Last Updated on July 11, 2020 by Tom Shu
I get it, traveling can be expensive and there are so many places to see where ever you go. Plus, if its a popular tourist location, you’re bound to be with a bunch of tourists when you do visit.
If you’re planning a visit Cambodia, one on your list is probably a visit to Angkor Wat and the big question is, is Angkor Wat worth it?
After visiting 3 times on our most recent trip at the beginning of the 2019 I can happily tell you that YES! Visiting Angkor Wat is definitely worth it! It was one of the highlights of our trip and whenever we get the chance to visit Cambodia again, we’re definitely going back to Angkor Wat.
Now, the Angkor Wat pass isn’t the cheapest entrance ticket that you’ll run into, but when you think about how many different temples are included in the pass, it is well worth it.
That’s enough jabbering for now, though. Let’s get into our top 10 reasons why you have to visit Angkor Wat on your trip to Cambodia!
Top 10 Reasons Why You Have to Visit Angkor Wat
1.) Angkor Wat is One of the Most Breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the World
Being selected to the UNESCO World Heritage List is no small feat at all. In order to be designated to the list, a site needs to meet at least 1 of 10 selection criteria at UNESCO.
The ancient city of Angkor, which includes Angkor Wat, didn’t just meet 1 of the criteria, they met 4 of them which is pretty incredible.
Just take a look at these criteria which Angkor met and tell me how you’re not inspired to pack your bags and go right now!
- Selection Criteria (i): to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius
- Selection Criteria (ii): to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design
- Selection Criteria (iii): to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to civilization which is living or which has disappeared
- Selection Criteria (iv): to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history
2.) Angkor Passes are Valid at All Angkor Temples
Although the Angkor Pass is not the cheapest entrance ticket you will ever purchase, they are valid at all Angkor Temples, not just Angkor Wat.
Plus, there are 3 different kinds of passes available depending on how long you will be visiting the temples, so you can pick the one that best fits your schedule.
We stayed in Siem Reap for 6 days so opted for the 7 day pass and went to as many temples as we possibly could.
Keep in mind that the Angkor Pass is not valid at the popular Phnom Kulen National Park, Beng Mealea Temple, and Koh Ker Temple. Here are the 3 different tickets you can purchase and the price of each:
- 1 day pass – $USD 37
- 3 day pass – $USD 62
- 7 day pass – $USD 72
3.) Angkor Wat is Incredibly Photogenic
The popular reflection pools at the front of Angkor Wat is not the only place to take photos while you visit.
Every where we went, there seemed to be a cool staircase, hallway, and unique area of the temple that made for great photo opportunities.
Obviously, you should also put down your camera and enjoy being being in the moment while you are walking through the temple.
It is nice to know that there are many photogenic places in the temple that are not the crowded reflecting pools though.
4.) Angkor Wat is Big Enough to Find Places to Yourself
One thing that we liked about Angkor Wat is just how big the temple grounds are.
This means that you have plenty of space to explore and get away from the crowds even if you’re visiting during peak hours.
It seemed to me that most tour groups followed the same route, so if you explored outside of this area, there was much less people.
This is very different than temples like Bayon, Ta Prohm, and Bang Mealea which are smaller and have one primary route to visit the temple through.
If you visit these temples at peak hour you will always be surrounded by other tourists and will likely run into traffic jams of people.
5.) You Can Visit Multiple Temples in One Day
The best part about the Angkor Archaeological Park is how close most of the temples are to each other.
We hired a Tuk Tuk for a day and easily visited 5 different temples in one day, Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Bayon, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, and Pre Rup.
We actually could have made it to a few more temples, but we took it easy because of how hot it got during the middle of the day.
There are two main roads that lead through the archaeological park. The small route is a 17km route and the large route is a 26km loop that take you past a selection of different temples.
Most, if not all Tuk Tuk drivers will ask you which route you want to take. Instead of following the standard 2 routes, my suggestion is to pick and choose which temples along the routes you want to stop by and create your own itinerary.
This way you can avoid the crowd a little more as everyone follows the same path.
6.) The Architecture is Astonishing and Inspiring
One look at the pictures and you can guess how breathtaking the architecture is in Angkor Wat.
It’s another thing to walk through the long corridors, climb up the steep staircases, and get up close and personal with the engravings found throughout the temple.
What really amazed me was when I found out Angkor Wat was built without the use of cement, nails or glue of any kind.
I’m no engineer, but from what I learned, they built the temple in a way that allowed the stones to push against each other with enough force to prevent it from collapsing on itself.
The craziest part of the architecture of Angkor Wat is that they finished building it in 30 years. To give you a sense of how quick that was, it took 200 years to build Notre Dame in Paris!
7.) The History of the Place is Massive
Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and it dates back to the 12th century when Emperor Suryavarman II built Angkor Wat in dedication to the Hindu god Vishnu. However, by the end of the 12th century, the temple had become a Buddhist temple.
Throughout the temple, you will see stone carvings of Hindu and Buddhist mythology that you could spend entire days just learning about.
It really is awe inspiring when you walk through the temple grounds and try to imagine what it might have been like during those early times.
One thing I recommend doing before your visit, though is to watch at least one documentary about Angkor Wat before going as it will definitely help you appreciate what you’re about to see.
Here is my favorite documentary that I found on YouTube.
Its a little longer at almost 1 hour in run time, but I think it does a great job in covering the entire history of Angkor Wat.
8.) The Sunrise is Spectacular
Going to Angkor Wat for sunrise was definitely one of the most memorable things we did on the entire trip.
Even though it is super crowded and you feel like you’re a sheep following the heard to pasture, the colors, atmosphere, and feelings that sunrise conjured up was something I will never forget.
Just look at these photos that we captured!
If you want to read more about why I think sunrise is worth the effort, make sure to check out our article comparing sunrise to sunset at Angkor Wat!
9.) It Will Make You Feel Small
No, I’m not talking about how tall you are! I’m talking about your perception of the world.
Sometimes its easy to get caught up in life, in how your most recent Instagram post is doing, or what you’re going to eat for dinner.
Visiting an epic monument like Angkor Wat will make you realize just how amazing human potential is.
At the same time, it will also open your eyes to just how big the world is outside of your own daily universe.
10.) You Will Learn Something
I promise you that if you visit Angkor Wat you will learn something.
Whether you learn a little more about human civilization, a little about religion, a little about architecture, or even a little about the behavior of monkeys (we got our breakfast stolen multiple times by the monkeys of Angkor Wat), the temple will be sure to spark your inner curiosity as you explore its compound.
Angkor Wat is definitely worth a visit even if you can only go for one day.
The temple will not only inspire and amaze you, but it will also give you a sense of human history that you can only get from visiting historic monuments such as this one.
Yes, the hoards of tourists visiting at every moment of the day can get annoying, but remember, Angkor Wat is large enough to find and steal a quite moment for yourself.
I have had the chance to visit Notre Dame in Paris, the Colosseum in Rome, the Duomo in Milan, and the historic streets of old Cartagena, Colombia, but nothing will compare to the awe I felt when I saw Angkor Wat for the first time.
Have you been to Angkor Wat before? Did you think that it was worth a visit?