The world’s largest religious complex, Cambodia's Angkor Wat (which means “City of Temples”) covers some 400 square miles. At one time, 750,000 people were said to live on the site, but it’s been abandoned for centuries. It was built by a Khmer king in the 12th century as a Hindu temple, and later served as a Buddhist shrine and place of pilgrimage. Its remarkable stone structures -- with spires reaching heavenward and walls lined with bas-reliefs and other artworks -- lie amid the forests near the Cambodian city of Siem Reap.
Countless temples are strewn throughout the temple complex of Angkor Wat, and even with several days to spend exploring, it's impossible to see them all. Here is a selection of the unmissable temples:
The most famous of the Angkor temples, and the one after whom the temple complex is named, Angkor Wat is instantly recognizable. But pictures will not do the temple justice, and the sight of the gigantic towers and sprawling grounds are far more impressive in person. It's worth the effort to make it to the temple by sunrise, to watch the sky change color above the imposing towers. Or better yet, take a ride in a hot air balloon to take in the view from the air.
The massive stone faces that adorn Bayon temple set it apart from the many temples of Angkor. Take your time exploring the different levels, as there are 214 of these faces to be found.
Ta Prohm, with its crumbling walls and jungle setting, gives visitors the sense that they have stumbled upon the ruins of a lost city. Gigantic trees entangle themselves among the rocks, and visitors can enjoy exploring and clambering over the massive roots.
In a similar overgrown style to Ta Prohm, but with fewer tourists, visitors can often enjoy having Preah Khan to themselves and feeling like a true explorer.
While it may be small in size, Prasat Kravan is worth a visit to admire the stone carvings on the walls of its interior.
Not a temple, but a 350 meter long viewing platform, intricately carved with human and animal figures, including, of course, elephants.
Built on a hilltop overlooking the temple complex, Phnom Bakheng is an ideal location from which to watch the sunset. Allow plenty of time for the steep climb up the hill to the temple, and take care descending after dark.