One of the most famous temples in the whole world, Angkor Wat is the highlight of the Angkor Archaeological Park. The national symbol of Cambodia, Angkor Wat is also one of Southeast Asia’s most popular tourist attractions and people flock here from all over the globe.
Angkor Wat has been built in epic proportions and this enchanting temple took around thirty years to complete. This gigantic structure is 65 metres tall, covering an area of 500 acres and surrounded by a mighty 200-metre wide moat. Visitors reach the temple by traversing a 250-metre long causeway, which allows plenty of time to admire the majesty of the temple as you approach.
Visiting Angkor Wat
Visitors who want to fully appreciate this incredible temple will need to spend at least four hours exploring Angkor Wat, taking time to wander along each and every shadowy corridor and pausing to admire the detailed carved and painted murals that adorn the walls.
Angkor Wat consists of three levels, each is more impressive and sacred than the last. One of the most famous features of the temple is the Gallery of 1,000 Buddhas, lined by a whole host of effigies. Sadly, there are no longer 1,000 statues to be found here as many have long since been removed, although the long corridor, which encircles the ground floor, is still home to an impressive number of Buddha images, many of which have withstood the ravages of time.
Many parts of Angkor Wat serve as enormous picture galleries, and the walls are covered with scenes from epic Hindu texts such as the Ramayana and the Battle of Kurukshetra. All of the artwork here is exceptionally detailed and gives visitors a real feel for the tales that had a large impact on the culture of Cambodia during the Angkor period.
One of the most striking scenes depicts the epic tale of the Judgment of Heaven and Hell. Here, hundreds of demons and gods can be seen engaged in bloody battle, and many of the characters here can be found immortalised in stone in other parts of the Angkor Archaeological park, such as on either side of the long bridge leading up to Angkor Thom.
While each level of Angkor Wat offers numerous delights, the third is the most striking. Originally reserved for use by King Suryavarman II and his High Priest, the third level consists of five towers, which can be reached by climbing an extremely steep set of 480 stone steps. While not for the faint of heart, those who manage to complete this climb will be rewarded by a real sense of achievement and stunning views all the way across the Angkor Archaeological Park.
You can walk all the way around the outer gallery to see the view from every angle. Each surface of the third level is carved with images of the Khmer dancing girls known as apsaras, as well as deities, symbols and images. It is believed that the central space once contained a large alter as well as the belongings of King Suryavarman II.
Many time their trip to Angkor Wat so they will be at the third layer as the sun sets. This is one of the highest points in the Angkor Archaeological Park, and the sunset views here are breathtaking.
Angkor Wat and the rest of the magnificent temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park is located just a short drive from the small touristy city of Siem Reap, which is the ideal place to use as a base while exploring the area. More on Siem Reap.