Travel Tuesday; the Wonderful Wats of Siem Reap

01. Angkor Wat

As each year, Tripadvisor makes lists on several kind of topics such as the best beaches, hotels and world heritage sites. These lists are determined by the ratings of the travellers that make use of their website. Amongst these lists there is also the ‘Top 25 Landmarks of the World’. If you have yet to see the list, take a look at their list here.

It’s an impressive list with landmarks all over the world, such as the Taj Mahal in India, Machu Picchu in Peru and the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Spain. But what strikes me the most are the landmarks on spot 6 and 7, both located in Siem Reap; Angkor Wat and Bayon Temple. Over the past years I have been very lucky to visit Siem Reap a couple of times. You can’t go to Siem Reap and not visit one or more of the beautiful temples, and so I was known with these two amazing Wats {or Temples} on the list of Tripadvisor, and I couldn’t agree with them more.

Years ago we went to visit Siem Reap, and the first Wat we were going to see was the always talked about Angkor Wat. My biggest fear was that, as everyone you talk to about Siem Reap praises this temple so highly, it would not live up to my expectations. Luckily I worried about nothing! When entering this huge complex, your eyes are immediately drawn to this beautiful building, and you can’t do anything else then look at it in awe… So in this blog post I would love to let you in on my favourite Wats in Siem Reap.

Admission Fees

If you think you can just walk into this big complex and visit any Wat you want, you’re mistaken… All these wonderful buildings and sites need to be taken care of, so before you can enter you will need to pay an entrance fee.

The admission pass (the Angkor Pass) can be purchased at the main entrance on the road toward Angkor Wat. Passes are sold in one-day (US$20), three-day (US$40) and seven-day (US$60) blocks that must be used on consecutive days. When you purchase the pass, they will make a passport size photo of you (free of charge), which will be printed on your Angkor Pass. Be very careful of this pass, as you will need to show it throughout your visit to the security guards that are at the entrance of each temple complex. They will fine you for not having a valid ticket inside the park…

TIP: usually the que at the park can be pretty long in the morning. However if you go later in the day you will be helped very quickly. Therefore we always try to purchase an entrance pass the afternoon before we’re visiting (which you can have starting on the following day), so that in the morning you can skip the queue and head right over to the temples.

Opening hours

You can visit the Angkor Archaeological Park daily from 5:00AM – 6:00PM, however some of the temples close on a different timing:

  • Banteay Srey at 5:00PM
  • Kbal Spean at 3:00PM.

How to get around the temple complex?

02. Temple-MapThe best way to get around the temple complex is by car, bicycle or tuk tuk, as the grounds are too big to explore by foot. And if you want to know a little bit more about the Wats then don’t hesitate to get a guide to show you around.

My Top 5 Wats

And here they are, my all time favourite temples in Siem Reap:

1.) Angkor Wat

03. Angkor WatObviously Angkor Wat will be my number 1 all time favourite temple. Not just because of it’s size and the hype around it, but because it’s such an amazing temple. We were able to visit the temple during a couple of different times of the day, and every time the temple looks and feels totally different, and this only due to the changing of the sun.

I definitely recommend visiting Angkor Wat with sunset. Yes, it’s super crowded, but thats because of a reason; the temple looks amazing in this light. When we went for the first visit, we opted doing this with a tour guide – as we wanted to know more about this fascinating building. It definitely helped us by understanding this specific temple, but also to understand more about Siem Reap’s other Wats as well.

2.) Ta Prohm

04. Ta PhromTa Prohm is one of the most popular temples for tourist, this might be due to the fact that it got famous as it was used as a location in the film Tomb Raider. The film took visual liberties with other Angkorian temples, but it scenes made of Ta Prohm were quite faithful to the temple’s actual appearance.

Another reason that this temple is so incredible famous, is because of the atmosphere created by the trees and plants which have been growing through the temple for many years. Unlike many other sites, they have largely left the trees to show the effects of time. But I also think another reason is that if they would remove the trees, the entire Ta Prohm temple site would fall apart.

3.) The Bayon Temple

05. Bayon TempleThe temple of Bayon is best known for the massive stone faces carved into the sides of its towers. When you walk around this temple you are surrounded by faces of all sides, which give you the feeling that someone is looking over you the entire time.

Located at the exact centre of Angkor Thom, its 54 towers are each topped off with four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), which bear a high resemblance to the king that had this temple made… Although it’s unclear how many faces there once were, it’s estimated there must have been about 200 of these faces.

Due to the totally different style and lay out of this temple, I thought it was one of the most impressive temples which always comes back to mind when thinking of Siem Reap.

4.) Phnom Bakheng

06. Phnom BakhengPhnom Bakheng is the most popular spot in the area to watch a sunset over Angkor Wat and the surrounding forest. But before you get up to the foot of the temple, you will need to walk a long path through the jungle. Alternatively you can take an elephant ride. The temple itself is not so impressive, but as it’s located on a hill and has an amazing view, it’s a popular temple to visit.

As it’s the signature spot for a sunset and therefore it can get very crowded, but the view over Angkor Wat is beautiful. We are usually very unlucky when catching a sunset, as there is always a lot of clouds, off course this was the case as well during our visit to Phnom Bakheng. As we saw the very steep staircase up to the temple and knew we had to walk a long way back, we decided to leave before the sunset, as we had made our pictures already. In the end I was very happy about that, as it can get very slippery and dangerous to get back to your tuk tuk again… Just something to keep in mind!

5.) Banteay Srei

07. Banteay srei

The thing I probably liked best about visiting the Banteay Srei, was that we had to take a tuk tuk all the way down to this temple. This meant we had to pay a little bit more for our tuk tuk that day, but it was definitely  worth the money and time.

Banteay Srei is about a 35km from Siem Reap and will take you around 1hr15min by tuk tuk. During the trip you’re driving through this stunning green landscape, showing you a totally different side of Siem Reap then the busy and crowded area you will usually encounter in Siem Reap. Besides that this temple is not as crowded and you have all the time and space to walk around.

Banteay Srei means “Citadel of the Women” and is not in the best state, but it has the most amazing carved pink {maybe that’s why it’s the citadel of Women 🙂 } sandstones you will find anywhere in Siem Reap. It’s no wonder that its described as the little jewel of the Angkor temples.

There are many more amazing temples to explore in Siem Reap, such as Phimeanakas, Thommanon, Ta Keo and even Banteay Kdei. Which of the temples do you visit when you’re in Siem Reap? And are you favourites on my list?

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