Aug 17, 2020

Must See Temples in Siem Reap Before You Get Templed - Out

Angkor Wat

Siem Reap, Cambodia is where the iconic Angkor Wat - world's largest religious monument in the world is located and home of  72 more temples housed inside the massive Angkor Archeological Park ready to be explored. On top of that, Cambodia is known for its exotic food,  cheap accommodations and unrivaled Khmer hospitality with a smile that makes Cambodia a worthy destination in  Southeast Asia. The temples are Siem Reap's biggest draw, attracting 2 million tourist annually. The area is massive and should be plan well on which temples you would like to visit before you get "templed-out"

Templed-out - a phrase bandied about by travelers to describe the dead legs and the slightly blasee attitude to incredibly beautiful architecture that comes of having seen too many temples

Getting to Angkor Archeological Park

Siem Reap has no public transport so a tour is the most cost-effective route to see the Angkor temples. It cost  more or less $15 ( Php 778.96) per person to hire a tuktuk driver for one day. I highly recommend our very kind and patient tuktuk driver Sok Menea. If you want the tour more comfortable and relaxed , you can  hire a private car for around  $15.00 for a half day rental and $35.00 for a full day rental per person.

 Routes and Temples

Tours are divided into two routes - small and big circuit. The most popular one is the small circuit but you can do both in 3 days .I'm pretty sure you will get templed-out on your third day because most of the temples are all the same. I suggest you create a customized itinerary and just handpicked the temples you would like to visit. You have to negotiate with the tour driver first if he allows it or not and would probably cost more if he does. We paid  extra $5.00 ( Php 250.00) per person on top of our customized tour to see the magical sunrise in Angkor Wat.

Our Customized Itinerary

Angkor Wat Sunrise→ Bantay Srei →  Ta Prohm →Bayon → Back to Angkor Wat

Small Circuit  

  • Angkor Wat -The largest monument of the Angkor group and the best preserved, is an architectural masterpiece.Located south of the Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat is the most iconic and the most visited temple in Siem Reap.
  • Bayon - Stands in the center of Angkor Thom, Bayon is dubbed as the face temple and one of our favorite temples in Siem Reap.
  • Baphuon Temple - is one of the quieter of the main Angkor ruins, despite being almost right next to the Bayon Temple, with the Terrace of the Elephants nearby.
  • Ta - Phrom - Made famous by the movie " Lara Croft Tomb Raider" this temple is known for the huge trees and the massive roots growing out of its walls. You will be deeply fascinated on how the temple is devoured by the jungle in time.
  • Ta Keo - One of the first temples that is built using a sandstone. Consist of overlapping terrace and the towers represent the holy place Mount Meru.
Big Circuit 
  • Preah Khan -  The  temple is located just outside the capital city Angkor Thom and  was built in 1191; its name translates to “the Sacred Sword” It's also one of the largest complexes at Angkor, a maze of vaulted corridors, fine carvings and lichen-clad stonework.
  • Neak Pean - It's an artificial island situated in the middle of the Jayatataka Baray. It is surrounded by four smaller ponds that may have functioned as ablution ponds for pilgrims. 
  • Ta Som - It's smaller than some of the other main temples at Angkor. The temple has well preserved bas-reliefs to examine without being jostled by crowds.
  • Pre Rup -This temple resembles Angkor Wat in a smaller scale and a perfect spot to see Angkor Wat during sunset.
Angkor Pass

The Angkor Pass costs $37.00 for a 1-day ticket, $62 for a 3-day ticket and $72 for a 7-day ticket. The ticket counter is open from 5:00 am to 5:30 pm and can be purchase using major credit cards ( Discovery, Visa, Mastercard, Union Pay, JCB and Diners Club), Cambodian Riel and US dollars.

TIP: If you're short on cash, there's an ATM machine beside the shop " Angkor Local Handicraft"


Weeks prior to our departure date, I contacted Sok Menea - our tuktuk driver and informed him about our custom itinerary which is adding Bantay Srei temple and Angkor Wat sunrise to the small circuit tour. Angkor Archeological Park is huge so it's not possible to tour both circuits in one day.You need at least 2 days to see all the temples in the list. The small circuit tour is the most popular tour where you will get to see the most famous temples in  the Angkor Archaeological Park.  Without further ado, here are the temples we visited in Siem Reap. 

TIP:  Angkor Passes bought after 5:00 pm will then be valid the next day. For example, If you bought your pass before 5:00 pm, it will be counted used for that day. But if you bought your pass after 5:00 pm, it will then be valid the next day. Quite useful to avoid queue at the ticket counter on the day of your tour.

Angkor Wat Sunrise

One of top bucket list by most travelers in Siem Reap is to visit Angkor Wat during sunrise where the sun rises behind Angkor Wat and creating hues of yellow, red and orange. This natural spectacle entice hundreds of tourist everyday armed with selfie sticks and professional cameras near the entrance of the complex. Woke up at 4:30 am and hit the road with our tuk-tuk driver and arrived at the ticket booth around 5:00. As soon as we got our passes, we head straight to the Angkor Wat entrance. The photo spot was easily filled with tourist, patiently waiting for the sunrise. It came but we failed because of low cloud cover and poor visibility. After the failed attempt, we head back to our hotel to have our breakfast and our tour officially started. Normally, tourist will visit Angkor Wat first then to other temples which is spread out in different parts of the park. The smart idea to beat the crowd is to visit the temples in reverse. Outlying temples first then Angkor Wat for the finale. 

Angkor Wat
Failed Angkor Wat sunrise

Banteay Srei

 Banteay Srei means " Citadel of  Women," also known as the pink temple and said that the reliefs are so  delicate that they could only have been carved by the hand of a woman. It is constructed with pink sandstone which has much better quality than grey sandstone used to build the Angkor temples. The quick downpour brought the details in much clearer view. It's the most beautiful temple we have visited and can't imagine how the details are made using only the tools available and the working hours spent building it.The doorway lentil is quite impressive as you can see.

Banteay Srei
Fully intact doorway in Banteay Srei

Impressive details of a doorway lentil

Banteay Srei temple which is commonly referred to as the 'jewel of Khmer art'
It started to rain again but didn't bother us at all because of our sheer excitement to explore the temple complex plus we have umbrellas, courtesy of our kind tuk-tuk driver. I was fascinated by the intricacy of the carvings in walls, columns and doorway lentils. Among the major temples like Angkor Wat, Bayon or Ta Prom, This temple has its own identity that stands out among other significant temples. Bantay Srei was not even built by a King, but rather a King’s Counselor.

Ta Prohm

If you're a huge Tomb Raider fan 19 years ago, then you might be interested to include this temple in your bucket list. It is located one and a half kilometers east of Angkor Thom (2 km by road). Ta Prohm catapulted to the international stage after portions of the Tomb Raider film were shot there. It's like stepping into a realm where colossal trees rule and act as the guardians of the land. At the temple entrance, a massive Banyan tree spreading roots awaits tourist and visitors to this enchanting place filled with overgrowth trees and temple ruins. 

Ta Prohm Entrance

Siem Reap, cambodia

Few meters from the temple entrance, lies ahead the most enchanting section of the temple. The sun made a cast through a small opening highlighting the ornate carvings on the wall. It was indeed a magical scene and was like straight out of a fantasy - adventure movie. Huge stone pillars provides support for the roof which is made of stone and bricks. There are a total of 48 ornate stone pillars supporting a corbelled roof in the temple.

 Paramount Pictures paid $10,000 a day to film in the temple Ta Prohm for the 2001 film ''Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

The famous spot where people queue to get their photo op done. Ta Prohm is one of the few temples in the Angkor region where an inscription provides information about the temple's dependents and inhabitants. The inscription states that they were around 80,000 workers, including 2700 officials and 615 dancers. It was astounding and left abandoned after the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century. You'll wonder how this giant Banyan tree worked its way up there seemingly devour the temple structures with its monstrous roots. Ta Prohm is left in much the same condition in which it was found to preserve the photogenic scenery and original atmosphere that gives visitors the experience of exploring an ancient site. Except for the maintenance, they have to trimmed the trees a bit, clear the undergrowth and reinforced some of the structures with steel to prevent further collapse.

Piles of ruined sandstones and laterite covered in lichen moss were scattered throughout the complex. Sadly, Ta Prohm was looted quite heavily in recent years and many of its ancient stone reliquaries have been lost. 

Ta Prohm cambodia

Siem Reap

Ta Prohm is one of the most impressive temples in Siem Reap and the most visited next to Angkor Wat. You need to have at least 2 hours to explore the maze -like corridors linking courtyards and temples. A must -see! and shouldn't be missed.

Bayon Temple

Located inside the center of the ancient city of Angkor Thom lies Bayon - a mountain temple built to represent Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. Built from laterite, sandstone and sand in the late 12th century, Bayon was the last major temple constructed at Angkor. We called it " The Temple of Many Faces" or some call it " The face temple" on which giant mysterious faces were carved on stone towers and were believed to represent Brahma, the Hindu God of creation depicted with four heads. When it was later established that the Bayon was not a Hindu temple but a Buddhist one, archaeologists believed the faces to be of Lokeshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. The similarity of statues of Jayavarman VII and the face towers had led some to believe that it is the King himself whose face is depicted on the towers.

Bayon Temple

Bayon temple face

Outer Bas-relief Galleries

The bas-reliefs on the outer gallery are a marked departure from anything previously seen at Angkor. They contain genre scenes of everyday life as well as history scenes with battles and processions.. The relief are more deeply carved than at Angkor Wat but the representation is less stylized. The scenes are presented mostly in two or three horizontal panels.

Do not get so absorbed with the reliefs that you forget to stop at each opening and enjoy the view of the faces on the third level.

Bayon temple

Bayon temple

Bayon TempleTIP:  Appropriate attire when visiting temples in Angkor Wat is long pants (covering the knee) and shirts that cover shoulders. Skirts, small shorts, tank tops, and other items of revealing clothing are not allowed within temple grounds.

Bayon temple

Over 2000 massive faces carved on  54 towers give this temple its majestic character. Its well- preserved bas-reliefs in the inner and outer galleries is a visual representation of
mythological, historical, and mundane scenes. Bayon remains on top our list as the most visually stunning temple we visited during our trip.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the most iconic landmark in Cambodia and world's largest religious monument in the world. It's the crowning glory of a kingdom built 900 years ago that stood what in what is today northwestern Cambodia. It took 30 years to complete and dedicated to Vishnu, the Supreme God of Vaishnavite Hinduism. This enormous building complex is surrounded by moat- a wide trench about 200 meters wide and has a perimeter of 3 miles for security, water source, and a part of a complicated groundwater system. I has five lotus- shaped towers, a central tower surrounded by 4 small towers representing the five peaks of Mt. Meru.

TIP: Be careful of fake tour guides. Legit ones wear light yellow shirts and lanyards.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

According to the inscription, A total of  6,000 elephants, 3000 ox-carts  and  300,000 laborers were involved in the construction of Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat translates to "City of Temples" and it has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and many denominations of the riel. Angkor Wat is the country's main attraction with over a million tourist arrivals each year. The highlight of the temple are the 13,000 square feet of bas-reliefs intricately carved in the sandstone.

TIP: Don't lose your pass. Ticket checkers might check in random so have it always with you.

Angkor Wat

On Nov 1967, Jacqueline Kennedy, the US first lady, had a visit to the temple during the Vietnam War to persuade her “lifelong dream of seeing Angkor Wat”

Angkor Wat complex

You need at least a day to cover most of Angkor Wat's temple grounds. If you're into history or some sort, I would suggest getting the three day pass or the more relax 7 day pass. But for most tourist, a day pass is enough to cover what they call " The Big Three" namely Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm. Got templed-out after Angkor Wat and decided to skipped Baphoun temple which is similar to other temples and head to the bus terminal to catch the 7:00 pm bus to Phnom Penh. Our itinerary felt short but we're pretty much contented with it.


  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
  • Wear insect repellent bands.
  • December and January is the best time to visit Siem Reap. The weather is sunny and dry. Just be aware that it's the peak tourist season and the streets are crowded.
  • Be careful of fake tour guides. Legit ones wear light yellow shirts and lanyards.
  • Don't feed the macaques in Bayon and Angkor Wat.
  • Don't give chocolates, candies and lollies to children. Dental care is expensive in Siem Reap. Instead, give them pencils or small items.


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