Angkor Wat (meaning City Temple) is the most magnificent and largest of all Angkor temples and the top tourist attraction in Cambodia. Built around the first half of 12th century by King Suryavarman II, the temples balance, composition and beauty make it one of the finest monuments in the world. A huge rectangular reservoir surrounds Angkor Wat which rises up through a series of three rectangular terraces to the central shrine and tower at a height of 213 meters (669 feet). This arrangement reflects the traditional Khmer idea of the temple mountain, in which the temple represent Mount Meru, the home of the gods in Hinduism.
Banteay Srei Butterfly Centre
More than 30 species of Cambodian butterflies flutter around Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre in Siem Reap province, making it one of the largest fully enclosed butterfly centers in southeast Asia. Visitors can also learn, and see first-hand, the insects journey from egg to caterpillar, pupa, and finally, adult butterfly.
Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center
Nature lovers will be in their element at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, where animals rescued from the clutches of poachers and illegal traders are nursed back to health by Wildlife Alliance. Animals include elephants, monkeys, tigers, and sun bears. A behind-the-scenes tour is also available. Searching for Private Villa Siem Reap?
Angkor Wat (Angkor Archaeological Park) This temple city is Cambodia’s number one drawcard. Accessed from the town of Siem Reap, the temples of the Angkorian period are so ambitious in scale and in the majesty of their construction, that Angkor Wat is rated as one of the world’s must-see ancient sites. Built between AD 802 and 1432, this was the largest city in the world during the medieval age and the vast powerhouse of the Khmer kings who endeavored to outbid their predecessors in the beauty of their construction. As the city’s wooden dwellings were encroached and then decayed by the surrounding jungle, what remains today, are just those mighty temples.
The temple of Angkor Wat itself, the world’s largest religious building, is only one sliver of the site in total, and the sprawling circuit of temples deserves three days to explore if you want to understand the scope of the Angkorian period’s architectural achievements. For those short on time though, the main highlights after Angkor Wat are the tree-root clasped temple of Ta Prohm (which first found international fame as a location used in the movie Tomb Raider), the Bayon Temple for its 216 stone-carved faces, Angkor Thom, and Preah Khan.
Tonle Sap is Cambodia’s most important waterway and Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. As well as being an important source of food and a vital tool for Cambodian irrigation, the lake itself is home to 170 floating villages that depend on fishing for their livelihood, with homes built directly on the water. The houses, shops, churches, schools, and temples of these villages are built on rustic buoy foundations of lashed together barrels and bamboo, and all transport is by boat. They’re a fascinating place to spend a day exploring. One of the most interesting is the sprawling village of Kompong Luong, near the town of Pursat on Tonle Sap’s western shore, although the most popular village to visit is Chong Kneas near Siem Reap.
For a touch of Indiana Jones-style temple exploring, you can’t beat Banteay Chhmar. This mammoth temple complex sits consumed by surrounding jungle in Cambodia’s lonely northwest, providing the perfect opportunity to discover the highlights without the crowds. It was built by the 12th-century Angkorian king Jayavarman VII, and the remarkable stone reliefs along its walls are some of the most intricately detailed you’ll see in the country. In particular, the spectacular bas reliefs depicting Avalokitevara on the south wall and the dizzying array of battle scenes depicted on the eastern walls are prime examples of the Angkorian era’s artistry.
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