No trip to Cambodia is complete without a visit to Angkor. This vast site is considered one of the most important archeological landmarks in Southeast Asia. This complex civilization is made up of temples, structures and travel routes. The most famous feature of Angkor is Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. It has become an international symbol of the country, appearing proudly on Cambodia’s national flag since 1863. Angkor Wat or “Temple City” draws in global visitors every day that wish to witness its beauty, history and astonishing preservation. About 50% of all Cambodian tourists visit the temple mountain. You can easily spend hours exploring Angkor Wat’s ruins, considered to be some of the beautiful and historic visions of pomp and grandeur. It unrivaled magnificence has made it one of the most famous historic landmarks in the world.
After you purchase your cheap ticket to Cambodia and get your visa in order, you may want to learn about this stunning manmade feat. Angkor Wat was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century, in Khmer Empire’s capital city. This striking cultural symbol has spoken volumes about the Khmer Empire to modern historians. It was constructed to be the king’s state temple and eventual tomb. The temple broke the religious traditions of the time by its dedication to Vishnu. Angkor Wat was initially designed to be a Hindu place of worship. The original name of the Khmer King’s temple and mausoleum is unknown. Shortly after his death in 1150, workers stopped their construction. About 27 years after the King’s death, a new ruler, Jayavarman VII overtook the empire and temple.
That’s when the temple slowly transitioned from Hindu to Buddhist. Angkor Wat is still a functional Buddhist place of worship today. Unlike many of the Angkor Temples, Angkor Wat is incredibly well preserved despite years of neglect. This is thought to be because of the protective moat that encircles the temple.
In the continuing centuries, more and more Western travelers came across the site and were astonished by its painstaking construction. Many mistook the temple to built by Ancient Romans. In 1586, a Spanish monk visited the ruins and said that it “is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.”
The beauty he speaks of is Angkor Wat’s unusual and striking architecture. It’s done in the traditional Khmer architecture style, featuring a Temple Mountain and Galleried Temple — a temple with a passageway running along the wall of an enclosure. The entire temple was created to represent Mount Meru, a scared mountain of five peaks, and home of the Hindu gods the center of spiritual Hindu universe. The main building material of the temple was comprised of massive amounts of sandstone that needed to be transported about 40 kilometers from the site. Presumably this was brought over by raft. It’s been estimated by a modern engineer that it would have taken 300 years for Angkor Wat to be built today, but was actually constructed in less than 40 years. Angkor Wat’s architecture and design have been praised for its harmony and balance. It often has drawn comparisons to Roman-style architecture.
One of the remarkable elements of Angkor Wat is its outer enclosure, which includes a wall surrounded by open ground and a striking 190-meter wide moat. You can enter the temple through a Western-facing sandstone causeway. Inside the enclosure is the actual Temple, which sits on a terrace and rises high above the city. It’s comprised of three rectangular galleries that gradually rise in height to the central tower. Some have interpreted the galleries as dedications to Brahma (the Hindu god of devotion), the king, the moon and Vishnu (the supreme god). Each gallery has a gopura, a type of ornate tower common in Hindu temples.
Inside and outside the enclosure are ornate and beautiful decorations, many of them bas-relief friezes. Many depict detailed scenes from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, Hindu epics. These stone carvings are incredibly luxuriant and detailed. There are over 1,796 depictions of devata, or deities across the entire temple. These images appear on walls, pillars and pavilions. It’s an artistic marvel of manmade capacity. Angkor Wat is a bucket-list visit, a place to feel respect for man’s power and creative feat, to change your perceptions. Will Angkor Wat be your next destination?