• Is it worth visiting Angkor Wat despite the crowds?

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

If you’re planning on visiting Cambodia, Angkor Wat is probably the number one reason for your trip. It is also the main reason for more than 6000 visitors every single day.

And  yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Raphael, how can I enjoy Angkor Wat with so many people around it? Is there a way to avoid the crowds in Angkor Wat?”.

Lucky for you, I have the perfect solution for your problems my dear wonder friends!!! Ready to bring out your inner Tomb Raider? Come and explore Angkor Wat with me!

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

The Elephant Terrace in Angkor Thom

A brief introduction to Angkor Wat, the Biggest Temple in the World

Located in the small South Asian country of Cambodia, Angkor Wat has captivated the minds of the Western world ever since Henri Mouhot “found” it.

His words, a mix of poetry and archeology, are interesting to say the least.

“One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo—might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings.

 It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.”

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

Angkor Wat, a place of mystery and reflection

While he was wrong about many facts (like doubting that the Khmer people could have built such magnificent temple all by themselves) it was because of him that the Western world became aware of the existence of Angkor Wat.

This new re-discovery has led to extensive efforts of conservation as well as boosting the Cambodian economy.

Today, it can be argued that the town of Siem Reap has lost a little bit of its authenticity by catering to Western tourists although some argue that this is good since it has improved the local economy of the people.

A good call or a bad one? Only time will tell but here’s an interesting article about Cambodia and its orpahange business and be aware that even though elephant riding might seem exotic, it is a VERY cruel activity to do.

DON’T DO IT.

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

Do NOT ride an elephant. Repeat: DO NOT RIDE AN ELEPHANT.

Angkor Wat: what to expect and what to avoid

There are many ways of reaching Siem Reap, Cambodia’s most visited city and gateway to the temples of Angkor. The most common ways consist of flying directly to the Siem Reap International Airport from any South East Asian country or to cross the land border from Thailand.

The cost for a visa on arrival to Cambodia is 30 USD as of 2016 although there have been many reports of border officials asking for 35 USD and pocketing the difference. Did I forget to mention that Cambodia is the most corrupt country of South East Asia?

From the town of Siem Reap itself, the main Angkor temples are 15-20 minutes away by taxi or tuk-tuk. A one day pass will set you back 20 USD, three days for 40 USD and seven days for 60 USD.

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

One of the big Buddhist heads at Bayon

While I believe that the seven days pass is a little bit excessive and should be bought only for true archeologists and hardcore history-buffs, the three-day pass offers the best value for your money since it allows you to explore the ruins at your own pace without rushing through them.

A one day pass is only good for those with a tight schedule and while it is possible to visit all of Angkor’s must-see temples in one extensive day, I wouldn’t recommend it.

PS. If you arrive late to Siem Reap, you can go to the ticket booth at 17:00 and buy a pass starting the next day, doing this will allow you to see the sunset from Angkor Wat on that day without counting towards the number of days you have.

And while the sunset from Angkor Wat itself is not that impressive, the sunrise surely makes up for it!!!

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat: How overcrowded is it, really?

Sure, in recent times, Angkor at has become a sort of Disneyland for tourists and now it is not uncommon to see thousands of people waiting anxiously at 05:00 and searching for the perfect spot from where to take photos with their top-notch cameras.

Is Angkor Wat an overcrowded tourist trap? No, not all. In fact, it is still possible to find peace and gain that sense of wonder even in the busiest temples of the complex if you go searching for it.

And yes, Angkor Wat is extremely busy during the early morning and noon but if you visit it in the late afternoon you’ll be avoiding most of the crowds and you’ll be able to (finally) takes photos of it without any soul in the background.

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

Angkor Wat during the late afternoon

If this is your first time visiting the Angkor Temples, it is important to remember that Angkor Wat is only one temple of the immense Angkor Park Archaeological Zone and exploring every corner of them all will take you weeks if not months.

From Siem Reap, there are two main tours or circuits that you can do: the short circuit and the big circuit. The short circuit visits the main three temples (Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom/Bayon and Ta Phrom) while the big circuit goes to the secondary temples in which you’ll experience less crowds.

An average price for a private Tuk Tuk is 15 USD for the short circuit and 18 USD for the big circuit. Add 5 USD for sunrise and another 5 USD for sunset. A Tuk Tuk can carry a maximum of 4 passengers so you can easily share the cost between all of you.

And no, don’t let unscrupulous drivers scam you!!! Click here to read some of the Top 5 Scams of South East Asia!

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

Khmer tour guide in Angkor Wat

From Angkor Wat to Angkor Thom and Ta Phrom

The first stop for everybody in the Angkor Park is Angkor Wat with its magnificent five towers, each representing a peak of the mythical Mount Meru of Hindu Mythology.

A few decades after its construction, the official religion shifted from Hinduism to Buddhism so you can expect to find Buddha statues and orange robbed monks praying and taking photos of themselves with their iPads.

Yes, that’s not a typo. Between praying and meditating, monks somehow have the time to play Candy Crush and Flapping Bird!

Man, I sure love Cambodia.

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

A group of monks posing for a photo in Angkor Wat

The next stop in your tour is Angkor Thom. Its name literally means the City of Angkor and it isn’t hard to see why: the area is HUGE and there’s a lot of temples inside of it the most famous of which is the Bayon Temple with its big Buddha heads.

Even tough Angkor Wat is the main attraction for many, the most interesting temple is the Bayon in my own personal opinion. We visited the Bayon at a very busy time so it was kind of difficult to obtain photos in which no other people were in sight but you could still be amazed at the complexity of it.

There were even queues of tourists lining up to take the same photograph of themselves kissing/pinching/touching one of the giant heads. How crazy is that?

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

The Bayon Temple. How many heads can you count?

Last but not least is Ta Phrom, known to many as the “Tomb Raider Temple”. True, Angelina Jolie filmed the Tomb Raider movie in this temple and yes, the fig trees growing out of the buildings are impressive but the most impressive aspect of Ta Phrom are carvings found in this unique temple complex.

Nowhere in Cambodia you will find carvings as exquisite and detailed as the ones of Ta Phrom, including an alleged dinosaur (yes, a dinosaur!!!) and the iconic Apsara dancers that are a national symbol of the country.

Once you’re done exploring the short circuit, it’s time to go back to your hostel and take a long cold shower. Congratulations, you’ve just explored the three main temples of Cambodia. Time to celebrate with a cold Angkor Beer my friends!!!

Looking for more about Siem Reap and Angkor Wat? Don’t forget to come back here next week to read all about the best alternative things to do in Siem Reap as well as the day that I explored the Angkor Wat with a local guide that was born and raised inside the temples before they became a tourist attraction.

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

Apsara dancer in Ta Phrom

Where to stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia

The best accommodation in Siem Reap is often found a few minutes outside of the touristy Pub Street and Night Market and yes, you should totally try to find an accommodation with a pool.

Trust me, you’ll need it after hours of exploring the Angkor temples!!! Some of my recommendations for Siem Reap include: Viroth’s Hotel, The Living Quarters Hostel 543, Resort The Privilege Floor and Hostel Funky Flashpacker.

PS. You can make a booking for this and more properties via our Booking.com affiliate link of Wonders!

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

Angkor Wat: how to avoid the crowds and have it all for yourself

The though life in the countryside of Siem Reap, Cambodia

I hope you have enjoyed this article about Angkor Wat, the most important landmark of Cambodia. Don’t forget to subscribe in order to get more awesome updates and tips straight to your e-mail!

Have you ever been to Angkor Wat? Would you like to? How crowded was it? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!

Until next time, my friends!

Angkor Wat, is it worth visiting?

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Angkor Wat, is it worth visiting despite the crowds?

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May 15th, 2016|Categories: Asia Travel|Tags: |
Raphael Alexander is a Nomadic Digital Marketer and Travel Influencer who overcame the chains of the local economy and found a way to achieve his dream of having a professional life while traveling the world non-stop. His goal in life is to inspire the people of the world to unleash their full inner potential. A perfect day for him includes exotic animals, ancient pyramids, breath-taking waterfalls and tasty tacos. Lots of tacos.

20 Comments

  1. Bronwyn Joy @ Journeys Of The Fabulist November 21, 2013 at 6:31 am - Reply

    One of my favourite countries to visit. Truly great sights and history, but the modern-day people make the journey a pleasure.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren December 12, 2013 at 12:28 pm - Reply

      Cambodians sure are some friendly folks! Thailand may be the Land of Smiles but Cambodia is shaping up to be the Land of Kindness 🙂

  2. Thrifty Traveler Diaries December 11, 2013 at 8:19 am - Reply

    I have been to Angkor Wat myself and it is splendid beyond words and have posted some photos of my trip in my blog. I wish to go back someday.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren December 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm - Reply

      I agree!! There is so much to do in the temples themselves as well as outside of them, Siem Reap was among the highlights of my South East Asian journey!

      • Steve August 5, 2014 at 1:04 am

        Pity then that you were not a little more respectful in your persistent (and incorrect) naming of it as ‘Angkor Wat Disneyland’… (whilst the only similarity you can point out is that they both have lots of visitors)… Pretty lame I thought…

  3. Angie February 16, 2014 at 3:26 am - Reply

    I’ve been in Thailand several months now, and after seeing more than my share of temples, the only one I’m really looking forward to seeing is Angkor Wat. I also want to see Siem Reap, too. I enjoyed reading your post.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren February 19, 2014 at 12:15 am - Reply

      Angkor Wat is something out of this world, you’ll love it! Also, don’t forget to visit the other temples located nearby, specially the Bayon!

  4. Gregory George April 26, 2014 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Wow. So incredibly intriqued yet somehow appalled at the Disney reference…Bucket List!

  5. Angie April 26, 2014 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    Finally made it here! I definitely see what you mean about Disney World. I didn’t get hustled for powdered milk, just postcards and elephant pants! I should be so lucky when I get to the pyramids!

  6. Jaime el Duende April 26, 2014 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    Very good post!!!! I will definitely consider visiting this place with my family!

  7. Samantha @mytanfeet April 28, 2014 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    Hmm interesting! I never thought to go here or was that interested but I like how you call it the Disneyland ha ha. But I’m not a fan of crowds soo we will see haha

  8. Nina May 11, 2014 at 4:43 am - Reply

    I’ve always wanted to visit Angkor Wat but for some reason we always end up traveling to other places (we’re kind of impulsive when it comes to traveling :)), but I’m sure one day we’ll get there. The big crowds may be a turn of, but that’s the way it goes with world famous places: everybody wants to visit them and let’s face it: we’re all part of this crowd. You gave some great tips for making the best of a visit to Angkor Wat.

  9. Christina May 12, 2014 at 2:47 am - Reply

    Cambodia and Angkor is a beautiful area. I can highly recommend the Phnom Bakheng too if you want to see an incredible sunset (including hundreds of people) but that´s how it is. I didn´t see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. I´m sure it´s a special moment.

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