Spectacular Sights: The Khmer Empire in One Week

Blocky stone rubble in a temple corridor with vegetation creeping in.

Corridor in the Beng Melea ruins near Siem Reap. Photo by Guillen Perez licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

If you have a week in Siem Reap, you can see all the main temple sites in the Angkor Archaeological Park at your own pace and also take in a couple of the more remote and far less visited Khmer monuments.

Day 1: Angkor Archaeological Park

Explore the imperial city of Angkor Thom in the morning. In the afternoon, head to the spectacular and gigantic Ta Prohm, with a stop at Ta Keo and catch the sunset at Angkor Wat.

Day 2: Angkor Archaeological Park

Catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat before heading to Preah Khan and Neak Pean, a couple of overgrown temple compounds, as well as the temple mountain of Pre Rup and Ta Som. In the afternoon, take the 30-minute ride out to the Roluos Group of temples, and then try to catch the sunset at Phnom Bakheng. (It’s a 30–40-minute ride from Roluos to Phnom Bakheng, an hour if you are on a bicycle.)

Day 3: Beng Melea and Koh Ker

Rent a car and driver and start early in the morning for Beng Melea, perhaps the most spectacular temple outside of the Angkor Archaeological Park, lying 70 kilometers to the northeast of Siem Reap. (Depending on the state of the road, it takes 1–2 hours to reach the temple by car, longer by tuk-tuk.) If you get there by 8 a.m., you might well have the entire complex to yourself for an hour. Grab drinks and a modest lunch in front of Beng Melea. Press on to Koh Ker, 60 kilometers from Beng Melea. Check out the former royal capital’s central pyramid temple and spend the night in a local guesthouse.

Day 4: Koh Ker, Return to Siem Reap

Spend the morning checking out the many other, smaller structures of Koh Ker and enjoy a modest lunch by Prasat Thom before slowly heading back to Siem Reap in the afternoon, passing small villages and cassava fields.

Day 5: Day Off in Siem Reap

You might be templed out by Day 5, so relax in Siem Reap, do some shopping in the Old Market, or take a boat trip around the northwestern shore of Tonlé Sap Lake.

Day 6: Day Trip to Banteay Chhmar

After a day’s break, rent another car and driver and head to Cambodia’s lost temple, Banteay Chhmar, 100 kilometers west of Siem Reap. (It takes 3–4 hours to get to the temple, depending on the state of the roads.) Hardly visited, this temple will probably be Cambodia’s next big attraction in the coming years, but for now you might have it virtually to yourself. Return to Siem Reap in the evening.

Day 7: Angkor Archaeological Park

Head out to Banteay Srei, a true architectural gem, early in the morning to beat the crowds (it’s a 30–40-minute ride from Siem Reap). During or just after the rainy season, consider a side trip to Kbal Spean, the nearby riverbed with carved linga. From Banteay Srei, take the 40-minute ride to the Eastern Mebon and Banteay Samre and check out Banteay Kdei and Prasat Kravan in the afternoon. Take in a last sunset at Angkor Wat before heading back to Siem Reap.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Angkor Wat.

Leave a Reply