For sheer size and subject
matter, the temples of Angkor
remain one of the world's most
impressive religious complexes.
Once the capital
of the mighty Khmer Empire, the temples
of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia,
are one of the most awe-inspiring religious complexes in the world.
Between the 9th and 13th centuries, more than one thousand temples
incorporating both Buddhist and Hindu influences were constructed.
of temples and ruins, it's tough to know where to begin.
two general circuits, which can be traveled by bicycle or hired
tuktuk. Most travelers will spend one day on the "big"
circuit, one day on the "little" circuit and one day
filling in the gaps and exploring smaller temples.
Angkor Big Circuit
The 26 km "big" circuit is a good introduction to the
highlights of the Angkor complex. The circuit starts off at the
magnificent Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious building.
Built by the
emperor Suryavarman II to honor his patron god, Vishnu, Angkor
Wat is sure to impress even the most "watted-out"
traveler. Its central three-story temple is surrounded by an 800
meter frieze featuring intricate bas-reliefs; don't miss the most
famous scene, titled "Churning of the Ocean of Milk,"
on the eastern side.
Wat, head north into Angkor
Thom, an ancient fortified city surrounded by five large gates.
Visit the Temple
of Bayon, an enormous gray stone temple featuring 216 over-sized
depictions of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion. Also don't miss a stop
by the Terrace
of Elephants, once used as a venue for public ceremonies and
parades. End the circuit with a magnificent view of sunset from
the top of Phnom
Bakheng, but be warned: some tourists take the quest for the
perfect sunset photograph seriously. Be careful not to get in
Angkor Little Circuit
Ta Prohm, familiar to
movie fans as set location
for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
The 17 km "little" circuit is the only way to reach
the temple of Ta
Prohm, one of Angkor's most popular attractions and the setting
for the films Tomb Raider and Two Brothers.
of Angkor's temples have been carefully restored, Ta Prohm has
been left to nature's devices. Gargantuan tree roots have overtaken
crumbling parts of the temple, and huge piles of debris lie scattered
in and around the main complex. Other highlights of the "little"
circuit include Ta
Som and Banteay
Angkor Wat Fast Facts
• The only way to see Angkor is to book a tour via
travel agents in Cambodia or in nearby Asian capital
• Transport is available by bus from Phnom Penh and Bangkok,
or on flights from major airlines direct to Siem
Reap airport, only 15 minutes from the city center.
• At your hotel in Siem Reap, be sure to ask for the
English language tourist guide offering helpful
information on Angkor.
• Stay properly hydrated throughout the entire Angkor
complex trek. Bring bottled water or take advantage
of local vendors hawking soft drinks onsite.
• The official
Angkor ticket office is located along the main road to Angkor.
Hours: 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission: one-day pass $20; three-day
pass $40; one-week pass $60.