Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat is amongst the world’s most important and well-preserved sites today and is worth visiting despite the crowds. Every day, thousands of tourists visit Angkor Wat to experience the spectacular sunrise and capture that quintessential shot while the others take a moment to find tranquillity and peace. To do both of these, you need an ideal spot to latch onto the best sunset view.Here are best sunrise spots Angkor Wat has to offer -
1. The Reflecting Ponds
The reflecting ponds in front of the main temple are the ultimate sunrise spots with an untarnished reflection and symmetrical view of Angkor Wat and its towers surrounded by tall palm trees making the perfect frame for you. The temple faces west and so the sun rises gloriously from behind the magnificent spires whose silhouettes are beautifully mirrored in the still waters. This spot is prominent amongst tourists making it difficult to find a place in the crowded front-row spot.
The gates to the temple open at 5:00 AM, so make sure to reach there on time and occupy a spot to capture the iconic sunrise. You will be surrounded by a swarm of tourists making it hard to get the perfect shot.
2. Pre Rup
Also known as the Pyramid Temple, Pre Rup is a three-tier structure with five lotus towers on the uppermost tier which previously served as a crematorium for the royals. The name Pre Rup translates ‘turning the body’ which refers to a traditional Khmer Tradition where the silhouette of the body is outlined with ashes. One of the earliest structures at Angkor Wat, this 1200-year-old temple is made up of laterites and sandstones which radiate orange and red hues at sunrise. The golden hour at 5:30 AM provides a soft and warm light turning the place into a stunning panoramic view.
Pre Rup is situated further away from the town near Phnom Bakheng and is distanced at 14km from Siem Reap. The temple offers different viewpoints to provide the best sunrise experience.
3. Phnom Bakheng
Phnom Bakheng is the first major temple constructed in the early 10th century in Angkor Wat. While only the ruins remain today, the place gives you an idea of the glorious days of the Khmer empire. Situated at a high of 70 meters, the temple is a prominent spot for sunrise amongst sunrise chasers. Hike up to the top of Phnom Bakheng for a tropical landscape of dense forests, pleasant countryside, and the surrounding temples covered in the morning mist. The sun beautifully rises from between the gigantic trees offering a bright and glaring start to the day.
Due to its compact structure, the temple allows only 300 visitors inside at a time. So make sure you get into line immediately as you arrive. The sunrise can be viewed from both inside and outside of the temple. To get to Phnom Bakheng, if you are coming from Siem Reap, enter from the left side of the road just before Angkor Wat and before you get to Angkor Thom.
4. East Mebon
With an architecturally pleasing structure similar to Pre Rup, East Mebon is a manmade island at the center of Baray Reservoir. This 10th century Hindu island temple (Mebon) was dedicated to the parents of Rajendravarman II. The Baray is now a cultivated land with rice paddies and villages below which make for a spectacular view from the top of the temple. The entrance of the temple is adorned with beautiful carvings and gigantic stone elephants.
East Mebon is a lesser-known site amongst tourists and is located a little further from the other sites, therefore, you might not see many tourists at sunrise. However, the sunrise is a never seen before experience from the top of East Mebon temple.
5. Srah Srang
The Srah Srang reservoir was dug in the mid 10th century by Kavindrarimathana and was later modified by Jayavarman VII in 1200. Located right across Banteay Kdei temple, this 900-year-old lake was earlier used as a bathing pool for the royals that is still filled with water today.
Srah Srang offers the most exquisite sunrise views with the reflection of the tranquil trees falling over the waters along with the orangish pink hues of the sunrise. The sunrise viewing point across Banteay Kdei is packed with tourists, so head to the opposite end of Srah Srang towards Pre Rup to expect lesser crowds.
6. Bayon Temple
Standing squarely at the centre of Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple was the last stone structure built by the Khmer Temple. The temple is prominently known for the 37 towers which feature a total of 216 unique stone smiling faces of the famous Buddhist King Jayavarman VII. These smiling faces represent the power and spiritual presence of King Jayavarman at the temple. The outer walls of the temple are carved with intricate patterns along with bas-reliefs depicting major historical events.
The temple faces the east and makes for a stunning sunrise view with the golden light delicately falling over the smiling faces. Situated centrally, the temple is accessible from each of the gates at the cardinal points.
Tips to Remember While Visiting Angkor Wat at Sunrise
- A Tuk-tuk ride is the best way to get to Angkor Wat, so arrange your tuk-tuk a few days in advance to avoid last-minute cancellations.
- Buy your tickets the day before visiting the site to save you from the morning rush.
- Always expect crowds at any hour of the day.
- After the sunrise, take a stroll through the peaceful corridors and mystic hallways of the temples. You can also meditate and practice yoga in the temples or on the misty lawns.
Whether you are seeking a tranquil site to begin your day with or a challenging photography experience, the sunrise at Angkor Wat will never fail to amuse you.