The best known temple in Cambodia, and possibly all of south east Asia, Angkor Wat is an atmospheric and awe-inspiring structure to visit, but did you know it is only one of several enormous temple complexes in the Siem Reap area? Here are my tips on how to visit Angkor Wat.
Some of the Angkor temples are better known than others, but there are over a dozen temples, and some of them are vast complexes that take a few hours to explore thoroughly. With a bit of research, you can decide which temples are your priorities and make sure you don’t miss ‘the best bits’.
Sunrise and sunset
Speaking of ‘best bits’, two of the best times to visit the temples are sunrise and sunset. The dramatic colours of the sky enhance the views of the temples and also cast warm light over them, which make photos look incredible.
|Angkor Thom, Cambodia|
Consider the climate
Avoiding the rainy season, which starts in May, will make visiting the temples easier. However, even during other times of the year humidity can be fierce and can deflate even the most enthusiastic visitor. Getting up early to visit the temples will avoid the worst of the heat.
Local guides speaking various languages can be hired for about USD $40 per day. They provide a good understanding of the temples without you running the risk of falling in a hole while checking a detail in a guidebook. While this may sound like an avoidable cost don’t forget you can learn a lot about local life and culture when you spend a day chatting to a local who speaks your language.
|Angkor Wat, Cambodia|
Getting around the temples
It is possible to hire a bicycle and cycle the seven kilometres from Siem Reap to the temples, but unless you are pretty fit (and have nerves of steel in the traffic) it may be an exhausting start to your visit. Tuk tuks can be hired to visit the temples, as can cars, which provide welcome air-conditioning in between temples.
Once you are at the temples the ground is uneven and within the complexes there are frequent steps and plinths to step over. It will be challenging for those with limited mobility.
The temples are ruins and some have been taken over significantly by nature so not only is there a lot of ground to cover, it is mostly uneven ground. Some people get around in flipflops but I’d really recommend some comfy reliable shoes.
The temples are religious monuments and there are certain areas where shoulders and legs need to be covered. A long skirt or loose trousers are the easiest things to wear with a T-shirt to meet the cover-up requirements. They will also help avoid sunburn.
|Buying souvenirs at Angkor Wat, Cambodia|
Shop for souvenirs
Gangs of children hang around outside the temples offering souvenirs to visitors. If you want to buy a few souvenirs it is worth checking out their products as their prices are a lot lower than the local markets and shops. For example guidebooks were for sale for USD $1 outside Angkor Wat but were $15 in the museum. Books of 10 postcards were $1 from children at the temples, but $4 to $7 in the shops.
Have you visited the Angkor temples? If you have any other tips please share them in the comments below.