Angkor Wat and the rest of the temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia totally blew our minds!! I’ve been wanting to go for 10 years, but for some reason never made it until now. Even with all that anticipation and excitement, the place totally exceeded my expectations.
The temples are mesmerising, and the feeling and atmosphere of being there is truly special. Not to mention that the people of Cambodia are warm, friendly and beautiful. One of the reasons why our trip to Angkor Wat and Siem Reap was so amazing was that we were able to avoid the crowds (most of the time). We spent a full week there, and figured out how to visit the Angkor Wat temples while avoiding the massive crowds.
I want everyone who visits the temples of Siem Reap to have a great time, so I’ve gathered my best tips for Angkor Wat here.
1. Get up early
This is kind of a given. In the mornings, it’s less crowded, it’s colder, it’s more quiet, and the photo light is beautiful. However, don’t think that getting up early is enough to avoid the crowds, Angkor Wat is extremely crowded at sunrise, but with my tips for Siem Reap, you’ll be able to avoid that 😉
2. Go to the East end of Angkor Wat for sunrise
When you go to Angkor Wat for sunrise, EVERYONE are waiting at the West side of the temples, to see Angkor Wat and the reflection ponds in front of it. And when I say everyone, I mean thousands of people. We ventured up to the actual temple and started walking around on the Eastside, and there were no one there. We got to explore Angkor Wat completely alone for at least 15-20 minutes before the first people showed up. I have no idea why everyone wants to stand together to watch the sunrise, but that’s how it is!
3. Only visit the temples in the mornings
When buying the tickets for Angkor Wat, you can choose between 1, 3 or 7 days. We got the 3-day pass, and divided our visit on 3 mornings. We went to the Angkor area at from 6am to 9-10am each morning, and that was more than enough for us. I would not recommend any full-day tour, as you’ll be exhausted by lunchtime. Besides, after 9am it gets too crowded to enjoy. I can’t say this enough: the temples of Siem Reap are CROWDED.
4. Rent a motorbike
Visiting Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples, we spent a couple days in a tuktuk, and one day on a motorbike. The advantage of a tuktuk is that the drivers know where to go, but you can easily solve that with Google Maps on your phone. A motorbike is way cheaper ($12-15 per day), and gives you a lot more freedom. This comes in handy when you want to plan out the least crowded routes for Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom temple etc. (Which I’m getting into now).
5. Plan your route in the opposite direction (North to South)
The city of Siem Reap is located south of the Angkor Wat temple are. Therefore, all the tuk-tuk drivers set out the routes starting in the South (by Angkor Wat), and working their way towards the North temples. This means that you’re basically following the crowds the whole way. I strongly recommend starting at the temples further North (after your sunrise at Angkor Wat), and working your way South. If you drive a motorbike, that’s awesome, and if you don’t, insist that the tuk-tuk driver follow your route.
The biggest temples (like Angkor Wat and Pra Roup) open at 5am, while most others open at 7:30. If you want to visit the Ta Phrom temple (the “Tomb Raider temple” or “Angelina Jolie temple”), make sure you are there when they open at 7:30. Here are some suggested routes:
- Day 1: Sunrise at Angkor Wat (but go to the East side and explore), make your way to Ta Phrom so you arrive at 7:30, then check out any temple you want nearby. When it gets crowded, go home 🙂
- Day 2: Explore the gates of Angkor Thom at 6:30-7:15. There are 4 of them, and they don’t have any opening hours. After that, make sure you arrive at Bayon at 7:30. Then see whatever else is in the area.
- Day 3: Go to Pra Roup at 6:45-7, then head up to Ta Som temple to be there when it opens at 7:30. We got to spend 15-20minutes here before the next person showed up – It was amazing! After that, you can check out Bantay Kedei, which is huge, and not very crowded.
Hope these tips will help you have an amazing time there.
I’ve also put together a video with some more tips, showing you how it’s done: