Ankor Wat is only one of many temples in Siem Reap, but certainly the most famous temple in an area plastered with religious buildings. A visit to Cambodia is often seen synonymous with a visit to the largest religious building in the world! But there are a lot more other temples in and around Siem Reap than Ankor Wat!
We stayed in Siem Reap twice, in July 2008 and in December 2014, each time for one week. And both times we had the feeling it was barely enough! The following activities were our personal Highlights, some extremely touristy, others completely Off The Beaten Track. We present them like an itinerary, as the order of the visits really improved the experience between the two visits:
- The “Grand Tour Circuit” is the best way to get a first glimpse of the glorious Angkor culture: Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdei, Sras Srang, Pre Rup, Ta Som, Preah Khan.
- The Small Circuit Tour, the climax of the visit in Siem Reap and probably in Cambodia, is best done on the second day, as you already sampled first impressions and will now be able to fully appreciate the sheer size and magnificence of those places: Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm (Seven years ago Ta Prohm was a kind of mystic Jungle Temple, it is now overrun by large tour groups, and the jungle has been completely removed during restoration works), and last but not least Angkor Thom.
- A visit to the outer temples will give you a better understanding of the history of the Angkor culture on the third day: pre-Angkor Roluos Temples, surprising Kbal Spean and last but not least the most refined Banteay Srei
- If your budget allows it, a visit of the remote temples will top it all on the forth day: remote Koh Ker (say Ko Kaye) will leave you in awe, and give you what you have been dreaming of the 3 first days: sumptuous temples for just yourself, with only the sound of the surrounding jungle all around you! And with Beng Mealea, you will finally have the opportunity to see a Jungle Temple, such a different experience!
- Also consider seeing Angkor from Above, on a Balloon to change your perspective on Angkor Wat (such a lovely bird’s eye view) or an Ultra-Light flight with Aero Cambodia for an adrenaline-fed experience of the landscape and the more remote temples.
- It is not only about temples. There is also close by the Tonle-Sap… Kompong Pluk Flooded Forest is definitely worth a visit! Go there early morning, but plan a half day and a rough ride!
- You should in between plan a day off, to avoid a “temple overdose”. How about a cooking class at Cambodian Cooking Class? It was a delightful experience and a welcome change!
- And of course, the party crowd will find the most extensive possibilities to drink or dance the night away around Pub Street…
- About Photography? You should do a second trip to Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat for the perfect light, for the perfect picture… Plan half a day (afternoon is best) or even a full day, as there is so much to see!
Undoubtedly, staying for one week at one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions can be an expensive undertaking. But there are ways to cut costs… Begin so by staying in very pleasant, good hostels (some with swimming pool, yes!). Considering that transport will be the major cost of your stay, renting a motorbike will give you the flexibility you need, and reduce your expenses tremendously! Most likely you will rent a 125 cc semi-automatic scooter, to drive it doesn’t need much experience nor of a driving license.