As a seasoned traveler, I have been to Europe, Asia, and Africa, but none of the architectural splendors spoke to me as much as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. In fact, I will go as far as saying that it should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit at least once in their lifetime. Cambodia is an incredible country to visit, steeped in Hindu culture and many history buffs will undoubtedly recall the Khmer civilization as the builder of the Angkor Wat temple complex.
The jungles and tropical climate of Cambodia make it a truly magical place that’s worth exploring. Though everyone will undoubtedly find something else to love about the country, here are the reasons I loved Angkor Wat:
1. Deeply Mystical
There are few things in this world that are still able to retain their mystical appeal. Most world heritage sites have been picked apart by tourists and historians, but Angkor Wat still has that aura of mystery. It is deeply rooted in Hindu symbolism as it was built to symbolize Mount Meru, the mountain where the famous Hindu gods were said to reside.
Surrounded by a moat, the imposing towers stand testament to the peaks of Mount Meru. In addition to a central tower flanked by four smaller towers, visitors can be awed by the massive wall enclosure built to protect the temple.
2. Largest Temple Complex Outside Of India
The sheer magnitude of this Hindu temple complex is enough to take your breath away. Spanning 500 acres, Angkor Wat is the largest temple complex located outside of India. In fact, if you were to translate the meaning of Angkor Wat, it would literally mean ‘Temple City’.
3. Stunning Architecture
Though I am more of a history buff, I couldn’t help but be awed by the beauty of the architecture itself. Just imagining that this temple complex is about a thousand years old and built with complete accuracy is absolutely mind blowing. If you visit Angkor Wat, I highly urge you to take an aerial tour of the complex as it will reveal an amazing maze of architecture. From ground level, you will be wowed by the perfectly executed corridors, walls, towers, and entrances.
4. Beautiful Sunrise And Sunset
The way the temple complex was built puts it in the path of the rising and the setting sun. Angkor Wat’s silhouette during sunrise is absolutely breathtaking and can easily be viewed as a wonder of our world. If you want to see something even more stunning, wait until sunset to see the same silhouette illuminated by the soft glow of the setting sun. Don’t forget to peer into the lotus pond as the reflection of the temple and the sky seem to meld into one.
5. Close To Ta Prohm
Next to the Angkor Wat complex, if you’re ready for more adventure, you can take a peek at the Ta Prohm complex of temples. The great thing about this particular complex is that it has been nearly untouched by human hands, standing testament to the original architecture of an old civilization. Overgrown by massive tree roots, Ta Prohm has been slowly reclaimed by the surrounding jungle, making it the most photogenic and adventurous spot to visit.
If you have an adventurous alter ego that rivals Indiana Jones, you must see the complex! Equally stunning, but less populated, Ta Prohm is the perfect spot for reflecting upon the past.
6. Intricate Stone Reliefs
Carved into the stone walls of the temple, tourists can glimpse images from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The stunning bas-relief carvings are worth the hike through the jungle alone! The walls almost look alive when you catch a glimpse of the Hindu epics. Even if you don’t know much about Hindu religion, you can still marvel at the painstakingly beautiful carvings on the walls of the temple.
Since 1992, Angkor Wat has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. It definitely deserves the recognition it has received over the years and we can’t help but feel awed and inspired by the stunning architecture. Why I loved Angkor Wat may not be the same reasons you will, but I urge you to make the trip!