The 10 Best Temples In Siem Reap
By Lorraine Harding
Siem Reap Provence has over 90 ancient temples…and we have covered the best this area has to offer and all within 15 kilometres (9 miles) of the city.
Before you see the temples you MUST purchase a Temple Ticket.
The Ticket Office is located in a building away from the Temple Area Checkpoint and you may like to read our article Purchasing Temple Tickets that will give you valuable information you need.
Or you may wish to see our article on Sunrise or Sunset at the Temples of Siem Reap, that will tell you all you need to know about sharing this wonderful experience.
We have named the 10 Best Temples In Siem Reap but arguably – this is up for debate and was a difficult Top 10 to compile – because there are so many amazing temples to see.
Temple Number 1 – Angkor Wat Temple
How can Angkor Wat not take top billing on our list? After all, it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and certainly deserves its reputation.
It is grand, spectacular, well preserved…the biggest religious temple in the world and built in the first half of the 12th century. You could literally spend a couple of days searching through the entire place – and maybe still not see everything.
Angkor Wat is just how you imagine it – flanked by forest with a bridge crossing over the still water below…and an absolute must for anyone visiting Siem Reap.
Temple Number 2 – Ta Prohm Temple
This temple blew me away and I was not expecting to see this kind of beauty. Having been to the Pyramids, Stonehenge and Machu Picchu – Ta Prohm Temple is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
Giant, old trees grow out through ancient blocks that form the temple walls, which has been left how it was discovered back in the 1920’s. It piques the imagination with wonder and awe at how these explorers must have felt when uncovering such a beautiful place.
Ta Prohm Temple was used in the movie – Lara Croft Tomb Raider with a picturesque image of the ancient world and nature at its finest – a combination that is hard to beat.
Temple Number 3 – Bakheng Temple
Bakheng Temple is a rare gem against the wilderness of the jungle, which is nothing short of spectacular. It was built in 802 AD and is one of the oldest temples in Cambodia and built 2 centuries before Angkor Wat.
Showing the impressive design capabilities of the ancient Khmer empire with near full-size statues of elephants flanking each corner on the first levels. Bakheng Temple abounds with well-preserved sculptures, amazing architecture and incredible design making this a spectacular area to visit.
Temple Number 4 – Bayon Temple
Bayon Temple is grand and captures the essence of the might of the Khmer Empire – with 54 towers and over 200 large Buddha face carved upon the top, it demonstrates just what amazing architects and engineers these ancient people really were.
The faces point in a north, south, east and westerly direction as Buddha watches over and protects the city.
Bayon Temple is large, packed with high relief carvings and you could spend hours wandering around this amazing place soaking up this special energy it has to offer.
Temple Number 5 – South Gate Entrance
How could we not include this – although technically not a temple. The South Gate Entrance is one of the most spectacular entries you will see in the world as you drive through into Angkor Thom Archaeology Park.
Flanked on both sides by large warrior sculptures, all have individual features that are ready to protect and defend – seeing South Gate Entrance creates a picture that will be etched in your mind forever….and something you will always remember.
Temple Number 6 – Pre Rup Temple
Pre Rup Temple is believed to be the funerary shrine and like all advanced civilizations, this monument would have been something of great importance to the ancient Khmer people.
Completed in 961 AD and built by Rajendravarman II, Pre Rup Temple is architecturally and artistically an amazing place to visit. Incorporating into its large structure are impressive carvings, which holds a feeling of grandeur that captures the imagination of days gone by.
Once you reach the top of the steep steps – five towers await you and display beautifully carved doors. Still holding richly detailed and well-preserved lintels – the view from the top of Pre Rup is majestic as you gain a taste of how advanced the Khmer civilization was in the height of its reign.
Temple Number 7 – Ta Som
Walking through this impressive entry and reminiscent of the South Gate Entrance, where high relief sculpture abounds in this well-preserved temple – that holds a hidden surprise.
With the past cloaked in destruction and it was said to have been purposely destroyed in the 14th century by enemy forces who invaded Cambodia. Ta Som Temple remained in a state of ruin for centuries – until work began in 1998 to restore the shrine to its former glory.
There are several small courtyards, where locals sell their wares such as clothes and paintings…that brings back life to this once forgotten temple. As you move to the end and step outside – you will see a huge, old tree that has entwined itself among the aged stones, which presents a knotted display of amazing beauty.
Temple Number 8 – Chau Say Trevoda
Carvings of Goddesses are sculpted within the brick work of this beautiful temple – and one can only imagine the grand ceremonies that would have once taken place back in ancient times.
Chau Say Trevoda was initially a Hindu Temple, then a change of religion came when the Khmer empire converted to Buddhism. This was influenced by the queen during the 12th century, married to Jayavaman VII, according to ancient writings found upon other temple walls; then by the 13th century, the whole country had converted to Buddhism.
Sacred female images (Apsaras) are present on the wall as these celestial goddesses dance upon lotus flowers and are standing gracefully within niches – this temple is believed to be filled with divine feminine energy.
Temple Number 9 – Lolie Temple
Lolie Temple was built in 889 AD and still very much a sacred place…here you will have an experience like no other. This is still a working ministry, where young monks are trained in the disciplines of the Buddhist religion.
Originally believed to be an island shrine, it’s thought that Lolei Temple was once surrounded by a vast body of water – nearly 4 km long and 750 meters wide called the Barray of Lolei.
No preservation have been carried out on the temple, which stands as a propped ruin on a small mound that is a testament to what time and erosion has done. However, you don’t come to Lolei for the temple – it is the Buddhist surroundings and energy that seems to engulf you. Near the old ruins now stands a modern day temple that is used by the monks who live on the grounds.
This is where you can sit quietly, spend some time – while meditating in authentic surroundings and having an experience like no other.
Temple Number 10 – Srah Srang
Looking out across the calm water to a picturesque lake that is surrounded by natural forest, Srah Srang is a multi tiered platform adorned with Naga balustrades and guardian lions.
An inscription dates back from the 10th-century states “Not to let animals bathe in the water or let a heard of elephants destroy the earthen dikes”. The very sparse remains of an island temple can be seen poking out from the middle of the lake during the dry season when the water is low.
Srah Srang platform was engulfed by jungle and cleared of vegetation in the 1920’s when excavations started. It is a charming place to see as you sit and look out across the water, which adds some contrast to your day of visiting the temples.
Seeing the temple of Siem Reap is one of the attractions here – but there are many more activities to do with great food and a fantastic nightlife…Siem Reap is a place where your dollar goes a long way.