Angkor mountain temples usually provide breathtaking views of the surroundings, largely because they are located on the top of a hill and often with a clear, 360-degree view.
There are at least 4 such Ankor temples near Siem Reap. All require a bit of an uphill hike but are usually worth it.
Phnom Bakheng, probably the most popular of them all, is one example.
The word Phnom itself, as in Phnom Penh or Phnom Bakheng, means mountain or hill. So Phnom Bakheng is simply Bakheng Hill.
Originally, these temples were built high to symbolize the kings’ relations to the Hindu Gods, especially Shiva. According to legends, Shiva’s own residence is located up in Mt. Meru, so many Angkor kings followed the lead and built their own mountain residences.
As a note, Phnom Bakheng and Phnom Kulen were once capitals of the Ankor kingdom. It shows you how serious they were about these mountain temples.
The Mountain Temples
Who doesn’t know this temple? The popularity is undisputed, so much so that some people don’t even want to go there due to the crowds. But if you have never enjoyed the hike up the hill or joined the frenzy, then you might want to do it at least once, if only to know what the fuss is all about.
The first capital of the Khmer empire. It was a sacred site then and is a sacred site now. Many Cambodians go on pilgrimage to this mountain, but foreigners don’t go here as often, perhaps due to the $20 toll fee. There is a waterfall there which is considered sacred as well.
This temple is often missed, even though it’s near the popular Chong Kneas floating village. The view from the top is breathtaking and you can see the Tonle Sap lake, the people, the houses, and the landscape, all in one go. Ideally, a Phnom Krom visit should be combined with a visit to the floating village.
Probably the least visited mountain temple of all because it is not very well known. The temple is about 27 km from Siem Reap and has a steep, uphill hike. It was once occupied by the Khmer Rouge regime, and there’s still an army post there. The view is spectacular as well, with Phnom Kulen to the North and the Angkor landscape to the South.
How to Get to These Mountain Temples
The easiest one to get to is Phnom Bakheng, being that it is still in the vicinity of Angkorwat.
The temple farthest from Siem Reap is Phnom Kulen (50 km North), followed by Phnom Bok (27 km East), and lastly Phnom Krom (12 km South).
You can pick from the usual transportation choices: moto, tuktuk, or car. Considering that there’s a bit of physical exertion involved, it might be worth it to rent a car. That way you can relax and nap comfortably in the back of the car after a long day of hiking.
Happy hiking at these mountain temples!