Although every visitor to Angkor and its environs has certainly seen photographs and read descriptions of the impressive relics of the past glory of the Khmer, nothing can truly prepare for the vastness and grandeur of this ancient complex of temples and palaces from the ninth to the fifteenth century, for the loveliness and expressiveness of the reliefs and statues that adorn the buildings, and for the beauty of the setting in the midst of a peaceful tropical jungle.
What is usually associated with the word "Angkor" is only the famous Angkor Wat. However, there is more to Angkor than just this one temple, impressive as it may be. The whole area associated with Angkor covers approximately 75 km in square, located in a basin north of Tonlé Sap, the Great Lake of Cambodia and south of the Dangrek mountains that separate today's Cambodia from its neighbor Thailand. This immense scale can be intimidating. It does not matter how lang you stay in Angkor, it will always seem to be too short!
Nevertheless, you should plan to stay at least for 4 days in order to explore and fully appreciate the most important sights. Day trips, for instance from Phnom Penh, Bangkok, or even Phuket (the Thai airline Bangkok Airways offers several flights per day) are possible but do really not make sense. However, if there is no other way you should restrict yourself to a small area, perhaps just Angkor Wat, or, if you know it already, one or two of the temples of Angkor Thom, to avoid hurrying from sight to sight which will leave you tired and exhausted and really does not do the beauty of Angkor justice.
What to See & Do
Everybody who comes to Cambodia has heard of and wants to see Angkor Wat, which is the largest monument of the Angkor group, but the relics of temples and palaces in and near Angkor Thom are nearly as impressive. Most popular here are the Bayon and the Baphuon but other buildings are also worth a visit. Tha Phrom and Phnom Bakheng are also not to be missed, nor are Preah Khan and its neighboring sites, situated at the Jayatataka Baray. A little bit farther away and reachable by a pleasant one hour overland trip, is Banteay Srei, "The Citadel of the Ladies" - a small but very charming temple built from pink sandstone and decorated with exquisite and delicate reliefs.
Getting There & Around
The town closest to Angkor is Siem Reap (ca. 6 km south of Angkor Wat). It is a small South East Asian Town, tranquil, sleepy, and a little dusty. It does, however, have an airport, and if you travel by plane to Angkor you will land here. Read more about visa requirements and available options for transportation into town and to Angkor in our Getting There & Around section.
Where to Stay
Siem Reap is really well adapted to the needs of travelers; there are plenty of restaurants and hotels of all kinds, from the simple and affordable guesthouse to the grand and luxurious (also expensive) five star hotel. Please find details in our Angkor Hotel Guide.
Avoiding Problems & Misunderstandings
Although Cambodia has been at peace now for almost 10 years and traveling in the country has become a lot easier and safer, some precautions should still be taken. Climate, and Food & Health are other issues that you should be informed about.
Who were the people who lived Angkor? Why did they build it? In order to understand Angkor it is essential that you know at least some basic facts about its history. You might also be interested in the recent history of Cambodia as a country. A map of Angkor might be useful for getting an overview of the terrain.
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Last Updated 01.03.2006