Must see attractions in Temples of Angkor

  • Top ChoiceSights in Angkor Thom

    Bayon

    At the heart of Angkor Thom is the 12th-century Bayon, the mesmerising, if slightly mind-bending, state temple of Jayavarman VII. It epitomises the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia’s most celebrated king. Its 54 Gothic towers are decorated with 216 gargantuan smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara, and it is adorned with 1.2km of extraordinary bas-reliefs incorporating more than 11,000 figures. The upper level of Bayon was closed for restoration when we visited and is not scheduled to reopen until 2022.

  • Sights in Temples of Angkor

    Koh Ker

    Abandoned to the forests of the north, Koh Ker, capital of the Angkorian empire from 928 to 944 CE, is within day-trip distance of Siem Reap. Most visitors start at Prasat Krahom where impressive stone carvings grace lintels, doorposts and slender window columns. The principal monument is Mayan-looking Prasat Thom, a 55m-wide, 40m-high sandstone-faced pyramid whose seven tiers offer spectacular views across the forest. Koh Ker is 127km northeast of Siem Reap.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Temples of Angkor

    Beng Mealea

    A spectacular sight to behold, Beng Mealea, located about 68km northeast of Siem Reap, is one of the most mysterious temples at Angkor, as nature has well and truly run riot. Exploring this Titanic of temples, built to the same floor plan as Angkor Wat, is the ultimate Indiana Jones experience. Built in the 12th century under Suryavarman II, Beng Mealea is enclosed by a massive moat measuring 1.2km by 900m.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Temples of Angkor

    Angkor Wat

    The traveller's first glimpse of Angkor Wat, the ultimate expression of Khmer genius, is matched by only a few select spots on earth. Built by Suryavarman II (r 1112–52) and surrounded by a vast moat, Angkor Wat is one of the most inspired monuments ever conceived by the human mind. Stretching around the central temple complex is an 800m-long series of bas-reliefs, and rising 55m above the ground is the central tower, which gives the whole ensemble its sublime unity.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Temples of Angkor

    Ta Prohm

    The so-called 'Tomb Raider Temple', Ta Prohm is cloaked in dappled shadow, its crumbling towers and walls locked in the slow muscular embrace of vast root systems. Undoubtedly the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor, Ta Prohm should be high on the hit list of every visitor. Its appeal lies in the fact that, unlike the other monuments of Angkor, it has been swallowed by the jungle, and looks very much the way most of the monuments of Angkor appeared when European explorers first stumbled upon them.

  • Sights in Temples of Angkor

    Preah Khan

    The temple of Preah Khan is one of the largest complexes at Angkor, a maze of vaulted corridors, fine carvings and lichen-clad stonework. It is a good counterpoint to Ta Prohm and generally sees slightly fewer visitors. Like Ta Prohm it is a place of towered enclosures and shoulder-hugging corridors. Unlike Ta Prohm, however, the temple of Preah Khan is in a reasonable state of preservation thanks to the ongoing restoration efforts of the WMF.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Churning of the Ocean of Milk

    The southern section of the east gallery is decorated by the most famous of the bas-relief scenes at Angkor Wat, the Churning of the Ocean of Milk. This brilliantly executed carving depicts 88 asuras on the left, and 92 devas, with crested helmets, churning up the sea to extract from it the elixir of immortality.

  • Sights in Angkor Thom

    Angkor Thom South Gate

    The south gate of Angkor Thom is most popular with visitors, as it has been fully restored and many of the heads (mostly copies) remain in place. The gate is on the main road into Angkor Thom from Angkor Wat, and it gets very busy at peak times.

  • Sights in Temples of Angkor

    Kbal Spean

    A spectacularly carved riverbed, Kbal Spean is set deep in the jungle to the northeast of Angkor. More commonly referred to in English as the ‘River of a Thousand Lingas’, the name actually means ‘bridgehead’, a reference to the natural rock bridge here. Lingas (phallic symbols) have been elaborately carved into the riverbed, and images of Hindu deities are dotted about the area. It was ‘discovered’ in 1969, when ethnologist Jean Boulbet was shown the area by a hermit.

  • Sights in Angkor Thom

    Terrace of the Leper King

    The Terrace of the Leper King is just north of the Terrace of Elephants. Dating from the late 12th century, it is a 7m-high platform, on top of which stands a nude, though sexless, statue. The front retaining walls of the terrace are decorated with at least five tiers of meticulously executed carvings. On the southern side of the Terrace of the Leper King, there is access to a hidden terrace with exquisitely preserved carvings.

  • Sights in Temples of Angkor

    Preah Neak Poan

    The Buddhist temple of Preah Neak Poan is a petite yet perfect temple constructed by Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. It has a large square pool surrounded by four smaller square pools. In the middle of the central pool is a circular ‘island’ encircled by the two nagas whose intertwined tails give the temple its name.

  • Sights in Temples of Angkor

    Phnom Bakheng

    Located around 400m south of Angkor Thom, the main attraction at Phnom Bakheng is the sunset view over Angkor Wat. For many years, the whole affair turned into a circus, with crowds of tourists ascending the slopes of the hill and jockeying for space. Numbers are now restricted to just 300 visitors at any one time, so get here early (4pm) to guarantee a sunset spot. The temple, built by Yasovarman I (r 889–910), has five tiers, with seven levels.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Army of Suryavarman II

    The remarkable western section of the south gallery depicts a triumphal battle march of Suryavarman II’s army. In the southwestern corner about 2m from the floor is Suryavarman II on an elephant, wearing the royal tiara and armed with a battleaxe; he is shaded by 15 parasols and fanned by legions of servants.

  • Sights in Angkor Thom

    Baphuon

    Some have called Baphuon the 'world's largest jigsaw puzzle'. Before the civil war the Baphuon was painstakingly taken apart piece by piece by a team of archaeologists, but their meticulous records were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime, leaving experts with 300,000 stones to put back into place. After years of excruciating research, this temple has been partially restored. In the 16th century, the retaining wall on the western side of the second level was fashioned into a 60m reclining Buddha.

  • Sights in Roluos Temples

    Bakong

    Bakong is the largest and most interesting of the Roluos group of temples. Built and dedicated to Shiva by Indravarman I, it’s a representation of Mt Meru, and it served as the city’s central temple. The east-facing complex consists of a five-tier central pyramid of sandstone, 60m square at the base, flanked by eight towers of brick and sandstone, and by other minor sanctuaries. A number of the lower towers are still partly covered by their original plasterwork.

  • Sights in Temples of Angkor

    Banteay Kdei & Sra Srang

    Banteay Kdei, a massive Buddhist monastery from the latter part of the 12th century, is surrounded by four concentric walls. Each of its four entrances is decorated with garudas, which hold aloft one of Jayavarman VII’s favourite themes: the four faces of Avalokiteshvara. East of Banteay Kdei is a vast pool of water, Sra Srang, measuring 800m by 400m, reserved as a bathing pool for the king and his consorts.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Battle of Kurukshetra

    The southern portion of the west gallery depicts a battle scene from the Hindu Mahabharata epic, in which the Kauravas (coming from the north) and the Pandavas (coming from the south) advance upon each other, meeting in furious battle. Infantry are shown on the lowest tier, with officers on elephants, and chiefs on the second and third tiers.

  • Sights in Angkor Thom

    Terrace of Elephants

    The 350m-long Terrace of Elephants was used as a giant viewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall. Try to imagine the pomp and grandeur of the Khmer empire at its height, with infantry, cavalry, horse-drawn chariots and elephants parading across Central Square in a colourful procession, pennants and standards aloft. Looking on is the god-king, shaded by multitiered parasols and attended by mandarins and handmaidens bearing gold and silver utensils.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Heaven & Hell

    The punishments and rewards of the 37 heavens and 32 hells are depicted in the eastern half of the south gallery. On the left, the upper and middle tiers show fine gentlemen and ladies proceeding towards 18-armed Yama (the judge of the dead) seated on a bull; below him are his assistants, Dharma and Sitragupta. On the lower tier, devils drag the wicked along the road to hell.

  • Sights in Temples of Angkor

    Banteay Samré

    Banteay Samré dates from the same period as Angkor Wat and was built by Suryavarman II. The temple is in a fairly healthy state of preservation due to some extensive renovation work, although its isolation has resulted in some looting during the past few decades. The area consists of a central temple with four wings, preceded by a hall and also accompanied by two libraries, the southern one remarkably well preserved.