The Angkor Archaeological Park was where I took the most photos of a single place of interest throughout the trip. As such, the visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park warrants a cluster of posts, or else the posts may not be detailed enough, or information may be overloaded.
When people mention the word “Angkor”, straightaway, you will think of Angkor Wat. But the Angkor Archaeological Park contains much more than Angkor Wat itself. The good thing is that in the Angkor Archaeological Park, most attractions are covered by the Angkor Pass, so even if you wanted to just visit Angkor Wat or you would like to explore the vast area that is Angkor, you pay the same price anyway. So it’s a no-brainer, really, to continue exploring.
I booked a tuk tuk from my hotel, which charged me US$15 for the full day at my disposal within the Angkor Archaeological Park, until I decided to return to the hotel or the city, where the disposal will end, regardless of time. And thankfully I did – I actually asked my hotel if it was possible to walk to Angkor Wat and back and they gave me a really strange look. It looks small on Google Maps due to the perfect north-south orientation and straightness of the roads, but in actual fact it was around 3 kilometers from Siem Reap city to Angkor Wat. And most of the other sites in the Angkor Archaeological Park are covered by trees, making it almost hidden on Google Maps.
Two typical tourist routes are laid out and almost all locals and tuk tuk driver know it by heart. They are the Small Circuit and the Grand Circuit. The Small Circuit can be covered in one day, making a small loop of 17 kilometers within the Angkor Archaeological Park. The Grand Circuit is an extension of the Small Circuit, sharing the same first few attractions, but extends into a bigger 26 kilometer loop, usually advised for visitors who wish to spend 3 days in the Angkor Archaeological Park. Since I only had one day in Siem Reap, I opted for the Small Circuit.
*There are other outlying temples around, but these require at least a week’s stay in Siem Reap to properly appreciate, and the hotels and tours would give personal advice if you really wish to go for them.
First task of the day – getting an Angkor Pass. Don’t worry about pre-booking your ticket, the Angkor Pass can be purchased on the spot. In fact, even if you had pre-booked it, your travel agent would have followed you to the ticket office to make payment for you, since an on-the-spot photograph is required to be printed on the Angkor Pass.
We drove (rode?) to this seemingly new ticket office, which was not on the main highway to Angkor Wat. But nevertheless, it was definitely not a scam.
You can purchase a 1 Day Pass, a Flexible 3 Day Pass valid for 1 week and a Flexible 7 Day Pass valid for 1 month. The passes start their validity from the date of purchase, so no pre-booking is necessary.
1 Day Pass: US$20
Flexible 3 Day Pass: US$40 (valid for 1 week)
Flexible 7 Day Pass: US$60 (valid for 1 month)
The ticket office opens from 5am to 5.30pm daily, and the visiting hours of the Angkor Archaeological Park is from 5.30am to 5.30pm daily, with the exception of some popular or special temples. Do note that if you purchase your pass at 5pm for the next day, the pass is also valid for the Angkor Wat on the date of purchase, meaning to say you get the day’s sunset, plus the full day the next day.
Queue at the relevant counter for your ticket and have your picture taken.
My 1 Day Angkor Pass, ready for the day’s exploration. Do not lose this Angkor Pass – there are staff members at the temple entrances to check for your ticket.
Proceeding to Angkor Wat.
Beware of sandy roads, close your mouths and eyes if necessary.
We took a side road to Angkor Wat, I’m not sure why, but nevertheless we made it to the Angkor Archaeological Park checkpoint. This is the first ticket check of many to come.
Driving through the trimmed gardens along the road to Angkor Wat.
Next stop: Angkor Wat