Angkor Wat or Angkor Archaeological Park is an ancient Hindu religious and archaeological site that was built in 12 century at a place which was then known as Yasodharapura by the king Suryavarman II of the Khmer empire. Being the largest religious monument in the world, it spans over 400 square – kilometers with many Hindu and Buddhist temples spread over this region. All the temples are built in the classical style of the Khmer architecture that features seemingly endless sculptural decorating that tells us the culture and habits of the ancient.
Some of the major sites here that you cannot miss are as follows:
Angkor Wat is the main temple to visit here. The whole temple complex was built in the honor of a Hindu god Vishnu, but it also has some structures revering Buddhism. It marked the period when the Khmer kings gave up Shaivism and started worshiping lord Vishnu. It has been Cambodia’s top attraction for tourists and has become the symbol of the country – it is also present on their national flag.
The Bayon temple is the centerpiece of the Angkor Thom. Built by Jayavarman VII in the 12th or early 13th century, it primarily features Buddhist symbolism. It also has several carvings on the walls telling us about the main historical events and the everyday life events and habits during the Khmer regime.
Bakong was once the official state temple of the Khmer king, Indravarman I during the 9th century. It lies in the ancient city of Hariharalaya which is now being called as Roluos. Primary deity here is Hindu god Shiva.
Bakheng is another temple of Lord Shiva that was built in 10th century AD by Yasovarman. It is situated on top of a hill a hill, so it has become more famous for tourists that prefer to visit it during sunset. From here, you can have a great view of the main temple Angkor Wat that is just 1.5 miles away.
Meaning a bull, which is the means of transport for Shiva, Preah Ko is another ancient temple here that attracts tourists in large numbers. The temple consists of six towers aligned in two rows of three towers each. They are dedicated to the forefathers of the king and lord Shiva.
The Bantay Srei temples are very small in size especially when compared to the other constructions in the Angkor, but are rich in architectural beauty. This made them very special and to be fondly called by the tourists as “Jewel of Khmer Art” or “Precious Gem”.
It is located to the extreme north side of the Roluos group of temples. It is once an island temple, but the water around it is dried up now exposing barren land. The temple consists of four brick towers which lie as a group. It was believed to be built by the kings in memory of their ancestors. A famous carving on sandstone here represents Indra, the Hindu god of sky, sitting on his white elephant, Airavata. Nagas, the hindu gods, are also represented here.
Prasat Kravan is built in 10th century and you will find it to the south of Srah Srang. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and you can find beautiful engravings of Vishnu and goddess Saraswati on the walls. Also, this beautiful temple is surrounded by a moat. It is discovered in 1930 in the deep jungle.
To Reach Angkor Wat, you must reach the city of Siem Reap from where it is a 20 minute journey. Local guides who speak English are available here in plenty and they charge just $20 per day.