A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day

The Angkor Kingdom is a series of Hindu and Buddhist complexes stretching over 400sq kilometres, making it the largest religious site in the world. The whole site features hundreds of temples and ancient ruins from the different capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century.

You could literally spend days walking or cycling around the different complexes (and some people do!) but being on a budget I decided to stick to the big circuit and spend just one day visiting the main temples. This was enough for me, but if you are really into your architecture and history, this is definitely the place to kill a few days.

Must-see Temples

Angkor Wat

If you are willing to get up at 5am, watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a great way to start the day. But be prepared for hoards of tourists flocking to the lake to get that silhouette shot of Angkor Wat reflecting off the water. If you’re not up for waiting around in the crowds, then my tip would be to grab a coffee and head into the main compound to have a little wander around. I found that by the time the sun had actually started to rise, most of the tourists by the lake had obviously got bored of waiting, so I took the opportunity then to quickly run down and get those shots.

A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day

A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day

Once you’re done taking photos, head on in to the main compound to explore the grounds. This is where it starts to get really impressive. The level of detail and artistic craftsmanship that goes into this temple is just insane! The crowds seem to disperse at this point, so you should find that at this time of the day you have most of the temple grounds to yourself.

A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day


The Bayon Temples (Angkor Thom)

From far away this complex looks largely like a huge rubble site. It’s not until you get closer can you appreciate the beauty of this place. Around 50 towers (at a guess!) dominate this site, each with four huge carved out faces pointing out in every direction. Personally I think this is the most charming and mystical of the temples. As you walk around, it’s hard to escape the feeling that someone is constantly watching you.

A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day


Ta Prohm

Most famous for being featured in the Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie, Ta Prohm looks as though it has been swallowed by the surrounding jungle. A wonderful mix of ruins with huge trees and roots intertwined around them make up a large proportion of this site. It is probably one of the most atmospheric temples in the kingdom and a complete haven for photographers.

A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day

Not templed out yet? 

If you want to explore further, there are a number of other temples you can see in-between. Just ask your tuk-tuk driver or refer to a guide to see what’s nearby and you might just find some hidden gems!

A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day

A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day

Here are just a few that we stumbled across that are worth considering…

Phnom Bakheng (for great views of Angkor Wat)

A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day

The Baphuon 

A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day


The Elephant Terrace

A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day
A Photo Guide to Exploring Angkor Wat in One Day

Other tips

Choose a ticket that’s right for you

There are a number of different passes at varying prices. The guide books recommend spending at least three days to get the most out of it, but unless you’re really into archaeology, personally I think you could end up getting a bit “templed out.”

Book a tuk-tuk driver

You can of course hire bikes to cycle to/from and around the temples. While completely doable, it’s worth bearing in mind how huge this complex is – it’ll be hot and you’ll already be doing a lot of walking and climbing up and down towers. In my opinion, a tuk-tuk is the easiest and most efficient way for getting around in one day.

Dress modestly and wear comfy shoes

This is a religious site where people come to pray, so be respectful and wear appropriate clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. It’s also a very physical day so make sure you wear comfortable shoes – flip flops are a no-no!

Drink plenty of water and take sunscreen

You’re going to be outdoors for most of the day with not much shelter from the blazing heat, so make sure you keep yourself hydrated and the sunscreen topped up.

Bring a torch

May seem like an odd tip, but it’s something we wished we had with us when arriving at 5am in the morning in complete darkness. With no lighting, it can be a bit of a hazardous walk from where the driver drops you off. So unless you want to risk ending up in a ditch (it happened to my friend!) then it’d be useful to bring a flashlight.

Have you ever been to Angkor Wat? Do you have any extra tips I’ve missed out above?

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    tots2travel
    January 9, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Great photos to bring travel inspiration!

  • Reply
    Brecht
    January 10, 2016 at 3:58 am

    We visited Angkor Wat a few months ago and loved it as well. Even though we’re not that into archaeology we did go for the 3 day pass and were happy we did. You don’t have to do these visits consecutively, so we happily took a day off at the swimming pool to avoid getting “templed out”.

    Love your photos by the way! Makes me wish we hadn’t been too lazy to get up at 5 🙂

    If you’re interested you can find our itinerary on our blog: http://wandering.world/our-angkor-wat-itinerary-in-siem-reap/

  • Reply
    Brecht
    January 10, 2016 at 4:45 am

    We visited Angkor Wat a few months ago and loved it as well. Even though we’re not that into archaeology we did go for the 3 day pass and were happy we did. You don’t have to do these visits consecutively, so we happily took a day off at the swimming pool to avoid getting “templed out”.

    Love your photos by the way! Makes me wish we hadn’t been too lazy to get up at 5 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary Leggett
    January 10, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Great blog & so looking forward to going there in a few weeks.

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      January 10, 2016 at 11:21 am

      Glad you liked it Mary 🙂 let me know if you have any other questions!

  • Reply
    Gabi Ancarola
    January 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    This pictures are A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.! THOSE YELLOWS ARE INCREDIBLE. I just pinned and twitted it. Great job! Really!!

  • Reply
    Valery Collins
    January 12, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Great images

  • Reply
    Nadeen
    January 13, 2016 at 10:53 am

    These pictures are absolutely amazing!! You captured it so well! I look forward to making it there one day.

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      January 13, 2016 at 11:07 am

      Thank you Nadeen. It’s a truly unique place! Well worth a visit!

  • Reply
    Rob Taylor
    January 14, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    What beautiful pictures! I just went through them with my son and now he wants to go there! Good reminder about dressing appropriately. 🙂

  • Reply
    Shelly
    January 15, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Love your photos. Good tips about the water and sunscreen. When we visit sites where I know we will be outside a lot, I bring an umbrella for shade.

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      January 15, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      Thanks Shelly! And a great additional tip! Something I hadn’t thought of, will remember that for the future!

  • Reply
    Liesbeth
    January 15, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    I visited Angkor 6 years ago in the beginning of my world travel addiction and it still is one of my favorite places in the world. Such detail and elegance… It was nice to relive it a bit from my couch through your post 🙂

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      January 15, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      Haha thanks lovey! It was one of my highlights from last year. Such a magical place.

  • Reply
    Becky
    January 15, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    So glad to hear it’s possible to visit Angkor Wat in a single day! Places like this are obvious must-sees, but since history isn’t my #1 interest, it’s awesome to see how much you can take in with only 1 day and still have beautiful photos.

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      January 15, 2016 at 10:32 pm

      Thanks Becky! I’m not hugely into history but this place is truly captivating. Worth a visit of you get a chance!

  • Reply
    Renne Simpson
    January 16, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    The sunset photos are my favorite. Great pictures! Adding this location to my list of places to visit in the next few years.

  • Reply
    Courtney Jones
    January 16, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    I went to Angkor Wat last year and thought the whole area was so impressive. Biggest regret was that I didn’t make it for sunrise – your photos are reminding me why I should have!!

  • Reply
    Ami Bhat
    January 17, 2016 at 5:06 am

    Lovely lovely pictures. Simple and well captured guide to Angkor. Do check out my version as well 😀

    Cheers

  • Reply
    Voyager
    January 17, 2016 at 8:36 am

    Lovely post and some great tips, the majestic temples of Angkor Wat has bee one of our dream destinations for some time, reading your post and looking at the amazing pictures, urges us to leave asap for the place!

  • Reply
    Sabine
    January 17, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    I just loved visited the temples of Angkor Wat. I’ve spend 4 days and could not get enough. There are so many to see and visit! Now that I see your lovely photos (really nice) I really want to go back. Thanks for sharing this lovely post!!

  • Reply
    Cathy Ries
    January 18, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Great photos snd great post! I’ll have to add this to my bucketlist now 🙂

  • Reply
    Natalie
    January 19, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Gorgeous, gorgeous photos! I haven’t been to Cambodia yet, but when I go, a visit to the temples is a must-do! I’m not much of a morning person, but I think I might make an exception to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. 🙂

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      January 19, 2016 at 10:39 pm

      Thank you Natalie. If you’re lucky enough not to get a cloudy day, it’s definitely worth the early start!

  • Reply
    Sabine
    January 20, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Religious Sites are always stunning =) These places just have a special vibe…now I really want to see this live…thanks for sharing and by the way great pictures =)

  • Reply
    John Bickel
    January 21, 2016 at 2:42 am

    Nice pictures and write-up; you’ve captured the sense of the place well.

    I visited Siem Reap twice and really could just keep going back. We’ve been to almost all of SE Asia and it’s my favorite destination area. Bayon is my favorite temple, and Angkor Wat is spectacular, but it would be a shame to not see a lot of the temples there, even though some common themes do repeat. They are so close that someone could see a dozen of them in two days, which would probably be enough, but since they sell a three day pass for about the same cost as two individual days (roughly $20/day) it makes sense to get that instead.

    There isn’t much else to do in Siem Reap, some shopping, with local lakes that aren’t worth visiting, but since hiring a tuk-tuk for the day is easy and inexpensive and drivers are flexible it’s easy to shift the schedule around, to do a late start or take a break somewhere. Bantaey Srei isn’t a can’t miss temple, more of the same a bit further out there, but seeing that one can break up the touring schedule since the extra hour there and back adds a look at the countryside.

  • Reply
    Tales of travelling sisters
    January 23, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Wow!! Beautiful captures of the sunrise at Angkor Wat Temple. Visiting the temple has been in our list for so long. Thanks for the share Nikki 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary Leggett
    February 20, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Hi Nikki, Phil & I were in Siem Reap recently & your Exploring Angkor Wat in one day was a great help. It helped us plan the route & along with some advice from our tuk-tuk driver we saw fantastic sights and didn’t get too templed out!

  • Reply
    GeekGirlGoes
    May 23, 2016 at 5:18 am

    Loved reading this! I’m planning a trip here over the summer and was wondering how many days to spend exploring these temples. I get your point about getting ‘templed out’- I live in Japan and this has definitely happened to me more than once. I’m thinking I might just do two days there/ give me a chance to flex my Lara croft exploration muscles!

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      May 23, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Thanks! I think two days is a good amount of time to explore and you can space it out. Hope you enjoy!

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