Angkor, in Cambodia’s northern province of Siem Reap, is one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia. It extends over approximately 400 square kilometres and consists of scores of temples, hydraulic structures (basins, dykes, reservoirs, canals) as well as communication routes. For several centuries Angkor, was the centre of the Khmer Kingdom. With impressive monuments, several different ancient urban plans and large water reservoirs, the site is a unique concentration of features testifying to an exceptional civilization. Temples such as Angkor Wat, the Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, exemplars of Khmer architecture, are closely linked to their geographical context as well as being imbued with symbolic significance. The architecture and layout of the successive capitals bear witness to a high level of social order and ranking within the Khmer Empire. Angkor is therefore a major site exemplifying cultural, religious and symbolic values, as well as containing high architectural, archaeological and artistic significance.
TL;DR: No matter how short your travel bucket list is, Angkor Wat should be on it.
The temple of Angkor Wat itself surrounded by the moat and all, that you’ve no doubt seen gazillions of travel ads of before, looks like this:
But that’s a very small portion of those scores of temples!
Next most emblematic is the Bayon Temple, aka “Face Temple” because of the serene faces carved on its towers:
These aren’t plain temples either, they’re richly carved and there’s something new to see around just about every corner:
We particuarly liked these guys helping hold up the Terrace of the Elephants:
Many of the temples are climbable, and some are very steep indeed:
But of all the various outlying temples, the one you really don’t want to miss is Ta Prohm, the setting of Tomb Raider the movie, and inspiration for just about every lost jungle city adventure ever:
Just looks like an Indiana Jones movie waiting to happen, doesn’t it?
You can get through the highlights in a single day … but we would strongly recommend you plan to stay through a 3-day ticket. They sell seven-day tickets as well, but we’d say three is probably enough for most people.
So yep, this World Heritage Site is on the very very short list of places that more than live up to all the hype you’ve ever heard and more — even if you’re not generally interested in historical ruins, Angkor Wat is still going to make it onto your unforgettable experience list!