Far more than a simple assemblage of stone edifices and artefacts, Angkor was the beating heart of the world’s largest pre-industrial society. The urban sprawl of its vast historical territory extends some 1,000 kilometres out into the surrounding countryside. Even to this day, archaeologists continue to uncover surprising evidence of ancient Khmer sophistication.
Taking a walk among its mind-bogglingly vast and intricate temples is like taking a step back in time. Crumbling remains seem to mend themselves as the grandeur of this once-thriving city comes to life around you. Since it came onto the Western world’s radar in the late 19th Century, Angkor has held an almost mythical status among those interested in history and adventure.
Angkor Wat is often mentioned in the same breath as iconic bucket list destinations such as Peru’s Machu Picchu and India’s Taj Mahal – and rightfully so. As the largest religious monument on earth, Angkor Wat is at the heart of Cambodia’s archaeological allure and one of the region’s most iconic destinations.
Angkor Wat is only the beginning, though. It’s the centerpiece of a sprawling complex consisting of dozens of temples at the heart of a once-thriving ancient city. Each temple within the archaeological park is equally impressive and deserving of a visit in their own right. To visit them all could easily fill the space of a few days. Highlights include Bayon Temple – known as the “temple of 200 faces” – and Ta Prohm, the “jungle temple” made famous for the Hollywood hit Tomb Raider. Those with a bit more time should put lesser-explored Angkor Thom and Banteay Srei on their list.
How to get there:
By Plane: Siem Reap International Airport is Cambodia’s second largest and is served through direct flights internationally from Bangkok, Pattaya, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Singapore, Manila, Luang Prabang, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Hong Kong, Kunming and Guangzhou. The airport is about seven kilometres from the city-centre and most hotels offer free pickup if booked in advance.
By Bus: Phnom Penh is accessed easily by bus from virtually anywhere in Cambodia, as well as most major cities in neighbouring countries. Most buses terminate at an out-of-town bus station on the east side Siem Reap. From there, grab a tuk tuk to get into the town centre.
By Train: Getting to Siem Reap by train is perhaps the cheapest and most scenic route. Trains regularly depart from Hualamphong Train Station and take between 90 minutes to two hours. From Ayutthaya Station, simply take a ferry across the river or take a tuk tuk there.
By Boat: Siem Reap can be accessed via hydrofoil along Tonle Sap Lake from Phnom Penh or Battambang. Although a bit costly and time consuming, it’s a great way to see areas of the lake that you wouldn’t otherwise see.