This morning you will discover some of the main Angkor sites with a tour by local remok (tuk tuk). First, you will head to the largest religious structure in the world: the magnificent Angkor Wat. Built by Suryavarman II in early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing the Mount Meru, home of the gods. Considered the masterpiece of Khmer architecture, this temple was built in honor of the god Vishnu, and as such is the only major temple at Angkor that faces west. Inside, the temple the walls are covered by carvings depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II waged during his reign.
Continue to the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII (who also commissioned the building of Banteay Chhmar). This city is surrounded by an 8m-high wall drawing a perfect square. You will enter the city from the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and capped with four giant faces of the Buddha, and onwards to the Bayon temple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its dozens of towers with enigmatic faces looking out over the far-flung provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The nearby Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate carvings. If you wish, escape the crowds to stroll through the grounds of the former Royal Palace to discover some small hidden temples that are less visited.
After, visit Ta Prohm temple, which children will probably enjoy the most. The original ‘Tomb Raider’ movie with Angelina Jolie was filmed here. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely 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. (Note: during high season months you may wish to visit Preah Khan temple instead: built by the same king during the same period, Preah Khan is a larger, more labyrinthian complex that provides more of a “Tomb Raider” experience both because of its size and smaller crowds. Ask your guide for advice prior to visit.)
Afternoon at leisure, with a choice of optional activities.
Optional: 2-3 hrs village cycle tour
Explore some local villages to experience the “real” Cambodia in the Siem Reap area. Discuss a route in advance with your guide in order to meet your own level of fitness and interest. The excursion is designed to give you a more extended bike ride mixed with cultural interactions. A support vehicle is provided in case you need to take a break along the way.
Optional: Horseback riding at Happy Ranch
Head to the Happy Ranch, a western style horse ranch outside of Siem Reap. There, you will get acquainted with your horse of pure Cambodian breed, a descendant of the Mongolian wild horses. Then enjoy the countryside on horseback! During the two hour trail ride you will get to places far outside the tourist areas, through the rice fields and local villages to the rarely visited temple of Wat Atvea. Explore the peaceful temple ruins of the Angkor-era, a truly authentic experience.
Note: Happy Ranch can arrange lead rides on gentle ponies for young children. Their experienced staff will walk alongside and lead them or just assist them when necessary.
Optional: Angkor Zipline
Angkor Zipline is a zipline eco-adventure tour at the Angkor Archeological Park. Offering eight ziplines of different heights, suspended sky bridges, and abseiling from a tree, this is an excursion for those with a sense of adventure who want to soar over the jungle canopy like a gibbon! Transfer to the zipline site before receiving a safety briefing and being outfitted with safety gear. After the adventure begins, start with the easiest ziplines before proceeding to the highest and most exhilarating ones. The highest ziplines are 50 meters above the canopy and the longest is 350 meters. From the last zipline the final adventure is to abseil down from a high tree before a soft trek through the forest takes you back to the starting point. (Note – max 9 people in a single group, latest start time is 12pm, excursion lasts 3-4 hrs, maximum weight 125kg, not suitable for children under 5 yrs old or 1m in height: no sandals permitted).
Overnight in Siem Reap.