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Cambodia

Main attractions

Intricate stone carving in Lolei temple, Cambodia
Intricate stone carving in Lolei temple, the late 9th century / Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, / CC BY 2.0

Art and architecture flourished in several areas around the world in the 9th - 13th centuries, but one country stands out: Cambodia. Here the ancient Khmer Empire experienced unseen frenzy of creativity and ambitions. Many thousands of people were building here temples of unseen beauty and size - at first more slowly and carefully and then increasingly fast and large, larger and faster and more and more ornate...

Then, in the early 14th century this insane artistry came to a sudden stop and jungle covered the incredible Khmer cities.

Now whole world is amazed at the beauty of world's largest (and possibly - world's most ornate) temples in the ancient capital of the empire - Angkor. But Angkor by far is not alone - there are more sites including the recently discovered Mahendraparvata city.

Natural landmarks

Phnom Kulen Falls, Cambodia
Phnom Kulen Falls / Narith5, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Ka Choun Falls - Ratanakiri. Beautiful waterfall with fine proportions of classical, "Niagara" type falls.
  • Phnom Kulen Falls - Siem Reap. Two waterfalls formed by Kbal Spean river. First waterfall is 4 - 5 m tall and 20 - 25 m wide, second - 15 - 20 m tall. Waterfalls are located near the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen.

 

Man made landmarks

Gates of Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Gates of Angkor Thom / Allie Caulfield, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Ancient - early medieval cities

  • Angkor (Angkor Thom) - Siem Reap. The ancient Khmer capital city, once largest city in the world with an area of at least 1,000 km². Flourished in the 8th - 15th century AD. City has ruins of numerous masterpieces of ancient architecture including the largest religious complex in the world - Angkor Wat and 71 other large religious complexes. Partly preserved are the massive city walls and magnificent gates with towers.
  • Isanapura - Kampong Thom. Ruins of ancient city which was founded in about 618 AD. Site contains ruins of more than 150 buildings, mainly temples. Temples are dedicated to Hindu god Shiva.
  • Koh Ker - Preah Vihear. Ruins of once important Khmer city. City flourished in the late 9th - 10th century AD. Over the area of 81 km² have been found ruins of more than 180 temples. Buildings in Koh Ker are especially ornate. Most important are ruins of Prasat Thom/Prang sanctuary.
  • Mahendraparvata - Siem Reap. Ruins of jungle-covered city which was founded in 802 AD. City was rediscovered near Kbal Spean river in 2013.

Temples in Hariharalaya

  • Bakong - Siem Reap. Ruins of Hindu temple - pyramid in Hariharalaya. Temple was built in the first half of the 9th century. For a few years this was the main temple in the country.
  • Lolei - Siem Reap. Ruins of Hindu temple in Hariharalaya. Temple was built in the late 9th century. Temple consists of four towers on a terrace and is richly decorated.
  • Preah Ko - Siem Reap. Oldest temple in Hariharalaya. This Hindu temple was built in 879 AD and consists of six pyramidal towers.

Temples in Angkor

Banteay Kdei in Angkor, Cambodia
Banteay Kdei in Angkor / Joaquin Uy, / CC BY 2.0
  • Angkor Wat - Siem Reap. Considered to be the single largest religious complex in the world, built in the ancient capital of Khmers in the early 12th century. Considered to be one of greatest achievements of humankind in architecture. Initially built as a Hindu monument, later converted into Buddhist temple complex. Temple is adorned with more than 1 thousand m² of high quality bas-reliefs.
  • Banteay Kdei - Siem Reap. One of most important Buddhist temples and monasteries in Angkor, built in the middle of the 12th century - early 13th century. Temple served until the 1960s and contains very rich collection of valuable stone reliefs and sculptures.
  • Banteay Srei - Siem Reap. Comparatively smaller temple in Angkor, built in 967 AD. Temple is best known for its extremely intricate, high quality stone carvings.
  • Baphuon - Siem Reap. Ruins of large Hindu temple which was constructed in the middle of the 11th century. Temple has a form of 34 m tall pyramid, earlier there was a tower on top making it approximately 50 m tall.
  • Bayon - Siem Reap. Most beautiful and largest Buddhist temple in ancient Khmer capital Angkor Thom. Built in the late 12th - early 13th century AD. Adorned with numerous large towers, contains numerous artworks.
  • East Mebon - Siem Reap. Hindu temple which was built in 953 AD on artificial island in the artificial lake - East Baray. This reservoir now is dry. Temple has very rich ornamentation including 2 m tall statues of elephants.
  • Carving of mysterious animal in Ta Prohm temple, Cambodia
    Carving of mysterious animal (stegosaurus?) in Ta Prohm temple - hoax? / Tara Wells, / CC BY 2.0
    Phimeanakas - Siem Reap. Hindu temxple of pyramidal form in Angkor. Temple was built at the end of the 10th century and was important in local mythology. King every night spent the first watch with a woman which represented the spirit - Naga of the temple. If Naga did not show up, king was dethroned but if the king did not come then everyone expected that catastroph will happen in the country.
  • Phnom Bakheng - Siem Reap. Ruins of large Hindu temple, built in the late 9th century. This pyramid-shaped temple is built on a hilltop and provides fine views on Angkor. Temple has seven levels and 109 towers. This was the main Khmer temple until the construction of Angkor Vat.
  • Preah Khan - Siem Reap. Ruins of richly ornamented Buddhist and Hindu temple in Angkor. Temple was built in the 12th century and was served by some 100,000 officials and servants. Here was located immense wealth of jewels and other values.
  • Pre Rup - Siem Reap. State temple of king Rajendravarman, built in 961 or 962 AD. Temple represents a group of steep pyramids which are up to 35 m tall.
  • Ta Keo - Siem Reap. Impressive ruins of temple-mountain (pyramid), reaching the height of 45 m.
  • Ta Prohm (Rajavihara) - Siem Reap. Ruins of Buddhist temple, monastery and university in Angkor. These structures were built in the late 12th - early 13th centuries. Now this is one of most photogenic temples in Angkor with many trees growing on the ruins. In temple were living more than 12 500 people and approximately 800 000 people in surrounding villages served them. Amazing detail is carving of unusual animal which looks like stegosaur.
  • Thommanon - Siem Reap. Smaller, exquisite Hindu temple in Angkor. Temple was built in the first half of the 12th century.
Preah Vihear holy mountain and temple, Cambodia
Preah Vihear holy mountain and temple / Ori~, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Sacred mountains

  • Phnom Kulen - Siem Reap. Ancient sacred mountain, the birthplace of Khmer Empire where this independent state was declared in 804 AD. Site contains many stone carvings and rock shelters, such as the interesting Peung Tbal.
  • Phnom Oudong - Kampong Speu. Group of temples on the summit of a hill, built in the 17th - 19th century. This site serves also as a necropolis for the kings of Cambodia.
  • Preah Vihear - Preah Vihear. Ancient, once very important Hindu temple which was built in the 11th - 12th century on a 525 m tall hill.

Other temples

Phnom Chhnork temple - the 7th century Hindu temple inside cave, Cambodia
Phnom Chhnork temple - the 7th century Hindu temple inside cave / Paul Arps, / CC BY 2.0
  • Banteay Chhmar temple - Banteay Meanchey. Ruins of an enormous temple complex, built in the late 12th or the early 13th century. Temple is adorned with numerous bas reliefs.
  • Banteay Prey Nokor - Kampong Cham. Group of temples which were built in the early 13th century. Very impressive is Wat Nokor temple, which is built from black sandstone and is one of most impressive medieval architecture monuments in Cambodia.
  • Beng Mealea - Siem Reap. Large temple complex some 40 km outside Angkor. Temple was built as a Hindu temple with some Buddhist influence. Most likely it was built in the 12th century and is one of the largest known Khmer temples.
  • Phnom Da - Takéo. Ruins of one of the oldest extant temples in Cambodia, built in the 1st - 6th century AD. Temple was built by the people of Funan culture. Here have been found stone statues of outstanding quality as well as the oldest samples of Khmer writing.
  • Phnom Chhnork - Kampot. Hindu temple, built from brick in the 7th century inside a holy cave.
  • Prang Sam Yot (Prang Sam Yod) - Lopburi. Beautiful Hindu temple, built in the 11th century. Later converted to Buddhist temple. The facade of this temple is dominated by ensemble of three large towers.
  • Prasat Thom/Prang - Preah Vihear. Main temple in the ancient Khmer capital Koh Ker, Hindu temple from the 10th century AD. Prasat Thom has 21 towers but especially impressive is Prang - 36 m tall pyramid with seven layers.
  • Preah Khan Kompong Svay - Preah Vihear. The largest religious structure of Angkorian time, with an area of approximately 5 km². Site contains a huge wealth of ancient art although it is much looted.
  • Sambor Prei Kuk - Kampong Thom. Group of temple ruins in the former capital of the Chenla Kingdom. These temples were built in the 7th - 8th century AD.
  • Silver Pagoda (Wat Preah Keo) - Phnom Penh. Royal temple in Royal Palace complex, built in the 19th century. Temple contains fabulous wealth, such as the "Emerald Budha" of Cambodia, golden Buddha adorned with 9,584 diamonds and others.

Other man made landmarks

Stone carvings in the Kbal Spean riverbed, Cambodia
Stone carvings in the Kbal Spean riverbed / Eric Yeargan, / CC BY 2.0
  • Kbal Spean Linga 1,000 - Siem Reap. Amazing artwork - large amount of stone carvings made in live stone along Kbal Spean river banks and river bed. Most carvings represent lingams, but there are also carvings of Hindu deities, animals. Carvings were made in the 11th - 12th century along a river which flows to Angkor.
  • Prasat Suor Prat - Siem Reap. Group of twelve towers in Angkor. Towers are arranged in a row. Their purpose and build time are unknown. According to the reports of Chinese travellers such towers were used as a method to settle disputes between citizens of Angkor - conflicting people were standing each on his tower until one got sick.
  • Royal Palace of Phnom Penh - Phnom Penh. Royal complex of buildings, most buildings are very ornate and have been constructed since the 1860s. Some of most impressive are The Throne Hall, Silver Pagoda. Monnlight Pavilion.
  • Spean Praptos - Siem Reap. World's longest corbeled stone-arch bridge at its time, built in the 12th century. Bridge has more than 20 arches and is 87 m long.
  • West Baray - Siem Reap. The largest artificial reservoir in Angkor, 7.8 by 2.1 km large. In this artificial lake on an island is located West Mebon temple. Reservoir was built in the 11th century in site which was densely inhabited alreayd before.

List of described attractions by provinces

Banteay Meanchey
Battambang
Kampong Cham
Kampong Chhnang
Kampong Speu
Kampong Thom
Kampot
Kandal
Kep
Koh Kong
Kracheh
Mondulkiri
Oddar Meanchey
Pailin
Phnom Penh
Preah Sihanouk
Preah Vihear
Pursat
Prey Veng
Ratanakiri
Siem Reap
ArrowAngkor WatHindu shrines, Buddhist shrines, Man made extremes
Stung Treng
Svay Rieng
Takéo
Tbong Khmum

Map of Cambodia

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