Angkor Wat | Cambodia | Tourism | Guide

Children in front of Angkor Wat.

The temple complex of Angkor Wat, located in Angkor, Cambodia, was built in the 12th century for King Suryavarman II. He intended to establish the city and the temple as the capital and state temple of his kingdom, respectively. Initially dedicated to the Indian god Vishnu, the temple later shifted its focus to Buddhism. It has become a major religious center for Buddhists, particularly in Burma, and is the largest religious monument in the world. The temple exemplifies the pinnacle of Khmer architectural style. Today, it symbolizes Cambodia and is featured on its national flag.

Angkor Wat showcases two fundamental concepts of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the galleries. The temple is designed to represent Mount Meru, the abode of the Hindu gods, featuring a distinctive arrangement of three rectangular galleries, inspired by the temples of South India. Each year, thousands of visitors are drawn to the temple to appreciate its architectural harmony and magnificence, including the numerous guardian spirits that decorate its walls. Commonly known as the City Temple, the modern name “Angkor Wat” is derived from Sanskrit and Thai languages.

History of Ankor Wat

Angkor Wat is located 5.5 km north of Siem Reap, within a significant cluster of ancient structures in Cambodia, positioned at the southernmost edge of Angkor’s main site.

The initial design and construction of Angkor Wat commenced during the reign of Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Dedicated to the Indian god Vishnu, the temple served as the empire’s capital and state temple. Nearly a century later, the temple gradually shifted its religious focus from Hinduism to Theravada Buddhist, and subsequently its use also changed, which continues till today.

This is one of my pictures of 2006. You can see they are renovating and it is not easy sometimes to go upstairs.

Antonio da Magdalena, a Portuguese monk was the first European visitor to the temple. He visited the temple in1586, and mentioned it as an amazing piece of building architecture in his journal. However, it was not until the mid-19th century, when Henri Mouhot’s travel notes popularized Angkor Wat in the West.

In the 20th century the temple required significant restoration, accumulated vegetation and earth was removed from the site. During the decade of 1970s, the work was hindered by the civil war. Nonetheless, modest damage was done during the war, in addition to burglary and destruction of Angkorian statues.

The temple remains an influential signature of Cambodia, and contributes significantly to the national pride. Subsequently, Cambodia has formed diplomatic relations with its foreign nations like France and the United States, including its neighbour Thailand. You can see the depiction of Angkor Wat on the Cambodian national flags since its introduction in 1863.


This picture was taken at “Ta Prohm” in 2006. It is another site near Angkor Wat, one of my favorite with Bayon. At Ta Prohm, they left the trees on the temples…

Angkor Wat is a remarkable fusion of the mountain-temple concept and concentric galleries. Drawing inspiration from Indian architecture, the temple symbolizes the abode of the gods on Mount Meru. The central arrangement of towers forms a pentagon, representing the five peaks of the mountain, while the surrounding moat and walls depict the oceans and mountain ranges, respectively. Historically, Angkor Wat’s upper levels were exclusively accessible to the elite and upper class, with the general populace allowed only into the lowest tier of the temple.

For those seeking an exemplary display of traditional Khmer architectural style, Angkor Wat is a must-visit. Architectural features of this style include towers shaped like lotus buds (with receding and ogival profiles); axial galleries linking the enclosures; expanded corridors with half-galleries; and cross-shaped terraces that align with the temple’s central axis.

Characteristic decorative elements feature guardian figures (devatas or apsaras), elaborate narrative scenes, and garlands adorning the bases and bas-reliefs. The sculpture at Angkor Wat, considered more static and less refined, embodies a traditional aesthetic. Nearly every surface, including roofs, columns, and lintels, showcases intricate carvings and embellishments.

Over time, certain design elements such as wooden doors, ceiling panels, ornate stucco on the towers, and detailed work on bas-relief figures have deteriorated. Despite this, Angkor Wat continues to captivate visitors with its enduring beauty.

To preserve the temple, the Archaeological Survey of India initiated a restoration program between 1986 and 1992. Since then, Angkor Wat has experienced a significant increase in tourism. It is now part of the Angkor World Heritage Site, receiving support from the Cambodian government for its protection.

More pictures taken by myself of Cambodia and Angkor Wat:

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