Do you want to go to Angkor Wat? I have everything you need to know before you go, including the best time of day to avoid the crowds! Hint: it’s not sunrise! Read this before you go and let me help you plan an unforgettable trip to Angkor Wat!
Where is Angkor Wat?
Angkor Wat is in Northern Cambodia, about 3 miles from the city of Siem Reap. If you want to visit Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is definitely where you’ll want to stay. It’s where all the hotels and restaurants are, and where the airport is!
You can easily get to Siem Reap with a short, 1-hour direct flight from Bangkok.
Why is Angkor Wat famous?
Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. It’s a massive temple that sprawls across more than 400 acres of land. It’s also remarkable because this temple is nearly 1,000 years old, but it’s still incredibly well-preserved. You can go inside, climb the stairs, and even go up to the second floor for an incredible panoramic view of the entire complex.
When was Angkor Wat built?
Angkor Wat was built almost 1,000 years ago, in the early 1100s, and it took 30 years to complete. It was originally built for Hindu funeral rituals, then later it slowly transformed into a Buddhist temple. Inside you can see both Hindu and Buddhist symbols.
How was Angkor Wat built?
The temple was built from sandstone bricks that came from the base of a nearby mountain. Between 5-10 million bricks were delivered by a network of hundreds of canals. The temple would have taken much longer than 30 years to build if it weren’t for the canals giving the builders a shortcut!
When is the best time to visit Angkor Wat?
Cambodia is hot and humid year-round and also has a monsoon season. The best time to visit Angkor Wat is during the dry season, from November to March, when the days are a bit cooler and definitely dryer! It’s better go to in November or March as December and January are peak tourist months.
If you don’t want to fight through the crowds, the best time of day to visit Angkor Wat is around 1 PM when all the big tour groups are at lunch.
We were there at the end of November, arrived around 1 PM, and stayed for about 2 hours. There was a huge difference in the amount of people from when we arrived and when we left!
How long to spend at Angkor Wat?
Visiting the temple itself only takes about 2-3 hours. But you’ll definitely want to spend at least 3-4 days in Siem Reap. There are so many other amazing temples nearby that you’ll definitely want to visit while you’re here.
What’s inside Angkor Wat?
It’s hard to imagine this ancient temple is almost 1,000 years old. The massive towers, detailed Buddha statues, and intricate carvings on the walls are still in such unbelievably well-preserved condition.
When you go inside the temple, there are a few things you won’t want to miss.
Go up to the second floor
Be sure to go up to the second floor for a panoramic view of this massive temple complex. During peak season, they limit the amount of people who can go up to the second floor, and sometimes you have to wait in line to go up. However since we went at lunch, we had the 2nd floor almost completely to ourselves, even though we were there at the end of November, which is starting to be peak season.
Note: For some reason the locals call it the third floor. There’s only one set of stairs to go up though. When we got to the second floor we kept looking for another set of stairs for the “third” floor, but there is only one set of stairs.
Statue of Lord Vishnu
Angkor Wat was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Vishnu. One of the first things you will see when you enter the temple is his statue.
Lord Vishnu is easy to recognize because he is always portrayed with the head of a Buddha and 8 arms! He is also draped in a bright yellow cloth and surrounded by offerings.
The statue of Lord Vishnu is 16 feet tall and was carved out of a single piece of sandstone.
Buddha & Naga Statue
Inside Angkor Wat you’ll see many Buddha statues, some with their heads chopped off. Even the damaged Buddhas are still lovingly decorated and given offerings.
My favorite was the Buddha and Naga statue. In Hindu mythology, there is a 7-headed snake. The name for this creature in Sanskrit is Naga. And now you know a word in Sanskrit! ;)
Detailed carvings and writing on the walls
Definitely take your time and keep an eye out for the small details. I was amazed at the incredibly intricate carvings on the walls and columns inside Angkor Wat.
Booking a tour at Angkor Wat
I always get more out of my trips when I have a local guide who can explain things, answer questions, and offer tips and recommendations that only the locals know.
If you’re looking to book a tour, we highly recommend Indochina Voyages if you want a friendly, knowledgeable, English-speaking guide (and reliable driver) who will make sure you see all the best things to do. They were the ones who gave us the great tip to avoid the crowds and go at lunch!
They can also take you to the other nearby temples so you get the most out of your time in Siem Reap. In between each temple we were very grateful for the air-conditioned vehicle, refreshing cool towels, and cold bottled water!
Questions about Angkor Wat?
Do you have any questions about visiting? Is there anything you want to know before you go? Leave me a comment below and we’ll do our best to help!