Cambodia temple guide
This Cambodia Temple guide provides information about the famous Angkor Wat Temple and the other temples located around the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Map of the Angkor Complex
Map of Cambodia
Angkor Wat is the reason why most people come to visit Cambodia. This amazing structure is an ancient religious monument dedicated to the Hindu God – Vishnu. Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II and it was gradually transferred into a Buddhist monument over the following centuries. Today, millions of people come to visit Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples every year.
Ta Prohm was made famous by being the backdrop in the Tomb Raider movie. Originally, Ta Prohm was called Rajavihara and is located about 1km outside of the Ancient city of Angkor Thom. It was built as a Mahayana Buddhist Monastery and University and has been left largely as it was found. The jungle has literally consumer the temple and it makes Ta Prohm one of the most unique temples in the whole of the Angkor Archaeological Park.
Bayon Temple sites in the center of Angkor Thom and served as the official state temple for King Jayavarman VII. At a later date, the temple was changed to be a Hindu temple and subsequently a Theravada Buddhist temple. This gives Bayon a very unique feel with references to all three religions. The most distinctive feature of the temple are the many faces which adorn the towers and the impressive bas-reliefs.
Pre Rup temple was the state temple for King Rajendravarman. The name translates into English as “turn the body” and it’s thought that funerals were conducted at this temple. In Khmer culture, the ashes are rotated during the funeral service. Pre Rup is an early example of Khmer architecture and was built during the mid-10th century. This square pyramid rises in tiers with five towers at the top. Guests can climb to the top of the temple and witness the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Kbal Spean is located near the Kulen Mountain range about 24km from the main temples at Angkor Wat. The site contains many carvings on rocks and in the river bed. These carvings are mostly phallic symbols of the Hindu God Shivia. There are also many other mythological motifs including carvings of Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Hanuman, Rama, and Lakshmi. Moreover, there are carvings of animals dotted around the archaeological site.
Banteay Srei (sometimes “Srey”) is a 10th-century Hindy temple dedicated to Shiva. It’s around 25km away from Angkor Wat and was once part of the ancient capital Yasodharapura. This unique temple was largely built from pink sandstone and due to the intricate carvings it’s believed that this temple was built by women. Hence the name, Banteay Srey or Citadel of the Women.
Koh Ker is a unique temple often overlooked by tourists due to its location. Koh Ker is around 120km from Siem Reap town and it takes a while to get there. But once you’ve seen Koh Ker, you’ll see why the journey is worth it. This unique temple was built in the middle part of the 10th century by King Jayavarman IV and it’s a seven-tiered pyramid style. The style looks very similar to some Inca temples and this has led to speculation of aliens!
Beng Mealea is located around 40km east from Siem Reap on an ancient highway to Preah Khan. It was thought that King Suryavarman II built Beng Mealea, but it’s not known for certain. The temple is indentical to Angkor Wat, but smaller in size. However, Beng Mealea is still one of the largest temples built during the Khmer empire. Also like Angkor Wat, Beng Mealea sits in the center of a town surrounded by a large moat.
Phnom Kulen is considered to be at the heart of the Khmer empire. It was here where the empire started, the quarries provided much of the stone needed for construction of other temples, and King Jayavarman II declared independence from the Java in the early 9th century. You’ll see lots of carvings and stone-reliefs as well as a stunning waterfall, and the largest reclining Buddha in Cambodia.
Preah Vihear Temple is an ancient Hindu temple located on the border with Thailand on top of a 525-meter cliff where we need to transfer to trucks to make it up the steep hill. Preah Vihear was a favourite for many Kings and was subsequently added to at later dates. Preah Vihear is located nearly 140km from Siem Reap, but it’s worth the journey to see one of the most magnificent temples in Cambodia.
Banteay Samre was built in the early 12th century by kings Suryavarman II and Yasovarman II in the early 12th century. Althought a lot smaller, it was built in a similar style to Angkor Wat and contains a central tower with many beautiful carvings. This popular temple is on many of the tours which explore the central temples located nearby Angkor Wat in the park.
Banteay Kdei is known as the “Citadel of Monks’ Cells” in English. This Buddhist temple was built during the 12th and early 13th century and was built in a similar style to Ta Prohm and Preah Khan. Much of the building is destroyed, but there is extensive renovation work to restore the temple to its former glory. Until the 1960s, the temple was occupied by monks.
Preah Khan is a 12th century temple built by King Jayavarmna VII. It’s located to the north of the ancient city Angkor Thom and used to house 100,000 officials and their servants. Like other temples in the park, Preah Khan has also been largely left unrestored and it gives it a unique quality that you don’t find at many of the other temples in the complex.
The Roluos Group of temples are some of the earliest known temples built during the Khmer empire in what was once the capital city called Hariharalaya. The three temples called Bakong, Lolei, and Preak Ko we all built in the 9th century. These stunning temples are located around 15km outside of Siem Reap and are fascinating due to their size in historic importance.
Angkor Thom was one of the ancient capitals of the Khmer empire. It was built by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century. The large city contains many places of interest including Bayon temple in the centre as well as the Royal Palace, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King, and many other fascinating places to visit.
Baphuon is located in Angkor Thom and was built in the middle of the 11th century by King Udayadityavarman II and was dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu god. Around the 15th century, Baphuon changed into a Buddhist temple and a large reclining Buddha was built on the second level. This is a popular temple among visitors to Angkor.
The Terrace of the Elephants is located inside Angkor Thom and was used by the King to welcome home his victorious army. Only a few of the ruins remain as much of the original structure was made from wood and only the stone remains. The terrace is named after the numerous elephant carvings located on the wall.
—Leper King Terrace
The Terrace of the Leper King was built by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century. The sculpture from which the terrace gets its name was built in the 15th century and the original name isn’t known. It’s thought that it might tell the story of king Yasovarman I who has leprosy.
Neak Pean is a Buddhist temple built on a small island in Jayatataka Baray and it was built by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century. It’s believed that the temple represents a fictional lake in the Himalayas. The name means “The Entwined Serpents” in English and it gets the name from the two Naga statues at the base of the structure.
Ta Som temple is small when compared to the larger temples in the Angkor complex. It was also built by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century and it’s located just outside of Angkor Thom nearby Neak Pean. This temple was dedicated to Dharanindravarman II who was the king before Jayavarman VII.
East Mebon was built during the reign of King Rajendravarman and was dedicated to Shiva and his parents. The temple was built a few centuries before Angkor Wat and has a different style. East Mebon contains many religious stories about Indra, Airavata, and Shiva. The elegant carvings are a favourite with most visitors to Angkor.
Ta Keo was the state temple of King Jayavarman V. He built it in a similar style of Pre Rup with five towers. The temple was surrounded by a moat and is a depiction of Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu gods.The temple is quite large and most it still stands today. Ta Keo has aged remarkably well and is fully open to visitors.
Prasat Kravan was built in the 10th century and was dedicated to the Hindu God, Vishnu. The original name of the temple is unknown and the modern name is Prasat Kravan. There are three bas-reliefs to be found at Prasat Kravan and they all feature Vishnu with either four or eight arms.
Chong Kneas is one of the floating villages in Siem Reap province. You can see how the local villagers live their everyday lives on top of the water. You can relax on a boat on top of the Great Tonle Sap Lake.
Kampong Khleang is also another floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake. The Tonle Sap is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Southeast Asia. You can see people’s home, schools, restaurants, and even medical clinics! It’s also a spectacular place to see the sunset.