VISITING ANGKOR WAT RUINS IN A DAY

Angkor Wat Ruins in a day

Visiting Angkor Wat was top on our list of things to do in Siem Reap and we were not disappointed. This is our guide to a day at the Angkor Wat ruins.

After leaving the hotel at 4.30am to catch the beautiful sunrise over Angkor Wat, we spent a day exploring the fascinating and expansive complex of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Yes, this heritage site can get extremely busy but you can see why, once you start exploring. A single day ticket costs $20 with most hotels offering cheap tuk-tuk trips for around $20.

Our hotel, The Villa Siem Reap, was able to organise a tuk-tuk driver to pick us up and spend the whole morning driving us around the complex. There are other options if you don’t fancy this option.

How to visit Angkor Wat?

  • Cycling – If you want a challenge and the independence of exploring the ruins at your own leisure, rent a bike and explore. There are bike rentals around the centre of Siem Reap and many hostels and hotels rent bikes too. Just be prepared for the heat; bring plenty of water and wear a hat.
  • Tour groups – Tuk-tuk drivers often can share some history and knowledge but most likely won’t be able to offer full tours or explanations of the temple. If you don’t mind exploring with a group, think about visiting with a tour group. Viator offers a variety of tours (including private options) or get yourself a great deal on Get Your Guide.
  • Tuk-tuk – As we mention above, we personally find a Tuk-tuk is the best way to explore Angkor Wat, especially if you only have one day to see the ruins. Speak with your hostel/hotel or head into Pub Street the night before you want a tour and speak with the hotels in this area.

When to visit Angkor Wat?

  • Sunrise is my favourite time to visit but it can get busy. Get there for 5.30am, watch the sunrise then hold back for the crowds to visit disperse.
  • The 3-day pass may be the best option if you are looking to fully explore Angkor Wat. You can see the highlights of the complex within one day; especially if you are there for sunrise but 3 days gives you adequate time to explore at your own leisure.
  • Sunset is also a good option but you will want to explore the ruins before sunset and finish off your time watching the sunset – the complex can get dark quickly.
  • Weekdays are always better days to explore most attractions but personally, we found there wasn’t much difference between a weekday or the weekend. If you can, you are better off planning your visit in Cambodia’s off-peak season from May to September.

How to get Angkor Wat tickets?

Tickets for Angkor Wat must be purchased at the entrance to the complex. Some hotels, taxi drivers or tour vendors may suggest they can get a cheaper ticket for you but avoid these and purchase directly from the complex.

We found a gap in the row of people opposite the temple, next to a small lake – ideal for those gorgeous reflection shots. As the super organised person I am, I settled down on the lake edge and munched on a cereal bar whilst Calum set up his tripod and camera. Unfortunately we visited on a bit of a murky day but did manage to get some nice shots.

Once the sun rises, most people take their photo and start exploring the temples. We hovered for longer to take some more photos (about 20 minutes) so by the time we did head into the Angkor Wat Temple it was fairly quiet, allowing for some great shots. Climb the steps, weave through the pillars and stare in awe at the expansive open squared rooms.

Visiting Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat Ruins in a Day
Angkor Wat Ruins in a day

Once you have got your fill of Angkor Wat, head back to the entrance where you’ll be whisked off by your tuk-tuk driver (hence the need to book a tuk-tuk driver for the whole morning) to Bayon Temple. This is perhaps my favourite temple in this collection of ruins, with gloriously carved faces into the stone temple. Climb to the top for some great pictures but be careful of the crumbling stone around the edges of the temple.

Next you can head to Preah Khan temple, Thommanom and Chau Say Thevoda temple – they aren’t as impressive or expansive as the first two but usually tend to be a bit quieter.

Then head to Ta Prohm Temple, made famous from its appearance in the Tomb Raider movie. Here you will find a natural jungle growing around, within and on top of this ancient temple. Again, this place allows for some great photo opportunities but is often very busy and it can be difficult to navigate through the crowd, pillars and walkways.

What to pack for Angkor Wat?

  • Sun lotion – If you burn as we do, stock up on the small lotions that you can easily slip into your backpack.
  • Hat – There is a theme here, it is hot and there is very little shade around the ruins. Wear a hat or cap to protect your head.
  • Battery pack – We found the heat and consistent photos zapped our phone battery. We always bring along a battery pack for longer days.
  • Tripod – Not essential but you can get some amazing time-lapse video shots and long exposure shots; particularly during sunrise or sunset.
  • Mosquito repellent – There are so many mosquitos in this complex so prepare and get spraying. If you aren’t a fan of repellent, use lemon shampoo and shower gel; I find this always keeps the bugs away.
  • Water – There are some stalls around the complex selling drinks and snacks but these are few and far between. Bring along water and stay hydrated.

What to wear for Angkor Wat?

Similar to temples across Asia, dress respectfully. Cover your shoulders and knees and don’t be afraid to whip out those baggy Harem travel pants!

Visiting Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat Ruins in a day
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40 Comments

  1. Wow, seems a great place to visit. I’m a major history buff, would surely refer your post whenever I plan to visit there!!

  2. Okay, so I seriously want to go to Angkor Wat next year! Loved this post and pinned it for my trip-planning! I think your shots were awesome, even if you said it was a murky day. It just adds to the mystical presence of the location!

  3. I am dreaming of a trip round Asia, including Angkor Wat – great tips! xx

  4. Your post and pictures are amazing. I was really convinced about Angkor Wat being a lovely place. If time and finances permit, I might be ending the year’s trip in Angkor Wat. Thanks for the tips.

  5. I have no idea how you managed to get photos with minimal people in them! I visited in April and had such a tough time avoiding the crowds

    • Yeah we held back for a bit, we found after a little while, people mingled off into the temple itself. Plus, if you can get on the lake edge then you just get lake in front of you! 🙂

  6. Great article. My mum’s been and it’s on the list. Kx

  7. This post has brought me back such good memories of my trip to Angkor Wat. I really loved the sunrise there too! Thanks for sharing!

  8. The grounds look huge! It’s always a bummer when the weather is a bit of a downer, but the temple still looks so impressive!

  9. Angkor Wat is on my wishlist since many years. I would take all your recommendations about tuk-tuks, getting up at 4;30 for catching a sunrise and all for planning my trip. Creative tip given by you is really helpful, as it states how to avoid crowd and enjoy the place peacefully.

    • Thanks Yukti! Glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

  10. Angkor Wat is still on my must see list. Great tips especially lingering awhile after sunrise. THanks

  11. Wow, what a day trip! It looks gorgeous! I hope to visit one day!

  12. I got to visit the Angkor heritage earlier this year and it was a dream come true. I loved Cambodia in general but all the history around Siem Reap is really amazing. Thank you for reminding me that 🙂

  13. I really loved Angkor Wat, there is so much to see and so many lovely temples. I guess my favourite is Angkor Wat as well. I kept on going back to just sit, hang around and enjoy the area. Loved it!

  14. I really love that creative tip drop down menu…my friend actually got married in ruins before, not like this but with all the history and culture behind them, all ruins seem to be amazing. At only $20 too that’s not bad to see a piece of history!

    • Thanks Tatum, glad you like the drop down! 🙂 and wow getting married there sounds amazing! Bet they had beautiful wedding pictures!!

  15. This is so helpful! I’m planning a one day trip here and had been planning on just throwing myself at the mercy of a driver haha 🙂

    • Yeah the drivers around here are fantastic!

  16. The Bayon Temple looks captivating. Is that some renovations I see going on?

    • yeah unfortunately we were there just as they were washing it! I think they do it once a year to keep it safe!

  17. This is high on my bucket list, maybe after Peru. Good tips, but damn… 4.30 am. You are my hero :)) I’d rather not sleep through the night :)))

  18. This is such an amazing place with so much history. Really want to go thanks for the info

  19. Looking forward to visiting Angor Wat next year 😀

  20. I am dying to go to Angkor wat! Such a helpful guide and such gorgeous photos!

  21. I love Angkor! I highly recommend Ta Keo, it is small and pretty unknown, but it sticks up over the rainforest and gives some beautiful views! I’m also slightly biased as it is where my husband proposed to me!

    • aww that is so beautiful!!

  22. Ahh this is one of these place i want to go to so bad! I hope our travels will take us back to asia and i will het a chance to go. Am pinning for future reference

  23. There are some useful tips here on visiting the temples. That’s a good tip about booking a tuk tuk for the whole day, you wouldn’t want to get stuck in the heat. Thanks for sharing it will help me with my trip there.

  24. I cannot wait to go here next year! I would pay $20 any day to see this beautiful place! Angkor Wat is absolutely beautiful! Glad you had an amazing time!

  25. We also only had one day in the Angkor complex, but opted to miss sunrise as we were not fond of crowds and had heard sunset was better in terms of numbers of people. We were also fascinated with Bayon – the faces in the rock are just so expressive!

  26. Angkor Wat is amazing! I can’t pick which was my favourite temple, I loved Bayon and also Ta Prohm, the trees growing out of the temples were incredible.

  27. Looks like a very interesting place. I always enjoy visiting cultural sights when traveling. Great post and useful guide!

  28. I love Angkor Wat! No other temple complex has lived up to it since visiting, lol. We also did the sunrise tour, though we did the opposite of you: we hurried off quickly after the sunrise and got to the temple when most people were still taking their photos, so we had quiet as well. That early morning wake up call is no joke, though–we were SO tired.

  29. I have learn several excellent stuff here. Certainly worth
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