Angkor Wat Guide – Plan Your Visit to the Temples of Angkor [2023]

Preah Khan Temple Cambodia

Which temples do you need to see at Angkor? How many days does it take to visit them all? What’s the best way to get around temples of Angkor? Fortunately, after reading this guide, all you have to do it worry about setting your alarm to watch the sunrise! Well, almost… 

Angkor Archeological Park and Angkor Wat is a highlight of any trip to Cambodia or along the Banana Pancake Trail.  The ancient city of Angkor was once a vast civilization with a population of over 1 million people until it mysteriously collapsed and was subsequently absorbed back into the jungle.  Today,  Angkor Wat rivals  Macchu Picchu and the Great Pyramids in its ability to inspire awe in every visitor.

Spread out over a vast area, it’s likely that you’ll spend either one jam packed day or multiple days temple touring and fulfilling your own Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider fantasy.  Before we dive into the logistics, let’s look at the basics for visiting Ankgor Wat.

How do you get to Angkor Wat?

Angkor Wat is located adjacent to Siem Reap , the jumping off point for anyone exploring the temples of Angkor. Siem Reap is easily accessed by plane or bus. For more details on getting here or get tips on Siem Reap, check out our Cambodia Itinerary planner.

How much does it cost to visit Angkor Wat?

There are three options for visiting the temples of Angkor. 

    • One day ($37 (valid only on the day of purchase). The essential package. 
    • Three days $62 (valid for 10 days from the date of purchase) Typically the sweet spot. 
    • Seven days $72 (valid for one month from the date of purchase). For serious temple buffs or those hanging out in Siem Reap for an extended period of time. 
Preah Khan Temple Cambodia

What to pack for Angkor Wat

    • A small everyday backpack like our Kiri pack. 
    • Water (lots) and a few snacks.
    • Your ticket (it will be checked at numerous checkpoints).
    • Sunscreen.
    • A hat.
    • Sunglasses.
    • Bug spray.


Unfortunately, when you’re riding bikes on busy roads, and climbing steep slippery steps up ancient temples,  medical emergencies can happen and you need to be prepared! A friend of ours was medevaced to Bangkok from Cambodia and spent several weeks in the hospital there to the tune of $750,000. Fortunately, she had travel insurance! 

Check out World Nomads*  for a quote. Their coverage includes medical emergencies, luggage & gear and trip cancellation.  Hopefully, you never need to make a claim, but if you do you’ll be beyond happy you were prepared!

*We receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

When to buy a ticket for Angkor Wat?

Buy your ticket the evening before your day of exploration anytime after 5pm to avoid having to make an extra stop to the ticket booth on your first morning. You’ll also get access to the Park that night, offering you the bonus of watching the sunset to kick off your temple touring. The most popular sunset spot, Phnom Bakheng, was extremely busy pre-pandemic but less so as of our last visit in 2022. The temple Pre Rup is also open until 7pm and is a great way to start your adventure after buying your ticket.

What should you wear to visit Angkor Wat?

The Angkor Park remains an active religious site. As such, it’s recommended that you wear a shirt that covers your shoulders and shorts/pants/skirt/dress that extend below your knees. Individuals not meeting this dress code have been rejected entry in some cases, so do air on the side of caution and respect. Beyond these considerations, wear something comfortable and breezy as the heat here can be stifling. 

Scams at Angkor Wat

While rare, in some of the smaller temples you may be chatted up by a child or adult who gives you a tragic tale about a series of unfortunate events that led them to a very poor financial position. The conversation may start out as just a friendly conversation that you can easily mistake as getting to know a local, but it will inevitably find its way to their dire situation. These individuals are generally cons, so do your best to get out of the conversation and politely leave when it starts taking a turn. There are plenty of ways to help out by donating your money or time to organizations truly making a difference in Cambodia, so choose this option instead to be a responsible traveller.

How to get around the Temples of Angkor

Angkor Archeological Park is big, really big! In light of this, walking from temple to temple is out of the question. Generally the two most common options are traveling by hired tuk-tuk or by bicycle,

Hire a tuk-tuk to take you around Angkor

$15-20 for the day

From the minute you arrive in Siem Reap, every driver, tuk-tuk driver, and tout will ask you how you plan to see the temples and eagerly offer their expert guiding services to you. Seeing the temples by tuk-tuk is a great way to go when it comes to staying as comfortable as possible in the Cambodian heat. Generally, many tuk-tuk drivers have a good idea of which temples to visit and at which times. They’ll help you plan out your itinerary and wait for you while you take the time to tour each one. Often the biggest challenge is finding the right driver. I’ve had good luck taking a driver affiliated with my hotel, hostel or guesthouse and usually recommend going this route. Alternatively, talk to a few before committing and pick the person you like the best!

Rent a bike and pedal around Angkor Wat

$1-9 (bike quality dependent)

Cycling is a great way to explore the temples of Angkor and truly appreciate the beauty of the magical scenery in this area. Many hotels and guesthouses make bikes easily available for rent to guests. Don’t underestimate this though, as you can easily be cycling for 17 km (Small Circuit) or 26 km (Big Circuit) in the scorching Cambodian heat depending on the route you choose. If you decide to take a bicycle, be prepared to sweat, and remember to bring a headlamp if you go out for sunrise. I’ll never forget the intense paranoia I had of becoming roadkill in the pre-dawn as hundreds of tuk-tuks and tour buses cruised past me as I peddled furiously along the road to Angkor Wat. If you need help planing your cycling excursion, use the map and guide below.

Best hotels and hostels to stay at for visiting the temples of Angkor

You’ll be staying in the nearby town of Siem Reap which offers innumerable places to stay. I asked Anika, a member of our team, to weigh in on the best options as she’s been living in Cambodia since 2018 and visiting Siem Reap every couple months. 

For 2023, her top picks are:

Navigating the Temples of Angkor - the small loop and big loop

The Angkor Park is broken down into 2 loops:

    • The Small Loop (~17km)
    • The Big Loop (~26km)

If you’re visiting Angkor for 1 day you will likely stick to the highlights of the Small Circuit.

 If you have 3 days, you’ll move onto the Big Circuit. 

If you have even more time, you’ll be able to spend a lot of time wherever you want and double down on your favourites.

Map of the Temples of Angkor

You’ll be able to pick up a general map of Angkor at your hotel or hostel, but save this image below to your phone for quick reference.

What temples should you visit at Angkor?

Deciding which temples to visit depends on how much time you have and how quickly you get “templed out”. Use the descriptions of the temples below to help you decide which temples are your own “must-sees”. I’ve marked several temples as must sees to help you narrow your choices if you’re short on time. 

Temples to visit in the Angkor Small Loop

Angkor Wat at Sunrise

Angkor Wat - Must See

The largest religious site in the world, Angkor Wat is a spectacular 12th century temple that was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and designed to represent Mount Meru, the sacred 5-peaked mountain of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist cosmology. Despite the mass of crowds, a sunrise (~5 am) here is a truly unique experience. Make sure to spend time admiring the massive lengths of bas-reliefs and finding some relative solitude as the bulk of tourists eat breakfast or rub the sleep out of their eyes following the sunrise.

Phnom Bakheng

This hilltop temple near to Angkor Wat is a hotspot for sunset vistas. But with great views come great crowds. Pre-pandemic you had to arrive here early if you wanted to get a spot, but it’s much quieter these days as tourism in Cambodia is only slowly picking up again. During the day this is a place to find solitude, although it gets extremely hot during midday as there is no tree cover once you reach the temple

Angkor Thom

 Literally means “Great City”. If ever there was an ancient city worthy of its namesake, it’s Angkor Thom. The minute you enter, over the gigantic moats, through the walls, and beneath the faces that watch over each gate, you will be taken aback by the size and scale of this ancient citadel. The following temples are highlights within the Angkor Thom complex:

Bayon - Must See

At the heart of Angkor Thom is the Bayon. While smaller than Angkor Wat in size, the detail and 216 smiling faces adorning its towers make this temple a fan favourite.  Many theorize that the faces depict King Jayavarman VII the builder of Bayon and Angkor Thom. This temple is truly spectacular in its level of detail. The upper level is currently closed for restoration, but be sure to explore the beautiful lower levels of the Bayon to peek up at the towering faces above.

View from the Baphoun Temple in Angkor


Slightly north of Bayon lies the 30m tall 3-tiered Baphuon. Climb the steep steps to take in the view over Angkor Thom. As you journey around this magnificent structure and observe its details, take a moment to appreciate that you’re standing on a restoration project that was 50+ years in the making.  By the 20th century the Baphuon had almost entirely collapsed and an epic restoration project began. Over 300, 000 of the blocks were labelled and arranged around the area and a detailed catalogue created. Then the Khmer Rouge conflict followed and the plans were lost. In 1996 restoration resumed, and piece by piece the temple was reassembled over the span of 15 years.  On April 2011 the temple reopened, fully restored. Some call it one of the world’s largest puzzles, and for good reason.

Preah Palilay

Continuing north from Baphuon, the often forgotten jungle-gem of Preah Palilay is one of my most recent favourite discoveries within Angkor Thom. Tucked away behind a Buddhist monastery in the forest, this little temple has a chimney-like tower at its centre and several huge trees entangling its base stretch almost as high as the tower itself. This temple is worth a quick visit to really feel like Indiana Jones.

Banteay Kdei ​at Angkor Wat Cambodia

Banteay Kdei

Banteay Kdei is similar in style to Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, but a smaller version. It’s a charming little temple located across from Srah Srang lake.

Srah Srang​ at Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Srah Srang

This large water reservoir demonstrates the engineering capabilities of the Khmer Empire. It also happens to be a nice place to watch sunrise with fewer crowds.

ta keo temple at Angkor

Ta Keo

Just outside of Angkor Thom lies Ta Keo. A mountain style temple dedicated to Shiva, Ta Keo was left unfinished in the 11th century. An inscription claims it was struck by lightning, a bad omen that led to a halt in its building, but the death of the temple’s commissioning King is another potential reason. Regardless, climbing Ta Keo’s three tiers of steep steps are worth the fear of slipping to get a nice view from the top level.

Srah Srang​

Ta Prohm - Must See

The iconic tree temple that was brought to fame by Tomb Raider lies about 1km to the east of Angkor Thom. Ta Prohm was originally built as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. Today Ta Prohm is one of the most popular temples in the Angkor Archeological Park due to the fact is was left almost as it was found when rediscovered. Massive trees drape their roots over ancient stones striking up an incredible contrast of man vs. nature.

Temples to visit in the Angkor Big Loop

Preah Khan

Reminiscent of Ta Prohm (including the unrestored style), but with half the crowds. This temple is a must visit. Wander the many corridors and meditate among the trees. If you get your timing right, you may even have the place virtually to yourself.  

Ta Som

 A small temple in the theme of Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, Ta Som is another one of my favourite places. Tucked away in the jungle on a dirt road off of the main concrete circuit, this temple is often missed by the tourist hordes and I’ve had the place to myself on multiple occasions. It’s a beautiful place to navigate through the rubble and admire the trees soaring through and beyond its stone walls.

Neak Pean​ temple in Angkor

Neak Pean

Just down the road from Preah Khan lies this small and peaceful water temple. Its small size and boardwalk access can make it a little crowded during busy times, but it’s a beautiful place nonetheless.

Pre Rup

A great choice for sunset if you’re looking to avoid the crowds of Phnom Bakheng, Pre Rup offers striking views over the surrounding area. Remarkably it never gets too busy here, so climb up to Pre Rup’s top tier and sit down for a bit of relaxation to absorb the beauty of the Park.

Temples to Visit Beyond the Angkor Park

Banteay Srei

 25 km northeast of Angkor Thom lies Banteay Srei. This small temple is frequently raved about for its elaborate carving that may be the most elaborate of all the temples of Angkor. You’ll need a tuk-tuk to get here, but if you have the energy after all the other temples, the carvings are worth the trip.

Find the Hidden Temples

If you’ve visiting all the temples in the big and smalll loop, go beyond the tourist track at these secret temples.  

How many days does it take to visit the Temples of Angkor?

If you’re someone that’s alright with hitting the highlights in one whirlwind of a day, it’s possible to visit Angkor Wat and the surronding temples in 1 day (see below). Most visitors looks to space their trips out over several days which allows ample time for seeing all the major temples in the Angkor Archeological Park. 

How to visit the Temples of Angkor in 1 day

Visiting Angkor in 1 day is a whirlwind, but if you’re short on time here’s my recommendation on how to do it.  If you’re biking, count on a commute of 1 hour to Angkor Wat if you’re staying on the northern side of Siem Reap, longer if you’re staying elsewhere. (Take it from someone who missed the sunrise not once but twice. Don’t miss it…)

Click the name to link back to the description above if you need to refresh your memory of a particular temple!

Angkor Wat at Sunrise

5:00 am Sunrise at Angkor Wat

7:30 am Angkor Thom

12:30 pm Lunch in Angkor Thom

1:30 pm Quick stop at Ta Keo

2:00 pm Ta Prohm

4:00 pm Banteay Kdei

5-6 pm Watch the sunset at Srah Srang or frantically back pedal through Angkor Thom and watch from the hilltop temple of Phnom Bakheng (leave early or cut Banteay Kdei if choosing this option to be sure you get a spot).

7 pm Relax. Take a deep breath. You saw the highlights of Angkor in 1 crazy day.

How to visit the Temples of Angkor in 3 days

3 days is the perfect amount of time to get the full Angkor experience. It’s a busy 3 days , but affords you the time to see all the temples you want at a somewhat relaxed pace. Here’s how to do it!

You can click the name to link back to the temple description above if you need to refresh your memory.

Temples of Angkor Itinerary Day 1: Angkor Wat & Ta Phrom

Stop 1: Angkor Wat

Start the day at the world famous Angkor Wat if you can bring yourself to wake up for the sunrise (5 am). It really is a breathtaking (albeit crowded) experience. Spend several hours admiring the vast bas-reliefs and queuing up to climb the steep steps to the upper level. Grab breakfast, a less than fantastic coffee, or the snack of your choosing at one of the many stalls/cafes along the north side of Angkor Wat.

Stop 2: Srah Srang & Banteay Kdei

 Instead of proceeding north to Angkor Thom (we’ll save that for day 2), head east to Srah Srang and Banteay Kdei. Spend some time enjoying the reservoir and small temple.

Stop 3: Ta Prohm

Explore the magnificent Ta Prohm and get to know your inner Indiana Jones or Lara Croft (among many other people trying to do the same thing).

Stop 4: Ta Keo

Take the time to climb up the Ta Keo mountain temple, before calling your first day. If you made it for the sunrise at Angkor Wat, you may be itching for a nap.  Even if you didn’t make sunrise, you’re likely going to be itching to cool down poolside with an ice cold Angkor draft, or maybe a nap and a cool down…

Temples of Angkor Itinerary Day 2: Angkor Thom

Cycle past Angkor Wat and proceed through the south gate into the great city of Angkor Thom. The temples in here don’t open until 7:30, but if you take the time to arrive around this time you’ll be rewarded with far fewer crowds than later in the day. Better yet, the morning is generally mildly cooler.

Stop 1: The Gates

No matter how you enter Angkor Thom, you’ll pass over the great moat and through an intimidating set of gates and walls towering over 9m tall.  

Stop 2: Bayon

At the centre of Angkor Thom this incredible temple can easily occupy several hours of exploration. Wander along the Terrace of the Leper King and Terrace of the Elephants, transporting yourself back to a time when this parade route would have seen kings returning victorious from battle.

Stop 3: Baphuon

Conclude your day by summiting the world’s biggest jigsaw puzzle and admiring the amazing restoration work.  


Afternoon (time dependent) in Siem Reap or visit further out Banteay Srei by tuk-tuk or motorbike.

Temples of Angkor Itinerary Day 3: The Big Circuit

An early start will once again be to your advantage. Set out biking past Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom before continuing through the north gate until you reach Preah Khan.

Stop 1: Preah Khan

Wander through this massive temple and enjoy the relative quiet compared to the temples along the small circuit. Find a spot to sit and appreciate the power of the gigantic trees that engulf this temple.

Stop 2: Neak Pean, Ta Som and Pre Rup

Once you’ve finished at Preah Khan, continue down the road, stopping at Neak Pean and wandering across the boardwalk before proceeding onwards to Ta Som and concluding at Pre Rup.

Conclude Your Time at Angkor

If you’re not templed-out, bike back past Ta Prohm and through Angkor Thom, taking the time to stop at your favourites one more time. You also have the option to climb up Phnom Bakheng and bid adieu to your time at Angkor with a view. If it’s later on in the day already, you may even want to take the time to linger and watch the sunset over Angkor Wat. The perfect conclusion to the way you started.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, you found these tips helpful for planning your trip to Angkor Wat and the temples of Angkor. Questions? Drop me a line in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help you out!

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click one of the links and make a purchase we’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you. Just like the travel backpacks we build, we’re very particular . So any products or services we suggest, we test and use ourselves before making any recommendations or endorsements. 

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More adventures like this

From picking up a camera to paragliding off Kilimanjaro with Ryan

From Picking up a camera to paragliding off Kilimanjaro with Ryan

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I first met Ryan when we were just 13 years old. He was an incredible athlete, a top student, and a great friend. Over a decade later, while these descriptors still apply, he’s added a whole new set to this list. He’s an amazing visionary, a creative, and a storyteller. Through his YouTube channel The Path Less Traveled he showcases his exploration of some of the most untouched and unreachable places in New Zealand and around the world.

And he only picked up a camera when he was 24 years old.

This is someone who constantly challenges his own assumptions and pushes himself out of his comfort zone. From his first big backpacking trip to Southeast Asia when he was 23, to his plan to paraglide off the top of Kilimanjaro next year, Ryan Wilkes’ journey to explore farther and to share the stories of untouched places and unique people around the world is sure to inspire your own exploration and creativity.

Getting on the path less traveled

When you watch Ryan’s videos or look at his photography (featured throughout this article) it’s hard to believe this is someone who wasn’t born with a camera in hand. But Ryan used to live a very different life entirely unrelated to film. Working as an engineer in Canada, it was a trip to Southeast Asia at the age of 23 that really acted as the catalyst for him to move across the world to New Zealand and, ultimately, for his whole life to change. Pursuing his PhD in biomedical engineering at the University of Canterbury, not only did he move to somewhere he didn’t know anyone, he also started to search for something different while he was there.

“People go to the same spots all the time and there’s the classic bucket list for New Zealand – you know all the ‘gram spots. But the crazy thing about New Zealand is that it’s such a small country, and the more you explore, the more you realize that you’ve seen none of it. There’s so many places where you can literally go off the path and end up on a totally different peak and a totally different environment. I really quickly was like, this is awesome, we need to keep going to these places that a lot of people haven’t been.

So one of the first trips [my partner] Jillian and I did when we came to New Zealand was a road trip down to this place called Stewart Island which is kind of like New Zealand’s third island. It’s just south of the southern tip of the South Island, so really far down there and there’s only 300 inhabitants in this really small town and the rest is just Jurassic park style amazing forests and landscapes. I looked at the map and I was like what is down there? So we went down and had such a good time.

It’s always good when you can, I guess, show people different sides of a place because for a lot of countries people just see the same things over and over again. And the way tourism is now, how it’s just so saturated really, so many people are traveling all the time and going on these tours. I think there is a select few of us, and this number is growing, that want to see an authentic and different side of a country.”

Picking up a camera

This desire to see new places and to share it with the world sparked another passion: for videography.

“It all kind of happened at once. I had a GoPro, that’s all I came to New Zealand with. I started to make these little videos to show my parents and then one thing led to another and now it’s almost 3 years later and my life revolves around filmmaking. But [my Youtube channel] The Path Less Traveled kind of evolved at the same time because I really want to take people to these unique places and show them where they can have these unique experiences that they’re not going to find in a Lonely Planet book. That along with the metaphorical meaning of the path less traveled, which is literally doing what you want to do with your life, being true to yourself and just not following the herd.

Those two things combined kind of went perfectly together. So what I’m going to try to do with my channel is not only show people these cool places they have maybe never heard of before or they’ve heard of it but information on it is really scarce and they can’t find anything so I can do a video guide for them but also drop little messages throughout my video about the struggle of finding your own way and share relatable stories from my own journey. You know I didn’t pick up a camera until I was 24. And even then you can be 40 or 50 and still change your path in life. So just a mix of the two.”

Want to take travel Photos like These?

Download the FREE Banana Backpacks Explorer’s Guide featuring Ryan’s tips for taking amazing travel photos (and incredible tips from the other explorers).

How do you find the path less traveled?

As more of us want to get on our own path less traveled, it can be hard to know where to start. In the case of this PhD student, he uses some serious research work to find his own path.

“It’s a mix of things. There’s a few places that I’ve been to in New Zealand that I’ve literally seen one photo of and sometimes I’ll hit the person up and see if I can find who took the photo and get in touch with them and sometimes they’ll tell me the general area. And then it’s onto Google Earth to try to find where exactly it is. Is there a trail there? Are you allowed to go there? Is it on someone’s private property? Which has definitely happened before – which is never good! And also just asking the locals is by far the best thing you can do. I’ve heard some crazy stories about some backpackers here meeting locals at a bar and 3 hours later they’re in this random glow worm cave that nobody’s ever heard of before. And having these surreal experiences just because they decided to chat with the locals.

I guess it’s just putting yourself out there and not being afraid to strike up a conversation with someone because you’ll never quite know where it can go. And that’s why travel is so exciting because if you want to have the best time possible and make the most of your experience, you definitely have to chat to people. I’m naturally an introvert so that’s always been a challenge for me but especially in the past few years the payoff of smiling at someone and saying “hi” has been so huge for me that now I’m always striking up conversations. When Jillian and I went to Tonga, it was our first big trip together and she did not have a great trip because I was chatting with everyone and that’s not what I’m usually like. She was so shocked. She was like, has he been lying to me this whole time about who he is? I just get on this high when I’m around people who are exciting and interesting and like to explore.”

Sometimes this open attitude has landed Ryan in amazing situations, other times, shall we say, interesting ones.

“When Jillian and I were in Croatia last year, we were in Split and we missed our bus […] and so we were like oh crap, I mean that wasn’t that bad we’ll get the next bus in the morning. But all the hostels were full and we didn’t want to drop a ridiculous amount of money for a hotel or whatever. And so this random dude walks up to us and is like, “oh yeah, you come stay at my house!” and we were both so tired and pretty grumpy at this point so I was like fine, let’s just go. So this dude is leading us around these sketchy ass back alleyways of Split and finally we get to his apartment and his wife is there with his kid and he yells something at her in Croatian and she quickly makes the two beds for us and we just give him cash and we’re like lock the door and go to bed. It was so sketchy, going down these back alleyways and I’m like in fight or flight mode hardcore, ready to throw down if this dude tries to rob us. But I guess sometimes you just have to put faith in people and be like hopefully he is actually legit and just being a nice dude […] that was a pretty stressful situation but ended up just fine.”


From the Kepler Track to paragliding off of Mount Kilimanjaro 

Putting himself out there, by talking to locals and getting off the beaten path, has led him to find some of New Zealand’s most beautiful places.

“Last year we did the Kepler Track which is one of New Zealand’s great walks and it was just the most incredible 4 days. It’s in Fiordland National Park which is on the southwest corner of the South Island. And it’s just a beautiful landscape with these super steep valleys with lakes and the ocean also comes in the fjords – just incredible views. And most mornings you wake up and you’re above the clouds and you’re above the inversion layer. It’s just such an amazing experience and we lucked out and got the best weather ever. So you spend a couple days on top of the peaks traversing and a couple days down below in the forest next to the lake. Just absolutely stunning.”

This adventuring around New Zealand has inspired a desire to showcase remote experiences and unique places outside of New Zealand as well. Which is why next up on Ryan’s list is a pretty once-in-a-lifetime kind of adventure, and better yet, vehicle to make a social impact.

“We are planning next September to go to Tanzania with a group called Wings of Kilimanjaro. It is a pretty exclusive group of people who end up going most of the time and it’s because it’s quite a resource intensive operation, in both time and money. It’s not necessarily because it costs a lot of money to go but they challenge the participants to fundraise a lot of money and 100% of the fundraised money goes towards local projects in Moshi, which is the town at the base of Kilimanjaro which services everyone who goes up and down the mountain. It’s kind of the hub for Kili. So all of the money so far since 2013, I think they’ve raised over 700 000 dollars, and that’s gone towards building a really nice school, many water projects, and also educating farmers about best practices and also helping them out with buying trees and planting trees and stuff like that. So this year they hope to push it to over a million dollars raised.

Kilimanjaro is not a technical climb at all, you have to be fit but there’s no rock climbing, there’s not even really any scrambling, it’s a steady gradient. But 20% of the people who start the climb don’t make it up because of altitude sickness and you take a while to acclimatize. So it takes 4 or 5 days to get to the summit and then we have an extra 2 or 3 days on the summit just to make sure that we have the best chance at flying off because paragliding is so reliant on the wind, the weather. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to fly off. So in previous years no one has flown at times because the weather hasn’t cooperated for 3 days straight and they couldn’t get off. 

And that’s why I’m saying it’s more about the whole journey of getting there and seeing the impact on the community and paragliding is just like the cherry on top. It’s kind of like the vehicle for the impact that we’re hopefully going to be making, but most of the chat when we’re there is around how awesome the locals are, and about Tanzania and the community and probably knowing me and my friends, like wow what can we do here, what kind of project can we set up to help these people. The chat won’t be about paragliding, you know?

My goal, or my role in this whole thing, is to make a documentary about this whole process. So I’ve already started filming it because we have weekly meetings about planning the trip, fundraising ideas, all that kind of stuff. I’ve already started documenting all of it, so I hope it turns into a nice little film for us. It would be [my first full documentary]. Pretty intense.”

Chasing stories

As Ryan continues to explore and share his adventures with the world, he wants to do more than just show beautiful images. He wants to connect people to the stories out there.

“People are starting to kind of crave more […] I think people love stories. People are drawn to good stories because we all want this emotional connection. I think we live in this really connected [world] with our phones, with the internet – everything – we’re ultra-connected. But at the same time we’re disconnected in a way. I think people are looking for content that is relatable and emotional at the same time. So storytelling and the ability to tell a compelling story in a concise way, in a compelling way, is going to become more and more important.

I have this vision for my social media platforms which would be to tell for every place I go, a story about the environment, tell a story about a person, and I don’t really know what the third component would be, but maybe something about the history, or a custom or something like that. Kind of have this trifecta that gives people this inside look at a place that they would not otherwise get. I would love to do that. Everywhere I go chasing stories.”

Endless possibilities

As it is for most worthwhile things, when we help others, we are inevitably changed ourselves along the journey. This is no different for Ryan through his off-the-beaten-path adventures and sharing what he explores with others.


“It’s just been this crazy domino effect. It’s not being afraid to leave behind things that aren’t certain to you anymore. I think that’s a big thing that a lot of people have trouble with. Most people, as humans, we like being comfortable. That’s kind of a built-in mechanism that we have but once you step outside of that and once you take a chance and it pays off, it opens your eyes to so many different opportunities. I never thought in a million years people would pay me to do something that I just genuinely really, really, really love. And now that I know it’s possible, it’s just this feeling of endless possibilities.

It’s hard. Anything worth doing, the learning curve is going to be super steep. You have to be like, okay, I’m going to commit a solid 6 months to see if I enjoy this because as you know, when you take on something new, whether it’s starting a business or starting a new hobby or whatever it is, man there’s going to be some serious growing pains and there’s going to be times where you’re probably not going to want to do it, but it’s those times where you just put your head down and keep going that you’ll look back on in 2 years and be like, thank god I gave it a go.

I think that it’s also talking about the environment that you’re in, you’re a product of your environment, that is one of the most difficult things for people. The way that I overcame that was literally leaving everything. Because when you’re stuck in it you can’t see. You’re blind. Because often the opinions that you have aren’t even your own opinions, they’re things that have been put in your head by other people and other people’s influence and so something else I tell all of my friends is man, go live somewhere else, go somewhere where you know no one else and really get out of your comfort zone. And I think that is truly one of the only ways to find out not only what you’re made of and get to know yourself but just to have total mental clarity […]”


If you’ve ever questioned your own ability to take The Path Less Traveled, Ryan serves as an incredible example that no matter what stage of your life you’re at, it’s never too late to change the way that others define you and, more importantly, the way you define yourself.


You can follow along with Ryan’s amazing videos and photography on The Path Less Traveled YouTube channel, Instagram, and Facebook page.

Want to take travel Photos like These?

Download the Banana Backpacks Explorer’s Guide featuring Ryan’s tips for taking amazing travel photos.

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