If you love history and archaeology, Siem Reap is a province not to be missed. Located in the northwest of Cambodia, Siem Reap is notable for its cultural heritage sites such as Angkor Wat. If you choose a one-day tour, you would be able to see many of the major temples as well as other attractions like the Cambodian cultural village and National Museum. However, if you are pressed on time, a half day tour in Siem Reap will usually cover the three important must-see temples. These temple complexes are huge, so it might take several hours (to a day) to to fully explore the place.
Angkor Wat is perhaps the most iconic centerpiece of the Angkor temple complex in Siem Reap. No matter what type of tour in Siem Reap you book, a visit to Angkor Wat should always be included. It is currently the largest religious monument in the world and is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Angkor temple complex was built during the Khmer Empire (9th-14th century) to honor the Hindu god Vishnu. The entire temple complex of Angkor is very big and would definitely require more than one day to cover all the temples at the site. If you have only half a day to spend, make sure to at least see Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm Temple, and Bayon Temple. Just a heads up: There will be lots of people, lots of walking, and lots of sweating.
This must-see temple at Angkor was also used as a location in the 2001 Hollywood film Tomb Raider. Its most distinguished feature is the giant tree growing out of the ruins. Ta Prohm was originally used as a monastery and a university during the reign of Khmer King Jayavarman in the late 12th century. When compared to other temples in Angkor, Ta Prohm is still in good condition.
Imagine what it would feel like to gaze upon a group of giant stone faces that smile back at you. These ‘smiling faces’ might have been the faces of Hindu deities or a representation of Khmer King Jayavarman VII. This temple provides a stunning backdrop for memorable photos. Likewise, the interior is just as impressive especially the carvings on the wall that illustrate Cambodian history.
A sandy-red temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The amazing thing about Banteay Srei is the intricate carvings which cover the walls of the building. Although the temple is small, but the brilliant artistic details of this sandstone temple make up for its size.
In 2017, Sambo Prei Kuk was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it the third temple complex to be added to the list. If you are going for a half day tour Siem Reap temple tour, it may be difficult to see Sambo Prei Kuk because this temple complex is located in Khompung Thom province. That’s about 2-3 hours drive from Siem Reap. The temple ground is very quiet. So quiet that you can only hear crickets’ sounds. If you do have time, a trip to Sambo Prei Kuk is worth it as you will witness many of Cambodian’s oldest temples dating back to the Pre-Angkorian period (6th-9th century).
This is one of the temples in Angkor area with wall carvings depicting Hindu and Buddhist motifs. The temple remains untouched, giving it a natural and ancient feel. Visitors will be amazed to see the tree roots and vines which wrap around the building, creating an almost spider web effect.
Koh Ker is an archeological site in Cambodia with over 100 sanctuaries. It is located about two and a half hour from Siem Reap. Because many of the sanctuaries are hidden in the jungle, only a few dozens are accessible to visitors. This 7-tiered pyramid (Koh Ker Temple) is the main structure in the area. The area is sparsely populated so if you dislike the crowd, this temple is a great option.