Temples to See Before Visiting Angkor Wat

Friday, July 6, 2018

The tourism in Cambodiainfo-icon has proliferated over the years. Most tourists will be visiting Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a temple located near Siem Riep. This iconic temple is recognized as the largest religious monument in the world.

It’s no wonder that over half of the tourism to Cambodia is precisely to see this landmark. The magnitude of this temple is definitely worth seeing. However, Angkor Wat is not the only temple worth visiting in Cambodia.

Many other temples around the country are just as impressive. Stopping by these other temples will put into perspective how grand Angkor Wat actually is.


Bayon Temple is similar to Angkor Wat due to their close proximity.

Visiting Angkor Wat will bring you to the Khmer capital city of Angkor. Angkor Wat is not the only notable temple here, however. Bayon is another iconic temple located in Angkor.

That was the last temple to be built in the city which was completed in the 12th Century. It bears many similar characteristics of Angkor Wat due to their proximity, but Bayon is unique in its own way. 

The main architecture of the temple is reflective of Khmer architecture, but it was designed with influence from Baroque style architecture. 

One notable feature of the temple are the smiling stone faces seen around the structure. These faces represent the former king under who the temples were commissioned. 

The Khmer empire saw a significant religious shift from Hindu to Buddhism over its history. Since this was one of the last temples to be built in Angkor, it has more structures dedicated to the Buddhist faith.

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei Temple was built of red sandstone, differentiating it from the other temples in Cambodia.

Another temple that’s worth stopping by before visiting Angkor Wat is called Banteay Srei. This temple varies significantly from many of the other nearby temples.

Banteay Srei was built in dedication to the Hindu God Shiva. Its name actually translates into “citadel of the women.” This name is actually very fitting for this temple since there are countless female statues found all around the temple.

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This temple also differs in the materials used for constructing it. Banteay Srei was completed around the 10th century. It was primarily built from red sandstone; hence it’s reddish color. 

This sandstone also had another effect on the temple. This material is usually known for being easy to carve, and this is evident around the temple. Many people visit this temple to admire the detailed carvings and sculptures made directly into the temple walls. 

Koh Ker

Koh Ker Temple is overgrown and beautiful, being located in a remote jungle.

A temple known as Koh Ker is also located just north of Siem Riep and Angkor Wat. This temple is in a more remote location, so it gets significantly less tourist traffic than Angkor Wat. 

The entire temple is located in a jungle. Most of the temple is still covered and continuously being mined. There are still several structures of Koh Ker that are accessible for tourists. 

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Koh Ker is significant because it was once the capital of the Khmer Empire. That makes it one of the most important temples historically. Many inscriptions have been found on the temple walls detailing how the society worked when the temple was inhabited.

Koh Ker actually held an impressive amount of artwork and statues, but these have since been removed from the grounds. You can find some of these works in museums around the world.

Sambor Prei Kuk

Sambor Prei Kuk is located much farther from many of the other temples centered around the western regions of Cambodia. It is a much more different experience compared to visiting Angkor Wat. 

This temple is located near Phnom Penh, the current capital of the country. Sambor Prei Kuk is currently an archaeological site with work being done to uncover more of the temple. Since it’s discovery, it has been recognized as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

One of the major differences of this temple is that it was constructed in the Pre-Angkorian times. Buddhism wasn’t prominent at this time, so this temple is reflective of Hindu influences. Many of its structures date back as early as the 7th century, much earlier than any of the temples in Angkor. 

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Sambor Prei Kuk is a temple that’s divided into three groupings to characterize the site. The northern region is where you will find the main temple. The southern region holds several sanctuaries. The central area is known and named for its lion statues.

You will truly be amazed at the scale of the architectural wonder when visiting Angkor Wat. To get a real sense of just how big the temple is, you might want to consider visiting some of the other temples around Cambodia. The former Khmer empire capital city of Angkor holds a large concentration of temples, including Angkor Wat. Each temple has their own historical significance. Other temples such as Koh Ker and Sambor Prei Kuk are in much more remote areas. Temples such as these do not get as much tourism but can still be worth visiting. Also, other remote temples are still being discovered today.

Bryan Shelmon a freelance writer for aSabbatical.com
The best part about travelling is experiencing completely different ways of living that make you appreciate life even more.