Hundreds of miles from Cambodia’s capital, where many of the tourist attractions are sobering and melancholy, lie the intoxicating ruins of the Khmer Empire. Located just outside Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and the Angkor Archaeological Park are home to numerous ancient temples visited by millions of people each year. With so many tours, tourists, and temples, it’s easy to get stuck with crowds or miss out on some of the better temples you never knew existed. In order to maximize your experience, read on for helpful travel tips for visiting Angkor Wat.
Research temples you want to see
There are over one thousand temples and ruins throughout the entire park, and some people spend weeks visiting Angkor Wat to explore more and more of it. However, it’s best to do your research in advance and arrive in Siem Reap with a game plan of the temples you want to see. To help you get started, read up on my recommendable list of the 5 best temples at Angkor Wat, or take a look at a more extensive list for an overview of the temples in the park.
I completed the Small Circuit and the Grand Circuit in a two-day span. These are common routes that tuk-tuk tours offer. Unless you want a fairly generic (but still amazing) experience, bring your own route to the tuk-tuk driver and see what you want to see. Don’t just settle for what’s convenient on the typical tours.
Spend your time efficiently
I’m 26 and in good shape, plus I’m not a professional photographer; so, I did’t need more than 30-45 minutes at each stop to explore. While visiting, you’ll find that you can see some temples in 10 minutes. In one half hour, I was able to cover pretty much every temple besides Angkor Wat, which is just too massive. If you like getting lost in the ruins, or sitting down to sketch the landscape, then allocate more time for yourself. Personally, I could have seen 5-10 more temples just because I went more quickly than my tuk-tuk driver had anticipated. Don’t make the same mistake!
Be aware of the weather forecast and calendar
I don’t know about you, but waking up at 4:30 a.m is an ordeal for me. However, that’s the time to rise and shine in order to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Unfortunately, on the day I woke up early, it was completely overcast and there was no color or amazing sunrise at all. At least I wasn’t the photographer who hired a hot air balloon hovering above the entry gate for that epic shot, right?
Before you make decisions about where to watch a sunset or sunrise, take a look at the weather forecast. If you haven’t planned your trip yet, think about the time of year. Cambodia has unpredictable weather, but using the information available to you is always better than none at all. In addition, take a quick glance at the calendar. I happened to visit Angkor Wat on a Buddhist holiday, so the Bakan (the highest part of the temple) wasn’t even open that day. If you don’t like crowds, maybe a rainy day or a public holiday is perfect for you to explore the temples in peace and quiet and have a more personal experience.
Bonus tip: Utilize your tuk-tuk driver
The food and drink vendors sprinkled around the park charge rates much higher than in Siem Reap. My tuk-tuk driver was kind enough to buy our drinks and meals for us at local prices. If I had tried to buy a 1.5-liter bottle of water, it would have cost me $2. When my driver bought it for me, it was only $0.50. If and when possible, have your driver arrange your meals at the restaurants as well for a discount.
Do you have any other advice or tips for visiting Angkor Wat? Please comment and share!
15 Amazing Foods to Eat in Vietnam was written by Pete Vrouvas of TheOnlyPete.com. Pete is a California-based traveler, food lover, beer drinker, and adventurer focused on sharing experiences & tips on travel, technology, and food. Subscribe to Pete’s blog and follow him on social media Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Youtube