Inside Vietnam: Cambodia Laos

Discover the temples of Angkor

Rescued from the clinging grip of the enveloping jungle, the vast and ancient temple complex of Angkor is truly one of the world's great sights.

The many jungle-clad temples of Angkor are truly one of the most fantastic man-made sights on the planet, on a par with the Pyramids or Machu Picchu for their sense of sheer jaw-dropping wonder. Seeing the sunrise over the world's largest religious complexes, Angkor Wat; feeling the gaze of countless stone faces watching you at Bayon Temple; clambering around the jungle ruins of the 'Tomb Raider Temple', Ta Prohm - these are all magical, unforgettable experiences.

Angkor Wat

The most celebrated of the Angkor temples is Angkor Wat, the image that features at the centre of the Cambodian national flag. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat was based on the model of the temple-mountain and symbolises Mount Meru, home of the gods.

Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labour. Inside the temple the walls are covered with ornate stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign.

Angkor Thom

Just north of Angkor Wat is Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of King Jayavarman VII. This once-great city is surrounded by an eight-metre-high wall arranged in a perfect square, each side four kilometres long. Entrance to the city is through one of its ancient stone gates, each carved with elephants and four giant faces.

Bayon Temple

At the centre of Angkor Thom is Bayon Temple. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur. The exterior gallery walls have extensive, superb bas-reliefs, particularly the East and South Galleries. The latter depicts a battle procession featuring warriors, musicians, elephants and scenes of everyday life on the road, while the east gallery portrays the battle fought in 1177 between the Khmers and the Chams in southern Vietnam. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits for their intricate bas-reliefs.

Ta Prohm

The most famous among the temples found in the small circuit is Ta Prohm Temple, built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unusual in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes Ta Prohm one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples.

Banteay Srei

The 'gem' of the Angkor area is the pretty temple of Banteay Srei. The so-called 'Citadel of Women' remains the best-preserved temple in Cambodia. It displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art and is noted for its truly remarkable bas-reliefs. Banteay Srei is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor.

Discover the temples of Angkor

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