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The Cambodia’s Lesser-Known Temples

The Cambodia’s Lesser-Known Temples

Virtually every visitor to Cambodia will tick off Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm, but for those willing to put in the hard yards, many of the Kingdom’s finest temples await – within the Angkor park and beyond. These lesser-known temples offer all the wonders of Angkor without the crowds.

Go beyond Siem Reap’s limits and goes on into the ancient forest where the only sounds are those of the leaves falling and birds calling and discover the remote temples that give a very ‘Indiana Jones’ feel to the experience: the mysterious and overgrown temple of Beng Mealea, the pyramid Koh Ker temple, the sacred Kulen Mountain, the heavenly temple of Preah Vihear etc.

The overgrown temple of Beng Mealea

Beng Mealea is the mysterious 12th-century temple that is lost in the greenery of nature, giving visitors the feeling of being in an adventure film. It lies 70km from Siem Reap, making for an ideal half-day trip, or it can be combined with Koh Ker for a full-day excursion. Undiscovered for centuries, Beng Mealea is one of the very few temples that its elevated wooden walkways allow you to walk above the temple’s collapsed galleries and towers whilst shaded by the jungle canopy, giving a very ‘Indiana Jones’ feel to the experience.

**Location: About 60 Km from Siem Reap (1.3 hour drive)
**Remark: Combine as full-day trip with Koh Ker or Banteay Srei or Kulen or Tonle Sap Lake

The pyramid Koh Ker temple

Koh Ker is a remote archaeological site in northern Cambodia. From CE 928-944, the site served as the capital of the Angkorian Empire. King Jayavarman IV built a temple complex there to worship Treypuvanesvara, the god of happiness. The seven-tiered pyramid stands 35m high and thrusts out of the jungle undergrowth like a small hill. It is the main attraction of a temple complex that was once scattered with ornate temples, most now lying in ruins.

**Location: About 120 Km from Siem Reap (2 hour drive)
**Remark: Combine as a full-day tour with Beng Mealea 

The heavenly temple of Preah Vihear

Cambodia’s ‘temple in the sky’ is undoubtedly one of its most jaw-dropping sights. This Unesco World Heritage Site offers the most impressive views of any of the Kingdom’s ancient treasures. Be prepared for the steep ascent to the top of these sacred grounds, long a centre of pilgrimage for both the god-kings of the Khmer Empire and the Cambodian people of today.

**Location: About 230 Km from Siem Reap (4 hour drive)
**Remark: Overnight trip from Siem Reap combines with visiting Beng Mealea & Koh Ker

The Sacred Kulen Mountain

In the early ninth century, atop one of Cambodia’s most sacred mountains, Jayavarman II declared himself the deva-raja – or god-king – and first ruler of what became the mighty Khmer Empire. 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. Around 50 kilometres from Siem Reap, this forested historical site is also famous for its waterfalls in the monsoon season and the thousand lingas (a phallic symbol of the Hindu God Shiva) carved into the riverbank at the mountain’s base. The quarries at Phnom Kulen provided the stones for Angkor Wat and other temples.

**Location: About 50 Km from Siem Reap (1.30 hour drive)
**Remark: Combine as a full-day tour with Beng Mealea or Banteay Srei or Tonle Sap Lake

UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sambor Prei Kuk

Sambor Prei Kuk became Cambodia’s third UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. A vast complex of more than 100 Hindu temples that even predates Cambodia’s tourism jewel of Angkor, this majestic temple site is located about 30km from Kampong Thom’s provincial capital. The site was originally called Isanapura and was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Upper Chenla during the early 7th century. Later, it was the site of the Khmer capital, before Angkor became the seat of the empire.

**Location: About 230 Km from Siem Reap (4 hour drive)
**Remark: Full-day trip from Siem Reap or detour to visit while transfer from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh or vice versus.

Banteay Chhmar temple

Unesco world heritage site Banteay Chhmar is a temple complex in the northwest of the country, close to the Thai border. The bas-relief artworks that mark more than a kilometre of the outer gallery walls are a particularly impressive feature here. Having remained almost completely untouched for 800 years, this complex is a pertinent link between the Khmer people and their Angkorian roots.

**Location: About 165 Km from Siem Reap (2.30 hour drive)
**Remark: Full-day trip from Siem Reap

Preah Khan of Kampong Svay

The history of Preah Khan of Kampong Svay is shrouded in mystery, but there is a consensus that it has long been a location of religious importance. Despite being damaged by looters in the late 1990s, the temple remains a site of serenity. The relatively small size of the complex makes it ideal for a half-day visit. It is worth making the trip for the exquisitely carved elephants at the eastern end of the reservoir.

**Location: About 230 Km from Siem Reap (4 hour drive)
**Remark: Overnight trip from Siem Reap combines with visiting Beng Mealea & Koh Ker

ACL Travel offers plenty of well-crafted tours that represent a series of Cambodia’s authentic experiences we highly recommended including daily excursions, special celebrations, short breaks, educational programs, company retreats and other requested tailor-made itineraries. These thoughtful journeys with expert guides encompass the ruins of the great Khmer empire at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap’s burgeoning contemporary cultural scene, Phnom Penh‘s atrocities of the Khmer Rouge era, and this country’s idyllic coastline just now being discovered by leisure seekers and nature lovers.