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Five monuments to see in Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Angkor -thom

Five monuments to see in Angkor Thom Cambodia

There is a certain allure about Angkor Thom that cannot be explained in words. The tall trees gracing the sky, the ponds reflecting the dense canopy, the leaves littered on the ground and the monuments peeping from behind the rugged branches, little children doing their homework on ancient stone benches, colourful tuk tuks bringing in tourists .Angkor Thom is an experience that has to felt. I for one spent more time in Angkor Thom than in Angkor Wat and I made it a point to visit it again on the last day before I left Cambodia. So if you are visiting Cambodia and wondering about things to do in Siem Reap beyond Angkor Wat, then here are five monuments to see in Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom, monuments to see in Angkor Thom

A statue in front of the South Gate

Angkor Thom is not a temple. It is actually a capital city of the Khmers that was built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman V11 and it remained so for another 400 years. It was the largest city built then, covering about nine sq kms. And even today, one needs to spend at least a day here to explore all the monuments. And if you are wondering where to begin, here is a ready reckoner for some of the monuments to see in Angkor Thom

The South Gate

Angkor Thom, South Gate, monuments to see in Angkor Thom

South Gate, Angkor Thom

The South Gate is the main gateway for all tourists coming into Angkor Thom and it leads towards all the monuments to see in Angkor Thom. Do not be surprised as there might even be a traffic jam of tuktuks right at the entrance. I was lucky as I came here rather early in the day and I had the road to myself. A row of devas and asuras stand at the entrance , some of them dragging a seven hooded snake . It is probably a reference to the legend of Churning of the Milk and these statues line the bridge while water still flows at the moat below.

Angkor Thom, monuments to see in Angkor Thom

Rows of devas and asuras in front of South Gate

I saw kids jumping in to play while a lone boat stood somewhere between the trees. The gate is massive with four faces standing atop the tower, each of them representing a cardinal direction. There are five gates to the old city – North, South, East, West and the Victory Gate. The other gates seem virtually deserted and even the heads of the statues seem to have disappeared in some of them.


Faces of Bayon, monuments to see in Angkor Thom

Faces of Bayon

If you have time for just one temple in Angkor Thom, then it has to be the 800-year-old Bayon Temple,  which is one among the most important monuments to see in Angkor Thom. As soon as you enter this temple, more than 200 faces look at you in every direction from atop 40 odd towers of this state temple built by King Jayavarman V11.

Read – Faces of Bayon

Bass reliefs in Bayon, monuments to see in Angkor Thom

A bass relief showing a battle scene in Bayon

But before that, do not miss the bass reliefs here depicting the war between the Khmers and the Chams or the social life of the local people during that period. Bayon was initially built as a Buddhist temple but the kings later embraced Hinduism and one can see carvings of deities and stories from Hindu mythology here, depicted on the bass reliefs of the Bayon Temple.

Read – The stories from the bass reliefs and sculptures

Faces of Bayon, monuments to see in Angkor Thom

Faces of Bayon


Bapuon is probably older than both Bayon Temple and the city of Angkor Thom as it was built in the 11th century by King Udayadityavarman 11 in his capital Yashodarapura , a town which has merged with Angkor Thom today. One of the must see monuments to see in Angkor Thom, it is referred to as the mountain temple for its sheer size. It was being restored when I visited it and hence we could not see most of it. The temple is shaped like a five tiered pyramid and although we were not able to enter some parts of it, we could see the bass reliefs which depict stories from the epics – Ramayana and Mahabharatha.

Bapuon, monuments to see in Angkor Thom


The Elephant Terrace and the Leper King Terrace

Although these are two different monuments, both these terraces are almost adjacent to each other near the Royal Square and were probably built during King Jayavarman V11 ‘s reign. They were used by the royalty as pavilions and are rich in carvings.

Elephant Terrace, monuments to see in Angkor Thom

Elephant Terrace

The staircase of Elephant Terrace is flanked by pillars carved with elephants while one can see images of mythical lions and serpents. The Leper king Terrace is filled with bass reliefs and it is so named after a legend that one of the kings used to be referred to as Leper king.Personally these are my favourites among the many monuments to see in Angkor Thom.

Leper King Terrace, monuments to see in Angkor Thom

Leper King Terrace

Phimeanakas and the Royal palace

It was like a walk through a dense forest as we walked around the trees looking for the old palaces and temples. And I found this old sanctuary surrounded by trees and ponds referred to as the Temple of Phimeanakas or the celestial temple. Nothing else remains there today of the palace that was built even older than Angkor Thom. The site of the royal palace was probably dated to the 11th century and several excavations have been carried out here.

Phimeanakas, monuments to see in Angkor Thom


I visited the Phimeanakas, almost hesitated to climb the laterite pyramid lest the steps would give way. Legends say that one of the kings used to live with a woman here, who was believed to have been a snake and had wielded power over him. As I walked around, there was a not a soul here, only monuments in various stages of ruins and restoration buried by the branches of the trees.

Leper King Terrace, monuments to see in Angkor Thom

Leper King Terrace

Although these are the key monuments in Angkor Thom, you can explore the site if you have time and energy on your hands. There are four sandstone temples called Prasat Chrung, Tep Pranam where a large Buddha is seated, Preah Pallilay, another small shrine which was being restored when I visited, Preah Pithu , a group of five temples, the twelve Suor Prat Towers and the incomplete Khleangs. Or you can just walk around the forest, lose yourself in the woods as the tall trees embrace you and meet locals who will sell you anything and everything for just one US dollar.

Which are your favourite monuments to see in Angkor Thom ?





  1. sangita 20 March, 2014 at 18:01 Reply

    Angkor Thom,the historical place of Combodia has been captured through your lens vividly and I enjoyed every bit of flawless description of the place.

  2. Poorna 24 March, 2014 at 13:25 Reply

    Thanks Lakshmi. Angkor is on our bucket list. The place is so massive that you get stunned, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing. Now we know where to go for info when we plan the trip 🙂

  3. Aditi 3 April, 2014 at 17:44 Reply

    Wow, first of all I would like to congratulate the owner of this blog for creating such a fabulous blog. The theme looks very elegant and the information shared is too handy. I love reading your blog and even inspired from it. I am also trying to create one and hopefully will try to make it informational as well. Love your work and keep rocking. Cheers!!

  4. Ankur,Incomeboy 25 April, 2017 at 17:20 Reply

    Hi Laksmi,
    most people think Cambodia is not safe for traveling, and I am one of them. After reading your blog post (I mean viewing pictures), it certainly getting my attention. So my next holiday will be Cambodia for sure.And I hope you always there for me if I need any other advice.Keep communing.


  5. Carola 21 October, 2017 at 12:19 Reply

    Ah! Angkor Thom might have been my favorite part of Angkor because the sites are just so different from each other. Thanks for bringing back fond memories!

  6. Kristin 21 October, 2017 at 16:05 Reply

    I visited Angor Thom a few years ago and was just to amazed at the detail and number of reliefs, sculptures, and statues! It truly is an amazing place. Love that your post reminded me of my trip!

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