Angkor Wat was a lifelong bucket list item for me. I am so thrilled I finally got to go and it did not disappoint. And I will be back.
There are over 300 temples in the park and over 5000 in the country so you will never see it all. Even if you only have one day to stop between other destinations, I think it is worth it. Ideally, I would recommend spending 3 days in Siem Reap.
The most popular temples are Angkor Wat, Banyan, and Ta Phrom (Tomb Raider temple). Angkor Wat is the largest and most famous temple. It was a tomb for a king and took over 30 years to build.
For 3 days I recommend:
Day 1: Full day tour of the most popular temples. Most tours include lunch. End the day with a massage and dinner.
Day 2: Get up early to see sunrise at Angkor Wat. It is worth getting up and facing the crowds. To get a great place, leave your hotel by 0430. It get a good spot, leave by 0500. Hang out for a while enjoying the views in the morning light. Return to your hotel for breakfast and a shower. Visit the Angkor National museum. And if you did not visit Phnom Penh visit one or two the local museums to learn about the war and years of the Khmer Rouge. We also really enjoyed a short stop to see the Miniature Replicas of Angkor by Dy Proeung. If you have time, return to the park to see a temple and the sunset. We watched the sunset from Phnom Bakheng temple which is the oldest temple and set on a mountain. However, know that only 300 people are allowed so arrive early.
Day 3: Hire a guide to take you to one or two of the smaller temples.
If even if you only have one day in Siem Reap, I think it is worth it. Get there and see as much as you can. You won’t regret it. It is an easy flight from Thailand and Ho Chi Minh City.
I highly recommend a meal at Marum – Friends and Stuff. Both the atmosphere and food are fantastic. But more importantly, you are helping train local at risk youth.