Cambodia is a country of temples and tourism. Similar to neighbouring Laos, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites listed in Cambodia are limited to a total of two entries. Firstly, one of the most famous sites is the Angkor Archaeological Park that was recognised in 1992 and includes not only the iconic Angkor Wat, but also other religious monument that are well worth exploring, such as Preah Khan, Ta Prom, and Bayon. The total area of the archaeological park is in the region of 400 sq km. Secondly, a controversial listing was the Preah Vihear temple close to the border with Thailand, and listed in 2008.
The inscribed cultural sites recognized by UNESCO help to attract travellers to Cambodia from around the world. Here is an overview of the two cultural World Heritage Sites listed in Cambodia:
Angkor Wat (also referred to as “City of Temples”) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and a must-see tourist attraction to visit on the Cambodia tours. A visit to Siem Reap gives a perfect opportunity to spend one or more days exploring the temple complex. This park spans an area of over 162 hectares and has the largest and most impressive collection of religious monuments.
The Angkor Archaeological Park is filled with elaborate temples, reservoirs, canals, and other waterways, as well as communication routes.
This heritage site was originally built to act as a Hindu temple, but was later in the 14th century transformed into a Buddhist temple. Plus, this site has one of the finest examples of Khmer architecture in the world. In its heyday, this sacred site was one of the finest cities in the ancient world with a population in the region of one million people.
It is estimated that the complex of temples and waterways took approx 32 years to complete with the help of over 300,000 artisans and builders. The temples were built without using mortar and many of the surfaces finished with relief carvings.
While Angkor Wat is the most iconic temple in the park, it certainly isn’t the only one that is worth a visit. Ta Prohm, Preah Khan and Bayon are just as appealing to explore. A temple hop throughout the park is perfect for those on the Cambodia tour packages with a few days to spare.
For the most in-depth and knowledgeable experience, make sure to hire the services of a local English speaking guide who has the ability to give background and history on the ancient relics while walking around.
Temple of Preah Vihear
The Temple of Preah Vihear was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Similar to Angkor Wat, this was an ancient Hindu temple that was constructed throughout the Khmer Empire in Cambodia. It is located in the Preah Vihear province close to the Dangrek Mountains. There has been a lot of contention in the local area because Cambodia and Thailand both contested ownership of the land. But referring the case to the International Court of Justice, it was agreed that the temple is part of Cambodia. When in use, the temple acted as a vital structure in the Khmer spiritual life.
Even though the entrance via Thailand is the closest, the preferred and more adventurous route is travelling within the country on the Cambodia customized tour. A tour (Siem Reap - Kompong Thom or Koh Ker) is a great experience and gives plenty of opportunities to admire the local scenery.