On The Khmer Trail: The Best Temples in Cambodia
Some of the best temples in Cambodia are right on your doorstep.
No trip to this wonderful country would be complete without a trip to some of the best temples in Cambodia. You need to visit at least a few of these religious sites to be able to understand Cambodian history and culture, and the fact that they all offer great photo ops and tourist interest is even more of a plus! Here’s our pick of the best.
We can’t really start anywhere else but here- the main temple at Angkor Wat is a work of art. It was actually originally a Hindu temple but was converted to Buddhism in the 12th century and has been a center of worship and learning ever since.
If you’re looking for a silent, spiritual experience then this won’t be it however, as the amazing sunrises attract thousands of tourists every day all looking to get that perfect shot. Our advice is to treat it for what it is- a rightly popular must-see temple- and then move on to find some more out-of-the-way gems.
We highly recommend visiting Siem Reap before visiting us in Koh Rong Samloem, solely for seeing Angkor Wat in person 🙂
Made famous by the original Tomb Raider film, the atmospheric Ta Prohm temple is another one that you might have seen before. Located pretty close to the main Angkor Wat complex, this is a maze of overgrown ruins with tree roots snaking across stonework and vines creeping across doorways and lintels.
The overall effect is that the jungle is taking over the buildings and there are some great photos to be had here, if you can find a quiet spot.
Our next pick is a bit further from Siem Reap, but is well worth the trip. Beng Melea temple is in a much more dilapidated state than the most popular temples at Angkor Wat, but what it lacks in polish it makes up for in atmosphere. The jungle has well and truly invaded here and you feel like Indiana Jones clambering over the ruins to find hidden passageways and rooms to be explored.
Being located about 40km east of Bayon, the easiest way to visit Beng Melea is to jump on a day trip from Siem Reap. That was you can let someone else deal with the driving and just focus on enjoying yourself!
One for the more adventurous among us, Preah Vihear is way up north on the border with Thailand. There have been tensions here in the past but the area is safe now, and the temple itself is actually Cambodia’s only other UNESCO World Heritage site (along with Angkor Wat itself).
The temple is located on a hilltop 525-meters above the lowland plains, and the views are simply spectacular. It might take a day or do to travel here from the rest of the country but it’s well worth the effort.
Our final pick is more than just a temple, it’s a whole Cambodian experience. The temple complex of Banteay Chhmar is in a small town about 3 hours to the north west of Siem Reap, via the town of Sisophon. The ruins themselves are dilapidated, wild and gloriously empty of visitors but the real bonus here is the community homestay program.
Come up for an overnight trip and get in touch with the community tourism organization (visitbanteaychhmar.org) to organize a host family to stay with. Eat with the family or in the community building, in the knowledge that all the profits get invested back into the local area. A real highlight of any trip to Cambodia.
Temples in Cambodia have to be seen to be believed
No matter how many photos you’ve seen of Angkor Wat it will still take your breath away the first time you see it in person, and the same goes for all these other Cambodian temples too. There’s such an amazing collection of Khmer heritage to appreciate so take your time, and enjoy the ride through history!