Angkor which means “great city” was the capital of the Khmer Empire, an empire that once flourished and had a stronghold over Southeast Asia. The ruins of the ancient city can be found in the province of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The site has become a major tourist attraction because of several breathtaking temples within what is now the Angkor Archaeological Park. Some of the structures date back to the 9th century. Below are the most popular and most touristy temples in the park:
The Angkor Wat
The Angkor Wat is the grand attraction of the Angkor Archaeological Park. It was constructed in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II in honor of the Hindu God “Vishnu,” known as “the preserver.” During that period, Hinduism was the country's main religion. Etched on the walls of the temple corridors are intricate images of deities and inscriptions from Hindu literature. One of this is the “Churning of the ocean of milk,” a story that appears in the Mahabharata. It tells of the Devas and Asuras, enemy forces that are compelled to work together with the aid of the god Vishnu in a pursuit for “Amrita,” which was believed to be the elixir of immortality.
The Bayon Temple
The Bayon Temple is known as the temple of “many smiling faces.” This was also the site for the film Tomb Raider. It was constructed in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman II in his capital city Angkor Thom. Unlike other temples, the Bayon was dedicated to the god Buddha because the king was Buddhist. However, after his reign succeeding monarchs reverted to Hinduism. In modern day Cambodia, the dominant religion is Buddhism. But, Hindu influences are still very evident in Cambodian culture and traditions.
Ta Prohm is one of the major challenges in the park. It was built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman II. It was built deep in a forest as a monastery for Buddhist monks. At present the temple is no longer used for worship but is one of the most popular temples in the park because of the giant trees growing out of its ruins.
The Banteay Srei Temple
The Banteay Srei Temple is famous for the intricate details carved on its shrines, archs and pillows. It is a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It was made from sandstone evident in the reddish color of its walls.
The Banteay Samre Temple
Banteay Samre is one of the farther out temples so it has fewer visitors. However, it has its own unique architecture and similar intricate carvings on its pillows and shrines as the Banteay Srei Temple.
The Prasat Kravan Temple
The Prasat Kravan is a small Hindu temple built in the 10th century.
The Baphuon Temple
The Baphuon temple was built in the 11th century in honor of the Hindu god Shiva, know as the destroyer. It is near the Bayon Temple and is actively used as a Buddhist shrine. Although, it is open to tourists, a dress code is strictly implemented. Open clothing like shorts, sleeveless shirts or tube tops arenot allowed and tourists must observe silence while inside the temple.
The Pre Rup Temple
The Pre Rup temple is a favorite for sunrise and sunset viewing. It was built in the 10th century and was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It is one of the highest temples in the park and is believed to be an ancient site for funeral rites.
Need more information about the about Siem Reap, Cambodia? Check out: Travel Tips for Siem Reap City .