Welcome to Siem Reap Angkor Wat
Siem Reap “សៀមរាប” mean (Defeat of Siam), is one of the history province of Cambodia. It laying along the bank of Tonle Sap “the largest fresh water lake in southeast asia” and borders with five provinces of Oddar Meanchey to the north, Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom to the east, Battambang to the south, and Banteay Meanchey to the west.
Siem Reap is one of the largest province in Cambodia. With the population almost one million, it stand as the 6th largest in the nation. A large portion of Siem Reap’s southern border is demarcated by the Tonle Sap and as such, it is one of the nine provinces that making up the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve. In modern times the province is best known as the site of Angkor and the Angkor Wat temple ruins.
Krong Siem Reap “ក្រុងសៀមរាប” is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia. It is a popular resort town and a gateway to the Temple of Angkor region.
Siem Reap has colonial style architecture in the Old French Quarter, and around the Old Market. In the city, there are museums, traditional Apsara dance performances, a Cambodian cultural village, souvenir and handicraft shops, silk farms, rice-paddies in the countryside, floating villages and a bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake. Siem Reap today stand on rank 1st popular tourist destination in Asia and rank 2nd in the world, has a large number of hotels, resorts, restaurants and businesses closely related to tourism. This is much owed to its proximity to the Angkor temples, the most popular tourist attraction in Cambodia also the home of Angkor Wat temple.
The province was invaded and control by Thai kingdom “Siam” in 1795 and was later returned to Cambodia in 1907 after French made a treaty with Siam for exchange of Trat and Dan Sai for the Siamese province of Inner Cambodia which included Phra Tabong (Battambang), Siemmarat (Siem Reap), and Nakhon Wat (Angkor Wat). The Inner Cambodia province was split into Battambang and Siem Reap by the royal decree of King Sisowath the same year. This area became part of a disputed territory between France and Siam (now Thailand) which led to the Franco-Thai War in 1941, resulting in victory for Thailand and a return to Thai control (with exception of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat). The province again reverted to Cambodia in 1946, after the end of World War II with French and UN international pressure.
Angkor Wat Temple
Angkor Wat “Wat temple” is the main temple of the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site containing the magnificent remains of the Khmer civilization. Angkor Wat‘s rising series of five towers culminates in an impressive central tower that symbolizes mythical Mount Meru. Thousands of feet of wall space are covered with intricate carving depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. The most important are the Carved Bas reliefs of the Hindu narratives. They tell a story about gods fighting demons in order to reclaim order which can only be achieved by recovering the elixir of life known as Amrita. The gods and demons must work together to release it and then battle to attain it.
Angkor Thom City
Angkor Thom is an inner royal city built the end of the 12th century and is renowned for its temples, in particular the Bayon faces temple. Other notable sites are Baphuon, Phimeanakas, The Terrace of the Elephants and The Terrace of the Leper King. The city can be entree through 5 monumental gates, one on each cardinal (North, South and West) point and two on the east included the Victory Gate on the eastern wall.
A number of significant temples are dotted around Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom within the Angkor Archaeological Park, including Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Banteay Kdei, Phnom Bakheng, Ta Keo, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup and Neak Pean. These temples may be visited along the grand circuit or the small circuit routes. Other sites are the Roluos group of 3 main temples (Bakong, Preah Ko and Lolei) located to the east of Siem Reap.
Suggestion Tour Itinerary:
With the dozens of temple ruins in the Angkor Archaeological Park and elsewhere in Siem Reap, the region has so much to offer to the curious visitor. However, unless you plan to spend weeks exploring the area, you’ll have to be selective in which temples to visit. The following suggested itineraries will help you make the best out of your trip to Angkor, when your time is limited to 1, 2 or 3 days.
– Day 1: Visit Angkor Small Circuit
Day 1 of our itinerary covers the Small Circuit, with the most legendary monuments in the Park. If you only have 1 day to spend, then the small circuit is the way to go. Every tuk-tuk or taxi driver is familiar with this tour.
The Small Circuit is 17 km long and covers all the must visit temples in the park. You should visit them in this order:
- Angkor Wat – No better way to start your visit than with the most famous temple of them all. Try to wake up early (4.30am) and catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat for a once in a lifetime experience.
- Angkor Thom – This 3km2 wallled, moated city has several temple ruins to explore. Make sure to visit the following ruins (in this order): Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas , the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King.
- Thommanon – A small, but pittoresque temple just outside the walls of Angkor Thom.
- Chau Say Tevoda – Less attractive than Thommanon, but located right across the road.
- Ta Keo – A temple-mountain and King Jayavarman V’s own state shrine.
- Ta Prohm – The famous “Tomb Raider” temple overgrown by jungle.
- Banteay Kdei – Literally meaning “a Citadel of Chambers”, this temple functioned as a Buddhist monastery over the centuries.
- Srah Srang – An artificial, 10th century lake and a nice spot to unwind after a day of “temple climbing”.
- Prasat Kravan – A small, Angkor era monument with unique bas-reliefs.
– Day 2: Angkor Grand Circuit
If you have a 3-day admission pass, doing the Grand Circuit tour is the ideal way to explore some more key temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park. The tour is 26 km long and is an extension to the Small Circuit. Every tuk-tuk / taxi driver in town will know which temples to bring you to when you request the Grand Circuit tour.
The temples on the Grand Circuit, should be visited in this order:
- Preah Khan – This magical temple complex, partly covered with twisting tree roots, is full of carvings and passages to explore.
- Neak Pean – A small island temple that can only be reached via a wooden walkway over the water.
- Ta Som – A small, but photogenic temple, with one of its towers overtaken by huge tree roots.
- East Mebon – An “island temple”, constructed in the middle of the now dry East Baray.
- Pre Rup – A well-preserved temple mountain and a great spot to catch the sunset before returning to your hotel.
– Day 3: Remote Temple Sites
Not templed out yet? Then we recommend to visit some of the more remote temple sites, located outside the Angkor Archaeological Park, but included in the admission fee.
Option 1: Kbal Spean – Banteay Srei – Banteay Samre
Banteay Srei District, north of the Angkor Archaeological Park, will surprise you with its natural beauty and historic sites. We recommend the following attractions for a full day of exploring. Note that Kbal Spean, the first attraction of the day, is located 42 km from Siem Reap center.
- Kbal Spean – Also called the River of the 1000 Lingas, consists of a river and waterfall. The river bed and banks are carved with ancient Hindu symbols. Visiting the site requires a 45 min uphill walk.
- ACCB – The Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity is located on the same site as Kbal Spean. You can visit this wildlife rescue center on a guided tour from Monday to Saturday at 9am / 1pm sharp, a minimum donation of US$ 3 is requested.
- Banteay Srei – This little gem of a temple, covered in delicate, well-preserved carvings is located 30 km from Siem Reap center.
- Cambodia Landmine Museum – As implied by its name, a museum to educate people about the history of landmine use during the Cambodian civil war. Admission is US$ 5.
- Banteay Srei Butterfly Center (BBC) – Discover the lifecycle of butterflies and some other native species in BBC’s tropical garden. Admission is US$ 5 for adults, US$ 2 for children.
- Banteay Samre – A large, walled temple in “Angkor Wat” style.
Option 2: Roluos Group – Wat Athvea – Phnom Krom
Alternatively, if you want to stay closer to Siem Reap town, you could explore the following historic sites on your third day. We recommend to start your itinerary with the Roluos Group in the morning and Wat Athvea / Phnom Krom in the afternoon.
- Roluos Group – This group of temples is located 12 km east of Siem Reap, easily accessible along National Road 6 in the direction of Phnom Penh. The group consists of 4 temples: Bakong, Preah Ko, Lolei and Prasat Prei Monti. Bakong temple, the highlight of the group, stands 15m tall and was the center of the first Angkorian capital.
- Lunch in Siem Reap – There’s plenty of time for a long lunch break, before heading off for the second part of your trip.
- Wat Athvea – A nice, but small temple in “Angkor Wat” style, surrounded by beautiful scenery. The temple is located 4km south of Siem Reap center, on the way to Tonle Sap and Phnom Krom.
- Phnom Krom – Located on a 140m high hilltop, the temple site of Phnom Krom offers spectacular views over the Tonle Sap lake and the Siem Reap countryside. Without doubt the best spot to enjoy a peaceful sunset away from the crowds.