Angkor Wat is a stunning wonder that every family should witness. As you approach the site through Siem Reap, Cambodia's forested landscapes, the soaring towers shaped like lotus buds come into view.
Built originally for the Hindu god Vishnu and later used by Buddhists, the temple complex is one of the largest religious monuments in the entire world. You'll be awed by stunning views and the sheer grandness of the complex as you navigate the maze of structures. Full of surprising treasures, you'll encounter intricate bas-relief murals along the walls depicting important historical and spiritual tales, an impressive system of canals, reflecting pools and more.
Time of Year:
December and January are high season. This is the driest time of year, when monsoons and the pesky bugs and mosquitoes they bring are lowest. However, that means it is often when it is the most crowded. The shoulder seasons of late October and February offer milder weather without the overload of tourists.
Time of Day:
For the quintessential experience (and Instagram photo) you'll want to wake up around 4am and head there for the breathtaking view of the sun rising directly over the temple. It can be tough to get little ones up so early, but it will also keep you from being there in the height of the heat later in the day. While you will still have quite a crowd around you even for sunrise, you will miss the larger second wave of tourists that start to pour in between 9-10am.
Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor Wat. You can fly directly to Siem Reap on several major air carriers. Once in Siem Reap, you can hire a car or tuk-tuk to get to Angkor Wat. You can buy tickets on site, but make sure you factor in the wait time in the lines if you want to be at the temple at a specific time.
The Anantara Angkor Resort (see more on the hotel below) can also set up a personal tour for your family that includes a bagged breakfast if you go for sunrise, a driver (plus an air-conditioned van as a bonus!) and can even set you up with a guide for the temple who can walk you through the history and importance of Angkor Wat during your visit.
Beyond Angkor Wat, there are several other spots in Siem Reap that make for an adventurous family vacation. Absolutely not to be missed is Phare, the Cambodian Circus. Featuring high-flying acrobatics and incorporating live music and Cambodian culture, the entire family will love seeing a show and leave completely wowed. The performers are all graduates of an NGO school and professional arts training center that offers free education classes and emotional support classes to Cambodian youth, while also giving these graduates a way to make money and help break the cycle of poverty. Plus, the ticket and refreshment sales help to support the school.
There are also several other temples besides Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Other popular temples to see include The Bayon, known for the large stone faces carved into its towers, Ta Prohm, famous for the trees growing over and among the temple ruins (and for being featured in Tomb Raider) and The Baphuon, whose steep staircases offer spectacular views.
The Cambodian countryside is an idyllic escape just minutes from the city. Opt for a vespa or bikes and enjoy a family day exploring the nearby mountains, waterfalls and local villages.
In town, the open-air Made in Cambodia Market gives families the chance to meet local artisans and purchase a handmade souvenir .
The Anantara Angkor Resort & Spa is the perfect home base for families looking to explore Angkor Wat and beyond. Centrally located, they offer large rooms that incorporate the local style including teakwood floors, Khmer silks and private plunge pools surrounded by tall grasses. The courtyard pool is a great place for kids to cool off after a day exploring ruins out in the sun.
The staff can help you set up tailored excursions for your stay and the hotel even offers fun experiences onsite like cooking classes for the family. Complimentary airport pickup makes your journey with the kids extra easy and they also have a free tuk-tuk service you can use to get around the city at your leisure.
By Hannah Freedman