Angkor Wat in One Day – Is it Worth It?

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Pink sandstone makes Bantay Seray a unique Angkor temple

Many years ago, we were in a car in India, dodging cows and camels and cars and bicycles on the road back to Delhi. We hadn’t yet made it to the Taj Mahal, but there was no way we were leaving India without seeing it. Time was tight, but we figured that we could spare 45 minutes. It was a ridiculously short amount of time to see one of the world’s most beautiful, enduring, enchanting structures, but we did it in a mad rush, and barely made our flight. Was it worth it? You bet it was.

Point is, travel must sometimes bend to the reality of scheduling. Sure, an entire day at the Taj would have been magical, but it was 45 minutes or nothing, and it was fantastic.

Doing what we do, one of the more common questions we hear is if Angkor Wat can be done in a single day. That’s a really hard question to answer, because ‘Angkor Wat’ is often used to describe the entirety of Cambodia’s majestic 12th century temple complex, which is around You certainly can’t do that in a day. However, ‘Angkor Wat’ is also used to refer to several of the most-visited temples, as well as the single main temple of the complex, which, is technically the only one called Angkor Wat. So, the answer is yes. Probably. If you plan accordingly you can certainly see Angkor Wat (the building) and many of the most important temples with only a single-day pass from the park.

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Cambodia’s motorcycle hybrid Tuk-tuks

There are a few tips and tricks you’ll want to employ to get the most out of your day. First, you’ll need to rent a tuk-tuk. In Cambodia, these are two-wheeled carts pulled by motorcycles. You’ll get the most bang for your buck if you hire a driver for the whole day, and if you avoid trying to bargain him down to nothing he’ll usually go out of his way to make sure you have a great time. A few bucks goes a long way in Cambodia.

We suggest starting off by watching the sunrise at the main Angkor Wat temple. Yes, it’s crowded and the cameras are clicking away by the dozens, but the place is huge, and there are plenty of vantage points (and more than a few secret spots that your Smiling Albino guide can lead you to). This will be the main part of your day, and can easily take you right up to late morning, when you should treat yourself to a nice meal and a cool drink, as by this time it’s probably quite hot.

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A surreal place to pose at Tha Phrom

Realistically, you’ll probably have time to see about three more locations during the afternoon, as long as they’re not too far afield. There are dozens to choose from – the stoic stone faces of Bayon, the steep staircases of Baphuon, the overgrown majesty of Ta Prohm, the remote but beautiful Roluos, the intricately carved Banteay Srei, and many more. Do some research, ask around, and choose the ones you want to see the most.

By the end of the afternoon, you’ll likely be “templed out”. Let’s be honest – as magnificent as they are, there are only so many temples one can see in a single day before fatigue – both physical and mental – sets in.  While it’s certainly possible to see the key temples in a day, it’s important to stress that the temples are not Cambodia, and though they are found on their flag, there is more to Cambodia then just the temples. For a full Khmer experience, multiple days in the Kingdom are required.


A few quick tips:

Drink lots of water and take plenty of mini-breaks. Some tuk-tuk drivers will even have a cooler that you can stash your own drinks into. Despite having limited time, pace yourself and enjoy it.

If you want to squeeze a little extra time out of your ticket, buy it after 5pm the day before your main trip. These tickets are good for the last few hours of the first day, plus the entirety of the second day.

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For more information about Smiling Albino and what makes what we do so special, contact one of our travel enthusiasts today to ask about your next holiday.

Angkor Wat just before sundown