Once a throne of the powerful Khmer Kingdom, the city of Angkor is royal extravagance on a grand scale; an imposing mosaic of more than one hundred Hindu and Buddhist temples that spread over 3000 square kilometres of the Cambodian countryside. The architectural appeal of Angkor is amplified by its setting – while some temples hide amid lush jungles, strangled by giant banyan trees, others are majestically towering over vast open fields and adorn lakes – which makes the site be one of the most ‘photogenic’ in the world.
THE LOST CITY OF ANGKOR
Geographically, politically and spiritually, Angkor was the heart of the Great Khmer Empire. During the Angkorian period, in belief to be gods, the ruling kings built impressive temples as a way of asserting their divinity, leaving a legacy of hundreds of Buddhist monuments built between the 9th and the 15th centuries.
After Angkor had been attacked by the neighbouring Siam, the city of temples was abandoned – seemingly for good. Although the Khmers had always known about “The Lost City,” the West had no idea what treasure was hiding in the thick rainforest of Cambodia.
In the 19th century, French missionary rediscovered the fascinating site and made it known to the world. This majestic temple complex was acknowledged as the most exquisite example of ancient architecture in Southeast Asia, and it has been declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today, millions of visitors come to Cambodia each year to travel back in time – into the ancient Khmer Kingdom.
ANGKOR`S MAJOR TEMPLES
The Angkor temple complex consists of more than one hundred individual Hindu and Buddhist temples. What is a must-visit is the symbol of Cambodia – the iconic Angkor Wat – which is also the largest religious monument in the world.
Other key temples are the jungle-submerged Ta Prohm, embraced by the roots of enormous trees; the giant stone carved the face of the Bayon, the walled city of Angkor Thom or the exquisitely decorated Banteay Srei.
DID YOU KNOW?
If you are a fan of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider you should add Angkor to your bucket list right away. Both movies have been filmed in Angkor. Particularly famous is the mystic temple of Ta Phrom, which is known for the massive fig tree and silk-cotton tree roots growing out of the ruins.
HOW TO GET THERE
The journey to the Angkor temples starts in Siem Reap, where you can stay and easily arrange your trip. There are plenty of luxurious but also inexpensive accommodation options, and every hotel and hostel will help you to plan your Angkor Wat excursion.
Besides, there are numerous travel agencies in Siem Reap where you can book a tour or purchase tickets. There are various passes some of which include elephant rides, private guides, traditional Apsara dance show and other attractions.
ANGKOR WAT TICKETS AND TOURS
There are three types of entry passes to the temples:
Generally, sunrise and sunset visits are the most popular, for spectacular skies and lake reflexions (expect crowds, particularly in the dry season). However, excellent photographs can be achieved at any time of a day. The Angkor historical park is open each day from 5 am till 6 pm.
There are Apsara dance performances inside of the temple complex, elephant rides, various vendors and food stalls.
Most of the visitors would book the three-day ticket, which gives you enough time to see all the temples in the central area. Nevertheless, some tourists find one day tour to be enough since the trip is usually extremely exhausting due to high humidity, heat and a lot of walking! In one day you still get to see the main, most significant temples. For those who are tired of walking, elephant rides around the Bayon Temple are available from 8 am till 6 pm.
BOOKING A TOUR OR VISITING INDEPENDENTLY
You do not necessarily need to book a tour to the temples. A very convenient way how to go around the sites is to hire a taxi ($20USD/day) or a tuk-tuk ($10USD/day). A local driver will take you around, drop you off and pick you up at each important site and drive you back to your guesthouse.
Other travellers prefer renting a scooter or even a bicycle and self-drive; it is quite easy and safe. This option provides more flexibility and the opportunity to move around at your own pace.
HOW LONG TO STAY
According to the entry pass, you will purchase, allow 1-3 days solely for the temples. However, Siam Reap is a very vibrant town with plentiful attractions and a wide range of activities. Therefore, allow yourself a couple of extra days to explore the area.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
Most travellers visit Cambodia between November and March, during the dry season. However, for fewer crowds and lower prices, the best time is from May to early October. You might catch some more rain in these months, but the temperatures will be quite pleasant.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Phnom Penh and take a shuttle bus (6hrs/$40 USD) to Siem Reap or fly directly to Siem Reap International Airpot.
For all international flights check out www.skyscanner.com or www.momondo.com
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