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Temples of Angkor • Angkor Archaeological Park • 4 • Temples

by mythic44

Little Circuit
In clockwise order, exiting Angkor Thom by the Victory Gate:

  • Ta Keo. An incomplete, largely undecorated temple built by Jayavarman V. The stairs at the east side of the monument are least steep and the easiest way to reach the top level.
  • Ta Prohm. Built during the time of king Jayavarman VII and is best known as the temple where trees have been left intertwined with the stonework, much as it was uncovered from the jungle. It might be considered in a state of disrepair but there is a strange beauty in the marvelous strangler fig trees which provide a stunning display of the embrace between nature and the human handiwork. This is one of the most popular temples after Angkor Wat and the Bayon because of the beautiful combinations of wood and stone. Black and white film photographers especially love this site because of this and most of the stunning postcard shots of Angkor’s trees come from here; pop culture fans, on the other hand, may recognize a few scenes from Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider. While the temple is very popular, most visitors follow a central route and the sides of the complex can be surprisingly quiet. Note that large sections of the temple are unstable rubble and have been cordoned off, as they are in real danger of collapse. As of 2010, authorities have started to restore Ta Prohm. All the plants and shrubs have been cleared from the site and some of trees are also getting removed. A crane has been erected and a large amount of building work is underway to rebuild the temple, much of it seemingly from scratch. Wooden walkways now block some of the previously famous postcard photos.
  • Banteay Kdei. Sprawling monastic complex in the style of Ta Prohm. In poor shape, but slowly being restored.
  • Sras Srang. Terrace leading to a pond. Located right across the road from Banteay Kdei.
  • Prasat Kravan. A little temple to end the little circuit.

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Preah Khan. Jayavarman VII’s first capital, before the completion of Angkor Wat. Large and atmospheric, yet somewhat overshadowed by Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, this temple is partly in disrepair with strangler figs crawling up the walls, but has some excellent carvings and less visitors, and is well worth a visit. The temple is some 3 kilometers north of Angkor Thom.

  • Neak Pean. Not really a temple, this is an interesting quick stop. It consists of four ponds surrounding a large pond that has a tower in the middle. This tower is accessible on a causeway that cuts across the pond.
  • Ta Som.
  • East Mebon. Located on what was an island in the now dry East Baray, this is a large, three-story temple-mountain crowned by five towers, like a miniature Angkor Wat. Originally built by Rajendravarman II in the 10th century, many structures are in poor shape, but the temple is best known for its massive (restored) elephant statues.
  • Pre Rup. A temple-mountain close to and quite similar in style to East Mebon, and constructed only a decade later. A favorite spot for viewing the sun set into the jungles and rice paddies of the Cambodian countryside.

Roluos group – The ruins here are from the ancient capital of Hariharalaya, dating from the late 9th century and thus predating Angkor itself.

  • Bakong. A five-terraced pyramid in the mountain-temple style.
  • Lolei. An island temple constructed in a baray, now dry.
  • Preah Ko. The first temple to be built here, dating from the 9th century.

Outlying temples

  • Banteay Srey, 37 km north of Angkor Wat. This red colored temple is well known for its intricate carvings, and is worth a half day trip on its own, since it is a bit further from Siem Reap than the main Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat areas. Car and motorcycle drivers will charge a bit extra ($10 USD) to take you to the temple.
  • Kbal Spean. 5 km north of Banteay Srey. After the man-made monuments of the temples, it can be nice to get back to nature for a while. Also known as the site of 1000 Lingas, the numerous submerged carvings on the rocky river bed may fall short of that number, but it makes for a pleasant walk along the river to a small but attractive waterfall. The 1km walk through rain forest past, precariously perched boulders and creeping vines is not too hard but requires a modicum of fitness and care, especially if wet weather has made the steeper sections slippery. Drier weather means less water and easier viewing of the carvings. Best combined with a trip out to Banteay Srey.

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