Angkor Archaeological Park: How Big and Small Circuit Tour Works
1. UNESCO & Guinness World Records
2. Getting to Angkor Wat
3. How Many Days Needed in Angkor Park?
4. Angkor Wat Dress Code
5. Angkor Temples List
6. Angkor Archaeological Park
» How It Works to Visit the Temples
» Small Circuit
» Grand Circuit
» Are You Going to Visit All The Temples?
7. Remote Temples
Angkor Archaeological Park left me with a gasp of wonderment as it is hard not to fall in love with the stupendous monuments such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Pre Rup, Preah Khan, Ta Som… These are just some of my favourite temples in the Grand Circuit and Small Circuit tours which I had been. Before I rattle on and on, the place is unquestionably not for the weak:
People who are afraid to sweat and get their clothes wet.
Sweltering heat between 38°C in the afternoon during the hottest months of the year.
Climbing many steps on the rough rocks which some are rather steep.
For me, the focus of the travel in Siem Reap is visiting the Angkor Archaeological Park whereas my three family members beg to differ. They surrendered to the stifling heat of 39°C after the first day at the Small Circuit Tour even though we had purchased a 3-Day Angkor Pass. Nonetheless, they were eventually coaxed by our taxi driver to visit Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom two days later. It was one fabulous, unforgettable sightseeing Angkor Thom tour that they had never regretted.
Angkor, listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1992 is an archaeological site with a cluster of temples built from 9th to 15th century. It spans over a distance of 400 km² (40,000 ha) including forested area.
Angkor Wat is the most extensive religious structure ever built on a 162.6 ha (1.626 km² ≈ 305 soccer fields!) land, which also holds the accolade in the Guinness World Records.
According to inscriptions, the construction of Angkor Wat involved 300,000 workers and 6000 elephants. It was not fully completed.
Angkor Wat of Cambodia came out on top of the list of the best UNESCO world heritage sites, according to a news release from TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site.
Other than being the ‘Number 1 thing to do in Siem Reap’ on TripAdvisor, Angkor Wat has also previously been nominated as being the best landmark in the world list.
Firstly, most tourists would need a visa to enter Cambodia because only nationalities from 9 countries have an exemption (mostly Asians countries). The closest airport to reach Angkor Wat is the Siem Reap International Airport (REP). Secondly, there are no direct flights out of Asia that can fly you directly to Siem Reap Airport. You need to transit from another Asian country. That will help you to plan your trip to Siem Reap while travelling in Asia. One tip to save money on a flight is to take the low-cost airlines from other Asian cities or enter in from Phnom Penh.
The distance from Siem Reap city to Angkor Wat is approximately 7 km and 20 to 30 minutes of driving. You can either take a taxi or a tuk-tuk to go Angkor Wat temples.
Taxi » Taxi is charged per day from US$30 to US$35 and can take up to 4 people. Engage a taxi van if you have a group of more than 4 pax. The good news is that most drivers provide bottles of mineral water.
Tuk-tuk » Generally, Tuk-tuk drivers charge US$15 for a Small Circuit tour and US$18 for a Big Circuit package although the prices between drivers and agencies can vary.
If you get a quote of over US$20+, it may be a combination of big and small circuit tours on the same day. Otherwise, the Angkor Wat tour is considered more expensive than the market rate, in my opinion. Check the temple destinations of the deal before you agreed on the price. Otherwise, you may find yourself being exploited on the costs without knowing the market rate.
*Do note that remote temples out of Angkor Archaeological Park will cost more than the standard temple tour price which I have quoted above because the travel distance can go up to a maximum of 2 hrs or more, such as Koh Ker Temple visit.
There are only 3 types of Angkor Pass you can buy from the Angkor Wat ticket office. You can also purchase the Angkor Wat ticket online, which is a more convenient but expensive option. The Angkor Wat Entrance fee is Counter vs Online:
Find out how to get your Angkor entry tickets at the Ticket Office and also the procedure for buying tickets online.
With the above selections in mind, you can then plan the number of days you want to spend on the most massive religious monumental site in the world, not forgetting there are plenty more enjoyable things to do in Siem Reap besides visiting the temples. My recommendation would be a 3-day Angkor admission ticket.
One day is too short for visiting one of the marvels in the world, and seven days seem too long unless you are planning to stay in Siem Reap for more than a week to fully make use of the expensive Angkor Pass. Moreover, if the heat is scorching, it will be too harsh and too rush for one to complete the Small and Grand Circuit on the same day.
Dress conservatively » You are on religious terrain. Cover your shoulder and knees. If you want to go up to the top tower in Angkor Wat, you have to adhere to the dress code strictly as there will be security checkpoint below the tower.
Loose and comfortable clothing » You have to balance between dressing conservatively and wearing lesser under the hot weather since you will be perspiring a lot. Get more travel tips on other things to bring in your packing list to Siem Reap.
Here is a list of temples than you can enter with your Angkor Wat admission pass. They are mostly temples inside the Grand Circuit and Small Circuit tours together with some other remote temples that are not within the Angkor Archaeological Park. You may also like to get a cheap prepaid card in Siem Reap for contacting your driver as I had this topic covered for you too.
Bear in mind that your Angkor pass is not valid for Kulen Mountain (US$5), Beng Mealea (US$20), and Koh Ker Temple (US$15) as they are not managed by Aspara Authority Cambodia. Furthermore, you have to pay a separate entrance fee to enter into these remote temples which are a minimum of 1 hr 30 min driving, at least 60km away from Siem Reap city.
Some repetition of Khmer terms appeared on the temple names. It is useful to connote these simple terms to understand better on the temple origin.
Before I visited Angkor Wat, I had no idea how the system worked to see those temples. There were tons of questions in my head. I wish I had read more travel tips before going to Siem Reap. So, I’m going to answer my own questions and give you an idea of what to expect for the Angkor Wat trip.
Firstly, the name Angkor was a designated capital made under the sovereignty of King Suryavarman II. ‘Angkor’ means city. Secondly, ‘Wat’ means temple in the Khmer language. So when people mention the name ‘Angkor Wat’, they are referring to that particular temple and not the entire clusters of temples in Angkor Archaeological Park. Therefore, ‘Angkor Wat’ means ‘City Temple’. King Suryavarman II then made Angkor Wat his state temple in his monarchy after three decades of construction.
So, now you know that Angkor Wat is a temple whereas Angkor Thom is not a temple. Similarly to Angkor, Angkor Thom is also a capital established by a different king, King Jayavarman VII at a later time than Angkor. Bayon is the renowned face temple inside Angkor Thom. Like Angkor Wat, it is a state temple of King King Jayavarman VII.
Within Angkor Archaeological Park, the cluster of Angkor temples in the 400 km² area is segregated into the Grand/Big or Small circuit. The package tour that you bought online, from Siem Reap agencies or drivers will bring you to see those temples according to the route. The drivers will bring you to the temples one by one and wait for you outside. You can visit each temple for as long as you want. Always remember to bring your Angkor Pass as there will be checks at every Angkor temple without fail.
That’s how a checkpoint looks like at every station. Always carry your Angkor Pass with you.
The well-known Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Bayon are some temples of what you will visit in the 17 km Small Circuit tour. The Small Circuit comprises of the following temples: ⦿ Angkor Wat ⦿ Bakheng ⦿ Bahphuon ⦿ Baksei Chamkrong ⦿ Angkor Thom ⦿ Banteay Kdei ⦿ Bayon ⦿ Terrace of Elephants ⦿ Phimeanakas ⦿ Royal Palace ⦿ Terrace of the Leper King ⦿ Preah Palilay ⦿ Suor Prat and the Khleangs ⦿ Preah Pithu ⦿ Prasat Kravan ⦿ Ta Prohm ⦿ Ta Keo ⦿ Ta Nei ⦿ Thommanon and ⦿ Chau Say Tevoda.
Grand Circuit Angkor Wat, also known as the Big Circuit, comprises of 5 main temples on its 26 km path. They are ⦿ Preah Khan ⦿ Neak Pean ⦿ Ta Som ⦿ East Mebon and ⦿ Pre Rup. Most people will choose the Small Circuit if they have a 1-Day Angkor Pass as they want to see Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Bayon as priorities, which is not hard to comprehend. Nevertheless, it would be a pity to miss the Grand Circuit as the Angkor temples there are wholly as magnificent as those in the Small Circuit. My top choice here is Pre Rup.
Of course not because all the temples cannot be completed in a few days. I’m sure there are more temples not listed in the above as there are a total of 72 temples. Some of them being much smaller and less spectacular. From my experience, the drivers will mostly bring you to the most popular ones, or those stated explicitly on their package tour. Moreover, it is unlikely that time is enough to visit every one of them.
On the first day of the Angkor Small Circuit trip, our taxi driver did not bring us to Prasat Kravan though the temple was near to Angkor Wat. On the second day when I booked a tuk-tuk for myself to go for the Grand Circuit tour, I asked my tuk-tuk driver to cover the visit to Prasat Kravan at no extra cost. Only then did I realise that Prasat Kravan was such a small temple. Hence, the taxi driver did not even bother to bring us there on the first day.
There are also other remote temples and sites to explore, not defined in the sphere of Angkor Archaeological Park. Here are a few of them: ⦿ Banteay Srei ⦿ Banteay Samre ⦿ Kbal Spean ⦿ Chau Say Vibol ⦿ Phnom Krom ⦿ Phnom Bok ⦿ Phnom Kulen ⦿ Beng Mealea and ⦿ Koh Ker. As a reiteration, your Angkor entrance ticket covers most of them except for the last three – Kulen Mountain (US$5), Beng Mealea (US$20), and Koh Ker Temple (US$15) which you have to pay a separate entry fee.
The Roulous Group temples have 3 religious monuments under their compass: ⦿ Preah Ko (879) ⦿ Bakong (881) and ⦿ Lolei (893). All of them were constructed in the 9th century under two different kings and were one of the earliest group of monuments erected. Preah Ko and Bakong built by King Indravarman I was dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva whereas Prasat Lolei, an island temple constructed by King Yasovarman I was to honour his ancestors. ⬇︎Continue below…
Check out more things you can do in Siem Reap besides temples – shopping, eating, nightlife, sightseeing…
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