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Angkor Wat in Cambodia:
Unusual & Interesting Travel Destinations #5


What is now Cambodia's greatest tourist attraction, the Angkor temples, was once spoken of only by Cambodian peasants, who regarded the magnificent structures as temples built by gods or giants. It wasn't until 1860, when French explorer Henri Mahout "discovered" the temples, that the rest of the world accepted them as fact, not legend.

Angkor Wat temple

Angkor Wat, the grandest temple of the Angkor temples, is surrounded by a moat that's 570 feet wide.

The temples of Angkor were built by the Khmer civilization sometime between 802 and 1220 AD. With over 100 stone temples in all, along with wooden palaces, houses and public buildings that no longer exist, the area was a magnificent religious, social and business metropolis, so grand that about 1 million people are thought to have resided there in ancient times.

The architectural achievements of the Angkor temples rival those of the Egyptian pyramids. They occupy a 40-mile area around the village of Siem Reap, about 200 miles from Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.

Ranging from single towers to sprawling complexes, the temples were built not only to honor the kings and deities of the time, but also as calendrical, historical and cosmological themes. Angkor Wat, for instance, has solar alignments with a nearby mountaintop shrine.

Angkor Wat and Other Sites to See

Angkor Wat is the most well-known and grandest of the temples (it's also the most recognizable; it's featured on Cambodian bank notes and also on the national flag). The massive pyramid temple was built to honor the Hindu god Vishnu, and is surrounded by a moat that's 570 feet wide and four miles long. It's also known for its bas-relief carvings.

Other temples to see are the Bayon temple, which has over 200 faces of King Jayavarman VII carved into its walls, and Ta Prohm, a temple that's surrounded by jungle and has been intentionally left unrestored to preserve its authenticity (this temple was also used to film a scene in the movie "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider").

Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm Temple is surrounded by jungle and has not been restored, giving visitors a glimpse back in time.

Getting to the Angkor Temples

Singapore Air flies into Siem Reap (expect about a 22-hour trip), and from there you can travel by tuk-tuk (a motorized rickshaw), by rental car or by limousine. Today, the Angkor temples have been designated a World Heritage site, and tourism in the region has been on the rise since the site opened in 1993.

Cambodian tourists topped 1 million in 2004 for the first time, and well surpassed 1 million in 2005 and continued to increase each year since, according to the Ministry of Tourism. So if you're looking to travel to the Angkor temples before they're turned into a more commercialized tourist area (already, luxury hotels are popping up all over Siem Reap), experts say to plan your travel soon.

One other expert tip: to avoid the tour crowds at Angkor Wat and the other temples, hire a local Cambodian guide to take you through the temples (they know when and where to go to avoid the rush).

For more travel information, visit:

Recommended Reading

How to Travel Abroad Safely: Six Important Tips You Need to Know in an Emergency

Save Big on Airfare: 8 Top Tips to Reduce the Cost of Your Airline Tickets


The New York Times: Why is Everybody Going to Cambodia?

NASA: Ancient Observatories October 15, 2006

Angkor Wat

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