With dozens of temple ruins in the Angkor Archaeological Park and elsewhere in Siem Reap, the region has so much to offer to the curious visitor. However, unless you plan to spend weeks exploring the area, you’ll have to be selective in which temples to visit. The following suggested itineraries will help you make the best out of your trip to Angkor, when your time is limited to 1, 2 or 3 days.
Angkor Small Circuit (Day 1)
Day 1 of our itinerary covers the Small Circuit, with the most legendary monuments in the Park. If you only have 1 day to spend, then the small circuit is the way to go. Every tuk-tuk or taxi driver is familiar with this tour.
The Small Circuit is 17 km long and covers all the must visit temples in the park. You should visit them in this order:
- Angkor Wat – No better way to start your visit than with the most famous temple of them all. Try to wake up early (4.30am) and catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat for a once in a lifetime experience.
- Angkor Thom – This 3km2 wallled, moated city has several temple ruins to explore. Make sure to visit the following ruins (in this order): Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas , the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King.
- Thommanon – A small, but pittoresque temple just outside the walls of Angkor Thom.
- Chau Say Tevoda – Less attractive than Thommanon, but located right across the road.
- Ta Keo – A temple-mountain and King Jayavarman V’s own state shrine.
- Ta Prohm – The famous “Tomb Raider” temple overgrown by jungle.
- Banteay Kdei – Literally meaning “a Citadel of Chambers”, this temple functioned as a Buddhist monastery over the centuries.
- Srah Srang – An artificial, 10th century lake and a nice spot to unwind after a day of “temple climbing”.
- Prasat Kravan – A small, Angkor era monument with unique bas-reliefs.
Angkor Grand Circuit (Day 2)
If you have a 3-day admission pass, doing the Grand Circuit tour is the ideal way to explore some more key temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park. The tour is 26 km long and is an extension to the Small Circuit. Every tuk-tuk / taxi driver in town will know which temples to bring you to when you request the Grand Circuit tour.
The temples on the Grand Circuit, should be visited in this order:
- Preah Khan – This magical temple complex, partly covered with twisting tree roots, is full of carvings and passages to explore.
- Neak Pean – A small island temple that can only be reached via a wooden walkway over the water.
- Ta Som – A small, but photogenic temple, with one of its towers overtaken by huge tree roots.
- East Mebon – An “island temple”, constructed in the middle of the now dry East Baray.
- Pre Rup – A well-preserved temple mountain and a great spot to catch the sunset before returning to your hotel.
Remote Temple Sites (Day 3)
Not templed out yet? Then we recommend to visit some of the more remote temple sites, located outside the Angkor Archaeological Park, but included in the admission fee.
Option 1: Kbal Spean – Banteay Srei – Banteay Samre
Banteay Srei District, north of the Angkor Archaeological Park, will surprise you with its natural beauty and historic sites. We recommend the following attractions for a full day of exploring. Note that Kbal Spean, the first attraction of the day, is located 42 km from Siem Reap center.
- Kbal Spean – Also called the River of the 1000 Lingas, consists of a river and waterfall. The river bed and banks are carved with ancient Hindu symbols. Visiting the site requires a 45 min uphill walk.
- ACCB – The Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity is located on the same site as Kbal Spean. You can visit this wildlife rescue center on a guided tour from Monday to Saturday at 9am / 1pm sharp, a minimum donation of US$ 3 is requested.
- Banteay Srei – This little gem of a temple, covered in delicate, well-preserved carvings is located 30 km from Siem Reap center.
- Cambodia Landmine Museum – As implied by its name, a museum to educate people about the history of landmine use during the Cambodian civil war. Admission is US$ 5.
- Banteay Srei Butterfly Center (BBC) – Discover the lifecycle of butterflies and some other native species in BBC’s tropical garden. Admission is US$ 5 for adults, US$ 2 for children.
- Banteay Samre – A large, walled temple in “Angkor Wat” style.
Option 2: Roluos Group – Wat Athvea – Phnom Krom
Alternatively, if you want to stay closer to Siem Reap town, you could explore the following historic sites on your third day. We recommend to start your itinerary with the Roluos Group in the morning and Wat Athvea / Phnom Krom in the afternoon.
- Roluos Group – This group of temples is located 12 km east of Siem Reap, easily accessible along National Road 6 in the direction of Phnom Penh. The group consists of 4 temples: Bakong, Preah Ko, Lolei and Prasat Prei Monti. Bakong temple, the highlight of the group, stands 15m tall and was the center of the first Angkorian capital.
- Lunch in Siem Reap – There’s plenty of time for a long lunch break, before heading off for the second part of your trip.
- Wat Athvea – A nice, but small temple in “Angkor Wat” style, surrounded by beautiful scenery. The temple is located 4km south of Siem Reap center, on the way to Tonle Sap and Phnom Krom.
- Phnom Krom – Located on a 140m high hilltop, the temple site of Phnom Krom offers spectacular views over the Tonle Sap lake and the Siem Reap countryside. Without doubt the best spot to enjoy a peaceful sunset away from the crowds.