Angkor Wat and the surrounding collection of temples near Siem Reap, Cambodia requires an entire week to properly explore and take in. You could easily devote hours to just one of the ruins, as each temple contains numerous rooms laden with ornate stone carvings.
If, however, you’re pressed for time and like many only have only a weekend to explore Siem Reap, we have some suggestions to maximize your time:
1. Don’t go to Tonle Sap Lake
This is especially true if you don’t have a lot of time in Siem Reap. The trip out to the boat launch plus the tour will take four hours or more. Taxi drivers will tell you the trip is to a floating market, which isn’t exactly true.
To see the way villagers make their homes and lives on the lake is stunning and humbling (something I personally was grateful to experience). However, the tours are somewhat of a scam as the guides take all the boats to a market to buy over priced rice to give to the orphanage on the lake. We’ve heard mixed things about how much of the rice is given to the orphanage and money given to the people of the village, and also that the guides can become somewhat hostile if you decline to buy the rice.
2. Maximize your time at the temples
You can’t really spend too much time at the temples, especially if you are just on a short trip. If you have enough time, the three-day pass for the temples is a good investment (US$20 for a one day pass, and US$40 for a three day pass). Exploring the temples can be an all day adventure, although you might want to plan a break in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest to grab some food at the restaurants or market right outside the temple park entrance (if you like curry, get chicken amok!).
3. Hire a van to take you around all day
Hiring a bike and riding around the temple grounds from site to site is a great option if you have time. However, on a short time budget the better option is to hire a van to take you around. The drivers also know which temples are which, where they’re located, and exactly the route to take you through. It should cost around US$35 for a whole day, and for a few dollars extra the driver may provide unlimited cool bottled waters (totally worth it!).
4. Go to the Temples at Sunrise or Sunset
The view of Angkor Wat with a pink sky shimmering around it is stunning. Make sure to get your nice cameras out for this one!
5. Get a traditional Khmer massage
These include a full body rub down with a cream to soften your skin. Actually, this was one of the best massages I’ve ever had! It should cost you around US$6/hr (so cheap!) at a mid-range spa.
6. Visit Pub Street
The eclectic scene of bars and restaurants on Pub Street in Siem Reap will add some contrast to your day after visiting the serene temples. If you’re a fan of Mexican food, try Viva Mexican Restaurant for a multitude of tempting burritos, fajitas, and enchiladas.
Written by Wanderlush. Want to read more about living a life of bliss? have a wander through her blog here.