The Best Spots & Tours to Catch Angkor Wat Sunrise & Sunset
Watching the sun rise or set in the famous Angkor complex is high on the list for most travelers in South-East Asia. And understandably so, as the World Heritage-listed Angkor is home to the magnificent remains of the Khmer Empire, which ruled Cambodia from the 9th to the 15th century. With forests and temples stretching over some 400-square-kilometres, there’s numerous places to experience the sun rise or set.
If Angkor Wat Sunrise & Sunset are on the list of your next trip to Asia, below in this article, we have all the information you need from the best spots to admire Sunset and Sunrise to the tips so that you can have the best postcard photos from your Cambodia journey.
Angkor Wat – built by Suryavarman II (r 1112–52) – is the earthly representation of Mount Meru, the Mount Olympus of the Hindu faith, and the abode of ancient gods. The Cambodian god-kings of old each strove to better their ancestors’ structures in size, scale, and symmetry, culminating in what is believed to be the world’s largest religious building.
The temple is the heart and soul of Cambodia and a source of fierce national pride. Unlike the other Angkor monuments, it was never abandoned to the elements and has been in virtually continuous use since it was built.
The modern name, Angkor Wat (alternate name: Nokor Wat), means "Temple City" or "City of Temples" in Khmer; Angkor meaning "city" or "capital city", is a vernacular form of the word nokor, which comes from the Sanskrit word nagara. Wat is the Khmer word for "temple grounds", also derived from Sanskrit vāṭa, meaning "enclosure".
The original name of the temple was Vrah Viṣṇuloka or Parama Viṣṇuloka (Sanskrit), which means the sacred dwelling of Vishnu.
Angkor Wat Sunrise or Sunset? Which one is better?
The big question for your visit now is fighting the famous crowds at sunrise or going for a more relaxed sunset a better choice?
In my opinion, the sunrise colors and light of Angkor Wat is better than sunset and makes fighting the morning crowds bearable. I am not saying sunset is not worth it, but if I could only go to one, I would make sure to be there at sunrise.
Pros and Cons of Sunrise Versus Sunset
Below is the pros and cons of Angkor Wat Sunrise versus Sunset for your consideration
At sunrise, the sun rises right behind Angkor Wat creating otherworldly hues of purple, red, orange, and yellow, like the cover image of this article. It definitely makes for a great reflection shot too!
You are forced to be at the temple early so you will beat the midday heat and will have more of a chance of getting parts of the temple to yourself.
It’s a magical experience seeing the first rays of sunlight up the temple even if you’re shoulder to shoulder with other tourists.
You will have other parts of the temple almost completely to yourself if you explore right after sunrise.
You have to wake up extremely early and get to Angkor Wat when it opens at 5 am to give yourself the best chance of getting a spot at the reflection pools.
It is very very crowded at sunrise especially at the two reflection pools in the front of the temple.
It is not a very peaceful experience.
The atmosphere is more relaxed as there are much fewer people and you don’t have to fight for a spot near the reflecting pools.
You can sleep in later! Although I would still recommend getting to the temple by 8 am to avoid the midday heat and the crowds.
The sun sets in the front of the temple so you still get to see beautiful sunset rays light up the temple grounds.
You can still get great photos while avoiding the crowd.
The colors and the view are not as magical and surreal as the sunrise.
You will not be able to capture that “postcard” image of Angkor Wat.
You cannot explore the temple after the sun sets as Angkor Wat closes at sunset.
11 Tips to Capture that Postcard Perfect Angkor Wat Photo at Sunrise & Sunset
Capturing the perfect shot at Angkor Wat is not difficult, but it does take a little bit of planning especially if you want to go for that sunrise shot.
Here are my 11 favorite tips that I wrote down from my sunrise and sunset experiences at Angkor Wat.
These tips are more geared towards getting that perfect sunrise photo, but they also apply for sunset too.
Tip #1: Reserve More Than a Day
If you really really want to have that perfect picture, plan more than one sunrise hunt. Even if you manage to get a top spot from your first try, you can never guess what sky you are going to get. Having more than one shot at it gives higher chances for a top-notch photo.
Tip #2: Don’t go on your first day
If you need to get your pass (which is bought at the ticket office and opens at 5:00 AM), you are gonna be too late for the best spots. Get your entry ticket the day before and go for a walk around Angkor Wat to get to know the area.
Tip #3: Make Sure you are at the correct pond
So, yeah, going to the wrong lake is something I did…in my defense, there are two bigger ponds just outside Angkor Wat that can easily confuse a first-time visitor. Make sure you go to the small reflection pond inside the temple grounds! The one on the left side is the better one.
Tip #4: Go early
Not just early – very early. Leave your hotel at 4:30 AM to make sure you are one of the first people who enter the Angkor Wat area (opens at 5:00 AM)
Tip #5: Use the correct bridge
This again may seem like an obvious one, but when it is that early in the morning, everything is dark, and you rely solely on Google Maps (or whichever map app you use). And on Google Maps, there is only one distinctive bridge that appears to be the entrance to Angkor Wat.
Well, it may have been, a few hundred years ago, but today it’s closed, and there is another, floating one. Make sure to go there before 5:00 AM to be among the first ones inside.
Tip #6: Find the best position at the pool
You think you get that one covered since you have taken thousands of photos and can easily find the right spot? That is what I thought. But surprise, at 5:00 AM, it is still dark, and you cannot see the Angkor towers so finding the best spot is literally a shot in the dark. The first spot I took was at the center side of the pond and when it got a little brighter, I found out a palm tree is blocking one of the temple spires, so I had to move to the left and lose my hard-earned front-row seat…
Tip #7: Use long exposure
To get the very best out of every sunrise or sunset, you need to learn to use the long exposure technique. The idea is that you leave the shutter open for a long time so the camera can catch all the lights around and produce a clearer and brighter photo.
If there are moving clouds or water, it gives them a nice foggy look too. While the shutter is open, every little move or shakes to the camera will result a blurry photo, so a tripod is a must.
Here’s a video tutorial that will teach you more about the long exposure technique
Tip #8: Mind the lilies
When choosing your position consider the position of the lilies in the pool. One of the things that make the Angkor Wat sunrise photo perfect is the beautiful reflection, and you don’t want some lilies covering it.
Tip #9: Take vertical photos too
Taking vertical photos at Angor Wat makes it hard to get all towers inside the frame, but if you plan to post the picture on Facebook or Instagram, the vertical ones look so much better on phone screens!
Tip #10: Wait until the sun comes out
This is an error I saw a lot of people do (I almost did it too). You start your shooting around 5:30 AM when the golden hour starts and the light is soft and warm. At 6:00 – 6:15 AM, the sky becomes full-time lovely pink/purple/orange color, and everybody is like “Wooow“.
At 6:30 – 6:45 AM it’s already pretty bright, and the sky is not as colorful as before, so the crowds leave the reflection pond to go inside the temple. Don’t follow them! Wait around half an hour more, and the sun will slowly peek behind the temple!
Beautiful photo opp that may result in a better picture than the colorful-sky one you took earlier.
Tip #11: Post-process
Get yourself Lightroom or other post-processing software and get out all the colors your camera captured. Do not worry, post-processing your photo is not cheating, and it doesn’t mean your photo is fake.
Best spots for Angkor Wat Sunrise
Sunrise at the reflection ponds of Angkor Wat
The best place for sunrise in Angkor Wat, in my opinion, is on the left side of the walkway, all the way to the left, while still on water edge facing the temple spires. Walk in past the guard at the main walkway, and through the first entrance into the walled main complex.
From there stay on the path until you approach the pond on the left side and head down a convent set of stairs toward the pond.
Sunrise Main Reflection Pond Tips:
Find a spot with limited lily pads, this is something I never thought of and in some shots, you can barely see the reflection through the weeds in the water.
Make sure to stand as absolutely close to the water edge so nobody moves in front of you, look for patches of ground where people could try and get in front of you especially at the corner of the pond this can happen here.
Another annoying one is people have begun to throw some stones to stand on into the pond so they can jump in front of everyone, avoid those spots.
Angkor Hill – Phnom Bakheng Sunrise Spot
The second most popular spot inside of the Angkor Wat complex is Angkor Hill. Compare to the reflection ponds, this place is almost empty. high on the hill on top of the Phnom Bakheng temple, you will have a nice view of the main temples of Angkor with the sun coming up behind it.
This viewpoint gives you a much different perspective of Angkor Wat surrounded by trees and the early morning haze. This temple is also popular for sunset where the temple is front lit.
Angkor Wat Front Gate
If you want a different perspective, a great photo spot is the bridge in front of the temple gate. During the day, it is incredibly hard to take a photo free of people, so one of the best chances you are going to get is at sunrise when everybody is at the reflection pools.
On the right side of the reflection pool
If you’re too late for a front-row place on the left reflection pool, you can go in its top-right corner.
You need a wide-angle lens, and you won’t have the gorgeous pond reflection, but you’ll get a good composition of the spires with some palm trees in the corners.
It is a small temple, part of the big circle tuk-tuk route and designed in a similar fashion to Angkor Wat. It is not nearly as impressive as the big guy, but If you decide to go for the sunrise there, it is almost guaranteed you are going to be the only one there.
Not really a temple but more like a lake. If you catch a picturesque sky with some interesting clouds, you can make a kick-ass reflection photo there.
If you’re a sunrise chaser that’s not looking that much into the photo opportunities but more of the peaceful, tranquil experience – this is your spot.
Best spots for Angkor Wat Sunset
Sunset at the Pre Rup Temple
Known as the ‘Pyramid Temple’, the Pre Rup has three tiers – the uppermost of which carries five lotus towers. Its name translates to ‘turning the body’, which refers to a Khmer cremation tradition in which a body’s silhouette is outlined with ash. Therefore, it’s thought that the temple previously served as a crematorium to the royals.
Built entirely from brick and laterite, the warm tones of the temple are best seen at sunset. The glow of the evening light produces reddish hues that contrast beautifully with the surrounding green jungle. The temple also offers stunning views over the rice fields of the Eastern Baray.
Sunset at Bayon Temple
Standing in the centre of Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple was the last stone temple built during the Khmer empire. It is famous for the gigantic smiling faces on each of its towers which represent King Jayavarman VII. At least a dozen of the heads can be seen at any one time, emphasizing the King’s immense power and presence.
The Bayon Temple is spectacular at any time of day and a must-see whilst within the Angkor complex. But try to time it with sunset for the best photographs. Watching the last of the daylight shine on these huge faces is a truly beautiful experience.
Sunset at Phnom Bakheng
Known for its stunning sunset view, Phnom Bakheng is the most popular spot in Angkor to end the day. Dating from the early 10th century, Phnom Bakheng was built on a 70-metre-high hill and was the first of the temple-mountains built in the Angkor complex. Sunset visitors can expect a spectacular view over Angkor Wat, the surrounding forest and the gigantic Baray reservoir.
Similarly to the other spots, it’s best to get here early. Only 300 people are allowed in at any one time so arrive at 4pm to guarantee a spot. Then allow for around two hours to experience the sky’s ever-changing red, yellow, and orange hues.
Top 4 Angkor Wat Sunrise & Sunset Tours
It is always easier to have the support from the local guide and driver, who can help you find the best spots and give some recommendation for you to take the best shots.
Below are some recommended Angkor Wat Sunrise & Sunset Tours for your consideration
1. 9-Hour Angkor Wat Sunrise Bike Tour
With some of the most amazing sunset views you’re ever likely to see, missing the early morning sun rising over Angkor Wat is akin to a crime. Make an effort to witness this beauty, even if you’re not much of a morning person.
Breakfast is included in the cost of this tour, so come hungry and fill up.
Your day will be spent riding around the main temple complex, as well as some lesser known but equally amazing temples that don’t get so much tourist traffic.
After a traditional Khmer lunch by the idyllic Srah Srang Lake, it’ll be time to head back to your hotel for a shower and a refreshing drink.
2. Full-Day Private Tour with Sunset at Angkor Wat
Due to the immensity of Angkor Archaeological Park, unless you’re in a big hurry, you’ll want to spend an entire day there.
This private tour will take you to some of the park’s major attractions – like the Bayon and Ta Prohm temples – and you’ll see some lesser known but equally stunning ones too.
Meals are included and you’ll end up at Pre Rup, which is one of the most popular sunset viewing areas in the entire park.
That enchanting period of diminishing light between afternoon and evening is especially magical when viewed against the still waters of the temple’s moat and the characteristically tapered spires of the ancient temples.
3. Angkor Wat Full-Day Private Tour with Sunrise
You’ll probably find that Angkor Wat is shrouded in magnificence and mystery no matter when you visit, but nearly everyone agrees there’s something extra special at sunrise that really should be experienced.
If that sounds like a good plan, then bring an alarm clock, because this full-day, private sunset tour will get you where you need to be, when you need to be there, to experience this once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a natural wonder.
After the sun comes up, your tour will commence with visits to Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple that are famous for the hundreds of serenely smiling faces that adorn them.
4. Angkor Sunrise on a Vespa
Admit it, even if you’ve got a Harley in your garage back home, you still probably think Vespas are hip.
If you’re looking for a fun and original way to see the amazing sunrise at Angkor Wat, this is the tour for you.
After the sun is done with its dazzling, you’ll scoot on over to the Bayon and Ta Prohm temples – and a few other rare gems that don’t get as much foot traffic.
Your Khmer guide will be a local who knows all the history associated with each site, so you’ll get a great glimpse into the area’s ancient history that dates back more than a thousand years.
Planning for your Angkor Wat Sunrise & Sunset Tours
Below is all the information and tips for you to make the best of your Angkor Wat Sunrise & Sunset Tours
First, below is the Angkor Wat Sunrise & Sunset time
Angkor Wat Sunrise Time: 5:30-6:00AM depending on season
Angkor Wat Sunset Time: 5:30-6:00PM depending on season
When is the best time to visit Angkor Wat?
It is possible to visit Angkor Wat at any time of year, but peak season is from November to February, when the weather is dry and cooler, although it is still hot for most.
The best time of day to visit Angkor Wat is sunrise when it is cooler but crowded, or lunchtime when most of the tour groups are in town.
Here is more detail about Best time to visit Angkor Wat to have the best of your Angkor Wat tour
How to get to Angkor Wat?
The nearby town of Siem Reap can be reached via good roads from Phnom Penh and buses and taxis make the trip regularly. Those preferring to travel by boat can also make the trip from Phnom Penh in some five or six hours—about the same travel time as by road. The airport in Siem Reap has service to Phnom Penh and regular flights abroad to Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Laos.
Siem Reap is just 7km from Angkor Wat and is the base for exploring the temples. Check out Siem Reap Travel Guide for more detail
Angkor Wat Dress code
As the temples of Angkor represent a sacred religious site to the Khmer people, visitors are asked to dress modestly.
Appropriate attire when visiting temples in Angkor Wat is long pants (covering the knee) and shirts that cover shoulders. Skirts, small shorts, tank tops, and other items of revealing clothing are not allowed within temple grounds. Visitors can and are frequently turned away from temples when wearing revealing clothing.
It is not possible to visit the highest level of Angkor Wat without upper arms covered and shorts to the knees. Local authorities have visitor 'code of conduct' guidelines and a video to encourage appropriate dress, as well as reminding tourists not to touch, sit or climb on the ancient structures, to pay attention to restricted areas, and to be respectful of monks.
Angkor Wat Map
Check the below map plan of Angkor Wat for your reference. You can either download the high-resolution map of Angkor Wat to have the better vision of what you will visit here.
To visit Angkor Wat, you’ll have to purchase either a one-day, three-day or week-long pass.
Although travelers with tight itineraries in Southeast Asia try to squeeze in as many sights as they can in a day, remember that the Angkor complex is actually the largest religious monument in the world! It's spread over 250 square miles of jungle. You’re going to need more time than you think to not end up rushing around.
The temples are scattered all over Cambodia. If you're serious about exploring ancient Khmer ruins, plan on purchasing at least the three-day pass. Doing so is less expensive and troublesome than buying two one-day passes; you will end up wanting more than one day there.
Angkor Wat Entrance Fee
Below are the following Entrance Fees to the Angkor Wat Complex
Single day (1-day) pass – $37.00
Three day (3-day) pass – $62.00
Seven day (7-day) pass – $72.00
According to the rules, the 3-day pass is good for use within 10 days from the issue date. The 7-day pass, on the other hand, is good for use 1 month from the issue date. That way, both passes can be used at the Angkor Wat complex, even if is not used through consecutive days.
How to choose a guide to Angkor Wat?
However much research you do in advance, Angkor is just too big to take in on your own.
To get away from the coach parties you need a private tuk-tuk that can navigate the temples and a knowledgeable guide. The best guides are willing to be flexible and will suggest quiet areas you won’t find in most guidebooks. Angkor isn’t a destination where you can wing it, so book with a specialist operator who has local expertise and is up to date on the best places to get away from the ever-expanding crowds.
My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!
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Preah Vihear Temple (Prasat Preah Vihear) is an ancient Hindu temple built during the period of the Khmer Empire, that is situated atop a 525-metre (1,722 ft) cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains, in the Preah Vihear province, Cambodia. In 1962, following a lengthy dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over ownership, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled that the temple is in Cambodia.
Affording a view for many kilometers across a plain, Prasat Preah Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-century-long Khmer Empire. As a key edifice of the empire's spiritual life, it was supported and modified by successive kings and so bears elements of several architectural styles.
Preah Vihear is unusual among Khmer temples in being constructed along a long north–south axis, rather than having the conventional rectangular plan with orientation toward the east. The temple gives its name to Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, in which it is now located, as well as the Khao Phra Wihan National Park which borders it in Thailand's Sisaket province, though it is no longer accessible from Thailand.
Deep in the forests of Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, the elegant spires of an ancient stone city soar skyward above the sprawling complex of Angkor Archaeological Park.
The Khmer Empire’s various capitals thrived here from the 9th to 15th centuries, while their rulers presided over an empire that stretched from Myanmar (Burma) to Vietnam. Including forested areas and newly discovered “suburbs” Angkor covers more than 400 square kilometers.
Though just one of hundreds of surviving temples and structures, the massive Angkor Wat is the most famed of all Cambodia’s temples - it appears on the nation’s flag - and it is revered for good reason. The 12th century “temple-mountain” was built as a spiritual home for the Hindu god Vishnu. The temple is an architectural triumph laden with artistic treasures like the bas-relief galleries that line many walls and tell enduring tales of Cambodian history and legend.
In other parts of Angkor such art depicts scenes of daily life - offering scholars a precious window into the past.
Reading the below epic guide for Angkor Archaeological Park, you will have all the information you need from its history, maps, best time to visit and so on to have the best out of your Angkor tours
Banteay Kdei Temple (Prasat Banteay Kdei), meaning "A Citadel of Chambers", also known as "Citadel of Monks' cells", is a Buddhist temple in Angkor, Cambodia. It is located southeast of Ta Prohm and east of Angkor Thom.
Built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries AD during the reign of Jayavarman VII (who was posthumously given the title "Maha paramasangata pada"), it is in the Bayon architectural style, similar in plan to Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, but less complex and smaller. Its structures are contained within two successive enclosure walls and consist of two concentric galleries from which emerge towers, preceded to the east by a cloister.
This Buddhist monastic complex is currently dilapidated due to faulty construction and poor quality of sandstone used in its buildings and is now undergoing renovation. Banteay Kdei had been occupied by monks at various intervals over the centuries till 1960s.
Just east of Angkor Thom’s Victory Gate is Chau Say Tevoda. It was probably built during the second quarter of the 12th century, under the reign of Suryavarman II, and dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. It has been renovated by the Chinese to bring it up to the condition of its twin temple, Thommanon.
Thommanon Temple is a Hindu temple site that's covered in intricate carvings and surrounded by forests in Angkor. The temple is in relatively excellent condition, thanks to extensive restoration work in the 1960s.
It was constructed about the same time as Angkor Wat. The style of architecture is quite evident in the towers and carvings, which are in very good condition. During the rainy season, the dampened sandstone offers great photo opportunities.
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the complex dates back between the 11th and 12th centuries. It is about 600 metres east of the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom, just opposite Chau Say Tevoda. Even before restoration, Thommanon was in much a better condition than Chau Say Tevoda. Unlike the latter, which was built using wooden beams enclosed in stone, Thommanon Temple's entire structure was made out of stone.
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