Angkor Wat was originally built as a Hindu temple. Its stone reliefs include statues of Vishnu, Ganesh, Shiva, Hanuman, and the Apsaras dancing girls. Its initial construction took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II. It was built as the king’s state temple and capital city. Its original name is actually unknown, but it may have been Vrah Vishnulok, for the deity.
However, once the Khmer Empire fell apart, Angkor Wat was transformed into a Buddhist temple. It’s still used for religious ceremonies, for both Hindus and Buddhists. The location of the site was strategic: it’s central, it’s located on fertile land, and it fits celestial alignments. In fact, all the structures of Angkor Wat are arranged to fit the positions of the earth, sun, moon, and stars. It even follows the equinoxes. Impressive, when you consider just how old the temple is!
Unique Things to See and Do in Angkor Wat
- Explore the temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Phrom
- Walk the Elephant Terrace
- See Srah Srang, also known as “The Royal Baths”
- Explore Banteay Srei, the “Citadel of the Women”
Information on Angkor Wat
There are many temple complexes near Siem Reap, but Angkor Wat is by far the most popular. You can be sure to experience large crowds. The temples are actually scattered over several miles, so be sure you know just which ones you’d like to visit.
Admission fees to the site are $20USD/day (with reduced rates for additional days). To get the full experience, more than one day to explore is ideal! Angkor Wat is visited year-round, but peak season is between November to March (dry and mild weather).
Not to be missed during your visit: watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat, or watching it set from the terrace of Srah Sang. Be sure to see Ta Prohm, which hasn’t been subjected to the same restoration process as the rest of the site, and was featured in the movie Tomb Raider. Walk along the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King at Angkor Thom. The Bayon temple is another noteworthy highlight to see.
To avoid the largest crowds at Angkor Wat, head to the Banteay Chhmar temple. It’s the most remote of all the sites and is more than a three-hour drive by car. Accommodations are limited, but that just makes the site all that more special
Getting to Angkor Wat
Getting to Angkor Wat is easy – everything in the area is catered for tourism.
Did you know…?
Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and 50% of visitors to Cambodia come just to see it.
Did you ALSO know…?
The entire Angkor Wat complex stretches over 400 square kilometres!
For a more comprehensive approach to Angkor Wat (without the hassle), hire a local Angkor Wat guide. Keep in mind, however, that rainstorms during the rainy season (June to September) may inhibit transportation.
Ready to plan your visit to Angkor Wat? Check out these popular guides and trips.