Updated January 3, 2021
If you ask anyone what the best things to do in Cambodia are, the answer topping the list will almost always be to visit the Angkor Wat temples.
Located about 3.4 miles (5.5km) north of the town of Siem Reap, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and is hugely popular with tourists.
The whole Angkor complex is incredible; Angkor Wat is the largest and most famous of the temples. But there is also Angkor Thom, Bayon and many more smaller temples in the area. These are just as beautiful and definitely worth visiting!
The most popular ways to visit the temples are by tuk tuk or motorbike/scooter. However, we chose to explore them by bicycle; a much cheaper and more adventurous experience!
There are many bicycle rental companies around the town. We were lucky enough to have one just across the street from our guesthouse. Plus, we also managed to get our laundry done there for about $1 per kilo.
We became quite friendly with the owner and rented two bicycles from her for $3 per day between us. She was even happy for us to pay her once we had returned them!
Compare this to many tuk tuk or motorbike rental companies, who will charge you much more and may try to scam you out of your money for additional unwanted extras or existing bumps and scrapes to the motorbike. Bicycles are the way to go!
Ours were nice road bikes in good condition with no gears, but as the land around Siem Reap is basically flat, this wasn’t a problem.
The Ticket Office
The first thing to note before going to Angkor Wat is that you can’t buy your tickets on-site, and the ticket office is quite far away from the temple complex.
To get to the ticket office, head north out of Siem Reap on the Charles De Gaulle road in the direction of Angkor Wat.
You will pass the Angkor National Museum on your left. This is also worth a visit if you have time during your trip.
Continue to follow the road out of the town for about 20 minutes until you see another main road going off to the right. This is simply named Street 60.
Take this road and follow it along until you reach a roundabout. Go straight over and the ticket office is a large building on the left immediately after.
There are three different ticket options available, depending on how many days you would like to take to explore the vast temple complex:
- One day visit: US$37
- Three day visit and validity of up to 10 days from issue date: US$62
- Seven day visit and validity of up to 1 month from issue date: US$72
A photo is required for each ticket type and this is printed onto the ticket itself. Keep your ticket safe if you are visiting for more than one day.
The ticket centre is open from 5am to 5.30pm. If you purchase a one-day ticket after 5pm it is valid for the next day.
Cambodian citizens, foreigners of Cambodian birth or whose parent(s) are Cambodian do not need to pay to enter, and must provide proof of citizenship or appropriate visa at the ticket office.
We opted for the three-day option as it was already early afternoon by the time we had bought our tickets. We already knew we wanted to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat the following day.
Make sure you pick up a map of the temple complex while you’re there.
What to wear to Angkor Wat
As with most temples in Asia, there is a strict dress code which must be adhered to in order to obtain entry to the temple complex.
You need to make sure that your shoulders are covered, as well as your legs down to the knees. This will be enforced by the officials at the gate and goes for both men and women.
Of course, as you’ll be spending most of the day exploring Angkor Wat by bicycle, you’ll want to make sure that your clothing won’t make you too hot. It is easy to find light, loose-fitting clothing in Cambodia and, if you do forget to dress appropriately for the temples, there are plenty of vendors at the entrance who will be happy to sell you a scarf or some new clothes to cover up with.
Once you have purchased your ticket, head back along Street 60 to the Charles De Gaulle road. Continue north until you see a sign for the ticket checkpoint.
When we visited, the checkpoint looked abandoned at first but we continued through and found that the security guards were sitting under a tree just before the little off-road rejoined the main road. They punch a hole in the ticket each day to indicate how many days you have used so far.
Continue on up the main road until you reach a junction and can see the moat of Angkor Wat in front of you. Turn left if you want to head to Angkor Wat itself, or right if you want to see some of the other temples first.
We turned left, enjoying the view and catching a glimpse of the causeway across the moat, packed with people. The road continues round to the right, following the moat and we soon found ourselves at the main car park.
After chaining up our bikes, we headed up to the causeway and had our tickets checked. Suddenly, we were surrounded by locals offering to be our tour guide. We politely declined and continued across the moat.
Pro Tip: if you do get a tour guide, make sure it is an official guide in uniform. There are some locals in plain clothes who will likely offer you a cheaper price, but who’s to say the information they are providing about the temples is true?
The first view from the causeway is striking – and that’s just the gateway!
As you pass through this, Angkor Wat is laid out in front of you. It is difficult to describe how breathtaking it is.
From the gateway, a long raised path runs straight up to the main temple, with some smaller buildings on either side to explore along the way. There are two pools just in front of the temple itself – great for those arty photos!
Inside the temple we roamed around the courtyards and corridors admiring all the incredible carvings and bas-reliefs. Before long, we were climbing the central tower for incredible views over the whole complex.
We spent a good few hours exploring before cycling back into town, ready for an early start the following day.
The next morning we left our guesthouse at 4am and made the trip out to Angkor Wat in time for the sunrise.
A tip for the sunrise: get there early! We went in the middle of the rainy season, expecting it to be quieter and it was still packed.
The best spot for photos is in front of the lily pool on the left-hand side. This is where everyone gathers so arrive early to get a spot by the water. Be prepared to be surrounded by people very quickly!
The sunrise itself was as spectacular as expected and well worth the early wake up call.
Angkor Thom & Bayon Temple
As we had explored Angkor Wat the day before, we headed straight out on the bikes after the sunrise to Bayon temple within the Angkor Thom complex, feeling pleased that we would be beating the crowds.
However, the temple doesn’t open until 7.30am so we found ourselves waiting around until it opened and our tickets were checked. Keep this in mind as it may be worth visiting some of the other temples first!
Bayon temple is probably my favourite of them all; everywhere you look, you can see faces carved into the stone and there are so many little hideaways to explore.
If you picked up an Angkor Wat map from the ticket office, you will be able to see where all the temples are located and plan what you want to see and when.
We spent all of this day and the next cycling around as much of the temple complex as we could.
While we couldn’t see it all in the three days we had, we managed to see everything we wanted to. This included the temple used in the Tomb Raider film with Angelina Jolie, where incredible trees have taken over the ruins.
We initially took the clockwise route shown on our map from Angkor Wat, but on our last day we went anti-clockwise to see the temples we’d missed so far and we found that the road was a lot less busy. I would suggest going anti-clockwise if you’d rather avoid the crowds.
Final thoughts on exploring Angkor Wat by bicycle
While seeing Angkor Wat by bicycle is not the majority’s first choice of transport for touring the temples, it is certainly the most adventurous! And there is something very relaxing about rolling along at your own pace and taking in as much as you can.
Cycling in Angkor Wat provides a freedom that you don’t get with a tuk tuk tour, and I definitely prefer listening to the sounds of Cambodia to the sound of a motorbike engine.
After the three days, you may have a sore bum and aching legs! But you will have seen the temples in a way most people do not. And riding through the Cambodian countryside between temples is lovely.
Enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with it too!
Whether you decide to do it by bicycle or not, the Angkor Wat experience is definitely a must when visiting Cambodia.
What do you think about this idea? Is this something you would do? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- Top 6 things to do in Cambodia
- 8 Great things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- 7+ Reasons to stop in Kampot, Cambodia
All images in this post belong to lastminutewanders.com
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