Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. There are enough temples there — spread over 402 acres — to keep you busy for days. But I found one day was enough.
Just 10 minutes from our Park Hyatt property, Angor Wat is very easy to reach from Siem Reap. Although the hotel recommended using a car rather than a tuk tuk due to residual water from the last storm, we hired a pedicab — $20 for the whole day. Average daily wage in Cambodia is $8, so I did not feel guilty. We also tipped generously.
As you’ll see in my picture report below, we covered four temple complexes over a roughly six hour period:
- Angkor Wat
- Ta Prohm
In all honesty, that was more than enough. Although we had three nights in Siem Reap, we did not return. Visit the four temples above and you will get a great overview for the architectural diversity.
I’d like to think that I don’t just have a short attention span, but spending six hours wandering through temples, temple ruins, and shaded greenery is both satisfying and exhausting. It was over 95ºF (35ºC), which also made the day a bit taxing.
There were temples like Banteay Samré and Ta Som that would have been nice to see, but they were quite a bit like Baphuon and Ta Prhom.
Anyway, whether you spend just a day there or several, it is a must-see bucket list item:
For those of you who have been to Angor Wat, how many days did you visit?
Good review. I had long suspected that a single day would be more than enough for myself, as well.
I found one day was also enough. There is so much to see, but it can all start to blend together as one after awhile.
Have been to Angkor twice, spending about three days each time. My advice to travelers is to get up early to go to the temples around sunrise, come back to the hotel and chill by the pool mid-day when it gets really hot, and go back in the evening for sunset. This way you can see a lot while avoiding the worst of the heat and humidity.
I was there in 2012, so not sure if this is still available, but we bought our passes the evening before and after a certain time (maybe 5 pm?) you can enter the complex on the next days ticket. Our driver recommended this and took us to see the sunset. It was a great bonus and while crowded for sunset, it gave us a different perspective and a sneak peak for the next days adventure! Ask at your hotel or ask your driver.
We had 3 days there for sightseeing, but did one day outside the city. I’d say 3 days is about right.
We spent about half a day. It was unbelievably hot, and we were sweating before 9 am. We enjoyed our visit, but couldn’t wait to get back to the comfort of the Park Hyatt!
It seems you missed red stone temple which is a drive from main ones (40min on tuck tuk). We did three days going for 4 hours each day plus city in the evening. We did do sunrise and it was kind of cool…both watching all tourists and sunrise
Is there anything else really interesting in Siem Reap besides the temples ? I am deciding whether to stay in Siem Reap for 2 or 3 nights. Can someone help me make the right decision ?
Was there for 3 days in November. Had a fabulous time. Stayed at the sofitel and Le Meridien. Wished we had 3 more days. The temples, floating village and plenty more to see and do.
I spent 2 or 3 days the first time, and just one day the second time. Scientists have found there are over 1K temples in the area. I don’t think 1 day is enough. Bantrey Srei, for example, is very different from Angkor Wat.
@Fab. Many people go to Tonle Sap lake where people live in houses on stilts. There is very small landmine museum that is close to the main area of temples. A number of people take tours to get blessings from Buddhist monks. Some take cooking classes. But really, it’s mostly about the temples.
I was there in 2013 at the end of season in March. Fantastically hot. Over 110°F every day. I had a private guide/driver who was with me the entire time. Spent 3 full days, and could have done a couple more. We started by 9am every morning, finished at noon, then back to the hotel to shower and completely change clothes. Then back again at 2pm and finished at 5:30/6pm. I was never bored and my guide explained everything and pointed out what I was seeing, the storues being told on the carved wall panels, how it was built, the ceremonies, Gods, temples, symbols, etc…. I could never imagine just walking through on my own.
And yes, I see also that you didn’t see the red stone temple. It’s gorgeous and the small details of it are completely different to the massive scale of the other sites.
Ah well, maybe when you go back with your wife.
I think this is bad advice – right up there with “see all of Europe in 5 days”! I’ve been three times over the last 15 years and spend many days around the different temples, still discovering new things every time!
The temples of Angkor have been built over centuries and are very different depending on the era. For example, Banteay Srei (the citadel of women) looks very different than Angkor Wat or Angkor Thom. Kbal Spean, the “River of the 1000 Lingas” has 1000s of stone carvings in the river bed as fertility symbols for the water flowing to the fields and is rarely visited. The hike through the forest is also very different than the other temple sites!
If you feel like all the temples are just blurring into one, you can check out the National Museum in Siem Reap that provides you some background information or hire a guide to provide you more information!
Also, rather than cramming everything into 1 day and seeing it with 1,000s of people in tour groups, I recommend to spread it out and go outside the peak tour times – a good driver will know the times, as well as side-entrances. Visiting with fewer people will drastically change the experience you have at the temples. And so will going at different times of day – going to one of the smaller temples (with fewer crowds) at sunrise or sunset is magical – which I wouldn’t say of Angkor Wat at sunrise it’s as busy as Disneyland! You will less likely feel “templed out” that way, too!
Hiring a car & driver is more expensive, but the a/c during the hot days is more comfortable and also faster. I’d recommend it at least for the sites further afield, like Kbal Spean.
I’d recommend to spend at least 3 nights/2 days, spreading out the sites over two day-trips and giving you some leisure time for all the things you see to settle in.
Completely disagree with you. The best way to do it is spend the morning and afternoons exploring the temples with the midday chilling in town with a cold drink or dip in the pool. It’s much more enjoyable that way. If you spend a full day exploring the temples and endure the brutal midday heat then yeah, you’re bound to feel like you’re over it due to the exhaustion and discomfort. Recommending that people spend 1 full day to explore is terrible advice.
You also missed Preah Khan which is a huge temple that shouldn’t be missed.
I spent five nights (4 full days) in the area. For me, this was about spot on. This included the Angkor ruins, a little bit of time exploring Siem Reap (not that there is much to see in the town itself, apart from the museum), a visit to the Tonle Sap lake and floating villages, and a little bit of time relaxing by the hotel pool. I wouldn’t want to have spent any less time. The ruins are fascinating, if you have a good guide, and the scale of the ruins at Angkor is breathtaking. A lot of tourists only do one or two sights, so the only place I really ran into crowds was at Angkor for sunrise, but they all disappear back to their hotels for breakfast once the sun comes up so even then there aren’t many people for most of the morning. Each sight is very different, and I enjoyed seeing the differences between the sights. I would recommend at least 3 full days, probably 4.
I think Siem Reap is worth 3 days rather than 2. That being said I agree with the OP that you can have a good experience in a day. We hired a guide with a car – the a/c was vital. A rather full day it must be said but a very memorable one.
1 day is fine if you want a picture of Angor Wat and say you have “visited” when you really have not.
While there is sooooo much to see and I agree “temple fatigue” can settle in easily, go early with pool time through afternoon then early evening. I did 3 days plus 1 days in the outlying temples.
3 days total should suffice for a traveler………0 days for tourist
I have to respectfully disagree and say you need much more time, but I also recommend to break it up and not go temple-hopping all at once. I also recommend a good guide who can direct you to the best times and places that you might not know about. I broke up my time at my guide’s recommendation(I have never hired a guide prior to this on trips incidentally) and spread it out with other activities over 3 days and going back to the hotel midday to find lunch and relax by the pool. I can see going for 6 hours straight getting pretty fatigued.
I’m normally a do everything in one quick go kind of person because of timing constraints but was really glad to space this one out.
thanks for your comments, I wonder if middle of March is still to hot and humid? any idea if in February the weather might be cooler or almost the same as in March?
1) Wonder if either with the one day or 3 pass I can still visit Bantrey Srei, Kbal Spean.Preah Khan ???
2) Or these are too far away that the tuk tuk or car wont drive u to these places or the tickets are bought separately?
3) if I decide to take a break and go back to hotel to chill out, going back during afternoon is considered the second day pass or still be used as the same day pass?
I would be very appreciated your response if possible.
Terrible advice IMO. The one-day-is-enough advice is perfect if you have no interest in history, religion, culture or actually trying to grasp the scope of an ancient and amazing civilization. In other words, the people taking selfies without actually opening their eyes to what they are seeing. It’s like visiting The Met in NYC for an hour and thinking you saw it. But if this describes you then why are you traveling? Might as well go to Disneyworld.
The opposite extreme: I did 5 days starting with the small sites and working up to Angkor Way itself. And I’ll be back. If “everything looks the same” it’s cause you haven’t done enough homework to appreciate the differences and nuances. Make the effort, learn the history, study dome religion. Or, of that’s too much trouble, 1 day might be just right.