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How to Spend 1 Day in Angkor Wat

How to Spend 1 Day in Angkor Wat

The towering spires of the Angkor Wat temple complex, epicenter of the medieval Khmer empire and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are southeast Asia’s most spectacular historical sight. Yet Khmer remains extend beyond Angkor Wat. With one day in the Angkor area, you can bag the big three: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm. Here’s how.

Morning: Angkor Sunrise

Beat the lines by arranging your 1-day pass for the Angkor Archaeological Park in advance. (Most tours exclude entrance fees as passes cover multiple sites and can span one day, three days, or seven days.) Then savor one of the all-time great sights of the Angkor area: sunrise over Angkor Wat. Once you’ve captured your shots, enjoy an early breakfast near the site, then head to Ta Prohm, known as the Tomb Raider temple, soon after opening to beat the crowds. The spectacle of vast tree roots slowly consuming the cloisters of this 12th-century monastery makes for a real Indiana Jones moment.

Afternoon: A Tale of Two Angkors

Next on your agenda should be Angkor Thom (Great City), a majestic city spanning 4 square miles (10 square kilometers). Whether you’re traveling by tuk-tuk, bicycle, on the back of a motorbike, or in the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle, look for a tour that includes, at a minimum, Bayon Temple, the Terrace of the Elephants, and the Terrace of the Leper King. Return to Angkor Wat to explore the temple complex in more detail. A good guide can help interpret the bas-relief sculptures, explain how the site represents Hindu cosmology, and outline how King Suryavarman II built it.

Night: Sunset and Social Conscience

With only a day in Angkor, it’s worth taking in the views at sunset as well as sunrise. Hike up Phnom Bakheng hill to the temple that bears its name and savor sweeping vistas across Angkor Wat—or watch the sunset from atop Pre Rup temple. Head into Siem Reap for dinner at one of the city’s socially conscious restaurants. Marum is part of the TREE Alliance, which helps train young and underprivileged Cambodians for careers in hospitality. Wrap up the night with two classic Siem Reap experiences: a pedicure from “doctor fish,” which nibble away dry skin, and a trawl through riotous Pub Street.

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