How long should you spend at Angkor Wat?

Just how long does it take explore an archaeological park the size of Vienna? It can be tempting to think that a quick one to two day visit will be plenty of time to scoot between temples on a tuk tuk – and you can do it that way, if you’re happy to be out in the heat of the midday sun, elbow to elbow with other tourists. The more time you have however, the more opportunity you have to escape the crowds, to explore quieter, more remote temples and to appreciate the finer details of each temple’s architectural quirks. And not only will you have a less frustrating visit, but you’ll be spreading the load. Visiting outside peak times helps to ease the pressure on a world heritage site that is getting busier and busier, and is starting to crumble under the millions of feet that climb its steps and wander its pathways each year.

Lesley Schofield from our Southeast Asia experts, All Points East:
“The chances are this may be your only visit to one of the world’s greatest wonders and you do need help to get it right.”

Visiting Angkor Wat in one day?

Many small group tours will include just one or two days in Angkor as part of a longer itinerary through Cambodia or wider Southeast Asia. You’ll certainly see the main sights – sunrise over Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the Bayon, Ta Prohm, perhaps sunset over Phnom Bakheng – but expect little down-time between temples and busy crowds as you won’t have the option to avoid peak times.
However the coach trips are predictable in their movements and there are still ways of seeing the main temples in a quieter way. Your local guide will be able to suggest alternative routes around the main complexes, side or back entrances that usher you away from the selfie-stick hordes, or may simply take you to the busiest places first so you have some time to explore in peace before the main wave of tourists arrive.

Visiting Angkor Wat In four days?

If you’re planning a bespoke, tailor made tour then allow at least four days in your itinerary to explore Angkor in a more laid-back, crowd-free way. If you purchase a three day pass you can often use it across four days as long as your first entrance into the park is late evening on day one.

Here’s what Lesley Schofield at our Southeast Asia experts, All Points East, has to say:
“If you want to spend the whole day in the Angkor complex you’ll end up very hot, frustrated by other tourists and temple ‘fatigue’ will set in. Four days gives you the time to see the highlights and appreciate the differences between temples from different periods. You’ll have time to enjoy walking around the temples in the morning, with time to go back to your hotel in Siem Reap in the heat of the day, chill, eat lunch or have a beer, then go out again to Angkor once it’s cooler and less busy.”

With four days not only will you have a chance to see the Angkor Archaeological Park’s main sights, but you’ll also have opportunities to head out to temples further out of the complex – like intricately-carved Banteay Srei or jungle-clad Beng Mealea. Exploring the more remote temples will also bring you into contact with local people. A real cultural connection is difficult in tourist-centric Siem Reap, however the rural villages dotted around the surrounding countryside offer a more authentic insight into Cambodian life, with significant less hassle from hawkers. Although souvenir sales still offer remote families a valuable source of income.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Angkor Wat or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

In one week?

If photography is your main reason for visiting Angkor, then building a few extra days into your itinerary will be invaluable in getting that perfect shot. You’ll need to be prepared to be patient and happy to change your plans around at the last minute to make the most of the weather. Sunrise over Angkor Wat is best without a blanket of thick cloud, for example, and your guide might change plans to avoid the crowds in the most popular spots in Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm, for example. With a week to explore you might also like to consider a boat trip on Tonlé Sap Lake, where stilted villages and colourful floating markets offer a fascinating insight into traditional life. Villages around Tonlé Sap are poor, so make sure your visit supports some of the excellent community-run small-scale tourism projects. Prek Toal is a good example; this village hosts a water hyacinth weaving project where you can learn the traditional skills involved in making baskets – as well as buy them – and is the gateway to the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, one of three biosphere reserves on the lake. Tours here are community-led ecotourism at its best – with people from the local village acting as guides, and money spent on entrance fees invested into environmental education in the village.
Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: dia_n] [Top box: Yellow.Cat] [In one day: Davidlohr Bueso] [In a week: tajai]