Angkor Wat is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions for good reason. The complex of ancient temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is downright breathtaking.
But the Khmer Empire’s reach extended well beyond Angkor, and the “other” temples built by this fascinating culture are worth a visit as well.
An area we love is Beng Melea, which pre-dates Angkor Wat. Located only about a 1.5-hour drive from Siem Reap, it has the same layout as Angkor Wat, but the central tower is completely collapsed and the magnificent ruins are overgrown by wilderness. It’s the only temple where you can climb over the stones on a fixed circuit, and you tourists here are infrequent. As an added benefit, the loop back to Siem Reap takes you by Kampong Phluck and Kampong Kleang, a pair of charming lake villages.
Further north is Koh Ker, which was briefly the Angkorian capital during the 10th century and has only been made accessible in recent years.
“Koh Ker is interesting for its huge, pyramidal temple and unique style,” says Phan Sophea, our on-the-ground Cambodia Travel Specialist. “And the newly paved road takes you through gorgeous farmland.”
Sophea also likes Preah Vihear, a temple perched on top of a cliff and overlooking the vast northern Cambodian plains, making it one of the most spectacular Angkorian temples.
“Getting there is an adventure in itself,” he says. “First you have to climb the cliff—in a pickup truck—but once on top you’re rewarded with amazing views, hardly any tourists, a beautiful temple, and the feeling that you are doing something not everybody does.”
For a truly local insider experience 2.5 hours from Siem Reap, head to Banteay Chhmar Temple, an impressive 12th-century Khmer temple in northwestern Cambodia. Banteay Chhmar Village runs a community homestay program that provides simple but comfortable facilities. The immersion experience is fantastic and offers a great way to learn about Cambodian daily life.
To learn more about these temples and others—including the well-preserved complex at Sambor Prey Kuk—contact the Backyard Travel team.