Today start your Angkor adventure by exploring the ancient fortified city of Angkor Thom. From Angkor Thom’s southern gateway, continue to visit Bayon temple “The Giant Smiling Faces temple”. Move on to visit the nearby triple-tiered mountain temple of the Baphuon, also known as the Pyramid temple in Angkor. From there walk through the shaded parkland to the Terrace of the Elephant, and the Terrace of the Leper King to view their detailed stone carvings.
After enjoying a relaxing lunch at a local restaurant, continue to visit the encroaching jungle Ta Prohm, also known to be the undisputed capital of the “Kingdom of the Trees”. It has been featured in several Hollywood movies such as Tomb Raider, Indiana Jones, and Two Brothers.
Wrap up today with the world’s largest religious monument of Angkor Wat until sunset. Walk its shady cloisters among orange-robed monks and watch the setting sun paint the temple’s lofty prangs (spires) and carved walls gold as dusk falls. Your guide will show you the best spot for Kodak opportunity. Angkor Wat is a representation of the Hindu cosmology and is dedicated to the god Vishnu. The five towers of Angkor Wat are the representation of the five peaks of Mount Meru, home of the gods and centre of the Hindu universe. The temple’s greatest sculptural treasure is its 1-mile-long bas-relief that wraps around the walls of the outer gallery along with the 2000 figures of Khmer Devas and Apsaras.
This is one of the best escapes to take you beyond Siem Reap’s limits and goes on into the ancient forest where the only sounds are the leaves falling and birds calling. This full day’s adventure offers a temple experience far removed from the much-visited Angkor complex.
We suggest an early start, leaving around 7.30 am with a direct 2.5-hour journey to Koh Ker temples. Situated 130 Km from Siem Reap, even fewer tourists visit Koh Ker. Briefly the site of the Khmer empire’s capital in the 10th century, today Koh Ker’s tranquility leaves you to explore without distraction. Originally dedicated to Hindu gods, Koh Ker is dominated by Prasat Thom, a 30-metre masonry temple mound which rises above the surrounding forest. Carved garuda, the mythical mount of Vishnu, still stands guard atop the temple pinnacles. Meander at your leisure among the many tower sanctuaries here. Several houses have spectacular stone linga, the phallic-shaped symbol honouring Shiva, which has led scholars to question King Jayavarman IV’s ego as they are truly enormous.
Or, discover the holy Kulen National Park, widely regarded as the birthplace of the ancient Khmer Empire. In the early ninth century, atop one of Cambodia’s most sacred mountains, the King Jayavarman II proclaimed independence from Java in 802 A.D and declared himself the deva-raja – or god-king – and first ruler of what became the mighty Khmer Empire. Kulen Mountain (Phnom Kulen) is a popular spot for locals who, at weekends and religious festivals make their pilgrimage to Wat Preah Ang Thom, home to a great reclining Buddha. The quarries at Phnom Kulen provided the stones for Angkor Wat and other temples. Just a few inches under the surface of the water, over 1000 carvings of Yoni and Linga (a phallic symbol of the Hindu God Shiva) are etched into the sandstone riverbed. The river then ends with a beautiful waterfall, where you can take a refreshing bath. Take this chance to taste some fruits and local produce as your guide will facilitate interaction with the villagers.
On your return detour to explore the jungle temple of Beng Mealea. Originally enclosed by a moat nearly the size of Angkor Wat’s, Beng Mealea is a 12th-century temple now disappearing as the jungle encroaches. Undiscovered for centuries, Beng Mealea is one of the very few temples of which elevated wooden walkways allow you to walk above the ruins’ collapsed galleries and towers whilst shaded by the jungle canopy, giving a very ‘Indiana Jones’ feel to the experience. The return drive to Siem Reap town takes approximately 1.30 hours.
Enjoy this morning free at leisure or you may explore the city town as vehicle and guide are at your disposal.
This afternoon takes a break from temples, and travel a bit further away from town to explore Kampong Phluk “Harbour of the Tusks”, a fascinating fishing community on the fringes of the magnificent Tonlé Sap Lake. Take a boat trip to see its glory as you pass through the floating village where the fisherman and their families live in stilted houses. Relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery dominated by the tranquility of the lake that dots the landscape.
In the foothills of Kulen Mountain, lies the Bos Thom Community Forest, 1100 acres of protected forest inhabited by the former elephants of Angkor. For 22 years, these elephants have given rides to visitors in the temples of the world heritage site. Today, they roam free in their natural habitat and are living testimony to a changing world. With 75 remaining captive elephants in Cambodia, the protection of this amazing animal is more critical than ever. A visit to the Kulen Elephant Forest will not only help the elephants of Angkor but all elephants in Cambodia through the KEF’s long-term objectives, for we believe in the power of education and tourism as drivers for conservation.
This morning you are taken on 1-hour drive outskirts of Siem Reap town to the Kulen Elephant Forest sanctuary where you will learn about the project, enjoy nature and interact with elephants.
**Note: At the reserve, there are no tricks, and no riding and the elephants are now free to roam and socialize as they please.
Conclude your day with the intricate Banteay Srei “the Citadel of Women”, a pink sandstone temple with beautiful ornate stone carvings which is seen nowhere else in Angkor. On the way back, stop at a local village along the way to meet local people and see how they produce their local commodities such as sugar palms and handicrafts.
*Child (4 – 11 years old): 50% of Adult price
*Infant (Below 4 years old): Free of Charge
Full Day (8.00 am – 4.00 pm)
Explore the countryside with an ox cart ride and offer alms to a Buddhist monk
Discover Cambodia’s Golden Threads and pink sandstone temple of Banteay Srei
3-Day Angkor Tour & Surroundings
Discover Angkor Wat at its stunning time – at dawn and sunrise.
Explore Tonle Sap Lake with a boat trip
Go off-the-beaten-track beyond Siem Reap’s limits.