Beep. Beep. Beep. My eyes snapped open at the sound of my alarm and in the complete darkness I groped the bedside table in search of my phone. The bright screen showed 4:00am – a ridiculous hour for an alarm to be beeping – and under normal circumstances I would be irked, but I was already alert and awake. The only way to see an Angkor Wat sunrise is to arrive before dawn – and I couldn’t wait to see the spectacle with my own eyes.
Our Angkor Wat Sunrise Experience
Angkor Wat Tips for Sunrise below!
We had already spent a full day visiting the Siem Reap temples with an Angkor Wat tour guide and learning about the history, so our early morning visit was simply about appreciating the beauty of an Angkor sunrise. We quietly slipped out of our room and whispered greetings to the hotel staff. We waded into the darkness toward Mr. Rotha, who was acting as our Angkor Wat guide for the morning (in addition to being our tuk tuk driver).
We rode in the carriage of the rumbling tuk tuk and filed into line with all of the other tuk tuks, buses and cars taking visitors to the Angkor Archaeological Park. It was only five o’clock in the morning, but restaurants and side street markets were already full of life; real life Cambodia.
The city streets gave way to the tree-lined lanes leading to the temples. Since we already had a valid Angkor Wat ticket, we passed through the Angkor Wat ticket office without a wait. When we arrived at the Angkor Wat entrance, we joined the hoards on foot to make the long journey toward the temple to watch the Angkor Wat sunrise.
Crowds gathered at the pool on the left – a well-known spot for taking sunrise Angkor Wat photos. A few people clamored up the steps of the two library buildings for an elevated view, but we opted for the less-crowded pool on the right where we could watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat, slightly off-center. The colors in the sky never stopped changing as the sun emerged from the horizon, bouncing light in every direction. When the sky changed from purple to pink to pale yellow, the crowds dispersed and we took in the view of Angkor Wat backlit by a morning sky. We didn’t linger though….we had more temple exploration ahead of us.
Tips for Visiting Angkor Wat for Sunrise
We think the best time to visit Angkor Wat is for sunrise, but a little pre-planning is required for an optimal experience – and these Angkor Wat sunrise tips will help. Hotels will often make the necessary arrangements for you – including finding you a reliable driver (either tuk tuk or car), but it’s important that you relay your expectations. Our Angkor Wat sunrise tips will help to ensure a memorable Angkor Wat temple sunrise trip.
Angkor Wat Sunrise Time and Weather
As you begin making your Angkor Wat plan for sunrise, make sure you check a reliable source for sunrise time in Siem Reap. We use the website Time and Date. Decide what time you want to arrive at Angkor Wat. Tell your tuk tuk driver (or hotel staff, if they are arranging the trip for you) the time you want to be dropped off – and then plan on another 10- to 15-minute walk from the entrance to the viewing spots.
It’s also a good idea to check Angkor Wat weather in advance of your sunrise trip. Although the Siem Reap weather can change quickly and forecasts are somewhat unpredictable, it can still provide some insight into whether or not you will have a clear sunrise.
Angkor Wat Opening Hours and the Angkor Wat Pass
Angkor Wat opening times are 5:00am to 5:30pm every day of the week. You need to buy Angkor Wat tickets – an Angkor Pass – from the official Angkor Wat Ticket Office. Buying tickets for Angkor Wat from any other vendor will not be valid.
Angkor Wat ticket office hours are from 5:00am to 5:30pm. Your driver will know where to buy Angkor Wat tickets, so you don’t need to direct them.
There are 3 Angkor Wat Temple Pass Options (prices valid 2017):
- Angkor Wat 1 Day Pass ($37 USD)
- Angkor Wat 3 Day Pass ($62 USD)
- Angkor Wat 7 Day Pass ($72 USD)
Each Angkor Wat day pass is valid for 1, 3 or 7 days of entry into Angkor Wat temples – but you do not need to visit on consecutive days. If you buy the 3-day Angkor temple pass, you can visit the temples on any three days within 10 days from the issue date. The 7-day Angkor Wat Pass is valid for seven days of entry one month from the issue date. You can purchase the Angkor Pass with cash or credit card.
Angkor Wat Tour Itinerary Tips
We recommend buying an Angkor Wat Pass at least a day prior to your sunrise visit. If you are staying multiple days in Siem Reap, we recommend buying the 3-Day Angkor Wat tickets to allow for flexibility in your schedule of sightseeing Angkor temple tours. You can find our best tips for planning your itinerary in our Angkor Wat blog post: Touring the Temples of Angkor Wat
However, if you are on an Angkor Wat one-day tour, we advise that you purchase your Angkor Wat 1 Day Pass the day before, between 5:00pm and 5:30pm so that it is valid for the rest of the day, as well as the entire following day. Top Tip: Phnom Bakheng and Pre Rup stay open until 7:00pm for sunset…more on that in a minute! Note: We would like to emphasize that an Angkor Wat one-day itinerary is not ideal, but if that’s all the time you have, and you need to fit your entire Angkor Wat itinerary in 1 day, then go for it! Angkor Wat is worth it!
Angkor Wat Sunrise Best Spot
Finding the best spot to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat depends on what you want to achieve from your visit. Determine what your goal is from watching an Angkor Wat sunrise: Do you want to jockey for the best Angkor Wat sunrise photos or do you want to calmly relish the experience? Before we went, we didn’t believe the tales of the multitude of people that would be joining us.
On our visit, the sunrise was at 5:54am and we arrived at the Angkor Wat entrance at about 5:25am when the sky was just beginning to change color. Hundreds of people were already there, densely packing into the area behind the left pool. Tripods stood in a long line with the tips of the feet plunged into the water – and then we watched a righteous photographer in waders walk right into the pool and set up his camera in front of those who had arrived earlier. If I had been standing there and he blocked my shot, I would have been furious.
For us, watching Angkor Wat sunrise wasn’t about being angry – quite the opposite, in fact! We considered climbing to the elevated library porticos, but instead settled on watching the Angkor Wat sunrise from the right pool, where there were far fewer people. We think it is the best spot to watch Angkor Wat sunrise where you can enjoy the experience and still take epic photos (without throwing elbows).
What to Wear to Angkor Wat
Wearing appropriate clothing when visiting Angkor Wat – even for sunrise – is essential. Not only do you need to make sure you wear modest attire (pants that cover knees and shirts that cover shoulders), you also need to make sure clothing is suitable for the weather. Wear loose-fitting clothes, like these shirts, and capris or temple pants. We also recommend wearing a travel hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and carry a water bottle and a travel umbrella (for both shade and downpours!).
Angkor Wat Sunrise Tour
If you don’t want to hassle with the pre-planning details, you can book one of the tours of Angkor Wat in advance of your trip. Let an Angkor temple guide make all the arrangements and lead the way on a full day of exploring – from sunrise to the best Angkor temples. Booking in advance is especially ideal when planning an Angkor Wat 1-Day Tour. Top Tip: You can also book an Angkor Wat Sunset Tour (more info here!).
Angkor Wat Sunset
Angkor Wat temple closes at 5:30pm, which is prior to sunset, but it is still possible to catch an Angkor sunset within the temple complex. The best temples in Siem Reap for watching sunset are Bakheng temple and Pre Rup temple – both of which stay open until 7:00pm. With an elevated viewpoint, a Phnom Bakheng sunset with vistas over Angkor Wat is a top choice.
Check the sunset Siem Reap times on Time and Date so that you can plan the best time to go to Angkor Wat for sunset. Top Tip: While it is important to note the exact sunset time in Siem Reap, the sky is often most colorful after the sun dips below the horizon. Plan on staying at least 20 minutes after the Angkor Wat sunset to watch the sky change colors.
While Bakheng is touted as the best place to watch sunset in Angkor Wat, a Phnom Bakheng sunrise is also beautiful! Since we had already had a tour of Angkor Wat prior to our sunrise visit, as soon as the sun came up over Angkor Wat, we headed straight for Bakheng when it was still bathed in morning light.
Deciding between an Angkor Wat sunrise or sunset? We say do both! With a multiple day Angkor Wat ticket, you can plan to tour the temples late in the afternoon one day – ending with a Bakheng sunset – and, on another day, plan an early morning Angkor Wat sunrise tour followed by more temple exploring. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times of day to visit Angkor Wat – and making the additional effort to see an Angkor Wat sunset and sunrise is worth it!
Angkor Travel Guide Book
If you choose not to hire an Angkor Wat tour guide, then it is essential to have an Angkor Wat Temple Guide Book. Understanding the importance and details of the temples is impossible without understanding the history. Having information on hand about the temples is the best way to explore Angkor Wat. There are hundreds of Angkor Wat books to choose from, but this book comes highly recommended.
Before You Go
- Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia and Skechers. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos (that can later be beautifully compiled into a travel photo book). We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
We want to know: Have you been to Angkor Wat sunrise? What are your best tips and advice for sunrise at Angkor Wat? Tell us in the comments!
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