The ancient city of Angkor is an awe-inspiring adventure. There are many temples to explore. You have the well-known Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, and Ta Prohm Temple. Then you have many lesser known temples that are definetly worth exploring. When visiting, you can buy a one day, three day or seven day pass, which are priced at $37, $62 and $72, respectively. I would highly suggest buying at least the three day pass and spending about a week in Siem Reap if you have the time. Thankfully, the multi-day passes do not need to be used consecutively.
For all the visual people out there, here is a map showing all the temples we visited using our 3 day pass to Angkor Wat Archaeological Park.
On the first day, going on a guided sunrise tour is perfect to become educated in the history of the ancient Khmer city. We bought our sunrise tour through Viator. It is a full 8 hour tour which includes an English speaking guide, transportation (in an air conditioned van!), and free water. Our tour ended up having about seven total guests on it which seemed to be a good amount. We made friends with people on the tour and ending up going out with them that night for drinks!
Here is a list of temples that the guided sunrise tour brought us on:
- Angkor Wat
- Ta Prohm Temple
- Bayon Temple
- Angkor Thom South Gate
The tour group picks you up from your hotel in Siem Reap around 4:20am then brings you to go buy your tickets. There we bought our three day pass while everyone else in our group bought a one day.
Next, while it is still dark, everyone gathers at the pond in front of the famous Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise. Sadly, our sunrise had very little color and a ton of people. After the sun rises, you begin the guided tour through Angkor Wat and learn about the history of the temple. You’re also given a bit of free time to go take pictures and explore on your own before meeting back up with the group.
After Angkor Wat, you get in the van and go to Ta Prohm Temple. This temple is most famous for being in the early 2000’s Tomb Raider film starring Angelina Jolie. This was one of my favorite temples of our whole visit. The way nature has taken over the temple is truly unique.
After Ta Prohm Temple we visited Bayon Temple. This one was interesting to see and hear the history from our guide. I definetly would not have appreciated Bayon Temple as much if I did not have a guide. You’ll also stop on the side of the road to view the Angkor Thom South Gate.
The tour will end around 12:30pm and bring you back to your accommodation. After that we decided to take a long nap since we woke up at 3:30am and had a full day walking around in the heat already!
Ask your hotel or hostel if they can arrange a tuk tuk driver for the day to take you around to temples. This should only cost between $15-30 USD depending on which temples you want to visit. For our second day we decided with our tuk tuk driver on these temples:
- Phnom Bakheng Temple
- Preah Khan Temple
- Neak Poan Temple
- Ta Som Temple
- East Mebon Temple
- Pre Rup Temple
Travel tip: If it is the rainy season in Cambodia (from May to November) make sure you are meeting your tuk tuk driver by 8am to avoid the afternoon monsoons.
This was my favorite day in the Angkor complex. We got to see so many temples, most which were a lot less crowded, and go at our own pace.
Phnom Bakheng Temple is also a great place a lot of tourists go to see the sunset since it is higher up on a hill giving great 360 degree views! Since we arrived there at about 9am the was almost no one else at the temple. For the last two temples of the day it started pouring! We were soaking wet by the end of them, but it was fun to be the only people visiting the temples!
Between day two and three, we took a one day break to rest and recuperate.
This day we agreed with our tuk tuk driver to go to further out temples then back to Angkor Wat since the weather was much better. Here are the temples we decided on with our driver:
- Preah Ko Temple
- Bakong Temple
- Lolei Temple
- Angkor Wat
These temples took us about 30 minutes to get to by tuk tuk and there were almost no other tourists at them. Lolei Temple was being restored so there was not so much to see of it, but its remains date back to the 9th century!
Then we headed back to Angkor Wat. Our driver dropped us off at about 12:30pm. This was perfect! All of the sunrise tourists were already back at their hotels probably napping like we did! We basically had all of Angkor Wat to ourselves.
Look at these two pictures: one is the morning sunrise crowds and one is the 12:30pm crowds in the same spot! While it was boiling hot at this time, we were able to get great photos together with no people!
We also weren’t able to go to the top tier of Angkor Wat temple on our first day because it was packed from it being a holiday; however, going back in the afternoon, there was no wait to the top!