Exploring Temples in Angkor – Siem Reap, Cambodia

The main reason we wanted to visit Cambodia was to see the renowned Angkor Wat and many of its other temples. We definitely saw Angkor Wat, so check that off the bucket list, but there are literally thousands of temples to check out in Angkor, Siem Reap. Thankfully, many temples are in close proximity to each other and we had a wonderful and knowledgeable guide that took us around. So even when we were there for only a weekend, we still saw several other amazing structures. Here are the temples and sites we explored during our visit.

Angkor Wat

There’s no doubt that Angkor Wat is the biggest attraction, literally and figuratively, out of all the temples in Cambodia. It’s actually the largest religious monument in the world! The temple is enclosed by a wall measuring 2.2 miles long and surrounded by a moat.

Inside the wall is a long path that goes straight to the temple. Off the path, on each side are lily ponds for the famous picturesque reflection of Angkor Wat. We went early at 5 am to catch the sunrise and it was absolutely breathtaking! There were also loads of tourists also trying to take the same shot (something to expect during your visit), but after an hour the crowds mostly emptied and left us to explore the temple mostly to ourselves.

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Bayon Temple

Known simply as “The Bayon,” this temple is well-recognized for having massive carved, smiling faces on top of its towers. There are stairs within the temple that will take you to the top level and let you come face-to-face with these giant stone faces. You can also climb one of the outer towers to really get a great semi-aerial view of the temple and its surroundings.

East Mebon

This temple used to be entirely surrounded by water and could only be accessible by boat. It stands on top of an island in what was once a baray (artificial body of water) that was used for irrigation. You can find many well-preserved, fine-detailed sculptures of elephants, lions, and mythical creatures and figures. The top also provides a great vantage point to see the temple layout and a perfect view to watch the sunset.

Ta Nei

Off the beaten path, Ta Nai is a semi-ruined temple hidden in the tall trees of the jungles. Because of its isolated nature, very few tourists are seen venturing here, so it’s very peaceful and you can explore without being interrupted. The inner part of the temple has largely collapsed with some parts being supported by wood planks. Still, there are still plenty of carvings with intricate details to see and is worth the visit, especially if you want to get away from the crowds.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is distinctly recognized for its large trees and roots growing within the temple. You can see the long thick roots slowly morphing and engulfing parts of the temple over hundreds of years of growth. The temple is also famous for being the location for the film “Lana Croft: Tomb Raider,” but despite its Hollywood exposure, it still feels very hidden and secluded with the trees covering the ruins.

Angkor Thom South Gate

There are five gates that gave access to Angkor Thom (which means “The Great City”). The south gate is distinguishable from the others for having stone statues on both sides of the road leading up to the gate.

Angkor Thom East (Death) Gate

You can climb up from the side to get a closer look at the gate and walk along the wall that surrounds the city.

There are also other smaller or lesser known temples and structures all over Angkor. Many of them are in ruins but can still be explored at your own leisure.

If you need some tips for getting around, you can read our article for different methods to see the temples and check out our video below. Let us know what your favorite temples were and where else you would recommend.

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21 comments

  1. Some great photos. We stayed 3 days and visited a lot – but I think Bayon was probably the most impressive (in our opinion).

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Thanks Frank! Indeed, I was incredibly impressed with Bayon. Still haven’t determined vs. Angkor Wat, but nevertheless, they’re all amazing accomplishments.

  2. Beautiful and inspirational! I never visited such a temple yet, but I am sure, the atmosphere there must be amazing. I would just go around all the time and focus on all these hundreds of details and figures everywhere.
    Most impressive for me is to see how nature takes back everything with time…

  3. I have only heard about Angkor Wat and the East Mebon, good to read about the other temples as well. How long did it take for you guys to visit all these temples? Ta Prohm looks very interesting, I had no idea Lara Croft was filmed here, although I remember coming across the pictures of this temple several times.

    1. It took us about a day and a half to visit this many temples. There are certainly more we could’ve seen if we utilized that extra half day…but it was so bloody hot and humid! It was like 105 Fahrenheit and felt like 115 with the humidity…just don’t go in the summer time!

  4. I like the animation effect you have in the first photo. What did you use to achieve that? Angkor Wat has long been on my bucket list. I love the mystery that shrouds the historic site. Nice photos!

    1. The animation is actually a timelapse of the sunrise. I had my tripod set up and think I took around 180 photos to get around 6 seconds of animation!

  5. Angkor Wat is so unbelievably gorgeous! Aside from the beauty of the architecture, the history is amazing. Your photos have done a great job at capturing just how marvelous this ancient architecture is!

  6. Beautiful photos of the temples, I love that you were able to capture many without crowds of people. My last solo trip was to Cambodia and I loved it so much, thanks for bringing me back! Angkor Wat is such a special place.

    1. We didn’t do one or the other in particular. We had a tuk-tuk driver that served us as our tour guide and drove us to the main attractions and then to some lesser known ones. He was a terrific guide! I didn’t do the kissing photo but my fiancee did 😀

    1. Ah then you gotta go back! Even for a weekend, you can see a lot of temples because they’re all really close together. 🙂

  7. Angkor Wat was such a pleasure to explore! We only did one day but it was enough to see all the main temples including my favorite which was also off the beaten path (I don’t remember the name). It’s amazing that such structures were built so long ago and still stand today for us to enjoy.

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