If you’re visiting Cambodia, the Angkor Wat temples are a must-visit. An even more unforgettable experience is seeing the Angkor Wat sunrise that everyone makes the journey for.
Angkor Wat is a complex of temples in Siem Reap, the second-largest city in Cambodia. The temple complex is the biggest religious monument in the world and was established sometime around the start of the 12th century.
The temples have received worldwide recognition for their stature and beauty, and if you’re visiting Cambodia, it goes without question to get Angkor Wat on your bucket list.
Furthermore, the Angkor Wat sunrise is an incredible site to see. So, here’s our guide on the best way to experience the temples and witness the spectacular sunrise at the right time.
The history of Angkor Wat – a rich history
Angkor Wat holds great historical importance in Cambodia. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th century, somewhere between 1110 and 1150. The complex took around 30 years to build.
It served as a monument to the powerful king at the time, as well as his tomb. The temple, which is dedicated to Vishnu, covers over a square mile in area.
By the 15th century, the Khmer Empire had collapsed, but the reason for why has long remained a mystery. However, historians reckon that devastating droughts between the 14th and 15th centuries played a huge part.
Angkor Wat was never truly abandoned, though, as it remained an important monument amongst Buddhists well into the 18th century.
Our guide to Angkor Wat – the best way to experience Angkor Wat
So, if you’re planning on taking a trip to Angkor Wat, here’s what we recommend doing. To access everything in Angkor Park, you need to buy the Angkor pass. A one-day pass is $37, while a three-day pass is $62, and a seven-day pass is $72.
Now, we recommend getting the three-day pass, as in our opinion, three days is more than enough time to cover everything you need to see, and here’s why.
Cambodia is a hot country year-round, so the best time to visit the Angkor Wat temples is in the morning or very late afternoon when the sun is not as high in the sky.
The temples are very exposed, providing little to no respite from the sun while you walk around, which can be extremely tiring. It’s important to remember to stay hydrated during your visit.
Furthermore, you should hire a local guide who will pick you up from your hotel in the morning, bring you to wherever you want to go throughout the day, and take you back to your hotel when you decide you are finished for the day.
You will pay your guide, who will also drive you around in a Tuk Tuk, but be sure to leave a tip at the end of each day, too. If you ask around, you’ll find out which rate is the norm, as you don’t want to get ripped off.
Many local Tuk-Tuk drivers will approach you offering to be your guide, so look into daily rates beforehand to ensure you get a fair and reasonable rate for both yourself and your guide.
Angkor Wat sunrise – a magical experience
Once you have your daily entrance ticket, you will be able to enter the temples and ruins at all times during opening hours.
You must inform your guide and driver days in advance if you choose to visit Angkor Wat for sunrise, as it is a very early morning start.
As such, we recommend arriving at the main temple at 5 am to ensure you secure a decent spot to watch the beautiful sunrise. Be warned; it will be very busy as many will flock there first thing in the morning to see the spectacle.
Something to note is that there will be many locals walking around selling coffee and snacks to get you through the early start.
There will be many different spots to watch the sunrise, one of which is the bridge in front of the temple. This is an ideal spot for photos, but it will be very hard to capture a picture without lots of people in it.
A large pool of water sits in front of the temple itself, and at sunrise, the stunning temple is reflected in the pool.
The pool on the left is the number one spot for sunrise, but once you’ve got the photos and the views you desire, we recommend delving into the temple itself for a look around.
Fun facts about Angkor Wat:
- Angkor Wat features in the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie.
- The Angkor Wat temple features on the flag of Cambodia, and it’s the only flag in the world with a building on it.
- Angkor Wat means ‘City of Temples’ in the Khmer language.
- The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest religious monument in the world.
Other notable mentions
Angkor Thom: This was the last and most enduring city of the Khmer Empire. It’s famous for the monuments depicting smiling faces.
Srah Srang: Sra Srang is included in your Angkor pass and is one of the most special sites you will see on your trip.
Phnom Bakheng: Another beautiful spot to watch the sunrise or sunset in the region of Siem Reap.
FAQs about the Angkor Wat sunrise
Is sunrise or sunset at Angkor Wat better?
Angkor Wat sunset is equally as beautiful as the Angkor Wat sunrise, and if you have time to see both, you should!
Is it worth seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat?
Absolutely. This will be one sunrise experience you certainly won’t forget.
Where is the best place to catch the sunrise over Angkor Wat?
We recommend watching the sunrise from the bridge or the reflection pool on the left if you are facing Angkor Wat. Here, you will see the best sight of the Angkor sunrise.
For more on travelling Southeast Asia, check out our guide on the best backpacking Asia routes.