Visiting Angkor Wat has always been at the top of the list for anyone visiting Cambodia. It is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and it remains at the heart and soul of history and culture of Cambodia to this day. Visiting the temples of Angkor is an absolute must for anyone traveling to Cambodia, but you don’t need us to tell you that!
Guide to Visiting Angkor Wat
First, let’s get a few things straight. Despite popular belief, Angkor Wat is not the name of this famous UNESCO Heritage Site, but rather a name of just one of over 50 temples/ruins sights inside the Angkor Archeological Park, an area that spans over 400 square km and houses famous Khmer Empire ruins that date back to the 9th through 15th centuries.
The Angkor Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, attracting millions of travelers to visit its sights on a yearly basis. That means that on a daily basis, there are roughly 5,000-6,000 people roaming around the park. That’s quite a crowd!
Despite the fact that the park covers a massive area, tourists do tend to congregate around the most famous temples, snapping photos and often making you feel like you are visiting Disney World and not holy sites that draw thousands of monks and worshippers to its symbolic steps. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your Angkor Wat trip.
How to Get to Siem Reap (the Gateway to Angkor Wat)
Getting to Angkor Wat From Siem Reap
There are a lot of different options for getting to Angkor Wat and the Archeological Park, but we strongly recommend that you hire a tuk-tuk for your Angkor Wat day tour. A daily tuk-tuk rate is about $15-20 depending on what temples you are traveling to and whether you would like to do an Angkor Wat sunrise tour or not. Getting to Angkor Wat and the park by tuk-tuk will only take 20-30mins.
Your driver will wait for you at every temple, giving you as much time as you want to explore the ruins. They will also act as an Angkor Wat travel guide and be a great source for local advice on temples, Angkor Wat facts, the best time to visit, etc. Hiring a tuk-tuk is probably the best way to visit Angkor Wat.
Your other options for getting to Angkor Wat are:
- You can arrange to join a tour group. While you might learn a bit more about the park from listening to an Angkor Wat travel guide, you will likely only go to 2-3 main temples and miss out on the other less known, but just as spectacular “secondary” sites.
- You can hire a car with a driver to take you around the park for the day as you embark on Angkor tours. This luxury will set you back by $50-75 per day and in my opinion, has no added value as an added expense on top of your Angkor Wat entrance fee.
- You can hire a bike and ride it around the part for only $1-5 per day. While this may sound like a great idea at first, it really isn’t for everyone. If you frequently ride at home and are able to travel for long distances, you may enjoy the experience. Otherwise, take a close look at the map and at the distances you’ll have to cover in a day, and you might want to reconsider. A ride to the park itself will take anywhere between 30-45mins, then account for about 15 mins between every site with hours of walking in between in hot and humid weather and you’ve got yourself a recipe for an exhausting day!
How Long to Spend at Angkor Wat
If you want to make the most out of your Angkor Archaeological Park visit, you may be wondering how many days Angkor Wat takes to explore. How long to spend in Angkor Wat is up to you, but we recommend that you plan to spend at least 3 days exploring the park. Unless you are really short on time, don’t try to cram your visit into one day. Many visitors don’t realize how many days Angkor Wat takes to explore!
One of the best things about visiting the Angkor Temples is having the time to read about each temple, to sit down, to reflect, and to allow yourself to picture each temple and each ruin in the ancient Khmer city that once stood on that site in Angkor Wat. How many days you spend will determine how much you are able to explore and soak it all in.
Exploring the temples takes a lot out of you. You’ll be walking from temple to temple, climbing the stairs to explore the intricate buildings, and trekking in the forest to reach some of the further set ruins. And the sun and humidity will only make it worse.
You do have to pay an Angkor Wat entrance fee, so if you’ve got the time, purchase a 3 Day Park Pass, which will set you back by about $62 USD, and enjoy the chance to explore the park for 4-6 hours per day. We recommend the following rough itinerary:
Wake up early and head to see an Angkor Wat sunrise. There is nothing more magical than catching the first glimpse of this stunning temple and its surroundings at dawn. Grab a good spot early, as hundreds of other visitors will be there to keep you company.
Right after sunrise (or an Angkor Wat sunrise tour), head over for your first day of exploring the ruins. Many others will go back to their hotels to catch some sleep and grab some breakfast, so you’ll have the luxury of visiting the ruins with minimal crowds.
Straight after sunrise, start exploring Angkor Wat, then follow the main park road into Angkor Thom, passing through the South Gate. Inside, visit Angkor Thom’s famous ruins of the Bayon Temple, the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King, and Phimeanakas Temple.
Exploring Angkor Thom can take a few hours, leaving you exhausted! By around 10-11 a.m, just as the crowds start to build up at the temples, you’ll be ready to head back. Don’t fight the exhaustion. You’ll have 2 more days to see a whole lot more of the park and the added benefit is that once you’ve had your power nap, you can spend the afternoon checking out other activities in Siem Reap.
Arrive at the park in the afternoon. Many people start their days around 9 a.m and leave the park shortly after lunch, meaning the crowds always die down around mid-afternoon. Take advantage of this and spend your time exploring the ruins along the “Small Circuit”. Have your tuk-tuk take you straight into Angkor Thom complex, so you can start the day at the Terrace of the Elephants and head East, passing through Ta Keo Temple, Ta Prohm Temple, Prasat and Kravan Temple.
A word of caution: Watch out for the monkeys! After sunset, they are EVERYWHERE! They may look cute (and they are..), but they are vicious creatures that will get inside your bag and steal your last apple… or two! This is just one of the Angkor Wat facts we experienced ourselves.
A word of caution: Watch out for the monkeys! After sunset, they are EVERYWHERE! They may look cute (and they are..), but they are vicious creatures that will get inside your bag and steal your last apple… or two!
Today, you can arrive at your leisure and take your time to explore the lesser known temples around the “Big Circuit”. It’s the perfect day to explore the areas that other tourists miss. Have your tuk-tuk drop you off at Preah Khan Temple and then follow the big circuit road stopping at various ruins along the way. Choose between Prasat Prei, Banteay Prei, Krol Ko, East Mebon, Presat, and Pre Rup, or see them all! When you are deciding how long to spend in Angkor Wat, factor in spending time at each of the ruins.
While you can certainly spend more time exploring Angkor, most travelers will find that 3 days will give them plenty of time to check out all of the ruins.
However, if you are a history buff, or an architectural photography enthusiast, or just someone who falls in love with heritage sites, you may need to purchase a 7-day pass to have the time to see every nook and cranny of the magnificent Angkor Archeological Park. The 7-day Angkor Wat entrance fee is $72.
Tours to Consider While Visiting Angkor Wat
How many days you spend at Angkor Wat can also be determined by the number of Angkor tours you wish to take and over how many days. Angkor Wat tour companies have a variety of options. You can even fit a few tours depending on your stay and over how many days.
Using a travel guide can be helpful, but be sure to adjust other parts of your schedule as they tend to go into more depth at a smaller variety of locations rather than covering a vast amount of places quickly.
When visiting Angkor Wat, taking an Angkor Wat sunrise tour can be one of the most breathtaking experiences. You can see the sunrise via a 9-hour bike tour or you can spend a full day starting at sunrise and then letting your Angkor Wat travel guide take you temple hopping.
In our opinion, the best way to visit Angkor Wat is by tuk-tuk, and there is a tour that includes both a tuk-tuk and a walking Angkor Wat tour. If you would like to include an Angkor Wat sunset into your plans, take a 10-hour Angkor Wat day tour concluding at sunset.
If you aren’t concerned about how many days Angkor Wat takes to explore, you may want to consider a multi-day tour. A 3-day private Angkor Wat tour is the perfect option for those who want to set their own pace exploring temples and sampling the local cuisine.
Things to Remember During Your Angkor Wat Trip
When visiting the temples of Angkor, be respectful. Please remember that there is an Angkor Wat dress code. If you are curious about what to wear to Angkor Wat, wear clothing that covers your knees and shoulders, just as you would if you were visiting any religious site or holy space in Cambodia.
The Angkor Wat dress code is not strictly enforced, but short shorts and singlets/tanktops will be frowned upon and taken as a sign of disrespect.
Take great care of yourself at the park. Remember to bring a lot of water and keep yourself hydrated during your Angkor Wat tour, take frequent breaks by sitting down to admire the views and take in the significance of the park.
Wear comfortable footwear and be careful not to slip while climbing up and down the stairs.
Have you taken an Angkor Wat trip? Do you have any advice on how long to spend at Angkor Wat? Tell us in the comments!