Visiting Cambodia usually means making a pilgrimage to their best known landmark: Angkor Wat. Angkor Archaeological Park comprises not only the iconic Angkor Wat but a myriad of temples from a similar era. The area Angkor Archaeological Park encompasses is a rough sketch of how the 12th-century cities of the Khumer empire once presented. While no one is sure how many people lived in the area during the Khumer capital’s heyday, historians speculate it could have been as many as a million.
Today, Angkor Archaeological Park stretches nearly 250 miles and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here’s what you need to know about navigating the space and visiting Angkor Wat.
What to See When Exploring Angkor Archaeological Park
Of course, the first thing you need to see is Angkor Wat. The majestic temple is a perfect depiction of 12th-century Khumer design, and it was originally built to be King Suryavarman II’s tomb. The Hindu temple is dedicated to Vishnu, one of the three most prominent Hindu deities.
Beyond Angkor Wat, you’ll want to see Angkor Thom (or, The Bayon Temple) and Ta Prohm Temple. You might recognize Bayon Temple from photos—there are smiling faces carved into the rock facade. The scale of these stone faces, created in the late 12th century, is overwhelming and the faces themselves are serene and quite welcoming.
Ta Prohm Temple was commissioned by the same ruler who orchestrated Angkor Thom: Jayavarman VII. Also a byproduct of the late 12th century, the original intent of Ta Prohm Temple was to be a scholarly hub with a monastery and university. Of all the structures you’ll find within Angkor Archaeological Park, this is the one that seems to fit most willingly into the natural surroundings. The Cambodian greenery has grown around it enhancing the wild-but-regal stature of Ta Prohm Temple.
For a smaller temple, visit Prasat Kravan, which is made of symmetrical red bricks. From the 10th century, the architecture predates the likes of Ta Prohm or Angkor Wat. The architecture is more simplistic but no less beautiful.
Finally, Ta Som temple is a perfect spot if you’d prefer to avoid the crowds at Ta Prohm. Much like Ta Prohm, it’s a “root temple” (i.e., tree roots have taken hold in the structure) with beautiful intricacies to explore, though on a smaller scale than Ta Prohm. This is the kind of temple you’ll want to spend an hour exploring, peering around corners, climbing over roots, and reveling in the lack of crowds. Pro-tip: Wear closed-toed shoes to protect your feet from the red sand.
Angkor Archaeological Park Dress Code
To visit Angkor Archaeological Park, you’ll have to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Because of the heat, lighter clothing is a good idea—linen pants, looser skirts or dresses, and sun hats would all fit the bill. Things to stay away from: shorts, tank tops, and the like.
When to Visit Angkor Wat
On a daily basis, Angkor Archaeological Park is open from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Getting there before sunrise is quite popular, because it allows you to snap the classic Angkor Wat sunrise picture. While going early in the morning means you’ll arrive with the crowd, it’s also sensible in that you can complete your visit to the park before the sun starts beating down on you. Keep in mind that many travelers visit Angkor Archaeological Park multiple times during their trip to extend their temple exploration and catch the park in different lights.
Seasonally, November to February is the best time to visit the area. Come in this four-month span and you’ll avoid both the rainy season and the hottest part of the year.
Angkor Wat Tickets
Non-Cambodian citizens must have a pass to enter the park. Dubbed the “Angkor Pass,” the ticket gets you full entry to Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples in Angkor Archaeological Park. You can purchase tickets at the Angkor Ticket Office and can buy a one-day ($37), three-day ($62), or week-long ($72) pass.
How to Get to Angkor Wat
Typically, travelers visiting Angkor Wat stay in Siem Reap. From Siem Reap, you can easily get a taxi or tuk-tuk to Angkor Archaeological Park. You’ll fly into Siem Reap International Airport. A tuk-tuk ride from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat will be about 30 minutes, and taking a car should be 15 to 20 minutes. Siem Reap is home to plenty of great luxury hotels, including Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor and Park Hyatt Siem Reap.