It’s no surprise that the main reason people visit Cambodia is to see the breathtaking Angkor Wat Complex. It almost made the Seven Wonders of the World list, so be sure not to miss this architectural wonder in Siem Reap!
When I first start posting Cambodia photos in Instagram, a couple people described Angkor Wat as mystical. That’s the most accurate word to describe it. It’s also mysterious, magical, and often feels sombre, because of the difficult hardships the country’s had to endure. While Cambodia is still rebuilding today, its ancient architecture is completely awe-inspiring.
How Many Days Do I Need to Explore Angkor Wat?
You will need at least TWO full days to properly explore Angkor Wat. One day is not enough to conquer the massive temple complex. Two days is enough to complete the Big Circuit and Small Circuit Routes which I’ll cover below. It’s still definitely doable to see the main highlights in one day if that’s all the time you have!
How to Get Around Angkor Wat
If you plan on mainly visiting Angkor Wat, there are a couple of different options. Keep in mind, this complex is MASSIVE. It covers a distance of approximately 25-30 kilometres and you’ll need motor transport to cover this vast ancient city.
This is your cheapest option with most rides costing less than $1 USD around the city. If you rent one yourself for the whole day, rates can start at $8 USD. This is convenient, but to be honest… Siem Reap is HOT, so be prepared for a long day of cycling in the scorching heat.
Taxis / Hiring A Driver
Sitting in an air-conditioned car/hiring a driver for the day is definitely the most comfortable option. However, most people say the this way of traveling through Angkor Wat is the least “authentic.” It’s an affordable option if you have other travellers to split the cost. The cost can range from $25 USD – $30 USD.
This is the option we went with and is the most popular option. Visiting Angkor Wat this way is considered part of the quintessential experience. After getting off the bus from Phnom Penh, all the tuk-tuk drivers will strike up a conversation early about how long you’re staying, in hopes that you’ll hire them for the upcoming Angkor Wat days.
We went with a lovely fellow named Houng (he’s been driving for 10 years!). He was always punctual for all pickups and knew the Angkor Wat routes very well. If you’re interested in his contact information, email me! If you’d like to hire a guide (make sure it’s an official tour guide), ask your hotel for a recommendation. Many of them will be walking around the Angkor Wat entrance offering their services.
Expect to pay anywhere from $18 USD – $25 USD. We paid $18 USD + an additional $5 USD for sunset, and an another additional $5 USD to Angkor Wat sunrise.
How to Buy an Angkor Wat Ticket
You don’t need to buy tickets in advance, so I don’t recommend buying tickets from your hotel or from unauthorized people. Your driver will take you to the official ticket office before driving to Angkor Wat itself (approximately a 15-minute drive). There are 3 types of tickets:
- 1-Day Pass: $37 USD
- 3-Day Pass: $67 USD (Must be used within a week)
- 7-Day Pass: $72 USD (Must be used within a month)
Your ticket will have your photo on it, so don’t lose your ticket because security will check it at the entrances. We purchased the 3-Day pass, which was perfect for 2 full days of exploring.
Hours: 5am – 5:30pm Daily
How to See Angkor Wat in Two Days
There are two different routes you can take. The Small Circuit Route covers 17 kilometres, while the Grand Circuit is 26 kilometres and is an extension of the Small Circuit. Each route covers various different temples!
Images courtesy of OverlandWay
*PRO TIP: Tell your driver to go backwards. As a result, you’ll avoid the crowds! The temples we visited both days may look a little different than the actual map, since our driver took us to the least busy sites first. We went in the opposite direction and found we avoided the heavy crowds for photo-ops!
Day One – Small Circuit
Angkor Thom South Gate
Preah Khan Temple
Ta Som Temple
Preah Rup for Sunset
Day Two – Grand Circuit
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
One of the most famous things to do in Angkor Wat is to watch the sunrise! Our tuk-tuk driver suggested watching the sunset on day 1 and saving the sunset for day 2.
You can purchase tickets when the ticket office opens at 5 am. I recommend purchasing them a day earlier than when you plan to see sunrise, so you can secure a good spot for sunrise. Buy them a day earlier after 5 pm, which allows you to visit the temples for sunset without using up that allotted day on your ticket. You can use this extra time to “research” on what spot you want to sit for sunrise or watch that day’s sunset.
It gets crowded, and I mean CROWDED. The gates open at 5 am, so leave your hotel at 4:30 am if possible. We arrived at 5 am, and there were already hoards of tour buses and hundreds of people. Walk to the left side of the pond for the best and centered view of Angkor Wat. Keep in mind that people will try to squeeze in to any gap they see. I saw some people come prepared wearing rain boots with their already tripods set up in the pond. We arrived right at 5am and we were still a few rows behind the people at the very front. If your main purpose is to take photos of this iconic scene, then make sure to arrive at the temple gates well before 5am. If the sunrise you see isn’t very colourful, try again the next day!
Explore Angkor Before the Crowds
Get a head start in exploring the grounds of Angkor Wat before the sunrise crowds!
Ta Prohm Temple
Things To Remember
- The temples are all open air and it gets super hot!
- Bring a ton of water, wear sunscreen and a hat! Lots of local vendors sell drinks and food at each temple, so don’t worry if you forget.
- Make sure to dress respectfully as well!
- Start your day as early (after sunrise) as possible, since it gets really busy!