Despite the extreme popularity and relatively high cost of the entrance ticket, we were pretty much determined to visit the must-see Angkor temples. With our small budget, we decided to choose the most economical (and ecological!) option: visiting the temples by bicycle, with a one-day ticket valid on the whole site. As a result, our day was full of wonderful discoveries but also… of intense fatigue! If you are wondering how to visit Angkor temples by bicycle during the day without getting too tired and avoiding crowds, then you are at the right place!
Planning your visit to Angkor temples: what you need to know
- You can buy your ticket the day before ($37/person) and enter for free from 5:30pm on the Angkor temples site to admire the sunset (I promise, the guards will let you pass!).
- If most temples open between 7:30am and 5pm, some have more specific schedules: spot them on a map, to decide where to watch the sunrise and sunset.
- Check the weather forecast: it would be a shame to visit the temples with a cloudy weather, at the risk of not seeing the sunrise or sunset behind the temples!
- Prepare all your meals and water in advance: food on the spot are way too expensive!
- The distances between the temples are huge: the simplest, ecological and economical solution is to rent a bicycle in town for $1/person for a day (or $1,5 for a day and a half).
- It is not possible to camp in the Angkor temples protected area: we tried to do it, discreetly and away from the temples… Unfortunately, guards came to kick us out, ordering us to leave despite an official absence of prohibition to camp. Cycling a little to the east, we were able to meet farmers who offered us hospitality: an rich experience, surrounded by modest people who live alongside opulence on a daily basis…
Our day at Angkor temples
A pyramid-shaped temple, really nice, with beautiful bas-reliefs and some not too badly preserved statues at the top of the temple. A must do, either at sunrise or sunset!
A long, very long temple which is not at all popular and yet, is definitely worth the detour! It was the first temple we visited after Pre Rup, and we did not regret it at all: there was nobody there, so we could admire quietly all the bas-reliefs of the temple (there are many!) and to take beautiful pictures in the morning light, with no tourists. This one is one of our favorites in Angkor!
The temple that became famous thanks to the Tomb Raider movie did not disappoint us at all! Magnificent, imposing, remarkably well restored, it didn’t take us long to fall under the spell of Ta Prohm and its stones, partially buried under huge roots of hundred-year-old trees. We would almost imagine ourselves as the famous archaeologist in search of a treasure hidden in this temple, lost in the heart of the jungle…
The only strain in the picture? The mass of tourists (in particular the Chinese tourists) at rush hours… The most famous spots (but not necessarily the most beautiful ones!) for pictures are quickly packed, and it is sometimes necessary to be patient to wait for the perfect timing. Luckily, the site is huge: this leaves the possibility to escape noisy tourist groups!
Not so great. Is it because this temple has been restored by Chinese teams – with their tendency to turn all tourist attractions just like Disneyland?
After the Ta Keo disappointment, a good discovery! This temple lost in the middle of the forest reminded us a lot of Ta Prohm temple (the Tomb Raider temple) in much smaller, and much raw state! Indeed, this temple has not (yet) been restored, which gives us an idea of its state when it was discovered… Moreover, there was nobody there when we were there – a real moment of exploration! Another positive thing: being protected from the sun by the trees, we enjoyed our visit even more during the hottest hours!
A long temple, all in perspective, partially restored. Its particularity: a kind of bell, placed in the center of the temple! As in Ta Prohm, you can see trees growing between the stones and alignments of holes in some walls, where beautiful gemstones were embedded at the time. Taking advantage of a rather low number of tourists on the spot, we enjoyed walking around this temple in a total quiet. Approved, and highly recommended!
Baphuon and the elephants terrace
This spot is rather well preserved, thanks to extensive restoration work. As far as we were concerned, we were not especially amazed – including the view from the top of Baphuon temple, which we felt was not worth the effort inflicted on our already tired bodies. If you are on a rush, you can pass on!
A must see temple, despite the crowds of tourists who flock to it all day long – as the visiting part is only on the top of the temple, in a rather small space, get used to the idea that it will never be easy to move around freely… Our little trick: you can have a lot of fun with the huge smiling stone faces, by photographing yourself with a perspective effect!
You won’t believe us, but we did miss the visit of Angkor Wat! How was this possible? Well, after a busy day, we arrived at the temple gates at 5:40 pm… or 10 minutes after the official closing time. Our consolation: from outside we could admire the particular shapes of the temple and the sunset from the lake in front of Angkor Wat!
Hindsight and recommended itinerary
Limited in time and budget, we found ourselves cycling like crazy, under the sun, trying to see a maximum of temples in 1 day. As a result, not only this strategy made us very tired, but it also played tricks on us since we didn’t even have time to visit the inside of Angkor Wat!
With hindsight, we really advise you to limit the list of temples to see (maximum 6 temples on a day): between the distance to cover (we covered more than 60 kilometers in total!), the heat (38°C on average) and the crowds, you will quickly get exhausted!…
Having said that, we have no regret at all! We saw a lot of beautiful things, visited much less popular temples, avoided crowds as much as possible – except at Ta Prohm and Bayon temples, two extremely popular temples, visited at any time of the day. Based on our observations, we have drawn up an ideal itinerary with a 1-day ticket – with indicative visiting times, to help you see more clearly!
D-1 Tickets and Sunset
Angkor Park Pass
5km from Siem Reap
Opening of the ticket office for the next day’s tickets from 4:30 pm
10km from ticket office
We did it at the sunrise, but the view should be even better at sunset!
D-Day, Visit of Angkor temples
Sunrise 5.30 AM -8.00 AM
6.5km from Siem Reap
According to other’s feedback, it would be best to visit the interior of the temple just after the sunrise, before crowds pack in. Then take the short tour in the opposite direction, i.e to the east!
Bantei Kdei – the forgotten temple
8.30 AM – 9.30 AM
5km from Angkor Wat
A temple to be seen at the first light of the sun!
Ta Prohm – the Tomb Raider temple
10 AM – 12 PM
2.5km from Bantei Kdei
Don’t hesitate to get lost in the famous temple ‘visited by Lara Croft’, to escape from the crowd!
Ta Nei – the small Tomb Raider temple
12.30 PM – 1.00 PM
2.7km from Ta Prohm
To extend the Tomb Raider magic, without being bothered by tourists!
Preah Khan – the temple all in perspective
2 PM – 3.30 PM
7.5km from Ta Nei by the main road
By the main road, it is longer but so much simpler… Following the small path (and what seemed to be a shortcut) on maps.me, we had to carry our bicycles over the small dam on the river: a waste of time and energy in the end!
Bayon – the temple of a thousand smiles
4 PM – 5.30 PM
4.2km from Preah Khan
Here, take all your time until the beginning of sunset in order to take the most beautiful pictures (Note: don’t waste too much time at the other places of Angkor Thom, only Bayon is really worth it according to us).
Angkor Thom South Gate
1.5km from Bayon
Stop on the bridge to enjoy one last sunset reflecting on the river water!
Cheap rental bicycle shop in Siem Reap: “Laundry New Day” (in front of Frangipani hotel)
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* Post written according to our personal experience *