Angkor Wat/Siem Reap, Cambodia
Located in northwest Cambodia near the shores of Tonlé Sap Lake, Siem Reap has evolved from a sleepy backwater into a helter-skelter tourist town that’s the gateway to Angkor. Capital of the Khmer Empire between the 9th and 15th centuries, the Angkor World Heritage Site spreads across 390 square miles and was the globe’s largest urban area before the Industrial Revolution.
What We Love
Ta Prohm: Like an Indiana Jones movie set come to life, the walls of this ancient temple are entwined in the roots, trunks, and branches of giant rain-forest trees, an eerie ambiance heightened by lichen-covered stone faces staring out from the shadows.
Pub Street: This lively thoroughfare in downtown Siem Reap combines nightlife and a night market into a noisy, neon-studded warren of bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops reminiscent of 1980s Bangkok or Bali.
Best Known For
Angkor Wat: The world’s single largest religious monument — celebrated for its masterful stonework — started as a Hindu temple and was later converted into a Buddhist shrine.
The Bayon: Renowned for its giant smiling stone faces, this temple at the heart of the Angkor Thom ruins also boasts intricate bas-reliefs depicting everyday life in the ancient city as well as historic events.
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Who It's Best For
Active Outdoor Travelers: Whether you explore the Angkor complex by foot, minibus, taxi, scooter, or bicycle, you’re bound to burn calories as you work up a healthy sweat clambering over all those stone ruins.
Old Stone Fanatics: With more than 1,000 ancient temples, tombs, and shrines — including some of the largest and most elaborate ever built — Angkor is nirvana for anyone who loves to wander ruins.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
You Won’t Be Alone: Thousands of people visit Angkor Wat and the other primary sights each day. If you crave solitude, plan a visit to some of Angkor’s lesser-known temples.
It’s Kind of a Tourist Trap: Siem Reap, that is. Touts of all types will try to lure you into bars or stores or sign you up for guided tours. Sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.