Do you have only a limited time to see the temples of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia? Fortunately it’s totally do-able to see the main temples of Angkor in one day.
We did it on probably one of the busiest days of the year (30 December) and although there were heaps of crowds, we got to see some amazing sights and absolutely loved our day at Angkor.
Here we’ve got some tips for you to get the most out of your day at the temples of Angkor!
Get an Angkor guide
We fully recommend getting a guide to take you around the temples of Angkor. We booked Kamsan (“Best Angkor Guide” on TripAdvisor) after getting a recommendation from a family member who did the same tour with him a few months prior.
It was the best decision we could have made – San was amazing. He was so enthusiastic, knew all the history, and the best thing was that he knew where to get great photos from and how to escape (most of) the crowds. We’ve got friends who hired a tuk tuk driver for the day, but those drivers barely speak english and they aren’t guides – they just take you from place to place where you want to go.
Another bonus was that San drove an air conditioned car, and carried around ice cold towels and water. This was an absolute plus as the weather was seriously hot! It was a welcome relief to hop into the cool car for the drive between temples.
For four of us for a whole day out, including sunrise, it was $135 USD. We were out for about 13 hours and visited Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei and Beng Melea. A bargain if you ask me!
Don’t miss the sunrise (weather dependent)
I’ve heard many stories of crap sunrises at Angkor. Well, they may be true but we were lucky enough to see a stunning one. It’s worth checking the weather forecast – if it’s overcast or raining then sunrise just isn’t worth it.
But if you manage to score a good day, starting that early in the morning is great. You can see most of Angkor Wat before it gets really hot, and also before all the crowds get there (the tour buses from the Chinese hotels start rolling in around 10 am).
It’s definitely busy enough in the early hours but apparently gets hellish around mid-morning!
San took us to a spot outside the temple walls and moat to watch the sunrise. So we didn’t get the famous photo of the temple reflected in the pond, but we also didn’t have to jostle with thousands of others (plus their selfie sticks) at the spot in the photo below – there were only about a dozen other people in the spot where we were, and it was so peaceful.
Tick off the big three – Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm
If you’re going to see the temples, you really have to visit the main three sites – Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. They are the most crowded, but it’s easy to understand why. They are pretty spectacular!
Bayon (the temple with the bas-relief faces) was one of my favourites. The carvings are beautiful and those faces are haunting. They seem to follow you around wherever you walk!
Ta Prohm (the famous one from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) was overrated if you ask me. Yeah, it was cool, but it was also really really packed with snap happy tourists. It’s a small temple and you’re forced in one way and out another way, so it wasn’t really that pleasant. If you’re visiting at a quieter time of year then I imagine it would be great!
Venture further to Banteay Srei and Beng Melea
Haven’t heard of these temples? They’re a bit further out from the main three and much less visited, so that’s probably why. However, we think it’s definitely worth venturing further (another bonus of having a guide with a car rather than a tuk tuk) to see them.
Banteay Srei is made out of pink sandstone so the temples have a lovely orangey colour. The carvings are so deep and intricate, it’s thought that these temples may have been carved by women due to their smaller fingers.
Banteay Srei is a small temple but it’s like a mini version of Angkor Wat – it’s stunning!
In my opinion, we saved the best until last.
Beng Melea was almost deserted – I think we saw half a dozen other people when we were there. It was a lot like Ta Prohm but bigger and more crumbly, surrounded by forest. It was amazing! There were raised walkways so you could walk above the crumbling ruins and see them from a different perspective. It was well worth the extra 45 minute drive from Banteay Srei to see Beng Melea.
Have you visited the temples of Angkor? Which one was your favourite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!