How to do Angkor?
The Temples of Angkor are the highlight of any trip to Cambodia and some planning is a good idea to make the most of any visit to Angkor.
Tip 1: Visit Angkor in Low Season
During high season, Angkor can get very crowded, particularly around the main temple complexes. Over 2 million people a year now visit the Angkor temple complexes.
November to March is normally considered to be the best time of year to visit Angkor, but travel to Angkor during the monsoon season has a few advantages, namely cheaper prices, fewer people and more water filling the lakes and ponds around the temples.
April and May see temperatures and humidity levels at their highest, but from June the humidity dials down again. Be prepared to lose a lot of moisture if you’re visiting Angkor between April and June.
Don’t be put off by the ‘monsoon’ – generally rain happens in short sharp bursts, usually late in the afternoon – it’s very rare for days to be totally washed out.
With more water in the ponds and surrounding the temples and with the odd dramatic cloudscape, this is also a great time of year for photography.
For more detailed information on the climate in Siem Reap, see our Climate Guide for The Best Time to Visit Angkor.
If you're visiting Angkor Wat in the rainy season, bear in mind that temple steps can become slippery, so take decent footwear.
Remember also that although it may be 'low season' at Angkor, many other parts of South East Asia may be experiencing the perfect time of year to visit.
Our 13 nights Luxury Angkor & Vietnam Holiday is a great example.
Tip 2: Plan Your Days
All of our Angkor excursions are undertaken with planning in mind to avoid the busiest times of day.
An early start is a great time to see Angkor – sunrise over the temples is one of the most spectacular sights in Asia, but also a popular one.
Once the sun is up, anyone in a group is likely to be heading back to the hotel for breakfast – making the time just after sunset a great one for exploring the temples.
Likewise, lunchtime sees most groups off for lunch and the temple complexes a bit quieter.
Phnom Bakheng remains a popular spot to admire sunset over Angkor, but popular also means crowded.
Check out this fabulous little website if you want to mull over where to enjoy your Angkor Sunset.
Tip 3: Go Beyond the Angkor Temples
There is far more to the Temples of Angkor than Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and the Bayon. The route around Angkor undertaken by most groups is a fairly standard one and if you’re not careful you may find yourselves trailing around in the heels of the same tour group from temple to temple.
Which is why having your own guide and transport gives you the option to mix things up, choose your temples, do things the opposite way around and avoid getting caught up in everyone else’s footsteps.
The guides we use know the times to avoid and can help to make your days in Angkor that bit more special.
We often suggest including a trip to Tonle Sap Lake whilst in Siem Reap, or to Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary or to one or more of the outlying temples such as Beng Mealea. This helps to break things up a little bit. You could also try being a Khmer for a Day and experience something of daily life in the Cambodian countryside.
You'll find some experiences beyond the Temples of Angkor listed on our Excursions from Siem Reap page.
Tip 4: Don't Rush your Angkor Touring
You could do the Temples of Angkor in a day. Many people do, and then regret it. The Temples of Angkor are spread out over a large area and it’s not a place to rush around. There will be plenty of walking involved in any Tour of Angkor.
We really suggest taking a bit of time – there’s a lot to see and enough variety to keep the interest going over at least two days, but preferably three.
Trying to rush through temple after temple can be a bit fatiguing, especially with early starts, so if you have the time, then try to break up the sightseeing.
Remember too that some of the temples – Angkor Wat itself in particular has steep steps. Footwear with strong grip is a very good idea. Your guide will have bottled water in the car which means you won’t have to lug water around with you all day.
Many of the Boutique Hotels in Siem Reap we use have spas and if not, there are some great places to try in Siem Reap. A hotel with a pool is also a good idea for a welcome cool-off in the afternoon.
A visit to the National Museum in Siem Reap is a worthwhile excursion and Khmer Cooking Classes are becoming increasingly popular.
Tip 5: What to Wear visiting Angkor
As mentioned – take decent footwear. Flip flops aren’t great – there’s a lot of uneven ground, steep steps and potential for slips.
You’re going to need sunglasses and a hat too despite many of the temples being shaded. Take a lightweight rain jacket (or umbrella) just in case but even in the ‘cooler’ months, lightweight trousers or a long skirt and t-shirt will be all that are required.
An umbrella can be a useful dual-purpose item when Touring Angkor – keeping off both rain and sun.
Remember that the temples at Angkor are very sacred to many Cambodians, even nowadays, so dressing modestly is in order, which means no bare shoulders.
Tip 6: Visiting Angkor Wat with Kids
Children usually love the temples, especially jungle-clad Ta Phrom (think Tomb Raider) or the huge carved faces of the Bayon. You may find your children’s imaginations are fired for years to come.
Pacing your visit is important when visiting Angkor with children and also bear in mind that some areas of Angkor are off limits to children under 12.
There are plenty of other activities to keep kids fascinated in and around Angkor. You could do the balloon ride above the temples. The balloon is tethered and it’s just a 10-minute ‘flight’ but usually very exciting for the kids.
Other activities around Angkor include horse riding, Khmer cooking classes and ceramic making. Kids tend to love travelling by tuk-tuk around town as well.
Although elephant riding at Angkor might look tempting, bear in mind that the elephants are often poorly treated and it’s one activity at Angkor which is best avoided.
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