Must-See Temples at Angkor Wat

Angkor, one of the most important archeological sites in Asia if not the entire world, covers a forested area of Cambodia of more than 249 square miles (400 square kilometers). Dating back to the ninth century, the palaces and temples of Angkor Archeological Park served as capitals of the ancient Khmer empire for six centuries. Angkor Wat may be the most famous temple complex of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s certainly not the only one.

Angkor Wat, located just north of Siem Reap, is one of the largest Khmer ruins in the region and the most recognizable landmark in Cambodia. Built by King Suryavarman II in the early 1100s, this Hindu temple was dedicated to Vishnu. Most visitors choose to come here either at sunrise or sunset when the light is at its most atmospheric.

After Angkor Wat, the temples of Angkor Thom are the most famous and most visited. It is here you’ll find the 216 enigmatic stone faces of Bayon, a Buddhist temple dating back to the late twelfth century, as well as Baphuon, one of the largest Angkor monuments just to the Northwest.  Angkor Thom means “Great City,” and the population was believed to have topped one million people. This grand scale is evidenced in some of the city’s other ruins, including the Elephant Terrace and Terrace of the Leper King.

A bit further afield from Siem Reap sits the three temples of the Rolous Group. Preah Ko, the oldest of the three, dates back to the ninth century, but all three temples predate the other main temples of Angkor. If you have the time, a visit to these temples helps piece together an architectural timeline of the Khmer style.

One of the best known stand-alone temples of Angkor, Ta Prohm, has been overtaken by strangler figs since it was abandoned centuries ago. The strange combination of man-made architecture and nature have made it one of the most popular stops in the park, especially since its appearance in the 2001 film Tomb Raider.
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