Prasat Suor Prat, also known as the “Twelve Towers”, is a unique and striking architectural feature in the Angkor Thom complex in Cambodia. This structure is characterized by its row of twelve almost identical towers, each standing like a sentinel along a terrace.

  • Architectural design: Prasat Suor Prat consists of twelve square-shaped towers aligned in a north-south direction. Each tower has three levels and they are evenly spaced along a platform.
  • Symbolism and Purpose: The exact purpose of Prasat Suor Prat is not entirely clear. Some believe that the towers may have been used as libraries, repositories for sacred texts, or perhaps served a ceremonial or decorative function. Their symbolic meaning and specific use remain subjects of scholarly debate.
  • Decorative elements: While the towers of Prasat Suor Prat are similar in design, each tower is adorned with intricate carvings and bas-reliefs. These sculptures depict various scenes from Hindu epics, including mythological figures, deities, and symbols.
  • Alignment and Symmetry: The twelve towers of Prasat Suor Prat are arranged symmetrically and are a prominent feature along the east-west axis of the complex. Their alignment with other structures such as the Terrace of the Elephants and the Royal Palace area suggests careful planning and a significant role in the overall appearance of Angkor Thom.

Preah Pithu

Preah Pithu, also known as Prasat Preah Pithu or “Sacred Precinct”, is a group of lesser-known temples and structures located within the Angkor Thom complex.

  • Group of Temples: Preah Pithu is a collection of small and medium-sized temples and structures located in a wooded area near the Victory Gate (East Gate) of Angkor Thom. The temples are arranged in a quadrangular pattern, creating a serene and less crowded atmosphere compared to some of the more popular temples.

Chau Say Tevoda

Chau Say Tevoda small Angkor temple behind the eastern exit of Angkor Thom.

Chau Say Tevoda is located near Eastern Baray, an ancient reservoir, and is part of the group of temples that includes Thommanon, another nearby temple.

  • Architectural Style: Chau Say Tevoda was built in the 12th century during the reign of King Suryavarman II, who also built the famous Angkor Wat temple. The temple features a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist architectural elements, reflecting the religious diversity of the time.
  • Design and layout: Chau Say Tevoda is relatively small in size compared to some of the larger temples in the complex. It consists of a central sanctuary surrounded by enclosures, libraries, and galleries. The shrine contains a linga, a symbol of the Hindu god Shiva, and a statue of Vishnu.
  • Carvings and Reliefs: The temple is adorned with intricate carvings and bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythology, including stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These carvings provide insights into the religious beliefs and narratives of the Khmer people.
  • Location and Accessibility: Chau Say Tevoda is conveniently located near the entrance to Angkor Thom and is often included in the itinerary of visitors exploring the temples of Angkor. Its proximity to Thommanon makes it easy to visit both temples in one trip.


Thommanon is located just east of the monumental Victory Gate (East Gate) of Angkor Thom and is part of a group of temples that includes Chau Say Tevoda, another nearby temple. Thommanon is celebrated for its exquisite architecture and intricate carvings, which showcase the artistic prowess of the Khmer Empire.

  • Architectural style: Thommanon was built in the 12th century during the reign of King Suryavarman II, the same ruler who built the iconic Angkor Wat temple. The temple follows a classical Khmer architectural style and features elements from both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Ta Nei

Ta Nei is a lesser-known temple located in the Angkor Archaeological Park. This temple is located in the northwest corner of the park on the road leading into the jungle, Ta Nei offers a more secluded and peaceful experience compared to some of the more popular temples.

  • Historical background: Ta Nei was built in the late 12th century, around the same time as the nearby Ta Prohm temple. It is believed to have been built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, who was known for his prolific temple-building activities.

Ta Keo

Ta Keo is known for its massive sandstone pyramidal structure and represents a transition in architectural style during the construction of the Angkor temples.

  • Architectural Style: Ta Keo was built from the late 10th century to the early 11th century during the reign of King Jayavarman V. The temple exhibits a unique architectural style characterized by the stepped pyramid design that precedes the carvings and decorations intricate seen in later Angkor temples.
  • The Unfinished Temple: Ta Keo is often referred to as the “unfinished temple” because it lacks the intricate carvings and decorative elements that adorn many other Angkor structures. Its construction was stopped, probably due to some omen or bad luck associated with its construction.
  • Pyramidal structure: The most distinctive feature of the temple is the five-tiered pyramidal structure, each level becoming progressively smaller as it rises. A central sanctuary once stood atop the pyramid but remains unadorned.

Banteay Kdei

Banteay Kdei is a temple complex known for its picturesque and serene setting, intricate carvings, and historical significance. Banteay Kdei and his name translates as “Citadel of Chambers”.

  • Historical background: Banteay Kdei was built in the mid-12th to early 13th century, possibly during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. It is believed to have served as both a Buddhist monastery and a place of worship.

Prasat Kravan

Prasat Kravan is a small temple and is known for its unique brick construction and well-preserved carvings that make it stand out among the surrounding temples.

  • Historical Background: Prasat Kravan was built during the 10th century, during the reign of King Harshavarman I or possibly King Rajendravarman II. It is considered one of the earlier temples of the Angkor period.
  • Architectural Style: Prasat Kravan is distinguished by the use of brick as the main building material, which sets it apart from the predominantly stone temples in the area. The temple consists of five towers aligned in the north-south direction.

Angkor Wat - Cambodia's most famous temple (3)

Angkor Wat - Cambodia's most famous temple

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The stories and legends beyond the walls of the Angkor Wat Temples

  • City of Temples: Angkor Wat translates as “City of Temples” or simply “Temple City”. New temples and ruins are discovered almost every year.
  • Largest religious monument in the world: It is said to be the largest religious monument in the world. The impressive size of Angkor Wat makes it stand out as one of the world’s most famous cultural and tourist landmarks. With an area of approximately 162.6 hectares and a complex architectural plan, it represents an extraordinary achievement in the design and engineering of religious monuments.
  • According to legend, the construction of Angkor Wat was commissioned by Indra to serve as a palace for his son Precha Ket Mealea.
  • The temple was built by a divine architect: A legend says that the temple was built in one night by a divine architect. According to this story, the Khmer king received a vision or dream in which a divine architect or a group of gods presented him with plans for the construction of an extraordinary temple. During a single night, with the help of their divine power, the temple was raised and completed. This legend emphasizes the miraculous nature of the construction and suggests that the temple was created by supernatural intervention.
  • It covers about 400 square kilometers and has dozens of temples, hydraulic structures (pools, dams, reservoirs, canals), as well as communication routes and roads.
  • It was originally built as a Hindu temple.
  • Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century.
  • The Myth of the Churning of the Ocean (Amrit Manthan): This Hindu story is depicted in a frieze carved in the inner gallery of the outer wall of Angkor Wat. The story features gods and demons coming together to churn the Ocean of Milk to obtain amrita, the drink of immortality.
  • The Legend of Angkor Wat as Mount Meru: One interpretation of the Angkor Wat complex is that it represents Mount Meru, the mythological center of the universe in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. Thus, temple structures would represent mountains and cosmic levels.
  • The Legend of King Suryavana and the Cobra Boy: This is said to be a reason for the presence of many cobra carvings on the walls of Angkor Wat. The legend tells of a queen who gave birth to a cobra boy, and the boy became the protector of the temples.
  • Legend of Life and Death: An interesting aspect of the temple structure is that during an equinox day, the shadow of the central tower projects a staircase-like shape onto the lower terrace, suggesting a path to heaven or the afterlife. This gave rise to interpretations that the temple served as a place for rituals related to life and death.

About the author


I am Catalina, and my passion for travel, mysteries, legends and archaeology drives me to explore the world and uncover its hidden wonders.