Featuring some of the Angkor Archaeological Park’s most impressive temples, the region known as Northern Angkor was lost to the world for several centuries as it is located deep in the middle of an enchanting jungle.
However, this area has now been finally revealed to the world once more and no trip to the area would be complete without taking the time to explore Northern Angkor. The hidden temples poking through the undergrowth here bestow a different appeal to the more commercial attractions farther south.
Exploring Northern Angkor
The main highlight of Northern Angkor for most visitors is Preah Khan, which is one of the most photographed temples in the whole of the Angkor Archaeological Park.
After following a path through the jungle, visitors will meet the gently crumbling East Gate. A large tree has pushed its roots through the red bricks of this mighty structure and this is one place where man and nature truly manage to coexist.
After passing through the East Gate, visitors will want to pause for a moment to appreciate the sheer majesty of Preah Khan and soak up the atmosphere here. The shade provided by large overhanging fig trees lends the temple a mysterious air that is both enchanting and enthralling.
While this is not the best preserved relic in the area, Preah Khan does not lose anything for this and the crumbling brickwork and moss covered walls all add to the temple’s charm.
Built in the second half of the 12th century, Preah Khan has been constructed in the Prasat Bayon art style and is dedicated to the father of King Jayavarman VII. Four enormous causeways lead the way to the temple, and each is flanked by the figures of gods and demons, many of which bear snakes to demonstrate that this is a Buddhist temple.
Take your time to fully explore Preah Khan as the labyrinth of halls, pavilions and chapels found here hold a number of surprises. While many of the largest and most magnificent statues have long since been removed by temple raiders, there are still a large number to be found tucked away in various nooks and crannies.
Before leaving this enchanting temple complex, visitors will want to take a stroll to the south of the Central Sanctuary to admire the lush surrounding jungle. Another highlight is the main porch of the entry tower, which is watched over by large guardian figures.
Although Ta Som may not be one of the area’s largest or most imposing temples, it still has a certain charm and many visitors are drawn back here time and again. This small yet perfectly formed Bayon-style monastery complex is adorned with a large collection of statues and carvings. The best time to visit Ta Som is in the early afternoon when the light is just right for photographs.
Ta Som was built in the 12th century during the reign of Jayavarman VII. Once named Gaurasrigajaratna, or ‘Jewel of the Propitious White Elephant’ in the local dialect, Ta Som is famed for its unusual design features, which include a moat running around the inside the outer enclosure, which indicates that the Ta Som complex has been extended several times over the years.
Most visitors to the Angkor Archaeological Park choose to base themselves in the nearby city of Siem Reap, which features a large number of hotels and guesthouses as well as bars and restaurants to relax in at the end of the day. There are also plenty of other places to explore in this rich and varied region of Cambodia. More on Siem Reap.