Unique Angkor Temple Experiences

Which temples to go for sunset, sunrise,
jungle experience, and more.

You can experience the Angkor temples in many different ways!

For example, visiting Angkor Wat in the morning is much different than visiting in the afternoon. The different lighting seems to make the temples change color, and this is particularly clear during sunrise and sunset.

But visiting at different times is just the beginning of getting a unique temple experience. There are several other ways to get up close and personal to the temples.

Here you'll see some ideas on how you can experience your favorite temple differently. Of course, if you have another way to experience the temples, please share it with us and other visitors!

Sunrise temples
Sunset temples

Change your transportation mode!
Jungle temples

Sunrise temples

If you don't have a problem waking up early during your vacation, then you're in for a big treat. With the air still a bit chilly and much fewer visitors around, you will able to get much needed personal time with the temple of your choice.

Plus, there’s all those great pictures that you’ll be taking. Considering what a great experience a sunrise at a temple is, waking up in the early morning is not a high price to pay at all.

Here are some of the recommended sunrise temples:

Angkor Wat Temple
- Set that alarm clock and get your camera ready. Sunrise at Angkor Wat is where great pictures come from. The best place to get a pretty shot of the temple during sunrise is right in front of the pond. That way you get the temple and its reflection, all in one shot.

Ta Prohm Temple
- The sunrise is not the focus of this temple. The magical atmosphere is. With almost no one around and with the giant trees towering above, it's as if you've journeyed back in time to that ancient Angkorian period. Watching the morning unfold at Ta Prohm is just amazing.

Phnom Bakheng
- With a view of Ankor Wat and the Western Baray from the top, this is another great place to watch a sunrise. Be sure to factor in the 30+ minute hike to the top, that way you can make sure to get up early enough to catch the sunrise.

Srah Srang
- Seeing the sun's reflection in this royal pond could be a great way to start the day. People do not frequent Srah Srang often, so this could provide some time for reflection if you need it.

Srah Srang lake
Srah Srang, man made lake, aka the Royal Pond

East Mebon
- Roughly a thousand years ago, the view from the top of the temple would be of huge bodies of water. Now the East Mebon water reservoir is completely dry. But with views of the rice fields and villages below, you can be sure that a sunrise at the temple top is still beautiful. East Mebon is a bit father than the other Angkorian temples, so be sure to leave early enough to catch the sunrise.

East Mebon temple
East Mebon Temple ruins

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Sunset temples

What better way to end the day than by enjoying the sunset at an Angkorian temple? It's a great way to just relax and cool down after a busy day of visiting temples.

Here are some of the recommended sunset temples:

Angkor Wat temple
- You can spend time waiting for the sunset in many different ways. You can roam around the galleries and see how the Angkor Wat temple bas-relief looks in low light, or see how the sun turns the stones at the second level to a golden color. Then of course there's that sunset shot again, available from the back of the pond.
Phnom Bakheng
- With its prime location, Phnom Bakheng is never in need of visitors. The sunset at Phnom Bakheng is so famous that it would seem that all the visitors go to the temple at sunset. If you don't mind the crowd, do not miss this temple. The view from up there is just spectacular.

Pre Rup
- This temple positively glows during sunset. Plus, the view from the uppermost level is so soothing, with trees that seem to cover the land as far as the eye can see. This temple is becoming a popular sunset temple, but it is nowhere near Phnom Bakheng's level.

Pre Rup temple
Pre Rup temple

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Change your mode of transportation!

You can experience the temples differently just by changing your mode of transportation. By land or by air, by wheels or by animal, it's your choice.

Here are some of the different modes of transportation you could try:

Biking to the temples - Much recommended to those who have a good fitness level. There's nothing like biking through a tree-lined road with views of ancient temples along the way. Click here for tips on biking to Ankor.

Elephant rides at Angkor Thom
- This is how visitors got around in the old days, soon after the temple's 'rediscovery.' You can also get a taste of this old mode of transportation by riding your own elephant in Ankor Thom. Rides starts near the South gate, and then the elephant (and the rider in front) will slowly take you to Bayon. Rides are available throughout the day for $10.

Elephant ride to the top of the Phnom Bakheng hill temple
- Elephant rides to the top are only available during sunset hours. Rides start at the base and go all the way up, so if you don't feel like hiking you can ask the elephants to take you instead. Once at the top, you'll still have to climb up the temple yourself (the elephant can't help you there ). The sunset ride is $15.

Balloon ride over the temples
– Now you can see Angkor Wat from above and get your own aerial photo. And at $15 it won't break your bank. Even though the balloon is tethered to the ground, you’ll rise up to 200 meters and be able to see Angkor-Wat, Angkor Thom, and the Bayon temple. The ride is around 10 minutes long.

Helicopter ride over Angkor Wat
– You can now see the Angkor temples using a helicopter. You can even take it to farther temples like Beng Mealea if your pocket is deep enough. Although a helicopter ride is clearly costly, they do have rides starting from $75 with the ride being only 8 minutes long.

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Jungle temple

There are temple ruins located in the middle of a wild jungle, but not so wild that you can't visit them. The walk required to reach the temple is a unique way to experience the temple and its surroundings. 

Kbal Spean - A 40 minute hike through the Cambodian jungle will take you to a small waterfall and a riverbed carved with 1,000 linggas and several god figures. The hike itself is a great activity, letting you experience Cambodia’s nature in a personal way. I personally think that Kbal Spean is another must-see.

Phnom Kulen – The Kulen mountain is the most sacred site for Cambodians. This is where they go on pilgrimage. It is also one of the very first important sites of the Khmer kingdom. At the top there’s a waterfall that is believed to have healing properties.

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So in short...

There are lots of different ways to experience the Ankor temples, from visiting at sunrise, then again at sunset, and biking through. If anything, there are too many options to choose from!

But rest assured, any of the above activities is sure to be an experience that you’ll remember for a long time to come. If you have tried any of the above activities, please let us know and share your story with other visitors. We would love to know about your experience.

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Where would you like to go next?

Would you like to know how the early Angkor explorers and conservators view the grand complex? Read short excerpts from their book and be transported to the early 1900s!

Excerpt from Henri Mouhot's Book: Travels in Siam, Cambodia and Laos

Excerpt from Henri Marchal's Book: Archeological Guide to Ankor

Excerpt From Norman Lewis' Book: A Dragon Apparent, Travels in Indochine

Excerpt from George Groslier's Book: Ankor

Excerpt from Mona Gardner's Book: The Menacing Sun

Excerpt from H.W. Ponder's Book: Cambodian Glory

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