By: Parallels and Meridians
The Angkor temples have been a source of inspiration and mystery for wander lusters all over the globe and it won’t be an understatement to say that it definitely lives up to the hype. The Angkor archaeological site consists of over a thousand temples ranging from ordinary edifices covered in rubble to stunning architectural marvels. These temples boast of one of a kind secretive passageways, endless corridors, intricate carvings, narrow chambers etc. and was the heart of a humongous empire about hundred years ago.
The complex was constructed between 1130-1150 AD by King Suryavarman II, and was intended to symbolize the universe—the moat represented the oceans around the earth, the mountain ranges were symbolized by concentric galleries and the carvings on the wall depict Lord Vishnu (to whom the temple was dedicated to) as well as other parts of Hindu mythology.
Our rundown of the 11 must see temples in Angkor are sure to stun your senses in every way:
- Banteay Srei
For most visitors, this is the most beautiful temple in the complex and is also known as the jewel of Khmer art. With its beautifully carved pink sandstone with detailed carvings, some of which illustrate scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata (popular Hindu epics). The name literally translates to temple of the women and the relatively small and delicate artwork may be attributed to its name.
- Ta Phrom
If you’ve seen the Tomb raider movie, then you’re definitely familiar with the Ta Phrom as it was featured in it and is a very popular tourist spot. The man-made structures intertwined with gigantic roots and crumbling stones corridors that seems to play hide and seek with the shadows and the sun definitely makes this site live up to the hype. The magical stones make one wish to know the enigmatic tales that surround it. King Jayavarman VII built this structure for his mother and this complex has been used as a Buddhist university and monastery after its consecration in 1186. The Sanskrit inscription on the walls mentions the number of residents that lived there: 615, dancers, 2740 officials, 13 priests and 2,232 assistants.
- East Mebon
Restorative work is being done on this temple as is it falling apart, but even that does nothing to diminish its sheer beauty and the mystery that shrouds its intricate carvings. The Hindu god Shiva is guarded by sculptures of lions and elephants at the gateway and this three tiered structure can be explored all day long.
4. Pre Rup
Visiting this temple isn’t a complete experience without watching the stunning sunset from here. Watch the sun set with the other beautiful structures in the foreground along with magnificent trees. The temple combined with the spectacular sunset is what continues to delight tourists and locals every day.
- Prasat Kravan
Prasat Kravan is one of the smaller temples constructed in the tenth century. The structure consists of symmetrical towers constructed with red bricks. The muted and subtle color of the stones lends to its magnificence and is usually the first stop in the tour of the temple complex.
- Neak Poan
This small temple is set against a small manmade lake and a wooden corridor leads up to it. The literal meaning of Neak Poan is intertwined snakes and is a small treasure tucked in the Angkor complex.
- Ta Som
This small root temple has a magnificent entrance which is enough to make one’s heart skip a beat. The secret crevices that are untouched and left to nature is what makes this a must visit.
- Bayon and Baphuon
These adjacent temples with gigantic faces (about 216) can definitely make any tourist go through a range of overwhelming emotions and the giant Buddha between the two is a must see!
- Angkor Wat
Literally meaning the heaven on earth, this is one of the largest religious building in the world and was once the epicenter of the Khmer empire and now considered as the heart of Cambodia. Watching the sunrise from here is an absolute treat for the senses and the temple is said to possess a kind of spiritual energy that cannot be described. Make sure to keep an eye for the iconic apsaras (about 2000 of them) that are reaching up to the heavens above along with thousands of other stunning sculptures inside the temple.
- Baksei Chamkrong
Located on the road between Angkor Thom and Angkor Vat, this single tower was constructed by Harshavarman I roughly between 910 to 922 AD. It was built to honor his father who was the man behind the Phnom Bakheng.
- Preah Ko
Also known as the sacred bull, this temple was the first one to be built in the city of Hariharalaya, an ancient city, and is about ten miles away from the main temples. It consists of 6 small brick towers on top of a sandstone base and is a humble but beautiful structure which should not be missed.