Is Angkor Wat worth it? The ruins of Angkor are famous all over the world, but are they as impressive as people say?

Visiting Cambodia without going to Angkor Wat is like going to India without seeing Taj Mahal. Or okay, it’s not exactly the same: India has plenty of other famous historical sites around the country, Cambodia doesn’t.

When travellers talk about Angkor Wat, they usually mean the larger ruins of Angkor which include the temple of Angkor Wat. Angkor was the capital of the historical Khmer Empire that flourished approximately from the 9th to the 15th century. At its peak, Angkor was the largest city of pre-industrial era.

Visiting Angkor doesn’t come cheap. A day pass to the area costs 20$. The price for a day is a bit cheaper with a 3-day (40$ in total) or 7-day (60$) pass. You can only see a portion of the ruins in one day, but staying in the area for longer is not necessary. After all, the ruins are not extremely different from each other.

Besides the ticket, you also need to pay for transport. Renting a bicycle is an option, but the distances are quite long. Me and three other Finnish backpackers hired a tuk tuk for the day, which cost 25$ in total (6.25$/person). Had we skipped the sunrise, the same tour would have cost us 20$.

On the next part of this blog post, I go through our day trip to Angkor Wat. After that I ponder if Angkor Wat is worth visiting.

Angkor Wat at Sunrise

The ticket office to Angkor Wat.

The popularity of Angkor Wat hits you at the ticket office. The office is larger than many train stations, with dozens of ticket booths.

Tourist crowd waiting for sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Hundreds of people gather to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat – even on a cloudy day.

According to Lonely Planet, traveller's first glimpse of Angkor Wat is "simply staggering" and "matched by only a few selects spots on earth". I'm not sure if I saw the same building as the Lonely Planet author.

According to Lonely Planet, traveller’s first glimpse of Angkor Wat is “simply staggering” and “matched by only a few selects spots on earth”. I’m not sure if I saw the same building as the Lonely Planet author.

Wall carvings or devatas in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Seriously though, Angkor Wat is quite impressive building. The largest religious monument in the world won’t blow your mind, but the wall carvings are quite nice.

What Else is There to See in Angkor?

Stone face in Bayon, Angkor Tom.

The eccentric temple of Bayon is another Lonely Planet favourite. One of its many stone faces even grace the cover of the newest Southeast Asia on a Shoestring guide.

Construction site at Bayon, Angkor Tom, Cambodia.

A thousand years, and still not finished!

A tree growing through the ruins of Ta Prohm, the temple of Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie.

Ta Prohm is also known as the Tomb Raider temple, because parts of the 2001 action film starring Angelina Jolie were filmed here.

A tree growing over a temple gate in Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The old action film is still important to the tourism of Cambodia. After all, Tomb Raider was a box office success and the first international movie filmed in Cambodia in over 35 years.

Arimo Koo at the ruins of Ta Phrom.

(I’ll just add this photo of myself here in the middle, so I can show my new hat before I lose it.)

When You Grow Tired of Temples…

A body of water near a temple in Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Besides the ruins themselves, Angkor offers some other spectacular views that make Angkor worth visiting.

Folding plant leaves in Angkor. Mimosa pubica in the ruins of Angkor, Cambodia.

When you explore, don’t forget to check out these awesome plants! The leaves of Mimosa pudica react to touch by folding quickly.

Honestly, the Mimosa pudica (aka “the sensitive plant”) got me more excited than some of the ruins. The Wikipedia page of the plant even has a great gif of the plant in action, showing the rapid folding of its leaves.

A lunch restaurant near Angkor Wat.

If you plan to spend a day at the ruins, you need to have a lunch break. This can be surprisingly expensive, as even the simplest meals tend to cost at least 5$.

Is Angkor Wat Worth It?

So, is Angkor Wat worth it? Yes, I think so! If you’ve never found any ruins interesting, the temples of Angkor in Cambodia won’t change your mind. I personally found my visit to Angkor better than I expected.

I haven’t always been very impressed by other ruins I’ve seen, but I enjoyed visiting Angkor. I especially found the areas where giant trees had taken over the structures to be very intriguing. More importantly, I enjoyed my tour because I had some great company.

After months of solo travel, exploring the ruins in a group can be very interesting – especially when the other backpackers have done more research than yourself. When you hear about the history, the stories breathe life to the piles of stones.