Visiting Angkor Wat: 48 hours temple run in Siem Reap

Getting the first glimpse of Angkor Wat!

Last updated on September 17th, 2018 at 11:20 am

Angkor Wat is one of the most iconic tourist attraction in the world and for good reason. It is the largest temple complex across the globe and also a UNESCO site, and the first thing I should say is that Angkor isn’t just Angkor Wat, but also Angkor Thom.

While the ticket price has recently increased, that still doesn’t deter the hordes of visitors that flock to the ancient religion site. Given that there are over four thousand temples in Cambodia, you’d expect that to be hundreds if not tens of temples in Siem Reap. Which one is worth visiting and which one isn’t? And how do you make the best of your trip? Here’s my experience and 48 hours guide:

Get your free map for my entire itinerary here

Tickets to the Angkor Archaeological Park

Angkor ticket office, Siem Reap, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
Angkor ticket center at the roundabout of Street 60 and Apsara Road

You have to purchase your ticket before your visit to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, but it’s not sold at the entrances but at the ticketing office and nowhere else. The queues weren’t long when we went in the morning.

Angkor Wat ticket, Siem Reap, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
One of the most expensive paper I have ever brought!

You don’t need to bring your passport or any identification documents, just have your money ready! But be prepared to have your photos taken and then it takes a while for the ticket to print.

You can buy three kinds of passes for Angkor:

  • 1 day for 37 USD
  • 3 days for 62USD (valid over 10 days)
  • 7 days for 72 USD (valid over a month). Tickets clipped on a new day for entry.
  • Tickets clipped on a new day for entry.
  • Children under 12 don’t require tickets but you have to show their passports.

Address: The intersection of Street 60 and Apsara Road northeast of Siem Reap
Opening times: 5:00 – 17:30 (for same day tickets it’s valid on that day, but if issued after 17:00 it’s valid for the next day)

Angkor Wat how many days?

Angkor Wat exit, Siem Reap, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
Is it time to leave yet?

It’s safe to say that one day is obviously not enough to explore Angkor Wat. While I think the optimum number is three, we only did two days and that was enough because the heat was unbearable. Unless you are a huge history buff or is really interested, the temples will start to blur together after one day. Thank you, GPS on iPhone photos that keep me from mixing them up.

What to wear to Angkor Wat

Me in Angkor Thom, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
What should one wear to Angkor Wat? See my style guide!

Not sure what to wear to Angkor Wat? Since it’s not a short topic, I’ve written another post that can be found here.

Angkor Wat Tour Guide

Preah Khan Temple entrance, Siem Reap, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
Preah Khan temple in the morning light offers some good lighting

Do you need a tour guide for Angkor Wat? My answer is that it depends. If you are interested in the history, then it’s definitely worth having a guide take you around. An added bonus is that he or she would be able to contact your driver for you, making getting around a lot easier.

Two things to know about hiring a tour guide:

  • A driver does NOT equal a tour guide. The driver won’t leave his vehicle and he most likely won’t know the history of the park.
  • It’s a hit or miss unless you hire someone that’s been recommended to you or highly rated. Ours was horrible but it was extremely affordable to hire him so we didn’t have many complaints.

If you just want to know a short version, read on and I’ll be giving a brief overview of each temple I’ve visited.

How to get to Angkor Wat 

Waiting for sunset at Pre Rup Temple, Angkor Thom, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
Waiting for sunset at Pre Rup Temple

Angkor Wat is situated north of the city of Siem Reap but can be reached in a short car ride. Most people opt to go around on a Tuk Tuk by hiring a driver for the day (costs around 20-25 USD per day). However, since we were a group of 8, we ended up booking an air-con minivan. It was probably the best decision we made on the trip. The weather was stiflingly hot and being able to go into the air con van was a small reprieve between temples.

There is no extra cost for going in by vehicle, so I strongly recommend you book a van or taxi. While tuk-tuk might seem fun and authentic, the heat and dust can get too much.

Some people also opt to cycle, however, the traffic isn’t the best and if you aren’t heat resistant, don’t do it.

As I have said before, we do not recommend our guide if you really want to learn the history. For the 8 of us, it costs 200 USD for two days with cold water and wet towels provided for reference.

Best time to visit Angkor Wat

Preah Khan temple in the morning, Angkor Thom, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
The beautiful early morning light at Preah Khan – get there at 7:30 for this!

While Angkor Wat is a year-round attraction, you should avoid the Chinese New Year period since there would be a lot of Chinese tourists. If you prefer not to get stuck in traffic, you should also avoid Song Kra as the locals go there during that period as well. I am not sure about the rest of the year, but I had heard that it’s significantly quieter in between.

As for the time of the day, it would be easier, if possible, that you do a morning and evening visit because midday is extremely hot. It was exhausting for us to keep going continuously for the day, and the restaurant choices are slim and expensive in the Angkor area.
The opening times of the temples:
All other temples: 7:30 – 17:30

12 temples in 48 hours

Before the trip, we made a list of temples we wanted to visit and gave it to our guide. Sadly, he didn’t follow it and I did miss a few that I wanted to see but we also visited some that weren’t on the list. It turns out that he took us on a small circle and grand circle route that’s standard for visiting Angkor Wat. Below it’s a brief summary and memorial point of each temple.

Get your free map for my entire itinerary here

Day 1 itinerary visiting Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom

We started the day by visiting the ticketing office, if you want to get a real feel of our day, here is a quick highlight:

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat first glimpse, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
Getting the first glimpse of Angkor Wat!

This one probably doesn’t need much introduction with its iconic reflection pool photos. A mountain-style Hindu Temple built in the 12th century, it boasts a moat around it as well as three galleries (a different style), each higher than the last.

The sandstone temple has five towers to represent Mount Meru – a five-peaked sacred mountain in Hinduism.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
Two of the towers are not so prominent anymore

 
It was built by King Suryavarman but by the end of the 12th century, then converted into a Buddhist Temple and was in used intermittently by locals and Japanese pilgrims until it became the national monument. Its orientation to the west instead of the east might be due to the King’s wish to use it as a tomb, but it is not sure.

Angkor Wat reflection pool, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
The famous reflection pool during day light hours

The famous reflection pond is much smaller than I thought, on the north side of the path that heads to the west gate. Outside the gate is a sprawling market full of promoters and stalls that sell things at a much higher price than the Siem Reap town.

Some of the best photo spots:


Before you enter – you won’t get the whole temple if you take it inside!

The first level gallery stair cases and the beautiful Hindu creation myth relief.

Inside Angkor Wat is rather packed and there isn’t a lot of places where photos would turn out well. The highest level, the one where you would have to cover up, has some dried up pool that would make good photos if you go early enough that there wouldn’t be a crowd.

Tip: you need to queue to go up to the highest level, which doesn’t allow people to wear hat or revealing clothings.

They seem to rent out robes to cover you but it’s best if you have something yourself. The stairs are also very steep, so if you have knee or mobility problems or is afraid of height, be careful.

Angkor Thom:

We drove towards Angkor Thom, which was north of Angkor Wat. It was built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century after they defeated the invading Chams, who destroyed the last capital city Yasodharapura. Its direct translation is “Great City”, built in the Bayon style and covered 9 km2.

Bayan (Buddhist)

Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom, Cambodia | Laugh Travel EAt
Hellooo Bayon Temple

      The center of Angkor Thom, Bayan is known as the four-faced smiling Buddha tower temple nowadays but was once called Indrapattha. We visited this straight after Angkor Wat and I like the architecture style a lot more. It was King Jayavarman VII’s main state temple, the last to be built in Angkor Thom. It was still in used by successive kings who modified it to suit their religious beliefs. Additional parts such as the library and inner galleries are from a later date. There are a total of 216 faces if you want to know.

Terrace of the Elephants

Elephant Statues at the base of Elephant Terrace, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Elephant Statues at the base of Elephant Terrace – where it gets its name

  It used to be part of the royal palace, however, the palace was made of wooden structures that eroded and waste away through time. The Elephant Terrace, which was made of stone, remained. It was the site where the King would watch the ceremonial processions or returning armies, and you can still see some elephant statues remaining on the way.

Elephant terrace that links to the palace, Angkor THom, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
The terrace that connected to the palace – which no longer exist

Our guide told us that they also used to watch elephant fights here but I found no backing of this… I think we either misheard him or he lied!

Triple K restaurant

At the recommendation of our tour guide, we had lunch at Triple K restaurant – which was a disappointing experience. The service was slow and the food mediocre at best. We believe that tour guides get a commission or free meal of sorts if they bring tourists here, so it’s worth noting to mention that you don’t want to visit this place.

Ta Prohm (Tomb raider)

ta prohm classic shot with tree angkor thom, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
The famous tree climbing over the temple

Built in 1186 with the name of Rajavihara (the monastery of the king”), Ta Prohm temple is of the Bayan style. It is the most popular temple in Angkor Thom due its assimilation into the jungle without becoming a part of it. While it is famous for being featured in Tomb Raider, less people know that it is dedicated to King Jayavarmna VII’s mother. Her image is used to represent Prajnaparamita, the personification of wisdom and the main image of the temple. The site once held up to 80,000 people, including the village nearby.

Banteay Kdie (citidal)

banteay kdie temple gate smiling buddha, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
The gate of Banteay Kdie is similar to Bayon’s

Previously a Hindu Temple, Banteay Kdie was converted during the reign of Jayavarmana Vii and resembled the temples that we had seen already. Beanteay Kdtranslatesate as “A Citadel of Chambers”. True to its name, there are endless chambers connected by open doorway which are charming on their own. It is smaller than the previous temples, built atop a 10th century temple by Rajendravarman.

Pre Rup (sunset)

Pre Rup Temple in the evening light, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Pre Rup Temple in the evening light

Different to the Buddhist temples with its more reddish colour, elevated temples and five high towers, Pre Rup temple is a Hindu Temple. The state temple of the aforementioned King Rajendravarman, it was built in the 10th century with laterite, sandstone and brick in the mountain temple style. It is a funeral temple and dedicated to the god Shiva and also the chosen site for many to witness an Angkor sunset. Although the sunset is nice it isn’t worth waiting around for since you can’t even tell you are at Angkor Thom from it.

Day 2 exploring Angkor Archeological Park


This is an early day but we also ended early because of the sunrise. We were picked up at 5:00 am at the hotel to chase the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Below is a vlog of our trip:

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Since Siem Reap is a tropical city, the sunlight hours don’t vary greatly throughout the year, however, it’s still worth checking the forecast so you won’t be disappointed. That said, our trip was said to be “raining” the whole five days and it wasn’t the case.

angkor wat sunrise, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
Breaking dawn’ – Angkor Wat edition

We reached Angkor Wat around 5:20 and there were already a huge crowd gathered around the lake. You will need your tickets to go in, so make sure you already have them. The reflection pool is not very large, and the best location is towards the mid-left side facing the temple. I managed to squeeze my way to the front and then it was a waiting game.

Angkor Wat sunrise reflection pool crowd, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
The crowd has gathered around the reflection pool early!

The good news is that as soon as the sun is up (6:11) – but not yet passed the top of the left corner of the temple – people start to disperse. You will have a chance to snatch a few precious seconds by the bank for some photos. It is the prettiest when you first arrive and once the sun comes up and there is almost an hour plus in between those time, so you would have to be patience.

Preah Khan

preah khan exit me walking, Angkor Thom Angkor Wat, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
The beautiful Preah Khan

Barely pass 7 am, we made our way to Preah Khan Temple, one of my favourite in the trip. Dedicated to King Jayavarmna VII’s father, this is also a Buddhist Bayon style temple and similar to the Banteay Kdie Temple. Translate to “Holy Sword”, this is the site where King Jayavarman VII defeated the Chams. Similar to Ta Prohm, not much restoration has been done except maintenance and clearing of vegetation. Walking through its gallery ways were a highlight as well as exploring its relieves.

preah khan temple center buddhism pagoda, Angkor Thom, Cambodia | laugh Travel Eat
The pagoda that replaced the statue in the center of the temple

The center of the temple, which now holds a small pagoda, used to hold the statue of the King’s father. The doorways of the temples also become wider but shorter as you go in, making you bow in respect to the temple.

Neak Pean

neak pean temple pool lake, Angkor Thom, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
The former hospital/temple

Neak Pean is arguably the most unique temple in Angkor Thom, built on an artificial island in Jayatakaka Baray. You can only reach the temple through a long walkway on the reservoir, which is thought to represent the diseases-curing mythical lake Anavatapta. Neak Pean consist of four small pools around a central one, representing the four elements in a central source. The Khmer believes that bathing in them restore balances in the body and this used to be a hospital.

neak pean girl walkway, Angkor Thom Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Hong Kong
Can’t resist a good old shot

The name Neak Pean means “The coiled serpents”, and while it features many Hindu believes, it was built by King Jayavarman VII and a Buddhist temple.

Ta Som

Ta Som Temple Entrance, Angkor Thom, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
Ta Som – which does look a lot like Banteay Kdie and Preah Khan…

Most memorable by the tree growing on top of its gate, Ta Som is another Buddhist Bayon Temple built by King Jayavarman VII to commemorate the general that fought with him to drive the Cham people back. This temple is less popular, which means there are plenty of room for you to take photos!

East Mebon

east mebon upper level tower
The five towers of Hindu Mountain Temple style

A Hindu Temple similar to Pre Rup (the sunset temple from the day before), it’s more symmetrical but with lower towers. Also built under King Rajendravarman in 10th century, it’s better preserved than Pre Rup, too. Believe it or not, this used to in the middle of the reservoir that had since dried, and the steps that we climbed up was a pier.

The highlight of the temple was the elephant statues on the corner of the first level terrace. Its side temples also make for great photo spots.


P.S. please don’t climb on the elephant statues, they are over 1,000 years old!

Banteay Samre

Banteay Samre, Angkor Thom, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
Similar architecture style to Angkor Wat

Another temple that stood out in my mind, the Banteay Samre was built in the early 12th century by King Suryavarman II and continued by Yasovarman II. A Hindu Temple that is in the same style as Angkor Wat, it had received extensive restoration and the galleries around the libraries are the best part with their mahogany-red stones and grass-filled archways. It’s almost like an Asia version of Cambridge. It is not to be confused with Banteay Srey, which we were heading to next.

Lunch at Banteay Srey Parvis coffee and souvenir shop

Unlike Triple K, Beanteay Srey Restaurant might be the only option near the Banteay Srey temple, which is about 10-20 minutes’ drive from Angkor Thom, serves up some pretty good food at a reasonable price. The coconut was 1.5 USD, the fish dish and mango pancake was amazing and the papaya salad was decent. But it’s worth avoiding the meat dishes.

They also have a free information center nearby that gives a good history and architecture break down of the temple.

Banteay Srey

Banteay Srei, Siem Reap, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat
Banteay Srei – the temple of women

Known as the women’s temple and its pink colour, the Hindu Temple Banteay Srey (or Srei) is located further north of Angkor Thom. Built in the 10th century on the Phnom Dei Hill, it’s smaller than I anticipated and fairly popular. The temple was constructed by Vishnukumara and Yajnavaraha, whom are not kings but were on the court of King Rajendravarman II. The intricate relieveves of Hindu creation myths on laterite and brick distinguishes it from other temples. Each of these towers have five levels that represent the five levels of being in Hinduism.

Temples that I wished I had seen:

Phnom Bakheng

This is a perfect alternative to Pre Rup as a sunset temple because it overlooks Angkor Wat.

Srah Srang

I saw photos of Srah Srang – the royal bathing grounds –  and wanted to visit it. But between Neak Pean and this temple, I’d choose the former. Ironically it was right outise Banteay Kdie.

Angkor Wat is one of the most popular destinations in the world. Here's everything you need to do for visiting Angkor in 48 hours. Everything
Pin me!

Written by Nam Cheah

Hi, my name is Nam. I am 24 and spent half my life in Hong Kong and the other half in UK. I believe there's endless experience and beauty in the world and this is me chronicling how to experience the best at the best price.

8 Comments

    • Wow – you must know more than I do! I hope to visit more temples one day but there are so much to see in this world!

  1. I learned so many new things from reading your post. Had no idea Angkor Wat was the largest temple complex! I love how detailed this post. I’m bookmarking it for later whenever I visit Siem Reap (it’s on the list for next year hopefully!)

  2. Cambodia is a nice and beautiful country with many ancient mega structures. Angkor Wat is one of those with magnificent masterpiece of art. You should visit Cambodia once in your life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

preah khan exit me walking, Angkor Thom Angkor Wat, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat

Angkor Wat Dress code

What to do in Siem Reap in 6 days

King Village, Siem Reap, Cambodia | Laugh Travel Eat