Every morning thousands of travellers make the early morning journey to watch the sunrise over incredible Angkor Wat. This awe-inspiring trip frequently tops the list of things to do in Cambodia and sits alongside Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal as a top bucket list destinations. Unfortunately, all of this attention has made a visit to Angkor Wat slightly less than peaceful…
Only five years ago, finding solitude simply meant visiting nearby Ta Prohm or one of the many temples within Angkor Thom first thing in the morning. You could easily meditate under the 216 smiling stone faces of the popular Bayon temple until the tour buses slowly started to trickle in around 9am. The truly bold and ambitious made the long ride to the magnificently ornate Banteay Srei. Today, finding a solo temple experience requires significant research, effort, or a friend willing to share their temple treasure map. Luckily, we’re here to help! Banteay Ampil and Beng Mealea are two spectacular off the beaten path temples located near Siem Reap that will allow you to unleash your inner adventurer!
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Deserted Temples in Siem Reap
Banteay Ampil: The deserted dream.
Located about 35 km outside of Siem Reap town on a bumpy and often muddy single track that can only be reached by motorbike, Banteay Ampil is blissfully difficult to find. Part of the beauty of this temple is the journey to get here. You’ll pass by tiny stilt houses, rural students walking to school, sprawling green rice fields, and soaring palm trees. Once you arrive at the temple, you’ll likely find a single guard asleep in a hammock. Don’t be shocked if he’s surprised to see a visitor. Banteay Ampil is situated in the jungle outside of the Angkor Archaeological Park itself and a ticket is therefore not required here. Solitude and saving money! Definitely not possible at the other temples in Siem Reap area.
Beng Mealea: The massive maze.
Similar in style to Angkor Wat, Beng Mealea is entirely unrestored and uncleared of undergrowth, which is part of its jaw-dropping beauty. With four entrances, the sprawling complex easily justifies two to three hours of exploration. Climbing under small entrance ways and through rubble, you can find large sections of this maze to explore in complete solitude. Given the undisturbed adventuring you can do here, do watch out for snakes: I saw three during my Beng Mealea visit.
Whatever you do, DON'T FORGET THIS
When exploring hidden temples, riding on motorbikes, and traveling abroad medical emergencies can and do occur. Do not forget to purchase comprehensive travel insurance. My former roommate was medivaced to Bangkok from Cambodia after a medical emergency and her travel insurance ended up paying out a mid six-figure sum for the medical bills.
For adventure travel in Cambodia, check out World Nomads* for a quote and options for coverage including 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! Don’t start your trip without it!
Both Banteay Ampil and Beng Mealea are a journey back in time to when the temples in Siem Reap province were less discovered. Places with this kind of mystical appeal are unlikely to remain untouched secrets for much longer, so try to visit them sooner rather than later!
Need help making your way to these temples? Drop me a line in the comments section! I’d love to help you get to know Cambodia!
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