Angkor Wat is not the only ancient temple complex in Cambodia. The whole country is dotted with ancient Khmer temples dating back to the Angkor era and earlier. We bring you some highlights of ancient temples spanning the history, length and breadth of Cambodia.
Ancient Khmer Temples: Phnom Banan Temple, Battambang Province
Climb the 358 ancient stone steps up Phnom Banan to find this impressive Angkor era temple on a hilltop south of the town of Battambang. The top of the hill also offers stunning views over the surrounding countryside. Banan Temple dates from the 11th century, built by Udayadityavarman II around the same time as Bauphon, West Mebon and the West Baray in Siem Reap. Another ancient temple worth a visit in Battambang is Ek Phnom to the north of the town.
Preah Ko, Stung Treng Province
Not to be confused with the larger temple of the same name in Siem Reap, this ancient temple is Preah Ko in Stung Treng. Preah Ko comprises of a small brick temple structure dedicated to and named after the holy cow, and a statue of said cow, surrounded by the usual spiritual offerings. It is an early pre-Angkorian temple built in the 6th-7th century by Jayavarman I around the time of Sambor Prei Kuk in Kampong Thom. This small temple lies just over the Mekong river from the town of Stung Treng. it doesn’t have much to see but is worth a quick stop if you are travelling in the area or on the way to Sopheakmit Waterfall.
Preah Vihear Temple, Preah Vihear Province
Preah Vihear is probably the most famous of all the remote temples in Cambodia, and you can’t get much more remote than the 525-metre high clifftop where this sprawling temple complex sits. On the northern border with Thailand and accessible by a very steep road, Preah Vihear Temple is around a three-hour drive from Siem Reap and can be visited in a day trip. The temple dates back to the 11th-12th century and was built by Kings Suryavarman I and Suryavarman II around the same time as Angkor Wat. After visiting Preah Vihear Temple you can also stop at Koh Ker on the way back, another gem with a unique pyramid design.
Sambor Prei Kuk, Kampong Thom Province
Go back in time to the pre-Angkorian days in Kampong Thom. The Sambor Prei Kuk temples were an ancient capital of the Chenla Kingdom in the 6th-7th century before the base of power moved west to Angkor and the Khmer Empire was born. The temples are all brick, clearly of a different era to the more elaborate sandstone temples around Angkor. You can spend a pleasant few hours exploring the large site and listen to the sounds of the jungle away from the crowds in Siem Reap. The shade from the trees will keep you from overheating.
Wat Nokor Bachey, Kampong Cham Province
The Nokor Bachey temple is located close to the centre of Kampong Cham town and is the largest ancient temple complex in the province. Dating back to the 10th century the temple was built in the same era as the famous Bayon temple in Siem Reap. Wat Nokor Bachey temple combines old and new styles, with a colourful modern temple structure intertwined within the ancient walls. The temple is close to the main road through town so is an easy stop if passing through Kampong Cham on the way to Northeast Cambodia.
Since the height of the Khmer empire extended well beyond the borders of modern day Cambodia, you could venture even further afield and visit ancient Khmer temples in neighbouring Thailand and Laos. One of the most famous Khmer temples outside Cambodia is in Lopburi Thailand, home of the annual monkey buffet festival.