A trip to Cambodia is incomplete without visiting the centuries-old Angkor Wat temple complex in the northwestern province of Siem Reap. Built in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, comprising some 1,200 square metres of intricately carved bas reliefs. In a recent development, it has surpassed Pompeii in Italy to become the world's eighth wonder. The unofficial title "Eighth Wonder of the World" is sometimes given to buildings, structures, projects, designs, or even people that are thought to be comparable to the seven Wonders of the World.
Prime Minister Hun Manet expressed his delight following the announcement that Angkor Wat had surpassed Pompeii in Italy to become the world's eighth wonder. "Congratulations to Angkor Wat Temple on becoming the world's eighth wonder by defeating Italy's Pompeii," he said.
An interesting fact about Angkor is that it is also known as Yasodharapura. The name Angkor is derived from nokor, a Khmer word meaning "kingdom," which is derived from Sanskrit nagara, which means "city."
Originally dedicated to the worship of Vishnu by the Khmer Emperor Suryavarman II, it was converted into a Buddhist temple by his successor Jayavarman VII, who also built the famous Buddhist temple of Bayon nearby. You could spend a whole day in this mossy wonderland soaking in the magical and mysterious atmosphere and exploring the architecture and history of the ruins. Henri Mouhot, a French explorer, wrote in the 1840s that the site was "grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome." Incidentally, Angkor Wat was dubbed as the “Tomb Raider temple” in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) featuring Angelina Jolie.
Angkor Wat is one of the temples in Angkor, one of South-East Asia's most important archaeological sites. Angkor Archaeological Park, which spans 400 km and includes forested areas, contains the magnificent remains of the Khmer Empire's various capitals from the 9th to the 15th centuries. They include the well-known Angkor Wat Temple and the Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom, which has numerous sculptural decorations. UNESCO has established a comprehensive programme to protect this historic site and its surroundings.
For centuries, Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Kingdom. According to UNESCO, the site is a unique concentration of features attesting to an exceptional civilisation, with impressive monuments, several different ancient urban plans, and large water reservoirs. Angkor Wat, the Bayon, Preah Khan, and Ta Prohm, as examples of Khmer architecture, are inextricably linked to their geographical context and imbued with symbolic significance. The Khmer Empire of the 9th-14th centuries encompassed much of South-east Asia and played a formative role in the political and cultural development of the region. All that remains of that civilization is its rich heritage of cult structures in brick and stone.
The architectural brilliance of Angkor Wat is what makes it a wonder. Sandstone blocks were used to build the structure. A 15-foot-high wall surrounded by a wide moat protected the city, temple, and residents from invasion, and much of that fortification remains. Angkor Wat sprawls across more than 200 acres within these walls. Thousands of bas-reliefs depict important deities and figures in Hindu and Buddhist religions, as well as key events in its narrative tradition, adorn the temple walls.
This area is thought to have included the city, temple structure, and emperor's palace, which was located just north of the temple. The central temple complex is a work of art in terms of symmetry and precision, with five lotus-shaped towers representing Mount Meru, the mythical abode of the gods in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. It is best to plan ahead of time to visit Angkor and Angkor Wat. Allow at least three days or a week to fully appreciate this ancient city's stunning architecture. Angkor Archaeological Park, commonly referred to as a temple complex, is actually the ruins of a 1,000-square-kilometre city.
Siem Reap International Airport (REP) is now the closest airport to Angkor Wat. Cambodia’s newest and biggest airport was opened in November 2023 and is designed to serve as an upgraded gateway to the centuries-old temple complex. The airport is about 40 kilometres east of the complex.
Wear clothes that cover your shoulders and trousers or skirts that fall below the knee.
Do not touch, climb on, vandalise, or remove any stones from the temples.
Angkor Wat is open all year, from 5 am to 6 pm. Admission to the complex requires purchasing a ticket. The dry season, which lasts from November to March, is the most popular time to visit because the days are cooler. This is after the monsoon, when lakes are full and lush greenery surrounds the temples, providing the perfect backdrop. Most of the temples in Angkor face east, so the best lighting conditions are in the morning, except for Angkor Wat, which faces west and has the best light in the afternoon.
A naturally blessed country, Cambodia should be on every traveller's list of places to visit with its many historical monuments, enormous old temples, gorgeous cities, and a list of exciting things to see and do. It is also one of the countries where Indians can get a 30-day visa upon arrival.