This morning adventure yourself in the infamous and treasured legacy of Angkor Wat. The masterpiece and holy grail of the temples of Angkor, Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious building and an insurmountable legacy left by Suryavarman II. Believed to be the world’s largest religious building, there is almost one kilometer of exquisitely detailed carvings which depict the intricacies of the Khmer empire through dramatic and humorous stories of love, life, war, religion and mythology, before accessing the inner complex to experience the powerful energy that this sublime temple inspires. Marvel at the quincunx of towers, admire the carvings and architectural detail of the complex as a whole, as it seemingly defies with its beauty and symmetry the fact that it’s a man-made creation almost 1000 years old.
Continue on your visit with Ta Prohm. Of Tombraider fame, Ta Prohm is an Angkorian treasure. One of the most fascinating things about Ta Prohm (except for its size, beauty and pleasantly eerie atmosphere) is that today it can be appreciated perfectly as it would have been in its day, a mere 900 years ago, as it has been ‘left as it was found’ by the French explorers who discovered it in the 19th century. Ta Prohm is a sight to behold, a veritable maze with gigantic golden trees strangling the stone foundations at every juncture, fine carvings, prominent galleries and a layout that will bring out the explorer in you.
After lunch on your own, commence your exploration of Angkor Thom. Known as the ‘Great City’, Angkor Thom was Jayavarman VII’s ultimate creation, his true expression of design excellence. Angkor Thom was an entire city built in the 12th century which at one point was believed to house up to 150,000 people across an area of nine square kilometers and which thrived upon a complex system of agriculture and waterways. 5 magnificent gates which stand 23 metres high and are spiritually guarded by faces reminiscent of the Bayon, and you will enter through the Victory Gate, complete with a causeway with two emanating rows of Devas and Asuras, both of which are wrestling a powerful Naga.
From here you will converge upon the centre of this extraordinary city, and begin to explore its elements, starting with the Elephant Terrace, a royal platform used as a viewing gallery for grandiose royal spectacles, decorated wonderfully with statues of elephants and perfect carvings. Adjacently sits the Terrace of the Leper King, decorated in much the same way but unique for possessing the statue of Yama (the Leper King), god of Death.
From here you will proceed through the forest to Preah Palilay. Guarded by a large Buddha this is a small but beautiful temple from the 13th century.
Afterwards you will proceed to Phimeanakas, a 10th century largely uncarved but beautifully constructed pyramid temple affording terrific views, before Baphuon, an imposing 50-metre tall temple dedicated to Shiva which houses one of the world’s largest reclining Buddhas. And finally to Bayon, arguably the most stunning of all the Temples of Angkor, adorned with 37 towers decorated with wonderful giant stone faces and beautifully decorated carvings throughout.
Finally you will proceed to Bakheng Hill, an iconic temple setting where you will admire the sunset over this ancient land, with views across the great Tonle Sap Lake, the West Baray, and of course, Angkor Wat.