Angkor Archaeological Park is the home of magnificent ruins of massive temples built by Khmer Empire from 9th to 15th century. Spreading over 400 kilometers area, it is one of the most sought destination of South East Asia. This park is in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage since 1992 and due to its poor state of conservation, looting, declining water table and unsustainable tourism, it is also in the list of UNESCO WORLD Heritage Site in Danger from 1992.
The park itself does not has any hotels or accommodation facility, but near by city Seam Reap, which is just 6 kms away from the main entrance serves as a gateway to the Angkor Park.
Reaching Seam Reap: Seam Reap is the capital city of Seam Reap province in Cambodia and it can be reached by a road journey of 7-8 hours from Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia or after 10-12 hours road journey from Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. It also has an international airport, connecting this city to major destinations in South East Asia like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, HCMC etc. To know more about the various ways to reach Seam Reap, preferably from Bangkok, read this extensive post on this: How to reach Seam Reap from Bangkok?
Seam Reap has a number of budget as well as luxurious accommodation options to handle the continuously growing number of the tourists. Angkor Park entrance is just 6 kms away from the city center and there are multiple transport options available in the from of reserved cabs, reserved buses, reserved tuk-tuks, rented motorcycles and rented bicycles. The park is massive in size and your transport options will depend on the number of days you wish to spend there in the park. If you are running short of time, you can opt for the cabs or tuk-tuks and if you are having enough time, then you can opt to explore this park on a bicycle.
Why to Explore Angkor on Bicycle? Bicycle are one of the exciting way to explore Angkor. They are very cheap, easy to commute, can be park anywhere and truly enjoyable. There are many shops offering this service. Best way to rent through your hotel, so that you can avoid the hassle of depositing some security money or your papers. Prefer to rent a geared bicycle with a light on the front and one that has a basket on the front. The rent is generally 1 USD per day for a bicycle in Seam Reap. You need not to deposit it in night, if you are staying for more days. You can keep it with you in your hotel in the night also. This will help you to commute in the night as well as in early morning to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat Temple. Do not forget to ask for the keys to lock your bicycle. Signboards inside the park are plenty and very clear, so you will never forget your way.
Entrance Ticket to The Angkor Archaeological Park: The park entrance ticket prices are variable as per your duration of stay. There are three kind of visiting passes:
For One Day: USD 20 per person
For Three Days: USD 40 per person
For Seven Days: USD 60 per person
Photography is allowed with all the passes. Three days pass is valid for seven days. It means in seven days from date of issue, you can choose any three days to visit the temples. Similarly, seven days pass is valid till one month from the date of issue. They will punch the passes at entrance on each entry to keep a track on number of days. These passes are valid for all the temples except Kulen Mountain and Bengmealea Temple. Ticket counters open from 5:00 AM to 5:30 PM everyday, while entry to the park is open between 5:30 AM to 5:00 PM everyday. Passes cannot be refunded or changed at later time. They will take your photography using a USB camera and print it on your pass to make sure that it can not be reused by anyone else. Children under 12 years do not require tickets to visit the park. The passes for the next days sold from 5:00 PM everyday. You can also buy the passes on your day of visit.
Location of Ticket Counters: From Seam Reap, two different roads lead inside the Angkor Archaeological Park. I took the wrong road and reached at the entrance of the park without the ticket. I had to again return for at least 5 kms to purchase the ticket from the ticket counter. From ticket counter, there is another road going directly to the park. So, while cycling from Seam Reap to Angkor, make sure that you know the route to the ticket counters or ask for help from the locals. There is only one place to buy the tickets for Angkor Park, but there are at least 5-6 roads going into the park from Seam Reap. So, before taking any other road to enter in the park, just buy your tickets from the ticket counters. Frankly speaking, you can also enter in the park without the tickets from many road and Sometimes there is nobody to check your ticket inside the park, but you are suppose to enter in the park with the valid tickets only. At the entrance of many (not all) temples , there are people to check the tickets.
Important Note: If you buy a pass in the evening after 5 PM, you are eligible to enter in the park to see the sunset without punching your pass. If anybody approaches you to punch your card, just tell him that its 5 PM and this day can not be count against your entry. He must allow you to go inside. This way counting of your days in the park will start from the next morning onwards.
To visit this park in a proper manner and to enjoy all the sites with a bicycle, seven days pass is recommended. But, three days are good enough to see the major temples with a normal pace of cycling. and if You have only one day to spend at Angkor, forget everything, just hire a tuk-tuk and complete the small circuit of Angkor Archaeological Park. It is so amazing that you will be fully satisfied with your stay in Angkor. At least one day is better than nothing.
How to Explore Angkor on a Bicycle:
Best thing about the Angkor Archaeological Park is that this massive sight is worth visiting on a bicycle in a proper manner. The roads inside the park is also paved and in good condition except some bad patches. Generally guide books and maps talk about two type of circuit for a bicycle or for any other type of tour. These circuits, known as Small Circuit and Big (or Grand) Circuit, cover some important temple of Angkor.
Small Circuit:If you have very less time (one day), then you should try the Small Circuit of Angkor, that includes the visit to Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng, Angkor Thom and Ta Phrom. Only Angkor Wat Temple is so impressive and massive, that it can easily take half day of your trip. and then there is Bayon and Ta Phrom. One day will be really not a good time allocation to Angkor, but if you have no choice then just follow the small circuit.
Big (or Grand Circuit): If you have two days, then one day you can follow small circuit and on another day, you can try your guts on the Big Circuit, that is commonly referred as Grand Circuit. It include some other major temples like Pre Rup, East Mebon, Ta Som, Preah Khan etc.To visit Angkor in two days, it is better to complete Angkor Wat and then all other temples of Grand Circuit except Angkor Thom on first day. On second day you can complete Angkor Thom including Bayon and other temples of Small Circuit to utilize your two days in Angkor.
Three Days: Congratulations, Enjoy Your Stay in Angkor: If you have three days, then you can think to visit Angkor Archaeological Park in a proper manner. On a bicycle, 3 days is also not sufficient, but then we have our limitations. Running on a bicycle from one temple to another, and seeing the same type of crumbling stones and massive structures one by one, till how many days you can feel the excitement of those ruins. In three days, you appreciation for Angkor will be started decreasing, and so the enthusiasm to ride on a bicycle. So, in my opinion, you shouldn’t spend more than three or conveniently four days on a bicycle in Angkor unless you are writing a thesis on the history of Angkor. Use your three days by planning your routes wisely and Angkor has everything to offer you in these 3 days.
I too had only 3 days at my disposal during Angkor visit. In those three days I completed Small Circuit, Grand Circuit, Rolous Group and Banteay Srey also. To utilize every hours of my time, I made my own circuits for each days and gave sufficient time to visit each temple. I enjoyed breaks at regular intervals, stopped for lunches, snacks, waters, soft drinks etc. My aim was to capture those ruins as much as possible. But, that is my kind of travel. I can not sit on a single place in a relax manner to enjoy my holidays. I can walk or ride on a bicycle for hours to see what is there at the next corner. So, in my opinion, I really enjoyed my cycling in Angkor, at that pace also. I cycled through the ruins of history, through the rural landscapes of Cambodia and through the beautiful villages of Cambodia and saw as much as I could, in those three days.
First Day of Cycling at Angkor: There is a common saying that, If you really wish to enjoy the temples of Angkor, then start your visit with smaller one and gradually move towards bigger one. If you will visit Angkor Wat Temple or Bayon first day, you will not enjoy Pre Rup or Banteay Srey on another day. I also followed the same rule. Another thing in my mind was that I wanted to cover Banteay Srey on the first day, that was very far from Seam Reap. Other temples are nearer, so I could visit them easily in next two days. So, first day, I started from Seam Reap, went on a wrong road to reach at the entrance, returned back to the ticket counters and then again entered in the park with proper 3-day visitor’s ticket. I covered Prasat Kravan, Bat Chum, Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang, Pre Rup, East Mebon and Banteay Srey in whole day and while returning to Seam Reap in the night around 8:00 PM,forgot the correct route and after wandering one and half hour in the Seam Reap City, I reached to my hotel around 9:45 PM. I covered approx. 95 kms distance on the first day. Major part was between Srah Srang and Banteay Srey. They are at least 23 kms apart.
Why I was wandered in Seam Reap? Because, I did not know the location of my hotel. I did not have any paper with its name. I only remembered that my hotel is near to the main highway between Poipet and Seam Reap and there is a CALTEX petrol pump. Finally, by asking directions, somehow I managed to reach there. So the big learning was whenever you are new in a city, just write down the name of your hotel/residence on a piece of paper and keep it safely to ask for the assistance.
Another mistake I made on First Day: When I stopped for the lunch on a shop outside East Mebon Temple before proceeding towards Banteay Srey, a lady offered me moped ride to Banteay Srey on USD 10 and later bargained to USD 7. But I did not accept the offer and went there on my bicycle. Banteay Srey is too far and not advisable to do it on a bicycle.
Second Day of Cycling at Angkor: Second day, I went to the most impressive temples in Angkor. To watch the famous Sunrise at Angkor Wat Temple, I wanted to reach there early in the morning. I started at 3:30 AM from Seam Reap and reached at Angkor Wat Temple by 4:05 AM. To my surprise, there were gatherings of thousands in those wee hours of the morning. All the way from Seam Reap to the temple, many people were rushing on their bicycles, motorcycles, tuk-tuks and cabs. I too enjoyed that famous sunrise and then visited Angkor Wat Temple Complex. Later, I went to Phnom Bakheng, Bayon and then from Angkor Thom followed the Grand Circuit to finish this day at Ta Som. I already visited East Mebon and Pre Rup of Grand Circuit on the previous day. Met an interesting English Couple on the way and we returned back together to Seam Reap without missing our routes by 7:00 PM. The day was not hectic at all and enjoyed it a lot. Total covered distance was 52 kms, approximately half of the previous day.
Third Day of Cycling at Angkor: Third day, I went to Rolous Group of Temples in the morning. It is approx 15 kms away from Seam Reap, 0.5-1.0 km off from the National Highway between Seam Reap and Phnom Penh, but unlike Banteay Srey, there were many tourists on the bicycle. So, you can always enjoy this ride. After visiting Preah Ko, Bakong and Lolei Temples, I returned back on the highway towards Seam Reap. Approximately after 6 kms, there is another major road (Road 67) on the right side that is going towards Banteay Samre. I followed the road to Banteay Samre. It is again a big distance (approx. 12 kms), but you will definitely enjoy the Cambodian villages and rural landscapes. From Banteay Samre, I went to Ta Phrom, Ta Keo and Angkor Thom to complete the small circuit. I also wanted to watch the famous sunset from Phnom Bakheng, but when I reached there, it was overcrowded and entry was restricted. So, I went further to Angkor Wat Temple to watch the sunset over that massive temple on last day in the park. I returned back to Seam Reap by 8.00 PM after covering a distance of at least 75 kms.
This way, I completed my three days cycling in Angkor Archaeological Park. Except Day 2 (52 kms), I completed at least 70 kms of ride on Day 1 (90 kms) and Day 3 (75 kms), and that may not be the best way to everyone. It can be a bit hectic, but I enjoyed it thoroughly and I still remember those moments in my photographs. It totally depends on your individual choice to select the route and your mode of transport. But, whatever you choose, choose wisely to enjoy every moment at Angkor Archaeological Park.
If you wish to get the regular updates from solo backpacker, subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the space provided on the right side of this page. You can also follow us on Facebook as well as on twitter.