If you’ve looked into traveling Cambodia and visiting the marvelous temple complex of Angkor Wat, you’ve likely come across the incredible experience of seeing the Angkor Wat sunrise. Well… when it comes to that, there’s a right way and wrong way to do it. Here’s how to do the Angkor Wat sunrise tour the RIGHT way!
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Imagine waking up before the sun starts to rise. As you head out on a bumpy tuk-tuk towards the magical temple complex of Angkor Wat in the black of night, the sleepy city of Siem Reap begins to come to life.
Even though the stars and moon are still making a feature in the sky, hundreds of other tuk-tuks pack into the roads, all heading one place: Angkor Wat.
Once you arrive, you hop off your tuk-tuk that has questionable safety and your trusty Cambodian local guide points you in the right direction.
As if there’s an apocalypse happening and you’re all mindless zombies, you join the crowd of people making their way towards the steps and entrance of Angkor Wat.
After you find just the right spot amongst the Angkor Wat sunrise crowd, you sit back, relax, and wait for it to come.
As the minutes past by and the crowd continues to grow, something changes…
The sky begins to lighten and the atmosphere starts to shift.
The sun peaks over the ancient ruins and moss-covered bricks of Angkor Wat, golden rays of light beam between the historic windows, and the hues of red, orange, and yellow of the incoming day and deep blues of the forgotten night reflect upon the moat surrounding the temple complex.
Some describe it as magical… I describe it as disappointing.
Wait, wait, wait… WHAT?
“Why, Sophie, whyyy?“
Because what I just described above did not happen to me. LOL.
That’s only what I can imagine a great sunrise at Angkor Wat is like. My actually experience with Angkor Wat was a bit different…
My Personal Experience with the Angkor Wat Sunrise
It all started the day before…
Dan and I had already been exploring the temple complex of Angkor Wat, visiting tons of other temples like the Baphuon, Bayon, Phimeanakas, and Ta Prohm.
At the end of the day, we were making our way back to our homestay, we started talking to a tuk-tuk driver who told us about the Angkor Wat Sunrise tour.
Safe to say, after just a few minutes, we were hooked!
We had it all planned out with the guy: he was going to pick us up around 5 am, show us where we needed to be for the best sunrise over Angkor Wat spot, and afterwards, he was going to take us around to other popular, yet lesser known, temples.
Man oh man, were we excited!
The next day, 5 am rolled around, we rolled outta bed, and made our way down to the streets of Siem Reap to meet up with our tuk-tuk driver.
Of course, like any good backpackers, we were 5 minutes early and began patiently waiting…
And… wouldn’t you guess? Waiting.
We waited for about 15 minutes before we started to get antsy. As the seconds and minutes passed by, the more nervous we got. At about 25 minutes past the time we were supposed to be bumping our way towards Angkor Wat, a tuk-tuk driver showed up…
Nope — not our no-show of a driver, but a different, nicer one who said the other guy was probably not going to make an appearance to the show today and he could take us instead.
Our knight in shining armor! Or shall I say, our driver in a dusty, yet trusty, tuk-tuk!
Even better? He cut us a deal. Since he didn’t have anyone to take to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat, he gave us a better price than no-show guy! Win-win, eh?
After being slightly disappointed (and otherwise stressed out) in the early morning hours, it was clear our sunrise at Angkor Wat wasn’t going to brighten it either…
It was rather anti-climatic to say the least…
Deep, heavy clouds shrouded what should have been the golden hues of the sun rays popping over the temple towers and the light didn’t quite brighten up the sky like I hoped.
To our dismay, only a little sliver of orange made its feature into the sunrise setting.
As you can see from the photo above, it was “eh” to say the least.
BUT… while our morning was a bit stressful and then more than disappointing regarding the Angkor Wat sunrise, the rest of the day was absolutely breathtaking!
Exploring the lesser-known temples and literally walking through history was something I can only describe as indescribable!
But, since this is about doing the Angkor Wat sunrise the right way and if you’re wanted to avoid what happened to me, here’s a few tips to keep in mind!
How to Experience the Angkor Wat Sunrise the RIGHT Way
Book a Reputable Tour Guide
Safe to say, you should definitely book a reputable tour guide.
While you’ll likely have the pick of the bunch with all the tour guides in the area, I recommend booking it with your accommodations.
Typically, they are a bit more accountable and will actually show up.
Get Your Tickets in Advance
Make sure to get your tickets in advance — at least the day before!
While the ticket office now opens at 5 am, as do the gates, you won’t want to waste any precious time picking up tickets when you could be picking out a kick-ass sunrise watching spot.
Scour the Weather Before Planning Anything
This seems obvious — especially after describing my disappointing experience with the Angkor Wat sunrise.
But if you need be to say it louder for the people in the back, make sure to check the weather before planning your Angkor Wat Sunrise Tour.
I sincerely want you to have an amazing Angkor Wat experience, thus the weather needs to cooperate! Or you should at least avoid going when it’s raining.
Tip: If you can, try to go a few days in a row to really make the chances good for catching a great sunrise. With that said, make sure to buy a 3-day Angkor Wat pass!
Pick a Great Photo Spot
If you’re wondering, “where is the best place to watch the Angkor Wat sunrise?” this is for you!
No doubt, the typical spot to take a sunrise photo of Angkor Wat is in front of the main temple complex ponds, where you’ll have the best reflection of both the temple as a whole and the sunrise.
Also, make sure to stand as close as possible to the water so no one can slip in front of you to ruin your photos! And find a spot with limited lily pads, as they’ll be a distraction in the reflection.
Psst — if you’re at the temple complex the day before, why not scope out a kick-ass spot before heading there in the morning? For example, if you’re spending two days at Angkor Wat, check out the sunset and map out some great spots for the next day.
Pack Along a Tripod
Ready to capture some epic shots? Make sure to bring a tripod! If you want to catch the first rays, it’ll be too dark whereas you’ll have to do some long exposures.
Plus, if you’re traveling solo or just hate it when others take your photos, who wouldn’t want to take some great shots throughout the day in the incredible temples?
Stay Near Angkor Wat
If you’re wanting to be really prepared, the best way to make your morning even easier is to stay nearby. This is both great for your driver, as well as yourself, as you won’t have to wake up as early to travel to the temple complex!
Here are a few affordable and great places to stay near Angkor Wat in Siem Reap:
- Firefly Guesthouse – The Berlin Angkor – Cheap, awesome reviews, 1.2 miles away from Angkor Wat, and breakfast included? Can’t get much better than that.
- Wheel Garden Residence – Beautiful pool, air-conditioned rooms, friendly staff, and a location that’s halfway between the city center and Angkor Wat. Sounds good to me!
- Pavillon d’Angkor – A more luxurious option on this list, yet still ridiculously affordable, this place boasts a beautiful pool, in a quiet location, clean and modern facilities, and Angkor Wat is 4.4 miles away… Too good to be true? Not with this place!
Get Travel Insurance
This is one of my absolute MUST-HAVES when not only visiting Angkor Wat but just traveling to Southeast Asia in general.
I mean, think about it… you never know what could happen! On the way to the temple complex, your tuk-tuk could crash and you could be flown out into the street, resulting in a nasty scratch.
Or, as you’re strolling through the Bayon Temple or Angkor Thom, you could slip down the not-so-great stairs and break a leg!
Well, folks. There you have it! My ultimate tips for doing sunrise at Angkor Wat in Southeast Asia the RIGHT way and how my own experience doing so went.
Have you been here? Or are you thinking of visiting Angkor Wat? I’d love to know if you have any questions and whatnot! Let me know in the comments.
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