Sprawled across an area spanning over 400 square kilometers Angkor Archaeological Park is not only one of Siem Reap’s most popular attractions but also one of the most visited sites in all of Cambodia. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the early 1990’s the venue contains the ruins of a number of capital cities built by the Khmer Empire during the period between the 9th and the 15th centuries. Renowned as one of the key archeological sites in Southeast Asia the Angkor Archaeological Park contains countless sculptures, temples, historic structures and the most expansive pre-industrial city in the globe as well.
Angkor Wat is of course the park’s most iconic attraction and one of the country’s largest ancient temple complexes. Constructed during the12th century by monarch King Suryavarman II the temple’s breathtaking beauty sets it apart from similar structure across the world as an iconic edifice that is awe inspiring to say the least. Part temple complex devoted to Lord Vishnu and part mausoleum (of King Suryavarman II) the venue’s five monumental gopuras are some of the most photographed monuments in the world with their monumental size adding to the fascination. Other highlights include the temple’s captivating central courtyard and bas reliefs with beautifully carved depictions of Mahabharata and Ramayana epic stories.
Angkor Thom is equally captivating with the Bayon temple serving as its centerpiece. The 54 towers containing four stone faces each are perhaps its chief attractions as the benevolent appearance of the 216 faces are said to represent either Lord Buddha or King Jayavarman VII, the monarch who commissioned the temple to be constructed. The Baphuon is located to the northwest and is rumored to depict Mount Meru with its large scale and proportions.
A massive reclining Buddha sculpture is found in the western façade of Baphuon and is another must-see highlight while other Angkor Thom attractions include The Terrace of the Leper King, The Elephant Terrace and Phnom Bakheng temple mountain. Other venues of interest within the park include those that belong to the Little Circuit which are Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, the Prasat Kravan temples and the Banteay Kdei monastery. The Big Circuit on the other hand includes sites such as Preah Khan, East Mebon and Pre Rup while the Roluos Group and other nearby temples are equally worthy of exploration.
Travellers seeking to stay at a five star Siem Reap hotel will find no finer alternative to the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor. Ideally located this stylish rest is one luxury hotel Siem Reap counts among its most resplendent accommodation providers.