Angkor Thom Temples

Great Angkor or Great City

The Angkor Thom complex has an area that is much larger than the Angkor Wat complex. But unlike Angkor Wat,  it houses several 'smaller' temples instead of just one.

This ancient city complex literally translates to "Great Angkor" or "Great City", and it certainly lives up to its name (Angkor = great, Thom = city).

It's a huge temple complex with 5 elaborate entrance gates (gopuras). On each side, there are 54 demon statues (on the left) and 54 god statues (on the right). The demons and gods are all pulling a serpent, so it's similar to the bas relief scene at Angkor Wat's gallery

The complex also has a moat surrounding its outer walls; it's 100 meters wide, and 12 km long. Here, the moats aren't as full as Angkor Wat. In some sections, only a small amount of water remains. In the dry season, you can sometimes see cows grazing, kids playing, or even residents farming. Right there on the moat.

There are people who actually live within the gates of Angkor Thom
, and most of them are probably the descendants of the ancient Khmer people. There are also several Wats (Buddhist temples) inside, two of them are just across from the Bayon temple. These are active Wats, and you'll often see monks, people visiting the Wats, and maybe even some religious ceremonies.

Temples within the gates of Angkor Thom

The temples within Angkor Thom are probably some of the most interesting ones to visit. They're rather easy to visit also, because most of them are located in the center and built close to one another. It's amazing to see so many temples within a 'small' area, and most of them are a must-see too!


Bayon temple is located exactly at the center of Angkor Thom. Bayon is right up with Angkor Wat in terms of must-see and popularity.

It has a unique architecture of 214 smiling faces on the towers, and of course the bas relief carvings on its outer walls are also very interesting. 

Angkor Thom - Bayon Temple
Bayon Temple with its 4-faced towers


This three-tiered pyramid temple is currently undergoing restoration. 

However, it has been said many times that when this temple was in prime condition, it must've been one of the greatest temples of Angkor due to its sheer size. 

Angkor Thom - Baphuon
Baphuon with the top almost gone


Phimeanakas is a three-tiered pyramid temple within the Royal Palace enclosure. It is surrounded by walls five meters high, which are largely still intact and standing.

There are pools right behind the temple, and the ancient royals originally used them for ritual washing. 

Angkor Thom - Phimeanakas
Phimeanakas temple

The Elephant Terrace

You guessed it, lots of stone elephants. They're either carved on the walls of the terrace, or as statues on both sides of the stairs.

Make sure you get down from the actual Elephant Terrace to enjoy the many elephants carved on the walls.

Angkor Thom - Terrace of the Elephants
Elephant carvings all around the temple

Terrace of the Leper King

This is actually a misnamed terrace.

The "King" is actually Yama the God of Destruction, and the leprosy isn't real. It's moss growing on the statues, causing discoloration on the stones. 

The Terrace of the Leper King is also the place for enjoying great bas-relief carvings.

Angkor Thom - Terrace of Leper King
Carvings at the Terrace of the Leper King

Prasat Suor Prat

This "Temple of the Rope Dancers" with its 12 towers is very picturesque. 

With all of them lined neatly in a row, 6 on the left, and 6 on the right, one imagines that it would make a great picture. Sadly it's hard to get all of the Prasat Suor Prat in one shot. 

Angkor Thom - Prasat Suor Prat
Prasat Suor Prat tower

North Khleang and South Khleang

The Khleangs are two similar buildings behind the Prasat Suor Prat towers.

They could've been royal palaces, but they look too small to have been so. The North Khleang was built first, and the South followed later. 

Angkor Thom - The Khleangs
Inside the North Khleang

Preah Pithu

The Preah Pithu group doesn't receive much attention, but this small cluster of temples is a delight! Five Buddhist and Hindu temples, and a terrace, all located very closely to one another. 

It sure does give a whole new meaning to the phrase Angkor Archeological Park. 

Preah Pithu temple group
5 temples hidden in the jungle

Preah Palilay

A small temple, more like a shrine, with an unusual four-sided cone shape.



Angkor Thom - Preah Palilay
Preah Palilay shrine

Tep Pranam

A cruciform Buddhist terrace, which was once the base of a pagoda.



Angkor Thom - Tep Pranam
Praying items at the base of
the Buddha statue. Photo by Mike

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What Transportation To Use
To Get To the Angkor Thom Temples?

Since Angkor Thom is near Angkor Wat, there should be no problem getting around the complex. Your usual transportation choices apply, choices such as bicycle, moto-bike, tuktuk, car, or van. 

You can also go on an an elephant ride at this old Angkor City, either at Bayon in the morning or at Phnom Bakheng during the sunset.

In the 1860s, when Angkor was first rediscovered, elephants were the original mode of transportation for Angkor visitors. So if you want to do it old style, ask the elephants to take you around some of these Angkor temples! Click here to read more about temple transportation choices.

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Return to The Angkor Temples, for a brief overview of all the temples within the park.

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