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.
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!
Heading to Siem Reap? We have you covered with these helpful resources to plan your Cambodian trip: