1 to 2 Day Guide in the Ancient City of Angkor Wat
Quick LinksDescriptionBike and Clothing RecommendationsMapDay 1: Petit CircuitDay 2: Grand Circuit
1-2 day bike guide to the Angkor Wat Complex. Instead of hiring a tuk tuk or a guided group trip, bike the complex on your own terms visiting temples, ruins, and monuments. Includes visiting the major and minor temples, sunrise and sunset spots, bike and clothing recommendations, and map.
Note: This guide is intended for physically fit individuals. If you are prone to heat exhaustion, this guide is not recommended.
Bike and Clothing Recommendation
The road to and in Angkor Wat is flat, hot but has pockets of shade. In Siem Reap, it is easy to find a bicycle to rent for as low as $2/day. I wouldn’t be surprised if your hotel offers you bikes for free. You may get hustled to rent a mountain bike but I assure you, you only need a reliable bike. Majority of places lets you rent a bike the night before so you can get an early start.
You will need proper attire to be comfortable in the heat but also respectful in the temples. Both men and women need to cover their shoulders and knees. There are vendors throughout Siem Reap and in the complex that sell lightweight pants that work great for the hot heat as well as provide enough coverage. Luckily, I got away with wearing shorts that were just at my knee length and nobody stopped me. When it come to beating the heat, avoid cotton. You’ll be drenched in the first half hour of riding around. Find a wicking layer (such as DryFit). I would also recommend against flip flops as there are several temples to explore that can be as tall as 5 stories. I recommend sandals made for hiking (such as Chaco). You can also find knock off sandals in the market in Siem Reap.
If you plan on sunrise and sunset, I highly recommend bringing a headlamp (such as Black Diamond Headlamp). You will be on roads where buses, cars, and tuk tuks drive by. Bring a water bottle, sunglasses, full brimmed hat, sunscreen, and bug spray. You can easily find food and more water throughout the complex.
You will need to get tickets to get into the park. Day 1: Petit Circuit includes dropping by the ticket office on your way to the complex. For a single day entry, the ticket cost is $37. There is no two day ticket thus the best option if you choose a 2 day tour is the three day ticket which costs $60. I know, we were sticker shocked too but very glad we chose the three day ticket as there is so much to see in the complex. If you’re on a budget or have limited time, you can do the main temples in just 1 day by bicycle. Once you have your ticket, keep it in a safe spot where you will not forget it. If you don’t have it at every temple entrance, you will not be able to go in.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, there are several options in Siem Reap that are budget friendly and have nice accommodations. Hotels and hostels with pools are also common. AirBnB also has some great accommodation. We use both when we travel.
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Day 1: Petit Circuit
Today includes getting your ticket, beating the tourist crowd by traveling in reverse, and seeing the sunset over Angkor Wat. A pretty magical day to begin.
You’re starting early but not sunrise early. Let’s save that for tomorrow. You’re going to want to be at the first temple, Ta Prohm, by 7:30am when it opens. I gauge 45min-1hr biking time from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat Complex. Feel free to beat my record. You will also need to factor in getting your tickets. The lines can be long and with foreign tourists where English is not their first language, they can take longer than expected. Luckily, if you plan on buying the 3 day pass, look for the lines that are only for 3 day ticket purchases which are significantly shorter. Total time can range between 15-30min to get your tickets. Thus a good starting time is around 6am. Trust me, it’s worth it.
The first temple you will arrive at is Ta Prohm. This is the epic Tomb Raider temple. This is why you want to start early. You may be tempted to stop by Banteay Kdei but you will see this temple tomorrow. Ta Prohm temple can get cramped really fast. All the tour buses start at Angor Wat and end at Ta Prohm. If you find yourself at Ta Prohm when even just one tour bus is there, good luck getting any decent photo.
Hop back on your bike and head towards Bayon. On your way, you may want to check out Ta Keo as well as other temples along the way. Feel free to take your time just know Bayon is also a very popular temple. The temple has over 200 giant Buddha Heads that makes to temple serene and a selfie-stick nightmare. This is also a popular site for Buddhist Monks, please be respectful. If you feel compelled to take a photo of a monk, ask them first.
Feel free to wander around Bayon as well. You can find the Terrace of the Elephants and Baphuon all within walking distance of Bayon Temple. This is also a great time to stop for a break. There are restaurants and chintzy souvenir stands towards the north end of Angkor Thom (name of this complex).
Time to head to Angkor Wat. Follow the road through the South Gate, which is another great spot for a photo. You’ll notice there is a smaller temple on your right shortly after the South Gate called Phnom Bakheng. Phnom Bakheng is a great spot for both sunrise and sunset. If you plan on skipping both sunrise and sunset, Phnom Bakheng is still interesting but may seem insignificant compared to the other temples you’ve already visited.
Angkor Wat is massive. It’s 5 stories and each story is detailed with a lot to see. We found an Android app that gave an audio guide to the entire temple as well as several of the other main temples. Following the app, we spent about 1 hour just on the first level learning about the wall sculptures depicting the Mahabharata. Once on the 5th floor, you’ll find fantastic views of the complex with intricate carvings and sculptures. If you find yourself still in Angkor Wat around sunset, hang out on the 4th level and watch the inside of the temple light up.
If you’re pooped, start heading back. It’s been a long day already. If you’re jazzed about everything you’ve seen and wanna hang out longer, head back to Phnom Bakheng and hike to the top for a stunning sunrise. Remember, it’s still a long(ish) ride back so get your headlamp if you need it, fuel up on coconuts, and stay hydrated for your ride back. Celebrate on Pub Street with a cold glass of $.50 beer. Consider asking your hotel to pack you breakfast for the next morning and head to bed early. Tomorrow is an early start.
Day 2: Grand Circuit
Let’s hope you went to bed early because this is an early rise day. The sunrise over Angkor Wat is a phenomenal view and starting early is the best way to beat the heat. Give yourself enough time to bike and be at the top of Phnom Bakheng overlooking Angkor Wat. Not a lot of people head to this spot so you’ll only find a few souls who make the effort to get to this spot. If you are not going to make it in time, I suggest heading to Angkor moat and try and find the perfect spot where the sun rises just over the middle wat (alternative spot marked on map/GPX track).
After the sunrise, start heading towards Preah Khan. You’ll be passing South Gate, Bayon, and North Gate on your way. Preah Khan is like a mix of Bayon and Ta Prohm with giant Buddha heads and old trees growing through the temple.
Your next spot is a short ride to Banteay Prey. Banteay Prey is a lesser known temple and not many people stop here and that’s what makes it a great stop. It’s off an unpaved road and is not well marked so keep your eyes open.
Once back on your bike, you’ll head to Neak Pean which includes 4 small pools and a central large pool. Although these sites are impressive, the stunning and eerie part of Neak Pean is the giant lake/swamp with dead/dying trees growing out of it.
Get back on that bike and head to Ta Som. There are a few vendors here selling water and fruit, not a bad idea to take a break. Ta Som is yet another beautiful temple with old growth trees growing out of it. Walk all the way to the back of the temple where you’ll see the picturesque tree growing over the entrance.
East Mebon and Pre Rup both have impressive pagodas and wats jutting out. East Mebon has a few food stalls out front if you’re in need of a break and the temple makes for a great spot to overlook the northeast side of the complex.
Time to head to your final destination. Banteay Kdei is a great way to end your journey through the Angkor Wat complex. The beautiful surrounding jungles, giant Buddha heads above the entrances, and the central shrine creates a calm surrounding feeling fulfilled. Get your fill but also give yourself enough time to head back. You’ll be taking the road back you started your journey on yesterday morning so be sure to check the map.
Find your favorite spot in Siem Reap for a celebratory pint and a well deserved meal. If you’d like to check out more adventure guides, check out the guides section. You can also check our blog on our trip in Cambodia. Feel free to drop a line on our contact page or visit our instagram or Facebook page Thorove Travel.
Check out this video on our travels in Cambodia including Angkor Wat.