I'm often asked by visitors to my gallery about which temples to prioritise during a short stay in Siem Reap. This article gives my opinion on that based on a decade of experience exploring and writing about the temples of Angkor.
I have grouped the temples by general location, the temples in each group are easiest to see in one visit.
I have given the temples a star rating as follows:
Highly recommended if you are staying for more than 2 days.
Well worth a visit if you have the time.
Worth a look if you are in the area.
The rating I give to each temple is based on its historical importance, the quality of the architecture and iconography, the ambiance, and the pleasure that I think my friends would get from visiting that temple.
Each temple name below links to an entry in my Angkoepedia, which describes its basic details. For a deeper dive, see the articles in My Journal, where I explore the meaning and significance of these places.
The Indiana Jones' amongst you will need to hire a chauffeur-driven car through your hotel to take you to the following temples, and vistiting them will require a whole day, but should you have the time they are some of the best temples in Cambodia:
There are of course many other temples in Angkor, many of which I visit regularly, but the list above includes the temples that I recommend to my friends on a short visit.
There are also many important Khmer temples in neighbouring Thailand, Laos and Vietnam which are well worth exploring.
Other Places To See and Activities to Make Your Stay Even More Special
Other than the temples, I would highly recommend a visit to the Angkor National Museum, and of course taking a boat ride on the beautiful Tonlé Sap lake (the village of Kompong Phluk and the flooded forest are delightful) – nature lovers shouldn't miss the nearby Prek Toal Biosphere Reserve. The Angkor Balloon offers excellent views over Angkor Wat.
Other activities I'd highly recommend are a visit to a local pagoda, talking to a monk about Buddhism and receiving a blessing, taking a guided tour of Siem Reap to discover it’s hidden treasures and discover authentic Cambodian life, and a visit to local artisans to see them carving, weaving, making pottery and brewing the local rice wine. A great way to see rural Cambodia is to take a guided bicycle ride through the rice fields, where you can visit local markets and farming communities.
Finally, no visit to Cambodia is complete without enjoying some of the local spa treatments and a luxurious massage. The luxury hotels have the best spas in town, they may be a little more expensive but you can be sure of receiving the best treatments from the most skilled and experienced practitioners in a hygienic, safe, and serene environment.
Enjoy your stay! I’d love to hear from you about your experiences in the Kingdom of Wonder.
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