One of the most spectacular places on the planet, Angkor is home to a plethora of ancient temples from the Khmer Empire. Lasting for a period of around 500 years from the 9th Century up until its collapse in 1431, the Khmer Empire was an immense power in Southeast Asia. Angkor, the capital is its most enduring physical legacy, boasting some of the most spectacular ruins in the world.
The world’s largest religious monument, Angkor Wat is the city’s crown jewel and easily Cambodia’s most recognisable site. Initially a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu, Angkor Wat was transformed into a Buddhist temple soon after its construction at the beginning of the 12th Century on the orders of King Syryavarman II. The definitive relic of the Khmer Empire and Cambodia’s most significant national symbol, Angkor Wat is often described as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is the only temple complex which remains in use during religious events.
Built shortly after Angkor Wat, Bayon reaches similar heights of magnificence. Known for its Buddhist symbology, Bayon is a notoriously bizarre ruin. The state temple of Jayaarman VII, one of the most interesting figures in Cambodian history, Bayon may not quite be as striking or as well-preserved as Angkor Wat, but it is rightfully praised for its distinct and audacious design.
For those looking for a more off-the-beaten track experience, Being Mealea ticks the right boxes. More remote than Angkor Wat, Being Mealea is a temple of mysterious origins and vast size. Surrounded by dense jungle, the temple has been damaged significantly by the ravages of time. However, this provides the ruins with a distinct character which sets it apart from the many other temples in Angkor.
One of the eldest temples in Angkor, Koh Ker is a major Hindu ruin known for its difficult accessibility. A 75 mile drive from Angkor, the complex is one of the most spectacular in all of Cambodia. For those looking for a rugged journey far from the crowds of Angkor Wat, this is a profound place to visit. There are currently few visitors’ facilities, although more are being built.
Known now as a major filming location in the major Hollywood film ‘Tomb Raider’, Ta Prohm is one of Angkor’s smaller temples but one of its most popular. Overgrown with a large tree sprouting from its ruins, Ta Prohm dates back to the reign of Jayavarman VII and was built in the late 12th Century.