Best Angkor Temples to visit with kids
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Top 5 Angkor temples to visit with kids
Angkor Wat is an awe-inspiring place to visit. There are so many temple complexes to check out, that you’ll need at least 3 days to explore. It’s the country’s pride and joy and the national symbol of Cambodia.
The great thing is that kids will enjoy the sights as much as you. They’ll feel like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft while exploring the best temples in Angkor Archeological Park.
If you want to explore all the temples, you should stay in Siem Reap for months. Siem Reap is the gateway city to the Angkor sites and is the best place to stay when exploring some of the temples of Angkor with kids. If you really want to get to know Angkor and all its highlights, you should stay for a week. The 5 best Angkor temples to visit with kids can be explored within the course of 3 days. 4 days when you want a more relaxing pace. Let’s dive into this guide of things to do in Angkor with your family.
Angkor with babies and toddlers
Places to stay in Siem Reap with kids
When traveling to Siem Reap with children you should keep a few things in mind. Accommodation can be found all over the city. Over 2,5 million visitors per year come to Siem Reap to visit these world famous Cambodian temples.
There is something for everyone. Hostels with family rooms, hotels with interconnecting and family rooms, guesthouses and beautiful villa’s up for rent, you name it, it’s there! Just make sure to stay away from the backpackers area. Pub Street and right around it. People party here all through the night and they will definitely keep your family up at night.
Temples of Angkor with a baby
While a few of the temples within the Angkor temple complex are flat and easily accessible, most of them aren’t. Your visit involves climbing over rubble and tree roots and stairs. When you bring a baby leave your stroller at home. You’re better off bringing a back carrier for your baby. Preferably one that has a sunscreen attached to it. There aren’t many places with shade, unless you’re inside a temple or at a site located within vast jungle. Angkor Wat is an example of a large open space, surrounding the temples, where the sun can get to you everywhere.
If you’re baby can walk make sure to carry them whenever there are monkeys nearby. They can be really mean and you don’t want them to lash out at your child. We didn’t see monkeys at many temples, mostly at some off the beaten path temples.
Temples of Angkor with a toddler
A lot of what I wrote about bringing a baby to Angkor, also applies to toddlers. Kids ages 8 and up are generally asked to cover their knees and shoulders at some of the bigger sights, like Angkor Wat. Therefore, babies and toddlers are allowed to wear shorts and tops.
All children under 12 can enter Angkor for free. Don’t forget to bring their passports when visiting the sights, because they can ask that of you at the checkpoints all over this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bring enough sunscreen, water, hats and sunglasses for everybody. The heat can be extreme at times, more on that later. And also bring a first aid kit. Strangely enough, you are allowed to climb onto most of the monuments and falling over a loose brick or the root of the tree is easily done.
Lastly, little children are not allowed at all temples. This is subject to change, so when you buy your ticket grab a map of the temples of Angkor. Here you can read info about the age limits. Or you can mention to the ticket vendor which temples you want to visit and they can give you the info as well.
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History of Angkor
The temples of Angkor in Cambodia are a perfect combination of spirituality and creativity. The Angkorian period lasted for more than 600 years (802 – 1432 AD) and during this time the Khmer built all the temples of Angkor. They built them as an earthly representation of Mt. Meru.
During the reign of the Khmer Empire over 1.000 temples were built, stretching over 400 km2 of land. Unfortunately, many of Angkorian monuments didn’t stand the test of time and others were visited by looters who excavated parts and sold them. There are still hundreds of surviving temples left to explore and you would have to stay for weeks to visit them all.
Angkor was the cultural center of the empire. It had many capitals over time. Not only during the period of the Khmer Dynasty, who ruled over large parts of Southeast Asia, but also after that. Angkor Wat was the first capital. Then Angkor Thom, known as large city or great city. And also Banteay Srei, known as the citadel of the women or the pink citadel. All of these temples are part of this list of Best Angkor Temples to visit with kids.
All temples were Hinduistic, until the 13th Century. That’s when Buddhism took over and claimed the temples as their own. Adding Buddhist bits here and there. Till this day many Buddhist monks still visit the Angkor temples daily to pray.
Khmer Rouge and Angkor
During the brutal and extremely sad time Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge reigned over Cambodia in the 70s of the last century, Angkor wasn’t part of the destruction. Pol Pot was even quoted as saying “If Cambodians can built Angkor, we can accomplish anything”. He admired Angkor’s history, which is why Angkor is relatively untouched, besides some bullet holes in sites that are in close proximity of Siem Reap, where most of the people in this area lived.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Angkor is one of the largest UNESCO sites in the world. It was inscribed in 1992. Since then, UNESCO spends a lot of effort in preservation of the entire Angkor Archeological Area. It’s no wonder that UNESCO named Angkor one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia. Visiting Angkor is an unforgettable experience for families. The temples are stretched out with small villages filling the gaps between them. The architecture of the temples is breathtaking, imagine living here or farming rice here.
How to get there
The best way to get to the Angkor temples in Cambodia is by traveling to Siem Reap and staying there. Siem Reap International Airport is easy to navigate through and you can fly here from Ho Chi Minh City (1h15min) or Hanoi (Vietnam) in 1h45min, Bangkok (Thailand) in 1 hour. And, of course also from Cambodia‘s capital Phnom Penh in 55 min. When flying domestically or within Southeast Asia your best option is to book your tickets from 12Go. They often have the best deals and while they keep expanding their portfolio, their offers are still the best within Asia.
There are no direct flights available to Siem Reap from countries outside of Asia. So know that you’d have to deal with at least one layover. Some flights from Middle Eastern countries like the United Arab Emirates or Qatar land in Phnom Penh, but flying into both cities internationally is quite expensive.
So what’s the better option? Fly into Bangkok and then travel overland into Cambodia via a sleeper bus. 9 hours after hopping on the bus, you’ll arrive in Siem Reap.
You can also fly into Ho Chi Minh City and take the bus to Phnom Penh. Explore this not to miss city first and then take the bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. This will take you 6 hours. It’s what we did and we loved the experience. Again, use 12Go, they are a specialist when it comes to transportation in Asia.
You can’t travel to Siem Reap by train. There are 2 train networks in Cambodia. They run to and from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh to Poipet.
Book the right sleeper train
If you want to take a sleeper train, be cautious when buying tickets. Lots of accidents happen with sleeper trains in Cambodia. Most companies want to get there in 6 hours, but the roads don’t permit that in the dark.
There are some companies who are safe to travel with. We went with Giant Ibis. The journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on their sleeper train takes 7,5 hours. They also have 2 drivers on board who take turns in driving.
While other sleeper trains may seem more comfortable or spacious, we opted for safety and booked with Giant Ibis. The seats are not fully flat and if you’re tall you probably can’t stretch fully. But other than that we were happy with our choice. We got blankets, there was a toilet on board and we had wifi and aircon. Do wear warm clothes though, because they leave the airconditioning on all night and it got a bit chilly.
In the morning you’ll be well rested and ready to start exploring the best Angkor temples to visit with kids.
Getting around the temples of Angkor
Once you’re installed in Siem Reap it’s time to check out the best Angkor temples to visit with kids. But how do you get there.
You could hire a private driver to bring you to the different temples. You can’t walk from one to another, they’re not located right next to each other. If you want to visit Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and a third temple nearby it will cost you between 30 to 40 USD. If you want to hire a private driver for a few days, you should contact them beforehand to discuss all the sites you want to see and set a price.
There are also drivers that are licensed guides, you can book a tour, including transport by car. You can book this via Get Your Guide.
In the center of Siem Reap and near the entrance of the Angkor Archeological Park you’ll find lots of remorque’s, the Cambodian Tuk Tuk. Find an English speaking driver and see if you can make a deal. One remorque can fit 2 adults and 2 children max. Exploring Angkor by remorque for one day should cost you 20 – 25 USD.
Our favorite is biking around Siem Reap and Angkor. Lots of large hotels, but also guesthouses and AirBnB’s offer bikes for you to use during your stay. With our own bikes we had the freedom of leaving and going whenever we wanted.
After providing you with all this general info about the temples of Angkor, it’s time to talk about the amazing things to see in Angkor.
Best Angkor temples to visit with kids
First stop is the place everyone’s seen on photos or tv: Angkor Wat. Forget what it looks like in a magazine or a documentary, the real thing is much more impressive. The architecture is stunning and the details amazing. Unbelievable that people made this all these years ago without all the tools we have today. It’s also huge. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world.
This spectacular temple complex is known as the city of temples. And that’s an understatement. You can find numerous temples and monasteries within this ancient city’s gates. Once inside look to your left and right. Everything is completely symmetric. You’ll find a pond of the same size at the same spot across one another. A library at exactly the same spot on either side and of course the monument itself is also perfectly symmetrical. It’s stunning.
We easily spent 2,5 hours in the complex and loved every minute of it! It’s also an amazing place for kids to visit. You’re allowed to climb onto everything (weird, but true). So it really made him feel like he was Indiana Jones. Visiting Angkor Wat with kids is a true gift for them. They’ll always remember it.
There’s one exception I should mention. If you want to enjoy the view from the Upper Tower you must be over 12 years old and you may not be pregnant. This is because of the very steep steps that take you up there. If you can and want to go up there, now that they allow a maximum of 100 people in the Upper Tower. This means that sometimes you have to wait in line. Let this be the first thing you do in the morning. Otherwise you’ll all be waiting in the heat for minutes or even an hour. The later will be the case from 11am to 2pm.
Sunset at Angkor Wat
An hour before sunset, people start approaching the two lakes in front of Angkor Wat. They all want the best spot for sunset. While a truly magical experience, the hordes of people kind of take away from the magic. But still it was something we’re glad we didn’t miss out on. Just make sure to be on time, otherwise you’ll have hundreds of people standing in front of your view.
Exploring Angkor is an event your family will never forget and you might think that nothing can top Angkor Wat. But there are other monuments that will rock your world the same way. The Bayon temple, for instance.
Angkor Thom, also known as the Great City, was the last great capital of the Khmer Empire. Within its gates you’ll find the Baphuon temple, the terrace of elephants and the Bayon temple. Bayon is built in a squared shape. And it’s known for the 11.000+ smiling stone faces and figures everywhere you look. It’s a somewhat bizarre place with a mystical vibe.
When choosing the entrance gate, choose the South Gate.The Southern Gate of Angkor Thom, otherwise known as Tonle Om Gate, is 1 of 5 ancient gates dating back to the 12th century and has been greatly preserved. A true highlight of your visit to Angkor Thom and the Bayon temple.
So what do you need when buying a ticket? You have to bring your passport and your best duckface, because when you fork over the fee they take your pic and print it out on your ticket. We bought a 3 day pass with a 10 day validity. This ticket costs $62 US dollars.
If you’re planning to visit the temples for one day, you should buy an Angkor day pass. This will set you back $37 US dollars. Lastly, you can also opt for a 7 day ticket. That one will cost you $72 US dollars.
Children under 12 are free, just show their passports and bring it along with you when visiting the temples.
You can buy your tickets at the Angkor Enterprise. Every tuk tuk driver (or remorque as tuk tuk’s are called in Cambodia) knows where this ticket office is.
If you’ve seen Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) then you’ll immediately recognize Ta Prohm from the movie. This is the temple they filmed most of the Angkor footage at. Others are Bayon and a small nameless one on a hill overlooking Angkor Wat. This temple is taken over by nature. Tree roots and branches have overgrown large parts of the complex, which makes this visit really worthwhile.
You don’t visit this complex for the amazing details that are carved out, but to see for yourself that nothing can stop the force of nature. We felt so small while strolling through this place. It really makes you realize that anything made by man can be unmade by nature.
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A not to miss thing to do in Angkor with kids is visiting an off the beaten path temple. The Pink Citadel, named Banteay Srei. Otherwise known as the Women Citadel.
Banteay Srei is located in a rural part of Angkor. You can admire the ancient temples while in the distance you can spot water buffalo’s grazing in the fields. It’s a very serene place to be when you visit this temple between 6am and 10am in the morning or after 4.30pm.
This is a very good temple to explore with small children. It’s easy to navigate through, nicely paved and mostly flat. The kids will enjoy spotting all the stone guardians with heads of an animal. And you will too. Add some carvings from Hindu mythology to the mix and Banteay Srei is one of the best temples to visit in Siem Reap with kids!
Last on the list of best Angkor temples to visit with kids is a very small temple: Ta Keo. We got the tip to watch the sun go down at this place, because at Angkor Wat it’s always overcrowded at this time of day and at Ta Keo you can watch the sunset while only hearing the sounds of nature.
Birds, monkeys and otherwise complete silence while sitting at the top of this small temple and admiring the view. It was a beautiful and serene moment. The temple itself isn’t the most beautiful or best preserved one. Certainly not after visiting giants like Bayon and Angkor Wat. But this is the place to be if you want to be one with nature. And in the presence of only a handful of people. Seriously, add it to your list.
You can find this temple at just a five minute bike ride from Ta Prohm while following directions to Bayon.
Do know that this activity involves some serious climbing. Don’t do this with kids below 6 or kids that are afraid of climbing.
Tips for visiting Angkor with kids
Let’s end this article with some last minute tips.
- If you can, visit Angkor during the dry season from late November to early March. Not too hot and not too wet. We were there in December and it was about 25 to 28 degrees Celsius and we enjoyed an occasional breeze.
- The temples open at 5.30am. This gives you the opportunity to beat the heat. If you start exploring between 6am and 8am it’s not that crowded yet and you can explore a few sites before lunch. Head back to your accommodation when the heat becomes too much and jump in the pool or chill in your hammock.
- ATMs offer both US dollars and Cambodian Riel. While it’s better for your wallet to take the Riel, it’s best to opt for the dollars. Most sites, restaurants and hotels return money in dollars anyway. And it’s very difficult to know if you’re being scammed when riel and dollars are being mixed.
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