Preah Khan Temple, Siem Reap Overview

Preah Khan is one of the last remaining remote structures in Siem Reap. Khmer King Jayavarman VII built it and dedicated it to his father, Dharanindravarman. Located about 2km from the dynasty's capital Angkor Thom, this massive complex is over 55 hectares, serving as a monastery and a learning center for Buddhist monks.

It was a unique structure in the Khmer empire that functioned as a city, a temple, and a Buddhist university. Over 15,000 monks, including many teachers and students, resided in Preah Khan during its zenith. The flourishing town consisted of hospitals, grain houses, rest homes, and other official public buildings. Like Ta Prohm, forests invaded parts of the temple, but some were left intact after excavation, adding a layer of mystery and beauty to the rubble. The growth of dense forests around the complex combines with the rich ruins, making Preah Khan one of the most visited attractions in Angkor park.

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Ticket details

The entrance fee for admission to Preah Khan temple is included with the temple pass for central Angkor. Foreigners are required to buy an admission pass, called the Angkor pass, which can only be purchased at the official ticket centre, located 4 kilometres away from Siem Reap town. It is open from 5:00 AM to 5:30 PM every day. The entrance ticket can be purchased either by cash (US Dollars, Cambodian Riel, Thai Baht or Euro) or by credit card.

Tickets issued after 5:00 PM are only valid from the next day. There are three types of admission passes available, depending on the number of entries:
1-Day: USD 37 for a day pass
3-Days: USD 62 valid for ten days
7-Days: USD 72 valid for one month

Best time to visit

The best time to explore the complex is during the early morning when the sunshine is milder. You need at least one and a half hours to explore Preah Khan, excluding the time to reach.

Preah Khan Temple History & Significance

Preah Khan translates to 'Holy Sword' in the local language, named so to honour King Jayavarman VII. This complex was built in 1151 AD to commemorate his victory over the invading Cham Kingdom. Numerous temples were built within Preah Khan. The main shrine at the centre was Bodhisattva AvalokiteĊ›vara, an image honouring the King's father. Within this city, there were also many libraries, galleries, ballrooms, terraces and public halls, some of them which still remain today. Almost a million people were living in the complex alone, during its peak period.

When the archaeologists discovered the ruins in the 1930s, the forest covered most of the complex premises. The most significant among their excavations was Preah Khan Stele. A large rock with inscriptions on all sides, the stele has all the documentation about the complex in the Sanskrit language, including details about Preah Khan's wealth.


Preah Khan has a flat layout, with four levels of enclosures. The complex has four entry gates each having a causeway over a moat. The gates lead to the laterite walls. Around the outer walls surrounded by the canal, there stood more than 70 stone Garudas holding Nagas, which were considered the guardians of the city. A few of them remain today, which you can notice as soon as you cross the moat.

The eastern gate served as the main entrance and is still used by tourists today. Passing through this gate led to the third enclosure, where the 'Hall of Dancers' was built. More than 12 intricately carved statues of beautiful celestial dancers Apsaras were mounted at the corners of this hall.

In the second section of the complex, among the notable structures was Dharamshala or the 'House of Fire,' which had a large tree at the centre. The inscriptions state that it was a resting place for the people, especially travelers passing through the city.

The first enclosure or the inner sanctuary was the most sacred part of the temple and housed Bodhisattva. To the west of the inner temple was Vishnu complex consisting of many small temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. To the north of the inner sanctuary was a complex for Hindu God Shiva, which included many shrines.

What to wear

As with the other temples in Siem Reap, it is expected that tourists dress appropriately. Women need to cover their shoulder at all times and wear knee-length attire. Sleeveless shirts and shorts aren't also allowed for both men and women. The rules are strictly followed, and you might be denied entry by the guards if you fail to obey them.

General tips

Keep enough water and stay hydrated at all times. Wear sunscreen while visiting temples. And finally, temple touring involves a lot of walking, so take sufficient rest in between the temples.

Preah Khan tips

To the east of Preah Khan is Jayatataka Baray, an artificial lake, surrounded by dense forest, which beautifully reflects the ruins of the temples. Not just that, there is also a small temple called Neak Pean at the centre of Baray. Don't forget to check the views of the temples from here in the evenings. Depending on the season, you can either cycle around or even take a ride in small boats to explore this area.

How to reach

When you buy your tickets, you get a tourist map which shows the various locations of temples, grouped for easy navigation. And Preah Khan is located in a small circuit, meaning that it's far away from the main grand circuit. So the easiest way to reach Preah Khan temple is by car or bus, and you’re typically looking at around a 30-minute drive from Siem Reap's city centre. A day’s hire of a tuk-tuk from the town around the major temples at Angkor and back should cost around USD 15-25. For a guided tour, expect to pay closer to USD 25.

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