So vast and extraordinary is Angkor Wat that it not only deserves its own section, but an entire dedicated guide. Here’s just a quick introduction…
Siem Reap is the perfect jumping off point for exploring Cambodia’s biggest lure – Angkor Wat. The 163-hectacre ancient site lies 20 minutes by tuk tuk from the city centre.
Arrange for a driver to pick you up from your hotel in the early hours of the morning, so you can be at the iconic temple in time for sunrise.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be the only one up early, because you most certainly won’t be. But watching the sky slowly turn a pinky orange, and the shadow of Angkor creeping across the water in front of it, being pulled into focus as the sun rises higher, is a sight you won’t want to miss, despite having to share it with the crowds.
Head to the ticket office to choose your options, which include a day pass, a three-day pass or a week-long ticket.
One day certainly won’t be enough time to explore the site, and while three days means you’ll have time to cover a lot of the sites, a week ticket is worth it if you want to see some of the lesser-known (and further afield) temples in more detail.
The next thing to consider is how you will explore the temples. Most people opt for a guide to drive them from temple to temple, which saves time, means you won’t get lost in the vast site and affords the luxury of an expert on hand, who can provide you with information about each temple.
Exploring the site alone, however, gives you more freedom, and you can spend as little or as much time as you want exploring the intricacies of each building.
Hire a bicycle to pedal Angkor Wat in order to see more sites. Cycling the back route and discovering Angkor Wat from the back entrance means you get to marvel at the iconic site in almost complete silence.
Angkor Wat is the main attraction, but there are other sites in the complex that shouldn’t be overlooked. Ta Prohm – the setting for Indiana Jones – is great for exploration.
The ancient stone walls are speckled in moss, and the chunky gnarled roots of ancient trees grow over them, like a giant is trying to pick up the temple in its hand.
The Bayon temple will leave you looking up in disbelief at the symmetry, detail, beauty, and sheer scale of the faces carved into the many points at its peak.
Go beyond the main three, if you can. Wander the array of crumbling buildings, and we bet you will find a favourite that you never even knew existed.
Where to stay in Siem Reap?
There’s an extensive range of accommodation all over Siem Reap offering something for all budgets and all personalities.
Cheap guesthouses can be found in Wat Bo Village, across the river from Siem Reap’s main drag, where you can enjoy less crowded and more peaceful evenings.
If you want to stay in Siem Reap's livelier district, choose one of the many cheap, mid-range or luxury hotels situated in the Old Market.
Airport Road is where you'll find the higher-end hotels, but do bear in mind that it’s quite a long walk from the centre and is very touristy.
If the main reason for your stay is to visit Angkor Wat, choose one of the many grand hotels that line the street leading up to the sacred site.
Siem Reap’s speciality, and something you’ll see on almost every menu is amok. This creamy, coconutty curry is made with white fish or catfish, and is typically rather spicy.
It's presented beautifully, often wrapped up in a banana leaf. And it tastes good, too, with each restaurant adding their own unique twist.
Siem Reap can get uncomfortably hot, so it’s no wonder this refreshing dish is so popular with locals and visitors alike. The fruit is served with a fresh, spicy dressing and works well as a starter or a side dish.
Nom Banh Chok
Each South-East Asian nation has their own signature noodle dish, and Cambodia is no different. Breakfast like a local by ordering a bowl of Nom Banh Chok or Khmer noodles.
The rice noodles are tossed with fresh vegetables and the carefully-made curry that gives the dish its distinct flavour. The noodles are usually topped with slices of pork. It may sound simple, but it's unmissable.