Five Things You Should Know About Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia is the largest temple complex in the world and one of the best representations of classical Khmer style architecture. Many travellers to Cambodia come to visit this temple on their travels, to watch the sunrise and to marvel at the many beautiful and ornate carvings and sculptures. In fact, the Angkor Wat Temples, Cambodia are the primary reason that more than 50% of international visitors come to Cambodia. The sprawling ruins seem to go on forever and you can explore them for days without seeing everything.

Angkor Wat Temples: Sunrise
Angkor Wat at Sunrise: Photo Global Goose

In order to enrich your visit to Angkor Wat, here are some interesting facts about the Angkor Wat Temples that you should know.

5 Interesting Facts About Angkor Wat Temples, Cambodia

1. It Faces West, Which is Unusual

Most Khmer temples were oriented to the east, yet Angkor Wat faces west and no one knows exactly why. Many scholars have theorised that it was intended as a funerary temple for Suryavarman. This theory is supported by the fact that the bas reliefs around the temple proceed in reverse of their normal order. During Brahminic funeral services rituals would take place in reverse. If these temples were originally built as funerary temples, they would be the greatest expenditure of energy ever put into the funeral of one person. However, there is another theory that the alignment of Angkor Wat is because it is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, who was associated with the west.

2. It’s Bigger Than You Imagine

Before visiting the Angkor Wat Temples, many travellers are not quite aware of just how enormous the temple complex of Angkor Wat really is. It is made of millions of tonnes of sandstone and you can walk around it for an entire day and only see a fraction of the temples. The entire city uses more stone than all of the pyramids in Egypt combined and it once occupied an area greater than modern day Paris. Although it is smaller now than it was in its heyday, it still covers 500 acres.

Angkor Wat Temples: Elephant ride at Angkor Thom Temple
Elephant ride at Angkor Thom Temple: Photo Global Goose

3. It Was Quite a Challenge to Build

As you might imagine, building a temple of this scale was not an easy task. The sandstone blocks were taken from a quarry more than 50km away and they were then floated along the Siem Reap River on rafts. Thousands of people worked on the project and they did so without the modern equipment such as cranes and trucks that we take for granted these days. The construction of the temple took more than 300,000 workers and 6,000 elephants.

4. It Was Not a UNESCO Site Until the 1990s

You might think that an amazing temple such as this would have been preserved by UNESCO World Heritage as soon as possible, but Angkor Wat wasn’t given heritage site status until 1992. The temple suffered for decades from looting and unregulated tourism and many people broke the heads off the statues and sold them to private collectors.

Interesting Facts About Angkor Wat: Temples of Angkor Wat
Temples of Angkor Wat: Photo Global Goose

5. Angkor Wat Temples used to be Brightly Coloured

Did you know that the temples weren’t always grey? Many of the surfaces were originally painted in bright colours and these days only small traces of the paint remains.

These are just a few interesting facts about the Angkor Wat Temples that you might not know, so why not plan a visit and stay at Siem Reap to this fascinating temple?

About Kelly Dunning


A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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