The most impressive and best preserved of the Khmer temples is the one that gave the whole complex its name: Angkor Wat, the beautiful apotheosis of Khmer architecture, and the world’s largest religious monument. It was built at the beginning of the 12th century by King Suryavarman II (reigned 1112–52), who dedicated it to the Hindu god Vishnu, making sure that its dimensions were suitably grand for the divine patron.
Like all the other major monuments at Angkor, the 65.5-meter (215-foot) -high complex represents the Hindu/Buddhist universe. The central shrines symbolize Mt. Meru, the mythical home of the Hindu gods, and the moats represent the seven oceans that surround Mt. Meru. The three-tiered central pyramid itself rises in four concentric enclosures opening to the west, with terraces decorated with images of Hindu deities, many of which have lost their heads to looters.
More impressive than the statues, towers, and the sheer size of the temple is the extensive bas-relief work that covers its walls, especially the scenes on its outer front wall depicting epic battles of Hindu mythology, an audience given by the king, and the creation of the world. On top of that, there are nearly 2,000 apsara—celestial female dancers—scattered throughout the temple complex. Two libraries flank the ancient Hindu temple.
Money saving tips
Angkor Wat permit – Everyone needs a permit to enter the Angkor temples unless you are Cambodian or related to a Cambodian. A 1 day is $20 USD, 3 day is $40 USD, and 7 day is $60 USD.
See the sunset the night before – Your Angkor ticket gives you access to the complex starting at 5:00 PM on the previous day. Use this time to catch the phenomenal sunset at Phnom Bakheng.