Seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat was a highlight of my trip to Cambodia. This Angkor Wat travel guide has all the information you need to plan your visit.
Angkor Wat History
Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s most famous historical site. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu during the time of the Khmer Empire in the early 12th century.
The sandstone used to construct Angkor Wat was floated up the river and then hauled into place with the help of elephants. It is thought that it took about 30 years to construct Angkor Wat, and it would have required a team of thousands of people to quarry the stones, transport the stones, carve the reliefs, and to construct the temple.
Most of the exterior and interior surfaces of the stones were carved and tell stories from the Hindu culture. Aspara, the spirit of the clouds and waters, appears dancing in many of the carvings. Emperor Suryavarman II who ordered the construction of Angkor Wat is also depicted in some of the bas-relief carvings.
Angkor Wat is protected by both a 15-foot tall wall and a moat. It sits on 500 acres of land. There is so much to see and explore.
Towards the end of the 12th century, Angkor Wat shifted from being a place of Hindu worship to a place of Buddhist worship. Today Angkor Wat is still used as a place of meditation for Buddhist nuns and monks who you likely see when you visit.
I ended up going to Angkor Wat twice. I booked a multi-day tour with a company called Hoi An Express, and the tour guide they provided was terrible. Sunrise at Angkor Wat was on the itinerary, but we missed a spectacular sunrise because we arrived at Angkor Wat late. So I spent $97 on a driver, new tour guide, and a new ticket so that I could go back the next day. Sadly, the sunrise wasn’t as colorful, but I would have regretted not trying again.
Angkor Wat Travel Guide
Getting to Angkor Wat
You can take a tuk-tuk, but it’s a bit of a long ride for a tuk-tuk. I recommend booking a car and a driver instead, the cost will be about $20.
What Time to Arrive
The gates open at 5 am, and it takes about 10 minutes to walk from the gates to Angkor Wat.
Check the time of the sunrise and make sure that you get there 30-40 minutes before the official sunrise time – or at 5 am when the gates open. This way you can see the entire sunrise. If you arrive at the sunrise time you find online, you will miss most of the sunrise (that isn’t the time when the sunrise starts it’s the time that the sun is up).
You want to go in the morning because the sunrise is incredible and because it can be very hot in the middle of the day.
You need to go to the ticket office to purchase tickets. You need to purchase tickets in person since they put your photo on the tickets. In order to get into Angkor Wat to see the sunrise, you should purchase your tickets the day before you want to visit. The ticket office is open daily from 5 am to 5:30 pm.
What to Wear
You must cover your shoulders and your knees, you can be denied entry if you do not follow the rules. This applies to men and women. There are lots of steep stairs involved, so it’s a good idea to wear sneakers.
What to Bring
You will want to bring at least one bottle of water and some sunscreen. I didn’t notice any bugs, but I usually have a small bottle of bug repellant with me just in case.
Finding a Guide
My first guide was terrible, so avoid Hoi An Express, we actually missed most of the sunrise on my sunrise tour. I went back the next day to see the sunrise with another guide that my hotel arranged. She was definitely better but not great.
Either read up before you go or really do your research to find a tour guide that can provide in-depth explanations.
Beyond Angkor Wat
Your ticket includes entry to several other temples including the Angkor Thom complex of temples. Your ticket is good for one day, so plan for a long day of visiting temples, or buy a three-day pass instead. There are over 55 temples just in Angkor Thom so you could easily spend three days at the temples.
Read More About Cambodia:
What to do in Siem Reap
What to do in Phnom Penh
Hello from Cambodia!
If you have been to Angkor Wat and have any tips I would love to hear them in the comments!