Cycling Angkor Wat: Tips For Exploring the Ancient Temples By Bike

Bayon Temple

Regarded as the crowning jewel of Cambodia, the ancient temple complex of Angkor is the largest religious site in the world. It was once the capital city of the Khmer Empire, which ruled over most of Southeast Asia from the 9th to the 15th centuries. It’s now an iconic symbol for Cambodia and the biggest attraction in the country.

If you enjoy cycling, I recommend exploring Angkor Wat by bicycle. There is so much more to the site than just Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the main, most famous temple that most people will recognise, but there are over 1,000 other temples scattered around the area.

Cycling is a fantastic way to enjoy the temples, as it allows you to go at your own pace and skip the expensive tuk-tuk tours. Here’s everything you need to know about cycling Angkor Wat!

Why should you explore Angkor Wat by bike?

Angkor was a fully functional city spread out over a huge 400 square kilometres, and there are about 1,000 temples still scattered across Angkor today. As you can imagine, it would be impossible to explore on foot — it’s simply too big. Most visitors join tuk-tuk tour groups or hire a private driver, but I think cycling is the way to go.

The Angkor Archaeological Park is very bike-friendly. Most roads around the park have dedicated bike lanes and drivers are used to sharing the road with cyclists. The forest trails around the temples themselves are shady and lined with trees, making for pleasant riding in the Cambodian heat. The terrain in the park is also very flat, which is exactly what you want to hear when riding in high humidity.

It’s also much cheaper to explore Angkor Wat by bicycle, as you can hire a bike for just a few dollars.

Cycling Angkor Wat

Where to hire a bike in Siem Reap

Siem Reap is the launching pad for visiting Angkor Wat, as it’s a lively city just 7 kilometres away from the Angkor Archaeological Park.

There are lots of places to rent a bike in Siem Reap. Many hostels and hotels have free bike rentals for their guests, but if yours doesn’t, there are plenty of rental stores in the city centre.

I used a place called The Smiling Frog and had a good experience with them. I hired a mountain bike for 6 USD for the day, although you can also hire city bikes for less. A city bike would be perfectly okay for Angkor, but I personally prefer the feel of mountain bikes.

Where to buy your ticket for Angkor wat

You have two options for buying tickets: at the ticket office or online.

It’s definitely easier to purchase your ticket online. You can do so via the Angkor Enterprise Portal.

If you prefer not to purchase your ticket online, you’ll need to head to the ticket office on Street 60, near the intersection of Apsara Road. You can see the exact location on Google Maps here. There is likely to be a queue, so you’ll want to get there early.

Ticket fees for Angkor are as follows:

  • Single-day pass: $37
  • Three-day pass: $62
  • Seven-day pass: $72

How to get to Angkor Wat from Siem Reap

So, you have your bike and your ticket — now what?

It’s very easy to get to Angkor Wat from Siem Reap. Get yourself onto Siem Reap’s main street, Charles De Gaulle Street, and simply ride north for about 7 kilometres. There will be plenty of signs pointing the way to Angkor for peace of mind that you’re still going the right way. You’ll find yourself right at the entrance of the Angkor Archaeological Park.

Charles De Gaulle Street is a fairly busy road, but drivers are used to seeing motorbikes and cyclists on it. Keep to the hard shoulder and ride predictably. If you don’t feel comfortable cycling along Charles De Gaulle Street, many bike rental shops will drive you and your bike to the entrance of the Archaeological Park for a fee.

Angkor Wat cycling routes

There are lots of different routes you can take around the Angkor Archaeological Park, but the Small Circuit and the Grand Circuit are the most popular.

Small Circuit (17 km)

The Small Circuit is the perfect introduction to the temples, as it takes you to many of the most impressive ones. The circuit begins at Angkor Wat itself, before continuing on to Angkor Thom, an ancient walled city housing the famous Bayon Temple.

Don’t forget to explore the smaller temples and ruins scattered throughout the circuit: more hidden sites, such as Ta Keo and Ta Prohm, offer a quieter experience away from the crowds.

Finish your day with a sunset view from Phnom Bakheng, a hilltop temple that provides stunning views of the surrounding area. With the sun casting its golden rays over the ancient temples, it’s a great way to end your day cycling Angkor’s Small Circuit.

Angkor Wat

Grand Circuit (26 km)

As the name would suggest, the Grand Circuit is a lot longer at 26km. This route takes you through some of the lesser-known temples, providing a more crowd-free glimpse into Cambodia’s history.

Begin your journey at Preah Khan, a sprawling monastic complex adorned with intricate carvings, before continuing onto Neak Pean, a unique ruin that was originally used as a healing sanctuary.

Other must-see stops along the Small Circuit include Baphuon, a mountain temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, and the serene Preah Khan, a temple complex that once served as a Buddhist university.

The next stop on your Grand Circuit itinerary should be Ta Som Temple, which is slowly being reclaimed by nature. Here, you’ll see tree roots weaving through the crumbling stone. 

As you continue your journey, you’ll come across the impressive East Mebon. Standing tall on a raised platform, this temple was once surrounded by water, symbolising the mythical Mount Meru. The temple is adorned with striking elephant sculptures guarding each corner. 

Finally, complete your cycle tour of Angkor Wat with an unforgettable sunset at the ancient temples.

Angkor Wat Temples

The Small Circuit: a One-Day Angkor Itinerary

You could easily spend a week or more exploring everything inside the Angkor Archaeological Park, but if you have just one day, I recommend cycling the Small Circuit.

The Grand Circuit is really better suited to those getting around the temples by tuk-tuk; it’ll be a lot of cycling in the heat otherwise, and won’t leave so much time for exploring the temples themselves. That being said, if you’re quite fit and only want to see a few temples, this might be a good option for you.

I recommend cycling the Small Circuit counter-clockwise from Angkor Wat. Most tour groups take visitors clockwise, so you’ll be able to avoid the crowds a little if you go against the majority.

Here’s a map of the Small Circuit:

Begin at Angkor Wat

If you want to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat, as many people do, you should arrive at Angkor Wat’s South Gate by 4:50 AM to secure a good spot. The temple doors open at 5:00 AM. Lock up your bike, and then once inside the complex, head to the centre of the lake as this will give you the best view.

If you’re not particularly fussed about getting a sunrise view of Angkor Wat, and would rather sleep a little longer, you can always arrive after the sun’s up from 6:30 AM. I personally was not too bothered about watching the sunrise (I like my sleep, okay?) so I arrived at Angkor Wat at around 7 AM.

Angkor Wat

Banteay Kdei

Your next destination is Banteay Kdei Temple, which is about a 20-minute bike ride from Angkor Wat. 

Constructed in the late 12th century and now enveloped by jungle, Banteay Kdei exudes a serene and tranquil atmosphere, a stark contrast to the bustling crowds at Angkor Wat. You may encounter a Buddhist monk or nun, or even a Buddhist band performing at a small shrine near the entrance. Donations are not expected, so interact only if you feel inclined to. 

If you venture all the way to the far end of the temple, you’ll discover a large tree entwined with the outer wall — one of the most impressive parts of the temple, in my opinion!

Banteay Kdei

Ta Prohm

Once you’ve explored Banteay Kdei, hop back on your bike and make your way to Ta Prohm Temple, which is a 10-minute ride away. 

Also known as the ‘Tomb Raider Temple,’ Ta Prohm is the second most popular temple in Angkor, so brace yourself for the crowds! Made famous by the film starring Angelina Jolie, Ta Prohm is enveloped by the jungle, with its ruins entwined by the roots of enormous silver trees. 

Constructed in 1186, Ta Phrom is one of the few temples in Angkor with an inscription detailing its dependents and residents. It’s believed that nearly 80,000 people were needed to maintain or attend to the temple. 

This was my favourite temple in Angkor, and I spent a good hour and a half wandering its grounds.

Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Keo

Next up is a lesser-known and often overlooked 11-century temple, Ta Keo. Jump back on your bike and ride for another 10-15 minutes to find this enormous, unfinished monument surrounded by dirt roads, jungle, and very few crowds. I decided to eat my lunch here as it was just so peaceful.

Angkor Thom

When you’re ready, cycle for a few more minutes to Victory Gate, one of the magnificent entrances to Angkor Thom — the Great Angkor City! 

Angkor Thom was the enduring capital of the ancient Khmer Empire. This fortified city was built in the late 12th century and housed the residences of priests and officials, as well as administrative buildings. The most famous temples here are the Bayon and the Terrace of the Elephants. 

Upon passing Victory Gate, you’ll see the Terrace of the Elephants. This 350-metre-long platform was used by the king for public ceremonies and as a grand audience hall. It was once covered by a wooden structure that has long since vanished. 

In the heart of Angkor Thom, you’ll find Bayon Temple. It’s a truly impressive sight, with its 54 towers and 216 giant smiling faces. I definitely recommend heading to the upper level of Bayon Temple, as this was a highlight for me.

Bayon Temple

Phnom Bakheng

Phnom Bakheng is just outside of the Small Circuit, but is really worth the detour. This is a temple which sits on top of a hill of the same name, and offers great views across Angkor from its top.

It’s just a 5-10 minute ride from Angkor Thom to the base of Phnom Bakheng, and then the hike to the top should take 15-20 minutes. I reached Phnom Bakheng just before sunrise, so I sat to watch the colours for a little while.

Once you’ve finished exploring, make your way back to Charles De Gaulle Street again, and you’ll be back at your hotel in no time!

Phnom Bakheng

Siem Reap essentials

Want to cycle the Angkor temples yourself? Here’s what you need to know when planning your trip.

Where: Angkor Wat and the Angkor Archaeological Park are located just 7km outside the city of Siem Reap. It’s worth spending some time exploring Siem Reap itself as well, as there is plenty to do here. I recommend staying at the beautiful Passport Villa.

When: The best time to visit Angkor Wat, and all of Cambodia in general, is during the dry season between November and April.

How: You can fly into the Siem Reap International Airport, or if you’re already travelling in Southeast Asia, you can take a bus from any major transport hub, such as Phnom Penh or Bangkok.

Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you would consider using the affiliate links below when planning your travels. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This will help me to keep this blog running. Thanks for your support – Lauren.

Hotels – Booking.com
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Cycling gear – Chain Reaction Cycles

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  1. This is one of my favorite places on the world… I love history so this is really perfect to me. Great pictures.

  2. The temple carvings, those pillars and the roots growing into the structures – it is all so magical! No wonder so many tourists visit Angkor Wat and it is one of the greatest wonders of our world. Hope to visit it someday.

  3. So amazingly interesting and beautiful! Great fact you pointed out that it was originally a Hindu temple and then became Buddhist.

  4. I aboslutely loved my time in Angkor. Took us 3 days to explore everything we wanted in the searing and scorching heat! I would love to go back again. Ta Prohm was probably my favourite and of course Ang Kor Wat itself is stunning with all the bas reliefs. Time ot go back again I think!

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