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Is Three Days Enough at Angkor Wat?

If you are contemplating traveling in Southeast Asia, undoubtedly Angkor Wat will be part of your planning. Built by the Khmer Empire somewhere in the 9th century, it remains the largest and arguably most important architectural site in the region.

The iconic three towered entrance to Angkor Wat welcomes you to the temples, and immediately you are drawn into a place that is different, exotic, and mesmerizing.

Angkor Wat temple scenes.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site – Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Everywhere you look there are intricate carvings- some with the paint still clinging to them, Buddhist shrines and offerings, and of course throngs of tourists.  The carvings tell stories of the empire, and you can see how rich it was with the King riding elephants, and contorted dancers to entertain.  It makes me want to sit down and watch “Anna and the King” again.

Two elephants take a family for a ride around Bayon temple in Angkor Wat.

The site which was inscribed on the UNESCO Heritage List in 1992 is well set up for tourists.  As you enter, your first choice is whether to buy a one day or three day pass.  We bought the three day, and my question was after the first day, was it enough?  Before going I didn’t realize not only how many buildings and complexes were part of the site, but also how spread out they were.

Stone carvings like these can be found all over the temples in Angkor Wat.

We were amazed at the architecture, and rightfully so.  Look at the photo on the left.  Jim has climbed the steps and is not even at the top, but he is really far away.  The sheer size is mind-boggling.  The same was true when we climbed to the sunrise lookout point (with 1,000) other like-minded tourists early on the second day.   Many folks rode elephants, and it was somewhat disconcerting knowing these huge beasts were sharing the path with you in the dark, but what was more surprising is how far and how high the temple was away from the entrance.  We climbed and climbed and climbed, and all before 7:00 AM.

One of the carved stone reliefs in Angkor Wat.

The other surprising thing was how different each temple, each building, each carving was.  We were overwhelmed at the artistry, the intricacy of the carvings.

Scenes from Angkor Wat include Buddha statues, water lilies, incense offerings and a tuk tuk ride.

The first two days, we hired tuk tuks from our hostel to take us around.  The drivers spoke pretty good English, and they were very informative.  Not guides, they instead regaled us with (horror) stories of life in Cambodia.  One of the drivers was a teacher, which of course I’m always interested in, and he told us that he made more money, by far, as a tuk tuk driver.  As a teacher he made about the equivalent of 10 dollars per month.

Massive tree roots spreading over a temple in Anglor Wat.

We were very happy to have our tuk tuks for the first couple of days as they knew where to take us.  One of the most important temples Angkor Thom, we didn’t get to until later in the afternoon.  We were thrilled to see the trees and roots, even though they are doing considerable damage to the site.

Bayon temple at Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Visiting all the major sites, stopping and talking to the people who live in the park, buying lunch at the shopping tents, and just getting a general feel of the place was how we approached the first couple of days.

Corinne on her electric bike surrounded by monkeys in Angkor Wat.

The last day, we rented electric bikes and explored on our own, revisiting sites we needed to spend more time in, as well as discovering hidden corners that we didn’t really think much about the first few days.  It was a convenient and fun way to spend the last day on site.

We were more than happy to buy the three day pass to Angkor Wat, but I’m not sure it was even enough. I think I could have spent more time there.  What do you think?

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Have you been to Angkor Wat?

Is Three Days Enough at Ankor Wat? Cambodia's number one tourist site requires some time.

eileen g

Monday 17th of October 2016

I think Angkor is a place where it really is worth it to have a guide. it is big and sprawling. Our guide knew the most efficient order to see the temples based on where they are and what is more crowded when. They knew where to go to see a good sunset, and took us to some outlying temples you might miss, etc. and they could tell us what were looking at, too.

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 18th of October 2016

Eileen, We loved Angkor and the tuk tuk driver we had took us on a great route but didn't really guide us. It was a great visit.


Thursday 11th of September 2014

Lucky you, Corinne. I've never been to Angkor Wat, but I have it on my list (and the list is so long!)

Corinne Vail

Thursday 11th of September 2014

Anda, It's an amazing place. I love a site that has a lot going on, people living there still.


Wednesday 10th of September 2014

Hi Corinne - great photos! We're off to SE Asia in a few weeks, for 6 months, and Angkor a place we want to spend some time in. Looks as amazing as everything we've heard! Any recommendations of where to stay? Frank (bbqboy)

Corinne Vail

Thursday 11th of September 2014

Frank, I stayed at a hostel on the edge of Siem Riep. It was across from the huge hotel, a good location. I think most of the hostels are pretty nice. Good luck!


Tuesday 9th of September 2014

I haven't been yet, but I hear it is amazing, and based on your photos I can see that it is true. I also heard to give yourself plenty of time. 3 sounds perfect, but I suppose it depends on how much you want to get into it all. Some folks might get burnt out, but since you feel like maybe it wasn't enough, then I'm thinking 4 might be better!

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 10th of September 2014

Lani, I think getting templed out is a real possibility, especially if you follow a tour guide around and stop, listen, move on, and repeat. If you want a tour guide, I would schedule one for the first day as an overview and take the rest slowly and just soak it all in!

Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

Tuesday 9th of September 2014

I've never been to Angkor Wat so I would be delighted with 3 days there! It looks beautiful. It's amazing to think that as a teacher, he was earning 10 dollars a month. Really puts things in perspective.

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 9th of September 2014

Shikha, Really an eye-opener, isn't it?