Angkor Wat Temple Complex (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
My first conscious memory of Asia was as a reluctant student in Mrs. Sigsbee's third grade class, when an ink rendering of the mysterious visage of the five towers of Angkor Wat lept out at me from the margins of the page, a mysterious jewel in an otherwise unremarkable world history text. Indeed the same five towers (symbolizing the peaks of Mt. Meru, the home of the Hindu Gods) are etched in the minds of all avid travelers as a "must see" destination in Southeast Asia. In September of 2004, four years into our stay in Singapore, we finally visited Angkor Wat. The main temple, shown in the panorama above, is but one of innumerable temples scattered throughout northwest Cambodia. The red box in the map to the left shows the location of Angkor Wat , as well as some of the surrounding ruins. Like most visitors, our tour of the area was limited to Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples, a complex enclosed in an area of approximately five kilometers (about three miles). These temples tell a story in stone of the imperial history of the Angkorian kings, beginning with Jayavarman I, a time of prosperity and temple-building that stretched from the ninth to the fifteenth century A.D., a period that roughly paralleled the medieval period in Europe.
Most guidebooks report that Angkor Wat was "discovered" in 1860 by the French explorer Henri Mouhot, and it is certainly true that it was at this date Angkor Wat passed into western consciousness. However, after its abandonment by the Cambodian kings the temples at Angkor Wat did not entirely fade from memory. They were actively used as pilgrimage sites for centuries, the dense jungle undergrowth preserving them from conquerors and opportunistic plunderers. With the "discovery" by the west came large-scale archeological studies and selective reconstruction, offering a much more accessible site to visitors. Indeed, the temples in the Angkor Wat complex come in every stage of reconstruction, from ruins heavily surrounded by jungle growth to those restored to much of their former glory.
Trying to capture both the grandeur and the exquisite detail of Angkor Wat is a a formidable task. There are many fine web sites which employ professional photographers and graphic artists to provide an interactive experience of the complex. The aims of this site are more modest. We hope to provide a basic understanding of the layout, a bit of the history, as well as the design of the temples. In that sense, it is a tour for the laymen, for those who want to learn a bit more in advance of a trip to Angkor Wat, or those of you who enjoy touring the world from your desktop! Angkor Wat's sheer verticality presents a tremendous challenge to would-be photographers. In order to show the architectural details, one must photograph from inside the temple walls. However a normal camera cannot capture more than a single level of most temples from this vantage point. So, unlike many of our travel web pages, we have been unable to use panoramas to provide a "you are there" feel to the tour. [This was remedied in 2018 and can be viewed on our VR Angkor Wat page] Instead, we have included architectural diagrams of each temple, and marked the position of the photographs. Angkor Wat awaits you . . .
Virtual Tour of the Temples of Siem Reap
Place the cursor on a number to view that feature in a new window.
Click on "Close" to shut that window and return to the Siem Reap
Temples map. Alternately, you can click on the links in
the table below. Please turn off any ad-blocker to use this map. On
mobile devices, the "Close" button may not work. in that case, you must
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|1. Angkor Wat
of the Leper Kings
Gate of Angkor Thom
||* Petit Circuit|
of the Elephants
||** Grand Circuit|
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