Thing to know about Angkor Wat, Siem Reap and the surrounding
There are even dozens of temple ruins in Angkor Archeological Park spread across more than 400 square kilometers all in the different states of ruin and displaying a range of artist and architecture styles.
To get the most from your limited time you will need to plan a temple itinerary. Your personal temple itinerary depends largely on how much time you have and your level of interest, though some temples are "MUST SEES".
Siem Reap, the Gateway to Angkor
Siem Reap province is the most important province for developing tourism in Cambodia, because this province comprises many ancient temples built during the Angkor period. Siem Reap includes a lot of temples that attract tourists from all around the world. When they come to Cambodia they all come to visit this province.
At the Angkor region there are over 100 temples and monuments from the Angkor Era (covering 400 square kilometers) around Siem Reap, but most tourists just want to visit all the best 4 - 16 temples in the Angkor Group and outside area. It can take 1,2,3 days or a week or longer if they are have enough time.
I'd be grateful for you allowing me to introduce to you the amazing architecture, culture and civilization that flourished in the history between 9th and 14th centuries AD.
It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura, the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. Angkor Wat, in its beauty and state of preservation, is unrivaled. Its mightiness and magnificence bespeak a pomp and a luxury surpassing that of a Pharaoh or a Shah Jahan, an impressiveness greater than that of the Pyramids, an artistic distinctiveness as fine as that of the Taj Mahal. Angkor Wat is located about six kilometers (four miles) north of Siem Reap, south of Angkor Thom. Entry and exit to Angkor Wat can only be access from its west gate.
Angkor Thom ( literally: "Great City"), located in present-day Cambodia, was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by King Javavarman VII It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by Jayavarman and his successors. At the centre of the city is Jayavarman's state temple, the Bayon, with the other major sites clustered around the Victory Square immediately to the north was established as the capital of Jayavarman VII's empire, and was the centre of his massive building programme. One inscription found in the city refers to Jayavarman as the groom and the city as his bride
The Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. Built in the late 12th or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII. We stand before it stunned. It is like nothing else in the land. The Bayon is located in the center of the city of Angkor Thom 1500 meters (4921 feet) from the south gate. Enter tower of the Bayon is from the east. Over 216 large faces carved on the 54 towers give this temple its majestic character. It is generally accepted that four faces on each of the tower are images of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara and that they signify the omnipresence of the king. The characteristics of this faces - a broad forehead, downcast eyes, wild nostrils, thick lips that curl upwards slightly at the ends-combine to reflect the famous 'Smile of Angkor'.
Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple at Angkor, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara.
Shrouded in dense jungle the temple of Ta Prohm is ethereal in aspect and conjures up a romantic aura. Fig, banyan and kapok trees spread their gigantic roots over stones, probing walls and terraces apart, as their branches and leaves intertwine to form a roof over the structures. Trunks of trees twist amongst stone pillars. The strange, haunted charm of the place entwines itself about you as you go, as inescapably as the roots have wound themselves about the walls and towers', wrote a visitor 40 years ago.
Preah Khan is a temple at Angkor, Cambodia, built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII to honor his father. It is located northeast of Angkor Thom and just west of the Jayatataka baray, with which it was associated. The inscription indicates that Preah Khan was built on the battle site where King Jaya-varman VII finally defeated the Chams. In those days it was known as Nagarajayacri which mean the city of Preah Khan. Four concentric ramparts subdivide Preah Khan. The outer or fourth wall, which is encircled by a wide moat, today encloses a large tract of jungle, formerly the living quarters of the monks, students and attendants of Preah Khan. The second rampart delineated the principle religious compound of about four hectares within which there is a dense concen¬tration of temple and shrines.
Banteay Srei is the temple's modern name, Bantãy Srĕi citadel of the women, or citadel of beauty is probably related to the intricacy of the bas relief carvings found on the walls and the tiny dimensions of the buildings themselves. Some have speculated that it relates to the many devatas carved into the walls of the buildings is a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Located in the area of Angkor in Cambodia. Banteay Srei is an exquisite miniature; a fairy palace in the heart of an immense and mysterious forest; the very thing that Grimm delighted to imagine, and that every child's heart has yearned after, but which mature years has sadly proved too lovely to be true. And here it is, in the Cambodian forest at Banteay Srei, carved not out of the stuff that dreams are made of, but of solid sandstone.
The Kulen Mountain is declared as a National Park. It is about 48km from Siem Reap. Its highest point is 487 meters. This is widely regarded as the birthplace of the ancient Khmer Empire. During the constructional period of the ancient temples in the nineth century, sand stones were brought from this sacred mountain to Angkor. It was here at Phnom Kulen that King Jayavarman II proclaimed independence from Java in 802 A.D. The site is known for its carvings representing fertility and its waters hold special significance to the people of Cambodia. Just a few inches under the surface of the water, over 1000 carvings of Yoni and Linga are etched into the sandstone riverbed. The waters are regarded as holy, given the sacred carvings which also include a stone representation of the Hindu god Vishnu lying on his serpent.
Kbal Spean is an Angkorian era archaeological site on the southwest slopes of the Kulen Hills to the northeast of Angkor in Siem Reap District, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia. Kbal Spean lies 50 kilometers northeast of Siem Reap pro-vincial town or about 18 kilometers from Banteay Srei on a dirt road. It takes from one to two hours to get there from the provincial town. The original River of Thousand Lingams, Kbal Spean is an intricately carved riverbed deep in the foothills of the Cam-bodian jungle. Lingams are phallic representations sacred to Brahmanism as symbols of fertility, and hundreds of them are carved into the rock here, as are several carvings of gods and animals above the small waterfall.
Though unrestored, and in a fairly ruinous state, the large temple of Beng Mealea ('Lotus Pond') some 40 km due east of Angkor on the ancient royal way to the 'great Preah Khan' of Kompong Svay (another 60 km further on), is one of the major monuments of the classical period, in the style of Angkor Wat and roughly contemporary with it. Whoever built it must have been a figure of some importance, but he remains unknow, no inscriptions have been found here, and no other that mentions it. Its position was strategic, where the royal way to Koh Kerin the NE forks from the road E to the 'great Preah Khan', and also at the head of a canal that leads directly to the Great Lake, down which sandstone blocks from the nearby quarries could have been floated on their way to Angkor.
Situated on the edge of a plateau that dominates the plain of Cambodia, the Temple of Preah Vihear is dedicated to Shiva. The Temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800 metre long axis and dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. Nevertheless, its complex history can be traced to the 9th century, when the hermitage was founded. This site is particularly well preserved, mainly due to its remote location. The site is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, which is adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, as well as for the exceptional quality of its carved stone ornamentation.
The foundations and donations during the reign of Koh-Ker-King Jayavarman IV include all the gods of the Brahmanic trinity, even Brahma, to whom no temples are dedicated in other Khmer towns. The preferred god of this king was Shiva, but this applies equally to his predecessors and successors in Angkor throughout the 10th and 11th centuries.The Devaraja symbol which was established at Prasat Thom was probably larger than any which preceded it and was placed on a higher pyramid. The king boasts of it in three inscriptions. Some deities or vocables were introduced at this time. The Devaraja was established at Prasat Thom in 921 under the vocable of Tribhuvaneshvara. The temple of Prasat Krachap was dedicated to Tribhuvanadeva in 928. The inscription of Prasat Kravan mentions the erection of the gods Tribhuvanesvami and Trailokyanatha near Angkor in 921, while the inscription of Chong Ang (Jen Ong), 922, mentions the erection of Tribhuvanakanatha.
This enormous complex, which was a temple city, is one of the most intriguing in the Khmer empire, both for it's scale and it's remote location. Never excavated, Banteay Chhmar fits the picture of a lost Khmer city with its ruined face-towers, carvings, forest surroundings and bird life flying through the temple. It has a romantic and discovery feel to it. Banteay Chhmar dates from the late 12th to the early 13thcentury and it means Narrow Fortress. It is thought to have been built by Jayarvarman II. It was later rebuilt by Jayarvarman VII as a funerary temple for his sons and four generals who had been killed in a battle repelling a Cham invasion in 1177.
The ancient city where monuments of Sambo Prei Kuk are found today was identified as ISANAPURA, the capital of Chenla in 7th century. Chenla was a former vassal of the Funan kingdom that was one of the first state in Southeast Asia, but it gradually gained its power and eventually King Citrasena Mahendravarman of Funan in the early 7th century. Main archaeological features in these groups of monuments are said to have been founded by king ISANAVARMAN I, the son of king Citrasena.
The Bakan temples are located in Ta Siang village, Ronakse commune, Sangkum Thmei district, about 105 kilometers southwest of the provincial town. on a plain that was a former worship place of the king. The temple is surrounded by two ramparts-inside and outside rampart. Inside each rampart, there are many other temples such as Neang Peou and Dangkao Baodos temples.The temple was likely a royal palace and worship place. According to historians, the site used to be a hiding place of King Jayavarman VII before he ascended to the throne in AD 1181 because the style of some construction is similar to the style of Bayon and Ta Prohm temple.
The 11th century mountaintop Angkorian ruin of Phnom Banan is the best preserved of the Khmer temples around Battambang. As you approach you will see the distinctive five towers pointing skyward, like a smaller version of Angkor Wat. At the base of the mountain you are faced with a steep laterite staircase flanked by nagas. After climbing the 350+ steps you are treated to a wonderfully peaceful setting. The temple was built by Udayadityavarman II, son of Suryavarman I, and despite some looting it is in a considerably better state of repair that Wat Ek Phnom. Several delightfully carved lintels remain above some of the towers doorways, others are now housed in the Battambang Museum. From the mountaintop are superb views across the surrounding countryside, with small villages dotting the endless rice paddies which are punctuated with the characteristic sugar palm trees. To the south you will see Crocodile Mountain, and to the north west Phnom Sampeau.
The construction of this temple mountain on Phnom Bakheng (Bakheng Hill), the first major temple to be constructed in the Angkor area, marked the move of the capital of the Khmer empire from Roluos to Angkor in the late 9th century AD. It served as King Yasovarman I's state-temple at the center of his new capital city Yasodharapura. The foundation of Bakheng is carved from the existing rock edifice rather than the laterite and earthfill of most other temples. Bakheng's hilltop location makes it the most popular sunset location in the area, offering a view of the Tonle Sap Lake and a distant Angkor Wat (upper right photo.) Quiet the rest of the day. Elephant rides up the hill are available for sunset. Always overcrowded at sunset, so much so that authorities are now limiting the number of visitors at sunset. Consider a alternative sunset location.
Phnom Bok is a hill in the northeast of East Baray in Cambodia, with a prasat (temple) of the same name built on it. It is one of the "trilogies of mountains", each of which has a temple with similar layout. The creation of the temple is credited to the reign of Yasovarman (889–910). between 9th and 10th centuries; established after he moved his capital to Angkor and named iy Yasodharapura. The two other sister temples, named after the contiguous hills, are the Phnom Bakheng and Phnom Krom. The site of the three hills was chosen by Yashovarman I along with the Eastern Baray (where only the base of the central shrine is surviving). In the 10th century, these shrines had high religious value during the Angkorian rule.The temples called as part of an "architectural triad" brought about an element of experimentation in architectural style in the Angkorian period.From the astronomical references planned for thee temples, out of the four noted alignments three, namely, equinox and winter and Solar Solstices could be observed from inside the western entrance of Phnom Bok hill temple, which is also known for the triple sanctuary dedicated to the Trimurti.
Prasat Phnom Krom is approximately 12 kilometers (7 .4 miles) southwest of Siem Reap near the north end of the Tonle Sap Lake. It is located on a mountain 137 meters (449 feet) highs. Climb the steep stairs and curved curved path through a modern temple complex at the top of the hill. The walk affords a fine view of the lake and surrounding area. It was built in the end of the ninth century beginning of the tenth century dedicated to the Hindu Trinity- Siva, Visnu and Brahma, with following to Prasat Bakheng art style.
The most impressive member of the Roluos Group, sitting at the center of the first Angkorian capital, Hariharalaya. Bakong stands 15 meters tall and is 650x850m at the outer wall. Constructed by the third Angkorian-era king as his state-temple, Bakong represents the first application of the temple-mountain architectural formula on a grand scale and set the architectural tone for the next 400 years. The temple displays a very early use of stone rather than brick. Though begun by Indravarman I, Bakong received additions and was expanded by later kings. The uppermost section and tower may have been added as late as the 12th century AD. Some of the lintel carvings, particularly on the outer towers, are in very good shape. Picturesque moat and vegetation surround Bakong.
Preah Ko was the first temple to be built in the ancient and now defunct city of Hariharalaya, some 15 kilometers south-east of the main group of temples at Angkor, Cambodia. Six towers displaying set on a platform, all beautifully preserved carvings. Originally surrounded by walls and gopuras of which only vestiges remain. Preah Ko was one of the first major temples of the empire at the early Khmer capital of Hariharalaya. Preah Ko (Sacred Bull) derives its name from the statues of bulls at the front of the central towers.
Ruins of an island-temple built in the middle of a now dry baray, Indratataka, the first large-scale baray constructed by a Khmer king. Lolei consists of four brick towers on a double laterite platform. It was the last major temple built at Roluos before Yasovarman I moved the capital to the Angkor area. Though the towers are in poor condition, there are some lintel carvings in very good condition displaying the distinctively detailed Preah Ko style. An active pagoda has been built amongst the ruins. Of the Roluos Group ruins, allocate the least time Lolei. See ‘Roluos Group’ and ‘Barays’.
Chai Say Vibol is the vastest temple complex in the Angkor plains that is situated outside the Archaeological Park. It lies to the east of Angkor and to the north-east of Roluos. It is an "off the beaten track" monument. A visitor should neither expect intact buildings nor delicious works of art, because Chau Say Vibol is unrestored. Even the original structure was not at all luxurously decorated, though constructed in Angkor's heydays in the 12th century. It is most probably from the Angkor Wat period in the first half of the century.
Banteay Ampil is located about 35 km away from Siem Reap City to the north east is on the ancient road between Angkor Wat and Beng Meale temple. It can be the reach by road to Chau Srei Vibol temple or Trav Kot Natural reservoir resort. It was built in the middle of the 12th century by king Suryavarman II (reigned 1113-1150) and dedicated to Hindu (dedicated to vishnu) with Art Style of Angko Wat and very similar to Beng Mealea architecture. In the raining is more possible to visit by motorbike drive through the forest and most of the forest that covered Siem Reap has gone replaced by cultivated paddy fields or where it is left impenetrable vegetation.
Though unrestored, and in a fairly ruinous state, a temple of Banteay Khyorng ('Citadel of Snail') located to the south of Kulen mountain foot and northern of Trav Kot natural reservoir resort is about 40 km due east of Phnom Bok on the new road way to the 'Beng Mealea' passed Banteay Samre and Phnom Bok is one of the major monuments of the classical period, considered in the style of Banteay Srei temple and roughly contemporary with it. Whoever built it must have been a figure of some importance, but he remains unknown.
Banteay Samre Temple is a bit off the Grand Circuit, near the southeast corner of the East Baray. The trip there is a nice little 3km road excursion through villages and paddies. Combine a visit to Banteay Srey with a stop at Banteay Samre on the way back. Large, comparatively flat temple displaying distinctively Angkor Wat-style architecture and artistry. The temple underwent extensive restoration this century by archaeologists using the anastylosis method. Banteay Samre was constructed around the same time as Angkor Wat. The style of the towers and balustrades bear strong resemblance to the towers of Angkor Wat and even more so to Khmer temple of Phimai in Thailand. Many of the carvings are in excellent condition.
Architecturally and artistically superior temple-mountain. Beautifully carved false doors on upper level, as well as an excellent view of the surrounding countryside. Richly detailed, well-preserved carvings, particularly on the lintels. Traditionally believed to be a funerary temple, but in fact the state temple of Rajendravarman II. Historically important in that it was the second temple built after the Khmer capital was returned to Angkor after a period of political upheaval when the capital had been moved to Koh Ker. The artistically similar East Mebon was the first to be constructed after the return to Angkor, less than a decade earlier..
East Mebon is a large temple-mountain-like ruin, rising three levels and crowned by five towers. Jayavarman IV, a usurper, moved the capital from Angkor to Koh Ker in 928AD. Sixteen years later Rajendravarman II returned the capital to Angkor and shortly thereafter constructed East Mebon on an island in the middle of the now dry Eastern Baray. The temple is dedicated to Shiva in honor of the king’s parents. Inscriptions indicate that it was also built to help reestablish the continuity of kingship at Angkor in light of the interruption that occurred when the seat of power had been moved to Koh Ker. There is some scholarly debate as to whether East Mebon should be categorized as a temple-mountain. Inscriptions record activity as early as 947AD, but the temple was not consecrated until 952AD.
Small, classic Bayon-style monastic complex consisting of a relatively flat enclosure, face tower gopuras and cruciform interior sanctuaries much like a miniature version of Ta Prohm. Many of the carvings are in good condition and display particularly fine execution for late 12th century works. Take note of the devata carvings which show an uncommon individuality. A huge tree grows from the top of the eastern gopura. It is destroying the gate but it is a photo classic. Best photographed in the afternoon. Ta Som is the most distant temple on the Grand Circuit.
A small island temple located in the middle of the last baray to be constructed by a Khmer king in the Angkor area (Preah Khan Baray or Jayatataka). The central temple sits at the axis of a cross or lotus pattern of eight pools. Originally known as Rajasri, Neak Pean took its modern appellation, which means ‘coiled serpents,’ from the encoiled nagas that encircled the temple. The temple is faced by a statue of the horse, Balaha, saving drowning sailors. Though originally dedicated to Buddha, Neak Pean contains several Hindu images. Neak Pean may have served an absolution function, and the waters were thought to have healing properties. During the dry season when the water is low, check out the animal and human headwater spouts at the outside center of each pool. Neak Pean is most photogenic in the wet season when the pools are full.
A small temple with a single central tower surrounded by two laterite walls. Pediments displaying the most interesting carvings at the site are on the ground along the enclosure wall. Krol Ko is comparatively untouristed, offering a peaceful respite. Is a Buddhist temple built at the end of the 12th century under the rule of Jayavarman VII. It is north of Neak Pean Temple.
Banteay Prei Temple is a small, insignificant temple located a little further down the country path from Prasat Prei. In style, it has a lot in common with Ta Som which is located further down the main road. In size, it reminds me of Banteay Srei, which also has small windows and doors. Few tourists do not venture to make this small tour what makes of it a very calm and resting place. The corridor the central hall remains, also the mark of the ring moat is recognized. The large wood stimulates inside the corridor and stands. Small, untouristed temple near Neak Pean. Similar to Ta Som in architectural/artistic style and scale. Some of the apsara and Buddhist-themed lintel carvings are in pretty good condition. Oddly small doors and windows. Quiet, meditative spot.
This temple built by Udayadityarvarman II was the most poorly constructed of all the temples in Angkor. From the remaining ruins, it is possible to see how imposing it was. This temple hill was dedicated to Shiva, but in its reliefs many motives from the Vishnu epic can be seen. Restoration work continues to be carried out on the Baphuon. North o f the Golden Tower [Bayon]. rises the Tower of Branze [Baphuon] higher even than the Golden Tower : a truly astonishing spectacle , with more than ten chambers at its base. Prasat Baphuon is located 200 metres (656 feet) northwest of the Bayon and south of Phimeanakas.
A enter and leave at the east.