Siem Reap is a small town in Cambodia that is known as an ‘ancient world’ because of its temples and ruins that have been left behind by the Khmer Empire (Angkor Empire). The town is most famous for its massive temple complexes that are the main destination for tourists visiting the town. However, the town has way more to offer than just temples.
It has a massive pub street where you can find hipster pubs and great places to socialize with the locals. Also, there are several markets that sell traditional crafts and delicious street food. Beyond that, you can explore the floating fishing village and visit other ruins. It goes without saying that Siem Reap has everything that makes traveller potentially not want to leave.
This itinerary is going to show you how to visit the majority of Siem Reap's attractions in a short period of time without rushing through it. However, be prepared to spend quite a bit of money here as Siem Reap is probably the most expensive place in Cambodia.
The first day covers the sunrise at Angkor Wat and a visit to several of its main temples. After the temples, you are going to explore the Angkor Night Market in Siem Reap and taste delicious food. You will have to get tickets for Angkor Wat before your visit, or you can queue early in the morning to buy them.
You can’t buy tickets online as ticket sellers need to verify your identity and take a photo of you. You can buy a 1-Day, 3-Day or a 7-Day pass for the temple complex. Also, Angkor Wat tickets are expensive, so there is no point in wasting your time trying to shop around for cheaper tickets at other places as they simply don't exist.
For this itinerary, purchase a 3-Day pass for Angkor Wat. It is not possible to visit all the temples in one day as the temple complexes are big, so you will have to rent a tuk-tuk, scooter or bike to get around. Once you are done with the temples on Day 1, head to the Angkor Night Market to enjoy some great food.
Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a must when visiting Siem Reap, so be prepared to be at the temple for around 5 AM if you already have tickets. If you are visiting Angkor Wat as a family, then it's a good idea to read up on some tips beforehand as exploring the temple complexes can be very long and tiring days!
Angkor Wat was built in 1112 and is a big temple complex consisting of gates, ponds and shrines. The temple is the most famous for its thousands of asparas (female deities) that are carved into its walls.
After the sunrise, continue exploring the complex at your own pace. Enjoy its splendour and historic beauty.
Bayon Temple is located in the centre of the Angkor Thom Temple Complex and is a stunning temple that is considered to be one of the most beautiful temples in Siem Reap. Its walls are covered in smiling faces and only 200 faces had withstood the fall of the towers.
Interesting fact: Buddha's heads were destroyed in the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge, but they left the smiling faces because they belonged to Boddhisatva Avalokiteshvara.
The South Gate of Angkor Thom is a popular place among tourists. Before the gates, you will see a bridge that has 54 gods and 54 demons statues who are pulling a snake (Naga – in Hinduism, a snake is a cosmological rope that joins the human and god worlds together). The gate and bridge are important as they show the connection between Hinduism and Buddhism.
The Angkor Night Market takes place every evening until sunrise and is considered to be ‘The Original Night Market’ in Siem Reap. Here, you can find delicious street food, traditional crafts, silk garments and watch performances. The market is a good place to relax after a tiring tour around Angkor Wat and is a great place to meet some locals.
On your second day, you are going to return to Angkor Wat to explore some other temples some more. Don’t forget to bring your ticket with you once again and rent a tuk-tuk, scooter or bike for the day so that you can make sure you cover every temple mentioned in this itinerary.
During this day, you will learn more about the ancient Angkor town and visit 3 different temple complexes that weren’t destroyed by the time nature took charge of them. By the early evening, you will have a chance to explore a famous Siem Reap night time attraction – Pub Street, where you will find great pubs. However, don’t stay up for too long!
Start your second day off with the Banteay Srei Temple, which is located in the temple complex to the north of Angkor Wat. It was built in 967 CE and is dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva. The Temple is covered in detailed red stone carvings which amaze every visitor. You can also take a boat ride for a small fee around the temple to get a whole different view of it if you wish.
For your second stop, make your way down south to the entrance of Angkor Wat. Here, you will find the Pre Rup Temple, which is a Hindu temple that was built in 961. It is a massive temple constructed from red sandstone and bricks. There are endless steps that lead you to the top of the temple and lets you enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Your last temple of today is Ta Prohm, which is locally known as the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple as it was used in the film. This fascinating temple is being taken over by the trees. It is incredible to see how the stone and trees exist together and make the temple stand. Stay at the temple and watch the sunset.
Pub Street in Siem Reap is a party street that has the best pubs and attracts tons of tourists every night. The street is also known for having very cheap beer and food around the pubs. Also, it is pedestrian-only street after 5 PM, so most of the pubs will have tables and chairs outside.
The third day covers another set of Angkor Wat temples that you still haven’t explored yet, but shouldn't miss. During this day, you will visit an unrestored temple (be prepared to pay an extra fee to visit it at the entrance) and visit two more central temples. You will have to wake up early to finish exploring the temples before the sunset, as for the sunset, you are going to visit the Siem Reap Floating Village. You can visit the Floating Village on your own or take a tour from the centre of Siem Reap.
Also, don’t forget to arrange tuk-tuk or rent a scooter for this day, too. You might need to pay extra for a tuk-tuk driver to take you to the furthest temple.
Beng Mealea is a temple that has been left in its natural state. In other words, it hasn't been rebuilt and you will find lots of ruins here. It will take you around 1 hr to reach this temple, but it’s absolutely worth it! Pay the entrance fee to enter the ancient ruins. Most visitors describe this temple as one of the most fascinating temples in the Angkor Wat complex.
Neak Pean Temple is located in the centre of the Angkor Wat complex and is a small temple in the middle of a manmade pond. This Temple is dedicated to the Boddhisatva of compassion – Lokeshvara. It is a very meaningful temple that is surrounded by a pond that has four smaller ponds. Spend some time here admiring the temple’s beauty and relax strolling around in the lush jungle.
Baphuon Temple was built in the 11th century as a Hindu temple, but in the 15th century, it was converted to Buddhist temple. It is located in Angkor Thom temple complex. The Temple has endless steps and is 34 meters above the ground. You can climb to the top and enjoy a lovely view of Angkor Thom.
Kompong Phluk is 16 km from central Siem Reap and can be explored with a tour or on your own. It consists of three floating villages. These villages are becoming a must-see place to visit in Siem Reap. It is still a pretty quiet place, so you will be able to enjoy the local culture and its natural beauty.
This article was first published on Jul 14, 2019 19:35 UTC.
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