How do you structure your day at the temples?
How much time do you spend at each of the many ruins?
Do you head back to Siem Reap for a lunch break and/or siesta?
Which temples should you visit, in which order and at what time of day?
Should you stick to the main temples or instead visit some outlying, less-visited ruins?
These questions should be discussed and resolved with your guide before you even head down the road from Siem Reap. Local knowledge is key and the guides we use know where and when the majority of larger tour buses will be visiting and itineraries are better arranged with this very much in mind. A discussion about your interests and objectives is essential – for example, Angkor provides amazing photographic opportunities so we can also arrange for your itinerary to catch the temples in their best light. Or, if you prefer, you could structure your visit in the chronological order that they were built. Sunrise and sunset can be spectacular; your guide will have suggestions on how you can avoid the busy spots. The pace, structure and content of this day are for you to decide – don’t feel compelled by anything other than your preferences.
No doubt your guide (and car/driver) will pick you up from Siem Reap airport on the arrival day and this is the ideal opportunity to have this chat. Grab a cup of coffee with your guide at the hotel? Of course, we will discuss your preferences with you before you arrive also.
If you have two full days to explore the temples, consider the Temples of Angkor – 2 Days suggested itinerary.
If you have just the one-day, then the following itinerary is a starting point. Whilst not the ‘standard route’, it does cover the principal, central temples:
Start your tour at the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8 metre high wall, creating a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake.
From here, continue to Bayon Temple, which is in the exact centre of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits, as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs.
Take a break for lunch at one of the many rustic restaurants, before continuing to Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground.
Now for the highlight: Angkor Wat. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing Mount Meru, the home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple.
You will be at Angkor Wat for sunset, when it is less visited (most visit during sunrise) and the Apsaras will shimmer in the late afternoon light.