On this page you will learn interesting facts about the location of the individual temples and which ones are best to visit when on your Angkor temple tour. These are recommendations from my own experience and tips from friends and acquaintances from all over the world.
What is the Small Circuit and the Grand Circuit and how do they differ?
The Small Circuit and the Grand Circuit are circular routes that lead through the Angkor Archaeological Park. The small circuit starts at the main temple Angkor Wat and the large circuit follows the small one. On both circular paths the regular direction is clockwise. Here is a map that we developed further in 2012 based on the data from OpenStreetMap. You can also download the map as a PDF file.
The temples along the Small-Circuit
- Angkor Wat – the main temple and landmark of Cambodia.
- Phnom Bakheng – a small temple hill in front of the south gate of Angkor Thom. There many tourists watch the sunset.
- South gate of Angkor Thom – the monumental entrance to the capital Angkor Thom.
- Baphuon – high temple in the entrance area of Angkor Thom.
- Angkor Thom – the royal capital with its temples. Up to and including Preah Pithu all following temples are located within the city walls of Angkor Thom.
- Bayon – the temple with many faces in the centre of Angkor Thom.
- Terrace of the Elephants – Especially impressive are the stairs with the stone elephant trunks.
- Phimeanakas – lies to the west and a little off the circuit. The Phimeanakas is surrounded by an extraordinary legend.
- Preah Paliley – a small Angkor temple north of Phimeanakas.
- Terrace of the Leper King – directly adjoins the Terrace of the Elephants to the north.
- Prasat Suor Prat – the towers of the rope dancers, altogether there are 12 towers.
- Preah Pithu – with this temple closes the round inside Angkor Thom.
- Chau Say Tevoda – small Angkor temple behind the east exit of Angkor Thom.
- Thommanon – former Hindu temple as a holy place to pray.
- Ta Nei – lies a little off the beaten track in the jungle. But it is worth to visit it!
- Ta Keo – one of the largest temples in Angkor Park
- Ta Prohm – known for its brickwork strewn with trees and not least for the cinema film Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie.
- Banteay Kdei – the citadel of the monks, a small Buddhist temple.
- Prasat Kravan – east of Angkor Wat and with unique reliefs.
However, you will hardly be able to visit all these temples in one day. For Angkor Wat alone it’s worth it if you calculate at least 2-3 hours. Further down in the text you will find out which Angkor temples are the most popular – but unfortunately also the most visited.
The temples along the Grand-Circuit
The big circular route (Grand Circuit) in Angkor Park starts like the small circular route. From the Bayon Temple the route leads instead to the east to the Chaus Say Tevoda further north to more distant Angkor Temples. There are comparatively few temples on the curve of the Grand Circuit itself. Please note: Due to the greater distance you have to pay more for the Tuk Tuk, bus or car.
- Preah Khan – probably the temporary capital of King Jayavarman VII until the completion of the city of Angkor Thom.
- Neak Pean – winding snakes and eight pools in the shape of a lotus blossom surround the temple.
- Ta Som – comparatively little is known about this Angkor temple.
- East Mebon – particularly impressive are the large and freestanding elephant figures.
- Pre Rup – one of the first temples in Angkor wealth.
- Srah Srang – this is not a temple, but a small lake surrounded by walls. It is particularly beautiful here in the early morning and in the evening.
Behind the Srah Srang Lake the big circular path joins the small circular path and you pass the Prasat Kravan again.
Which temples are the most important?
The supposedly most important temples are also the most popular and therefore most visited temples. As there were:
- Angkor Wat
- South Gate Angkor Thom
- Terrace of the Elephants
- Ta Prohm
These temples you can all comfortably visit in one day. You can find out how to avoid the tourist streams in the answer to the next question.
In which order should I visit the temples?
This is not easy to answer and depends mainly on your wishes. Since most tourists visit the Angkor temples clockwise around the small circular path, the way in the opposite direction is worth to escape the tourist masses.
Early in the morning it is still quiet at Ta Prohm and in the afternoon again calmer at Angkor Wat. But then you miss the opportunity to photograph the sunrise at the water lily pond in front of Angkor Wat. Only one thing helps here: Set your priorities. Especially if you only have one day for the sightseeing. What is more important for you? A photo taken at a hotspot that has already been photographed millions of times and at the same time crowds of tourists around you or no photo and fewer people. The decision is yours!
It is easier if you visit the Angkor temples on two days. Then you can divide the temples you want to visit between the two days. But keep in mind that for two Angkor days you need a 3 day pass in the best case. Nevertheless, I have put together a tour tip for two Angkor days for you.
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Tour tip for one Angkor day
If you don’t have that much time or you first want to see whether the Angkor temples are really as exciting for you as they are for me, for example, then a single day is definitely enough for your Angkor tour. My suggestions for the individual stops:
1. Angkor Wat – Sunrise at the water lily pond
Even if it is overcrowded there: The photo is a must and you will surely regret not having been there.
2. More temples after sunrise
Then you have several options. For example:
You stay in the tourist stream and visit the most famous temples clockwise along the Small Circuit. That is South Gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrasse of the Leper King, Ta Prohm, (depending on the schedule you can also make a detour to Ta Nei), Banteay Kdei and Prasat Kravan. Whereby not all temples are completely overcrowded. Mainly at Ta Prohm Temple you will meet many people and have very little time for the photo with the strangler figs on the wall.
After sunrise you drive directly to Ta Prohm to catch the morning mood. From there you continue in the opposite direction around the Small Circuit with the most famous temples.
3. Main Tower Angkor Wat
Admittedly, you have to walk along the path to Angkor Wat a second time, but now the waiting times are not so long to climb up to the main tower. It’s definitely worth it and you shouldn’t miss the wonderful view!
Then the sunset. Most tourists want to go to Phnom Bakheng, but in the afternoon it is completely overcrowded. In order to be sure to get a place, you should leave at 3 o’clock at the latest (I say without guarantee). My alternative recommendations are:
- Srah Srang Lake – it’s quiet and tranquil there. The water reflects an enchanting atmosphere and you can end the day relaxed.
- Phnom Krom – a small hill in the south of Siem Reap. The road there leads you over a wide landscape and is beautiful to drive. Also here you will meet only a handful of people.
- Pre Rup – also a nice temple for watching the sunset at Angkor.
Tour tip for two Angkor days
Due to the price structure for the Angkor ticket, I assume that there are only comparatively few tourists who visit Angkor Park for two days.
- Day one – for the first day the stations of the tour tip are recommended for an Angkor day.
- Day two – here, for example, you can choose between the two options from my following tour tip for three Angkor days.
Tour tip for three Angkor days
Day one – the classic tour with the most famous temples
- Angkor Wat – Sunrise at the water lily pond.
- Small Circuit – counterclockwise: Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, (depending on the schedule you can also make a detour to Ta Nei), Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, Bayon and the South Gate of Angkor Thom. You can also start directly at Ta Prohm Temple to catch the morning mood.
- Angkor Wat – This time with access to the central tower of the temple.
- Sunset – at a temple of your choice
Tell your driver to pick you up at the east gate of Angkor Wat after sunrise. From there you can continue directly along the circular route.
Day two – begins and ends on a hill and leads to the more distant temples
- Phnom Bakheng – beautiful view at sunrise.
- Banteay Srei – on the way back you can make a stop at the butterfly farm, which is on the way.
- Banteay Samre – this temple is also located outside the circular paths in Angkor Archaeological Park.
- Preah Dak Village – a tranquil village that lines the road to Angkor Park. There we met a small hairdresser who cut our hair for 1$.
- Roluos group – here the Angkor time began. Some tourguides recommend to start the Angkor tour with the Roluos group.
- Phnom Krom – a small mountain with a temple in the south of Siem Reap with a beautiful sunset.
Day three – starts at a lake and ends again at Angkor Wat
- Srah Srang Lake – Sunrise in the midst of idyllic tranquility.
- Grand Circuit – counterclockwise: Pre Rup, Eastern Mebon, Ta Som, Krol Ko, Neak Pean and Preah Khan. If you haven’t been to Ta Nei yet, you can also “hang on” to your visit here.
- Angkor Wat – as a crowning finale and this time capture the evening atmosphere.
Do it yourself, with a private tour guide or in a group?
There are many possibilities. From “I plan everything myself” to an all-inclusive package, everything is possible.
Option 1: Plan the Angkor tour yourself
You don’t want to be tied down, you can organise your time freely and plan everything yourself in advance. The tips on this page will help you to do this, for example, which would make me very happy :-)
Conclusion: Although the time required in advance is comparatively large, the costs for a tour guide are not incurred.
Option 2: Book a private tour guide
With a trained Angkor tour guide, you book an all-round carefree package all to yourself, so to speak. You don’t have to think about everything yourself, e.g. exactly where to find what. Your private guide also plans the tour together with you and responds to your wishes in advance and during the tour.
My ultimate – I say – house and home tour guide – is Mr. Ratanak. Here you can see him in action, photographing a lotus blossom for me in the rain near the Banteay Srei temple :-)
With a private guide you have the most options for a relaxed visit to the Angkor temples. On the other hand, you will of course pay more for this special service. But it is definitely worth it.
Option 3: The “fixed” tour of Angkor Park
This option is a hybrid of option 1 and option 2. If you don’t want to plan everything yourself, if your budget is a bit smaller, if you just want to explore the Angkor temples together with others, or for any other reason: Just take a look at the offers on the online platform GetYourGuide*.
Although you have no possibility for individual wishes, these tour offers are lower in price than a private tour guide.
Finally, perhaps the most important thing for your visit of the Angkor temples
With all planning: Take your time. Even though you might not have been able to visit all the temples, and you might not have been able to take the photo you longed for, this is not a disaster. There is absolutely no point in rushing from one temple to another. On the contrary, you run the risk of getting a real temple overkill. It’s much nicer to just sit down and observe the surroundings. You will be surprised how relaxing this is and how much faster you dive into the atmosphere and experience magical moments.
Above all, don’t underestimate the heat. Especially in the midday sun you are well advised to take a longer break. This will be unavoidable anyway. Because: You can be sure that your tour guide and Tuk Tuk driver will always point you out in a Cambodian gentle way when it is time for lunch. This for the simple reason that they themselves are also hungry :-)
Now I wish you a lot of fun with your visit to the Angkor Temples!
These were my tips for your stay in the archaeological Angkor Park. I would be very happy if they would help you to really enjoy your time there. Maybe you also have a tip. Write me, I’m looking forward to it and will answer for sure!
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