Angkor Wat travel guide in Cambodia

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is a huge Hindu temple complex in Cambodia, often called the “eighth wonder of the world. It is the world’s largest religious building dedicated to the god Vishnu. Angkor Wat silhouette is a national symbol of Cambodia; it decorates the flag and emblem of the state. This bright and expressive example of the architecture of the Khmer Empire attracts many tourists to the country.

The temple complex of Angkor Wat symbolizes the universe and its five towers in the shape of lotus buds symbolically represent the heavenly abode of the gods – Mount Meru with its five peaks.

Inside the central tower, which rises to 65 meters above ground level, is hidden lingam of Shiva, a symbol of the life-giving divine power. Surrounding it are four lower towers with their own courtyards and galleries enclosing them. From any vantage point you can see only three of the five towers of Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat

The temple complex consists of three levels with terraces and galleries ascending as one moves toward the central tower. These three levels symbolize parts of the legendary Mount Meru, with the gods living at the top, the people living in the middle, and the demons below the mountain. Angkor Wat is essentially a huge three-step pyramid, surrounded by a huge moat 3.6 km long, symbolizing the world’s ocean.

The walls of Angkor Wat are covered with intricate carvings, among which can be discerned images of deities, battle scenes and many Apsaras – heavenly virgins, according to legends, delighting those who have gone to heaven. In Angkor Wat you can count more than 2 thousand images of Apsaras, and they all are not repeated. The total area of sculpture of Angkor Wat is about 2 thousand square kilometers.

Aerial view of Angkor Wat

Excursions

Many travel agencies offer themed or comprehensive tour with a visit to the temple complex Angkor Wat. Tours can also be booked on the official website of Cambodia tour bureau.

History

In the X-XII centuries in the ancient capital of Cambodia, the city of Angkor, lived more than 1 million people, according to scientists at the time it was the largest capital in the world.

The rulers of Angkor built huge, carved temples. Each new king saw himself as the center of the universe, so he built his own new large-scale temple, leaving the previous religious buildings on the periphery.

Angkor Wat, whose name translates as “temple city”, was built by King Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1113 to 1150. Work on the huge temple complex took about 40 years and ended soon after the death of the ruler.

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Angkor Wat

Gradually Angkor became a city of temples, but this did not save it: devastating wars, accompanied by periods of drought, led to the decline of the empire by the 14th century. The jungle swallowed up the wooden houses of the poor, and the stone temple complexes have survived to this day, although they have also suffered from the elements and from the roots of trees, braiding the stones and splitting the masonry.

Angkor Wat first served as a state Hindu temple, then it became a Buddhist temple and royal tomb. Earlier the temple was inhabited by monks, so entrance to the complex was forbidden.

In the middle of the 14th century Angkor was conquered by the Siamese and the era of desolation began. Only in 1860 French traveler Henri Muo “discovered” Angkor Wat for Europeans.

After the Angkor complex was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, restorers began work on the restoration of the temples.

Angkor Wat

Secrets and legends

All the mysteries of the temple complex has not yet been solved, scientists continue to explore.

It is still not clear how these temples were built of smoothly hewn stones, not cemented with mortar. The ancient architects managed to make each stone so tight that sometimes it is even impossible to see the seams. Most huge stone blocks are held together without any joints, only under the weight of their own weight. Sometimes there are notches in the joints of stone parts of unknown purpose, and sometimes they are connected “on a spike”, like gigantic puzzles.

To create a giant temple a huge amount of sandstone was used, comparable only to the cost of building material spent on the construction of the pyramid of Chephren in Egypt (that is, more than 5 million tons).

Legend has it that the god Indra helped build this amazing temple. Seeing the virtuous prince, Indra invited him to live in his heavenly palace on Mount Meru. But the apsaras, Indra’s divine dancers, objected to the man’s presence in the palace. Indra had to return the prince to earth by promising to build him an equally beautiful palace on earth.

There are other legends that Angkor Wat was built by other celestial inhabitants – not gods, but representatives of extraterrestrial civilizations.

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God Vishnu

Angkor Wat ticket price 2022

To visit the temple complex you need to buy a ticket “Angkor Pass”, which is valid for visiting all the temples in the Angkor complex. Tickets are sold at a special tourist center, at the main entrance on the road to Angkor Wat.

Visitors can purchase a ticket for 1 day ($37), 3 days ($62) and a week ($72). It is possible to pay in dollars in Cambodia, so there is no need to change the local currency.

When you buy a ticket, the staff takes a picture of visitors and gives you a name ticket with your picture on it. This ticket cannot be given or lost to anyone and must be presented at the entrance to each temple.

Controllers on duty at the entrance to the historic complex compost the tickets daily.

Angkor Wat

Opening Hours

The Angkor Wat temple complex is open daily from 5:00 am to 5:30 pm. The ascent to the top of the main temple is open on both sides. One entrance is open from 5:00 and the other only opens at 9:30.

  • Box Office: daily 5:00-17:30.
  • Angkor Wat and Srahsrang 5:00-17:30.
  • Pre-Roop and Phnom Bakheng 5:00-19:00.
  • Other temples 7:30-17:30

Rules of conduct in the temple complex

As of 2015, stricter rules of conduct have been introduced at the Angkor Wat complex.

  • Climb on structures;
  • Damage the historical monument;
  • Smoking;
  • Taking selfies in front of the monks;
  • Women are not allowed to approach or touch the monks;
  • Women and men may not visit the temple wearing clothing that exposes the shoulders or knees;
  • To give alms to beggars.
  • Violation of these rules may result in fines, expulsion from the temple compound, or arrest.

The steep climb to the central tower

Reviews

On the Internet you can find a lot of reviews about the largest temple complex on earth.

Most tourists admire the magnificence of Angkor Wat and call it the unfathomable wonder of the world.

However, there are other opinions. Some visitors complain about the crowded nature of the temple complex. In order to climb the steep stairs to the top of the main tower, tourists have to stand in line for an hour and a half. Experienced tourists are advised to find entertainment during this time, such as taking a photo with locals dressed in colorful national costumes. The fee for such a photo is 1 dollar.

Angkor Wat

Temple visitors, organized their own tours, without travel agencies, advise to look for a guide in advance, because the Russian-speaking guides in Siem Reap is very few, because of this prices for tours are quite high.

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If the weather is clear and calm, tourists are advised to take the opportunity to see the temple complex, rising in a balloon. Such flights are offered near the Angkor Wat complex. The cost of a 15-minute flight is about 20 US dollars.

Apsaras

How to get there

The Angkor Wat Temple Complex is located 5.5 kilometers north of modern Siem Reap.

Visa to Cambodia

Citizens of the Russian Federation need a visa to enter Cambodia. Visa on arrival can be obtained at the international airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. In addition, there are several other international checkpoints where tourists can apply for an entry visa on arrival.

Angkor Wat

Border with Vietnam:

  • Bavet International Checkpoint (Bavet);
  • Kha Orm Sam Nor International Airport.

Border with Thailand:

  • Cham Yeam International Checkpoint (Cham Yeam);
  • Poi Pet International Checkpoint (Poi Pet);
  • Osmach International Checkpoint (OSmach).

To obtain a tourist entry visa, you must:

  • A completed visa application form;
  • A passport valid for at least 4 months;
  • One recent photograph (4×6);
  • Payment of a visa fee of $30 USD.

Angkor Wat

Tourists can also apply for a visa in advance on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia.

To do this, they need to fill out an application form in English. The applicant’s passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry into the country.

Payment for the tourist visa in the amount of $35 USD is made by VISA, MasterCard, Discover and American Express cards.

The visa is processed in 3 business days, is valid for 3 months from the date of issuance, and is intended for a 1-month stay in the country. A confirmation sent to the applicant via email is valid as a visa; it must be presented at passport control.

Angkor Wat

The way to Siem Reap

Cambodia has three international airports (Phnom Penh, Siam Rip and Sihanoukville), regularly receiving many flights. From Russia it is not possible to fly directly to Siem Reap, but you can book flights from the neighboring cities of Hanoi, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

If tourists do not come to the country through the nearest airport of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, you can use the intercity bus, booking a ticket on the official website of the Cambodian Tourist Office.

Angkor Wat

Road from Siem Reap

The historic site can be reached from Siem Reap on a tuk-tuk tuk tuk. This transportation service can be pre-booked through the hotel staff.

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Experienced tourists note that to move around the ancient city of Angkor is better to rent a vehicle for the whole day, because the distance between the temples is quite large. The distance of travel on the so-called great circle is 26 km, and on the small – 17 km. The car costs twice as much as tuk-tuks, that is $40 per day, but it goes much faster and in most cases is air-conditioned.

Tourists can rent a car from a licensed company, choosing from a list of firms on the official website of the Cambodian Tourist Bureau.

Parking is located near the bridge that leads to the temple complex.

Angkor Wat travel guide in Cambodia

The world’s largest religious monument needs no introduction, but this month Angkor Wat is also a great way to experience Cambodia’s most important festival.

Get oriented

No one knows what the original purpose of Angkor Wat, built in the 12th century, was: a mausoleum, a shrine or a temple? It was the last resting place of King Suryavarman II, but he died and never saw the completion of the temple. Today, the world’s largest religious monument plays one defining role: it is the exponent of the Angkor temple complex. At the center of the temple is the central sanctuary. Its lotus towers are scattered around the building, symbolizing Mount Meru (the abode after the gods), and look magical when reflected in the water.

Angkor Wat guide in Cambodia - Photo 2

SONY DSC Orientation.

In addition, the scale of the park is enormous. Strips of land divide the temples, and it’s worth riding bikes to explore the less-visited areas. This month you can also see one of the most important Khmer events of the year: The 15-day Phum Ben Festival. Monks sing all night as locals pay homage to their ancestors by visiting pagodas with offers of food, lighting candles and launching balloons into the air, especially during the three-day national festival (Sept. 27-29).

How to get there

You need to get to Siem Reap, which is close to the Angkor temple complex, hire a tuk-tuk to travel around the city or order a cab from the airport to the city.

Travelers visit Angkor Wat from dawn to dusk (5am to 6pm) daily. If you buy a ticket at the ticket center after 5:00 pm, it is valid for the next day, so you will miss the lines at dawn. Most people visit Phnom Bakheng; the temple is a popular place to watch the sunset, painting the complex a vibrant orange-red color. Entry is limited to 300 people, so go to Sra Srang Lake if you are not accounted for.

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Cambodia's Angkor Wat guidebook - Photo 3

How to get there

Come early the next day at dawn to the reflection pools, where the water reflects pine cone-shaped towers. As people rush to the great western gate, walk through the quieter eastern entrance and then head west into the jungle to the intricate bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat’s inner walls. Some depict apsaras (heavenly dancing girls), while others depict heroic scenes from the Hindu epic Mahabharata, carved long before the Khmer Empire switched from religion to Buddhism. One-day tickets start at $37, but to see all the temples in the vast park, invest in three-day tickets for $62, or seven-day tickets for $72. Be sure to visit the Bayon Temple, where you’ll be greeted by 216 smiling stone faces, and the atmospheric Ta Prohm, encircled by the roots of fig trees.

Angkor Wat

Explore Angkor Wat temple down to the smallest detail. Appreciate the craftsmanship of the bas-reliefs and sculptures. The third wall is the place to stop for a walk around the long galleries lined with intricate bas-relief panels. In addition, visitors pass through a shadowy, monastery-like section encompassing the second building, reaching the extremities of the temple, where the walls are decorated with exquisite carvings. Towering above the complex, the central sanctuary is a steep climb intended to symbolize the difficulty of sending into the realm of the gods. Its four entrances show images of the Buddha, reflecting how Buddhism displaced Hinduism.

How to get around all the temples

Cambodia's guide to Angkor Wat - Photo 4

How to get around all the temples

There are various ways to get around the temples of Angkor. Although many people visit organized tours by minibus, traveling independently will provide more freedom. A popular option is to rent a motorcycle cab or a tuk-tuk for the day – many drivers also offer their services as unofficial guides. If you prefer to travel on your own, walk between the main temples, although you will need to get transportation in Siem Reap at the beginning. You can also rent bicycles in Siem Reap – the area around the temples is, thankfully, flat.

What you need to know: language: Khmer; time zone: GMT + 7; visas: 90-day visas available; money: Cambodian riel (KHR).

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