Siem Reap | Angkor Wat Planning | Sunrise to Sunset

When I researched "Angkor Wat" in Cambodia, I had no idea how MASSIVE this complex was. And Angkor Wat was only a small little portion of this huge complex! So I wanted to dedicate one post just about each of the temples that you can visit. 

Prior to visiting, I did my usual - research like a crazy person to make sure our trip goes perfectly. I planned out exactly what each day would look like, based off of the best travel blog recommendations I could read. Well... as much as you can try to plan for perfection, the one thing you cannot plan is the weather. And the fact that out of the 3 days we would be in Siem Reap, 2 of the days would be raining. So I tried my best to 'let go' of my obsession with travel-planning and made the best out of that one sunny day we would have. 

Like I wrote in my other post, the tuk-tuk drivers are in their own way amazing tour guides. They could drive you through this complex with their eyes closed. The night prior we ordered a tuk-tuk driver through the hotel for a 'full day'. He picked us up at 4:55am while it was still pitch black out, and we were still half asleep. He told us "don't worry about a schedule, I have your day fully planned". So I let all of my planning-ocd go and just nodded yes.

Like I said, this post is purely to give you an overview of each temple we stopped at, but check out the links for more in depth posts about each location.

4:55am: Hotel Pickup

5:30am: Arrive @ Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise (#1 on the map above)

  • Wake up bright an early to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Don't forget to have your hotel pack you a breakfast, you'll have a long day of touring and you will need the fuel!

6am - 7:30am: Tour Angkor Wat (#1)

  • Although waking up at 4:55am was painful, this is your reward! Walking through Angkor Wat this early means you have these unbelievable temples all to yourself. (ok, maybe you will have to share the temple with some monks).

  • And it will be the coolest part of the dripping-sweat day - so make sure to really cherish this moment.

7:30am - 10:30am: Angkor Thom (#2, #3 & #4)

  • Angkor Thom was personally my favorite of all the temple complexes in Siem Reap. With the gorgeous entrance bridges, getting lost through the maze of hallways at the Bayon Temple, or staring at the details etched into the walls of the Terrace of the Elephants... you will need to allot plenty of time to explore.

10:30am - 11:30pm: Ta Keo (#5)

  • Ta Keo is not for the faint of heart. Those stairs were steeper than expected, but as long as you take your time, hold onto the steps in front of you, and don't wear a short skirt... you'll be fine. And the view from the top is worth it!

11:30pm-1:30pm: LUNCH! 

  • Make sure to take a long lunch break during the hottest part of the day. Drink lots of water, stay in the shade and refuel. Your tuk-tuk driver will know some of the best restaurants in the area. Bonus points if he brings you to one with hammocks - perfect to take a post-lunch nap. 

1:30PM - 2:30PM:  TA PROHM (#6)

  • Ta Prohm, one of the most well known temples in Siem Reap, partly due to the Tomb Raider movie which was filmed here. (which equals a lot of tour groups). It is also one of the most stunning temples because it is basically in the same condition it was found, where the tree roots have become part of the temples.

2:30PM - 4:00PM: BANTEAY KDEI (#7)

  • Banteay Kdei was the second to last stop on our day long tour of the Siem Reap temples, and it ended up being one of our favorites. It had the same 'untouched' look as Ta Prohm, but with about 1/5th the amount of people. It also had these stunning "windows" and archways which made for some beautiful pictures.

4:00PM - 6:00PM: PHNOM BAKHENG (#8) 

  • We wanted to end our day watching the sunset over Angkor Wat. We were told the spot to do this was at the top of Phnom Bakheng (a temple-mountain). They only allow about 300 people to get to the top of the mountain, so we arrived quite early at the recommendation of our tuk-tuk driver. We had quite an interesting experience at the top of the mountain (which i wrote about in a separate blog post), but overall i'd say the sunrise at Angkor Wat was MUCH better than the sunset.

This was a quick taste into what our full day touring the Siem Reap temples looked like. I have written separate blog posts on each which explain in much more detail. Like I said, most don't typically fit all of this into one day, but due to our unluck with the rain - we made the best of the one good day we had!