When I re-do my trip to Siem Reap, I will DEFINITELY include three days for Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples.
While I did it in one day in the past, I am a total temple-lover and want to be able to spread out my visits over a couple days.
My game plan: I can do my exploring in the morning and avoid the heat of the day (aka force myself to get up really early so that I can finish by noon and spend the rest of the day in the pool).
But – just in case you want to pack it all into one day (or have to) because you just aren’t a huge fan of temples, or you’re already templed out, or you’re on a strict budget… check out my advice below.
Advice for Doing One Day at Angkor Wat Temples
1. Wear comfortable shoes
all these people have 2 things in common – they’re waiting for the sunrise AND they’ve got comfy covered shoes on
If you’re see everything in one day, you’ll have a lot of ground to cover. Literally. And stairs and ruins and platforms and paths.
You’re going to be walking – a LOT. Sneakers or comfy flats are worth the extra space in your bag. Make sure they’re broken in and not brand-new, blisters would be hell.
2. Pack a canga or sarong to cover your shoulders
removable, breezy coverup = YES, black = HELL NO
Your shoulders must be covered, that’s a requirement at the temples.
Rather than sweat your butt off all day from wearing a sleeved top, bring a light breezy wrap that can be taken off in the tuktuk while going from place to place.
I wore a tank top, skirt, and meshy draped coverup, which was okay (but BLACK and definitely soaked up the rays – never again) but next time I’ll definitely go for a breezy scarf.
3. Rent a tuktuk for the day
tuk tuk sharers
For around $15 you can get a whole tuktuk for yourself to take you around to all the near temples. If you can find a few other people to split with you (maybe from the hostel?) it’ll be more fun and even cheaper.
Your guesthouse can help you organize this, or ask the guy who drops you off from the bus station or airport if he’s nice. Having someone who speaks decent English is really helpful and can add to the experience, as he’s probably been there a million times before.
4. Be picked up before 5am and start with a sunrise at Angkor Wat
As someone who struggles with getting up early, I understand your pain. It is soooo early but also sooo worth it! For 3 reasons: You get to beat the heat, see the sunrise, AND get as much temple-touring in as possible.
Yes, it is cliche, and packed with tourists, but the lighting at that time is amazing.
the lighting is so strange at this time of day that the temple looks like it is glowing
It’s one of those few things that really is as good as everyone says it is. The crowds will be insane, but you won’t regret it.
5. Have breakfast at Angkor Wat compound
I can’t eat at 4:30am. Maybe you can. But if you’re anything like me, make it to Angkor Wat super early, see the sunrise, and then take a break for a leisurely breakfast within the compound while enjoying the views.
Restaurant 6 is my favorite. Everything is only $2, and Ana who runs it is awesome. She’ll take photos for you (and your group if applicable) in front of Angkor Wat, and she knows all of the best angles. She’s super helpful and speaks excellent English.
6. Continue onto other nearby big name temples after hitting Angkor Wat itself
must see: Ta Prohm for eerie scenes like this
Angkor Thom, Bayon, and Ta Prohm are my bare minimum suggestions for the other temples. There will be fewer people there as compared to Angkor Wat itself, and even if you’re easily tired, you’ll want to see these others.
Two standouts were Bayon and Ta Prohm.
Bayon has a million creepy “I know something you don’t know” faces,
and Ta Prohm is the temple made famous by Tomb Raider.
Ta Prohm seemed to be in the most disrepair, but somehow that made it even more beautiful in a sort of creepy dystopian way.
7. Have lunch in the shade
By lunchtime, the heat of the day will be at its highest. And after scrambling around stone stairs all morning, you’ll need a cool break.
Many of the restaurants around the temples are overpriced and not that great, but they are super convenient. If you’re picky or on a super tight budget, plan to bring a packed lunch with you.
Don’t plan to skip lunch or pack it all in before noon – you’ll be HANGRY (hungry+angry), grumpy, and will enjoy it less. Plus, you deserve a good meal after all the walking you’ve done.
More scenes from Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples:
What are your tips for visiting Angkor Wat?
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