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Angkor Wat

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

  • Photo of Angkor Wat
  • Photo of Angkor Wat
  • Photo of Angkor Wat
  • Photo of Angkor Wat
  • Photo of Angkor Wat
  • Photo of Angkor Wat
  • Photo of Angkor Wat
  • Photo of Angkor Wat
Photo of Angkor Wat
Photo by flickr user tylerdurden1
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There are two great complexes of ancient temples in Southeast Asia, one at Bagan in Burma, the other at Angkor in Cambodia. The temples of Angkor, crafted by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD, represent one of humankind's most astonishing architectural achievements. From Angkor the Khmer kings ruled over a vast domain which reached from Vietnam to China to the Bay of Bengal. The structures one sees at Angkor today, more than 100 stone temples, are the surviving remains of a grand religious, social and administrative metropolis whose other buildings - palaces, public buildings, and houses - were built of wood and are long since decayed and gone.

Conventional theories presume the lands where Angkor stands were chosen as a settlement site because of their strategic military position and agricultural potential. Other scholars however, believe the geographical location of the Angkor complex and the arrangement of its temples was based on a planet-spanning sacred geography from archaic times. Using computer simulations it has been shown that the ground plan of the Angkor complex – the terrestrial placement of its principal temples - mirrors the stars in the constellation of Draco at the time of spring equinox in 10,500 BC. While the date of this astronomical alignment is far earlier than any known construction at Angkor, it appears that its purpose was to architecturally mirror the heavens in order to assist in the harmonization of the earth and the stars. Both the layout of the Angkor temples and iconographic nature of much its sculpture are also intended to indicate the celestial phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes and the slow transition from one astrological age to another.

At the temple of Phnom Bakheng there are 108 surrounding towers. The number 108, considered sacred in both Hindu and Buddhist cosmologies, is the sum of 72 plus 36 (36 being _ of 72). The number 72 is a primary number in the sequence of numbers linked to the earth’s axial precession, which causes the apparent alteration in the position of the constellations over the period of 25,920 years, or one degree every 72 years. Another mysterious fact about the Angkor complex is its location 72 degrees of longitude east of the Pyramids of Giza. The temples of Bakong, Prah Ko and Prei Monli at Roluos, south of the main Angkor complex, are situated in relation to each other in such a way that they mirror the three stars in the Corona Borealis as they appeared at dawn on the spring equinox in 10,500 BC. It is interesting to note that the Corona Borealis would not have been visible from these temples during the 10th and 11th centuries when they were constructed.

Angkor Wat, built during the early years of the 12th century by Suryavaram II, honors the Hindu god Vishnu and is a symbolic representation of Hindu cosmology. Consisting of an enormous temple symbolizing the mythic Mt. Meru, its five inter-nested rectangular walls and moats represent chains of mountains and the cosmic ocean. The short dimensions of the vast compound are precisely aligned along a north-south axis, while the east-west axis has been deliberately diverted 0.75 degrees south of east and north of west, seemingly in order to give observers a three day anticipation of the spring equinox.

Unlike other temples at Angkor, Ta Prohm has been left as it was found, preserved as an example of what a tropical forest will do to an architectural monument when the protective hands of humans are withdrawn. Ta Prohm's walls, roofs, chambers and courtyards have been sufficiently repaired to stop further deterioration and the inner sanctuary has been cleared of bushes and thick undergrowth. But the temple itself has been left in the stranglehold of trees. Having planted themselves centuries ago, the tree's serpentine roots pry apart the ancient stones and their immense trunks straddle the once bustling Buddhist temple. Built in the later part of the 12th century by Jayavarman VII, Ta Prohm is the terrestrial counterpart of the star Eta Draconis the Draco constellation.

During half-millennia of Khmer occupation, the city of Angkor became a pilgrimage destination of importance throughout Southeastern Asia. Sacked by the Thais in 1431 and abandoned in 1432, Angkor was forgotten for a few centuries. Wandering Buddhist monks passing through the dense jungles occasionally came upon the awesome ruins. Recognizing the sacred nature of the temples but ignorant of their origins they invented fables about the mysterious sanctuaries, saying they had been built by the gods in a far ancient time. Centuries passed, these fables became legends, and pilgrims from the distant reaches of Asia sought out the mystic city of the gods. A few adventurous European travelers knew of the ruins and stories circulated in antiquarian circles of a strange city lost in the jungles. Most people believed the stories to be nothing more than legend however, until the French explorer Henri Mouhot brought Angkor to the world's attention in 1860. The French people were enchanted with the ancient city and beginning in 1908 conducted an extensive restoration project. The restoration has continued to the present day, excepting periods in the 70's and 80's when military fighting prevented archaeologists from living near the ruins.

Orthodox archaeologists sometimes interpret the temples of the Angkor complex as tombs of megalomaniacal kings yet in reality those kings designed and constructed the temples as a form of service to both god and their own subjects. The temples were places not for the worship of the kings but rather for the worship of god. Precisely aligned with the stars, constructed as vast three dimensional meditational forms and adorned with stunningly beautiful religious art, the Angkor temples were instruments for assisting humans in their realization of the divine.

Jayavaram VII, spoke of his intentions in erecting temples as being “full of deep sympathy for the good of the world, so as to bestow on men the ambrosia of remedies to win them immortality….By virtue of these good works would that I might rescue all those who are struggling in the ocean of existence.”

Photos: Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Angkor, Cambodia

The relentless grip of the jungle at the ruins of Ta Prohm, Angkor, Cambodia

Stone heads of Bodhisattva Avilokiteshvara, Bayon Temple, Angkor, Cambodia

More Information about Angkor Wat from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

Other expert and press reviews

“Angkor”

Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th t… Read more...

Written by press. UNESCO

“Ancient urban sprawl surrounded Angkor Wat”

By David Adam The Guardian, Tuesday August 14 2007 The famous medieval temple at Angkor Wat in Cambodia was once surrounded by a giant urban sprawl of settlements, according to a new map of the area published by an international team of archaeologists.… Read more...

Written by press. Full Article from The Guardian

“A translation of Maurice Glaize's definitive 1944 guide to the Angkor Monuments”

By Maurice Glaize Angkor Wat is just one of a hundred or so monuments that remain scattered over an area of about 300 square kilometres in northern Cambodia - the religious remains of a series of cities, built by a succession of kings from around the 7t… Read more...

Written by press. A translation of Maurice Glaize's definitive 1944 guide to the Angkor Monum

“Cambodia: the hard path to Angkor”

By Frank Gardner for The Sunday Times. First published November 9, 2008. ...For independent travellers like myself and my companion James, arriving here can be an assault on the senses, but, as we soon discovered, Cambodia is also a country on the rebo… Read more...

Written by press. See the full article in The Sunday Times, 9th November 2008

“Plans to open Angkor Wat at night for tourists”

By The Sydney Morning Herald First Published May 27, 2009 Cambodia is considering opening the famed Angkor Wat temples at night to draw more tourists to the impoverished country, an official at the archaeological site says. Similar night tourism effort… Read more...

Written by press. Continue reading on smh.com.au

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

All I can say is WOW, you really must see it for yourself. This structure is massive and built a 1,000 years ago, I can't believe it is much less popular than other ancient ruins in the world because it surely is the greatest architectural accomplishment I've ever seen.

Angkor Wat is just so graceful and beautiful, I cannot believe that it has not received more international recognition. Every thing about this ancient city is just amazing.

There are a lot of precious wonders around the world. In Greece, Italy, Russia, the US, China, India, and so on. Yet, Angkor Wat glitters in Cambodia splendidly. It has been the breath of the Cambodian, it has been the heart of the Cambodian. But now, it is also the treasure of the world.

Angkor Wat is a great place to visit in Cambodia

I used to visit Angkor Wat many times when I was in Cambodia because it is one of the great wonder temple in the world which was built by king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century and many other Cambodia ancestors that had no any technologies at all during that time. You will be admired about it and think how it could they make it when you go to see it in the real situation.

share it to ur friends to vote for our angkor wat please!!

we had a great time

It is a amasing place. I wish i can go there again. Afternoon at the temple, Midnight in the city.

I had a great time with my honey on Chinese New Year 2012

I really love Angkor Wat.

I love Ang kor wat

The greatest,most beautiful and mysterious site in the world.

If any monument deserves to be the greatest wonder of the world,it surely must be the beautiful and mysterious Angkor Wat. The harmony of her architecture and the amazing and beautiful bar reliefs will bring you out of this world to an age of enlightenment.

I am in the process of planning my trip to Cambodia, Angkor Wat has been on my wish list of places to see around the world. I am wanting alos to vist the killing fields, I am looking at staying in Cambodia for 10 days, should I split my days to stay at Siem Rep/Phnom Penh or have my base in Phnom Penh and travel out from there seeing the country as I travel, any advice would be grately received..Thanku.

2 Replies

We don't represent a particular school, but hopefully someone will be able to recommend one?

Hi Ron. I would say there is more to see in Siem Reap, so spend 4-5 days there (you can easily spend several days in the temples), a couple of days in Phnom Penh and maybe a couple in Sihanoukville. Getting from A-B in Cambodia takes time as the roads are not great, so limit your travel as much as possible!

go early morning and it´ll feel like an indiana jones movie.... ;P

1 Reply

Great tip! I couldn't agree more. We were there for dawn almost.

"Ancient place but looks new"

I like traveling on foot or even climbing on the hill in the area. When I look to the statues, they seem still alive, showing the real ancient Khmer people.

I plan to go to visit on the 14th of May. I never tire of going there, even though I go every year.

4 Replies

Have you been at other times of year? When is the best time to visit please?

For me, May can be not so good as it's rainy reason starts.. From August to December / January to April, would be good.

Mostly at the time of some ceremony, especially November, December, January, April... I used to go on those month.

Thanks very much. I think I'll plan to go in November or December. Can you recommend where I should stay?

@leia, just visited Siem Reap as my plan, I was back.

Where to stay.. I'm not sure how to recommend as mostly I stay at friend's house or normal hotel as: CHOMNOR ANGKOR HOTEL (Tel: +85517606070 - no website) - but around this, plz visit tour guide book for detail.

best ancient temple

feel like u're in a different world !

The most amazing place I have ever seen in my life

Angkor Wat is truly an architectural marvel. It totally captured my heart. It's not just that one Angkor Wat temple, the clusters of all the temple in this ancient city will give you a feeling of traveling in adventure within an ancient city. It's so calm and peaceful. You will be enriched by the amazing Cambodian culture and its great and friendly people who always smile despite the country's economics situation.

Definitely the best place to visit. You can find relaxation, adventure, entertainment and cultural enrichment all in this place. Cambodia is a great country to visit and i would never forget my memory there. I will definitely visit this country and definitely Angkor Wat again.

1 Reply

On behalf of Khmer people, I am so glad to hear that you love Cambodia. Yeah, we are not in good economic condition, but giving people smile is a part of our tradition. You know, you are a part of helping Cambodian when you come to tour in Cambodia. Thank you. :D

Experience of a lifetime

Visit this place once in your life. The experience is something you will not regret. Video and photos do no justice of this great monument. The aura and atmosphere is so mystical.

Grand Canyon

Have been over the Canyon in a helicopter, only had to have it cut short due to a snow storm. Now thats is a wonder

1 Reply

That sounds AMAZING! Did you take photos?

nothing like it

whizzing through the cambodian countryside on the back of an ojek nothing will prepare you for the wonder of angor wat as it comes into view. climbing the steep steps to the top as the sun rises and seeing the jungle stretch out in front of you while huge dragonflies go about their day is a truely magical experience.

seeing the bullet holes in the pillars on the east side and imagining being held up in there, surrounded by the kymer rouge again is a moving experience.

i seen the pyramids, borobodour, prambanan, hampi and even bagan and nothing comes close to the breathtaking wonder that is angkor wat.

get there as early as possible to avoid the coaches, best bet is to be waiting at the gates when they open, and spend some time just sitting and contemplating...

1 Reply

Great story. Thanks!

Amazing!

As I say this place is amazing, iv been twice and cant wait to go back again! If I could give any advice I would definately see the sunrise if you can, its a sight I'll remember forever! If you can, try to avoid the crowds when exploring, it gives you a better experience to take advantage of the intricate detail of some of the engravings and also take the opportunity to stand back and take it in from a distance, spend a few moments sipping that much needed water and take in the true brilliance of what you are looking at! Although this is the largest temple, there are many more less popular ones (as they aren't as big) but equally impressive temples, get the 3 day pass and take advantage of being at this spectacular place! Enjoy!

Fascinating place, i'm from Indonesia, and in my country, we also have temples like angkor wat, but this one is different. It's a real mystique place, very sacred, place of tranquillity. It's a mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism. Simply beautiful, and it's the place you have to seen in your life. Similar temples in Southeast Asia are :

1. Prambanan (Indonesia)

2. Borobudur (Indonesia)

3. Wat Arun (Thailand)

1 Reply

Angkor Wat is the biggest Hindu Temple, and Borobudur is the biggest Buddhist Temple, both are great, but Borobudur is older and Angkor Wat. Wat Arun is the structure of 19th century. I come from Cambodia, and I have been to Yogyakarta too.

What a wonderful and majestic place where, if you can avoid the hourds of tourist arriving by the bus load, you can feel the history and let your imagination run riot. I have been back twice and intend to visit again this year. It is certainly a place you must visit if you are travelling in South East Asia..

The temples in Angkor Wat are majestic,fascinating and their beauty is unimaginable and uncomparable to any other. one just has to go there. The complex of temples is huge and it is advisable to visit over more than one day and not in the monsoon season.The best times for asia are between november to february. the town base is Siem Reap, the people are friendly and welcoming. One noticeable feature is the stark contrast between the complex of temples at angkor Wat and the common livelihood of cambodians in Siem Reap.

Angkor Wat was a dream come true, my first impulse long wanted vacations on southeast asia in 2006. My cambodja guide was amazing, the Angkor complexes, canal sistems, pools/lakes, the trees hanging out and from above ruins, the peacefullness of the monks, great food, awesome accomodations, lovely people... and please go shopping at the Angkor Artisans (besides great craft you are helping a great sustainable social project for people in need by buying what they got trained to)... even the mosquitos were giving me a rest!... The best pictures and time ever! Just loved and will come back for deepening into the jungle nad ballooning!

Visiting Angkor Wat in Siemreap, Cambodia was amazing and jawdropping experience. I went there four times and I always find new things to marvelous and enrich my sense of admiration and appreciation for the art work and architecture designed that is out of this world. Go see Angkor Wat today and you will enjoy every minute of it!

Weather in July

I am looking to book a trip in the middle of July next year and have been told that it is rainy season by some and by others that you just miss it.

Has anyone been in July?

Many thanks

2 Replies

Hello Shelly,

How are you doing? Regarding your inquiry. They are correct, July is still in the middle our rainy season.. If you don't like the rain, not everyday though, you could replan to October or so...

Meang from Prohm Roth Guesthouse

If you cannot wait until the October, you can go to the late of August, it is period of a two week dry season during the raining season in Cambodia; experience the life in Cambodia during the rainy season is also a very good time too, green and farmer are on the field

AHHH angkor wat. A trip but to really see it in its full spendor go at night. For a mere $15 you can feel what it is like with out the crowds and also enjoy the feeling of walking with the old ones.

One of the best experiences i have had in Asia.

1 Reply

Sounds fantastic. Did you have to stay with your tour group all the time? And was it a big group?

The Main Temple of Angkor Wat

Located in Cambodia this majestic complex consists of hundreds of temples covering 500 acres of land. Mother nature has done her work well reclaiming the land once ruled by the Khmer Empire. The jungle had almost swallowed up the temples of Angkor, until great efforts were made in restoration. In recent years many temples have been restored to their original grandeur. The Main Temple of Angkor Wat is well preserved and a breathtaking sight. Its five main towers jut into the air as high as 66 meters (215 ft) from its 1.6 km (1 mile) long base.You can witness the strength of nature by visiting the temple of Ta Prom. Left in its original state, vines and roots twist through the complex breaking apart solid rock as trees rise through its roof far into the air. Not to be missed is Angkor Tom. Imposing statues of 54 Gods and 54 Demons line the causeway leading up to the temple.

Do I need to buy a ticket to see Angkor wat?

Somebody told me that I need to buy a ticket to get into the Angkor Wat complex and that it is quite expensive. Is that right? How long do you think you need to see it all?

4 Replies

It is not expensive at all. $20 US...I think you would need more than one day, but one days is sufficient to see the highlights.

Hi there... Yes you need to buy a ticket. Tickets are around $20 for 1 day, $40 for 3 days and $60 for a week. So it makes best value to get the week ticket!

As for how long you need, I am not sure...

It really depends, as Al James posted before me, how long *you* think you'd want to spend there and how you plan on getting about. You can rent bikes, but the entire Angkor complex -- not just Angkor Wat -- is HUGE. You might prefer to work with a local travel agent and hire a car, driver & guide. It's a great value for the price, and you can get around the tourist scrum by taking an alternate route.

I visited in early 2008, and in retrospect, I would have liked to spend more time there than 3 days, but that's just me. We did see all of the key sites (Angkor Tom, the Bayon, Pre Rup, Ta Keo, etc) but I would have loved to have had more time to venture out further afield to some less visited archeological sites.

One more thing if you go, visit the new museum in Siem Reap. It's a great primer of Khmer history and puts many of the sites in historical perspective. Wish I'd done that first, not at the end of my visit.

Yes you need a ticket. I was there back in Jan. Price change $60 for three day pass. Well worth it. I took 2hrs going through Angkor Wat itself,but could have taken longer. The others an hour or so.Wonderful place. Watch out for those kids that swarm you wanting you to buy things. Had to buy an extra bag for all the "stuff", must have bought every book they had,lol! I had a wonderful driver Wana who took great care of me when I was there. Just wonderful people! If you get a chance take a boat ride on the lake,great time.

The Angkor-Wat Bas-Reliefs

Angkor in Cambodia is home to one of the most unusual and impressive temples in the world; built in the early 1100s under the instruction of the Khmer king Suryavarman, it is surrounded by a huge, square moat and contains a maze of corridors, courtyards and chambers, over which many-levelled towers loom, in representation of Mount Meru, home of the Hindu gods. Aside from its singular architecture, it is also world-renowned for the bas-relief sculptures it contains. Once richly gilded, they depict legendary battles between Hindu gods and their enemies, plus a large number of minor Hindu guardian deities, or 'devatas', which seem to proceed anti-clockwise around the inner walls. This contributes to the theory that Angkor Wat was designed as a venue for the king's death rites, since it faces west rather than the more commonly chosen east.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the largest temple in the world, and shows off the mastery of Khmer architecture. History, architecture and faith combine to display the peak of a great ancient civilisation. It is the biggest tourist attraction in Cambodia, and one of its most noteworthy structures is the Temple, the stone decorated with carving of extraordinarily beautiful detail, especially the sculptures of dancing females. Angkor Wat sits looking west on a sandstone plinth a meter above the ground, embellished with naga balustrades and imposing lotus-shaped towers. All the carvings represent a different aspect of Cambodia philosophy, spirituality, mythology, custom and lifestyle.

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