This self-guided cycling tour of the Big Circuit in Angkor Wat includes some great cycling, lovely countryside and less-visited temples.
Map of Angkor Wat Big Circuit Cycling Tour Route
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This is a self-guided cycling tour. If you prefer to go on a guided bike tour, there are several well-reviewed and affordable options*. We also cycled the Small Circuit of Angkor Wat, which visits all the main temples nearer the centre of the complex. See our Overall Guide to Cycling at Angkor Wat for information about bike rental and more.
Angkor Wat Big Circuit Cycling Route (43.5 km)
This Big Circuit is a 43.5 km, mainly flat cycle ride. This includes cycling from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat and back, which is 10 km in total. This means the main loop is 33.5 km of cycling. This cycling route starts from the main roundabout in Siem Reap. You see some of the less major temples at Angkor Wat, summarized in a table below, as well as countryside, a large lake and some hidden photo spots.
Cycling from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat
Cycling from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat is fairly simple. First you need to head for a roundabout in the centre of town – where the main road (Highway 6) crosses the Siem Reap River. This is about 1 km north of Pub Street – just follow the river up. On the left (west) of the river there is a small roundabout with a statue in the middle.
From this roundabout, head north, on Charles de Gaulle Road, not the smaller road that is parallel to the river. On your right you’ll see an open concrete park area, where various groups of locals dance to loud music in the morning and chill out in at night. On your left are some gardens. You’ll soon see Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor on your left, with its beaming white frontage, followed by the Angkor National Museum.
Roughly 1 km north of the junction, a green cycle lane appears on the right-hand side of the road. It is mainly on the pavement, though watch out when crossing the side roads. Unfortunately this cycle lane only lasts for another 1 km, but by then you are out of town and the road is quieter. There’s also a large margin on the road that you can cycle in. It’s quite dark in the early morning and evening, so remember to bring a headtorch*.
Visit the Ticket Checkpoint
Shortly after the green cycle lane ends is the Angkor Ticket Checkpoint, on the right of the road. It is signed but doesn’t mention Angkor Wat at all, so we were unclear if it was for us. It was, and you have to visit the ticket checkpoint. There is a small ‘WAY IN’ sign – head in here and over to the officials who will check your tickets. They will mark it such that at subsequent temples, the guards will see that you have had your ticket already checked. You must stop here first thing every day that you visit the temples.
After the Angkor Ticket Checkpoint, it’s another 2 km cycle in the margins of the road (quieter in the mornings than evenings) through the jungle. Suddenly you will reach a T-junction, with the wide moat of Angkor Wat Temple in front of you.
To the left is the entrance to Angkor Wat 1.5 km away (including the sunset viewpoint) and beyond that, Angkor Thom. To the right is the road to the sunset viewpoint at Srah Srang Reservoir and beyond that either the Small Circuit or Big Circuit loops.
Entering Angkor Wat
Cycling directions: First, follow the description in the blue box above to reach the southern edge of the large moat surrounding Angkor Wat Temple. At the junction, head right and cycle around the moat. Follow the tarred road as it bends to your right away from the water. It’s about 4 km along the road to the next stop. There’s a cycle path along the side of the road which winds about through the trees. It’s a bit slower than the straight, flat road, but the Big Circuit Cycle Tour isn’t too long so you’ve got time to spare. The road bends to the north and soon you’ll see a lake to your right and a small parking on the left.
1. Srah Srang Temple
It’s 10.5 km from the roundabout in Siem Reap to the sunrise over the lake spot at Srah Srang. Bear this in mind as you decide when to set off.
Srah Srang Temple is right next to the water, but as a temple, it’s not very impressive. It’s really more of an elaborate landing platform with a few statues. However, the sunrise over the water is lovely and there are never many people here.
Cycling directions: After sunrise, continue north and at the T-junction turn right. Here the Small Circuit we did the previous day heads left.
Into the Countryside
After the reservoir, suddenly you come out into the open countryside and you can forget you’re at Angkor Wat. The trees have disappeared, and instead there is corn growing in the fields and locals selling their produce by the side of the road.
Cycling directions: Take the cycle path on the left of the road. Initially it parallels the road, wiggles about a bit and then heads slightly into the forest and fields.
You cycle around one corner and suddenly discover a temple at the end of a little dirt path in front of you. This is Pre Rup.
Cycling directions: Cycle towards the temple and around the little path on its right-hand side. You’ll reach the road and the parking for the temple.
2. Pre Rup Temple
This temple opens at 5 am but very few people come here early. The sign on the south side of the temple says it only opened at 7:30 am, but this is wrong. The entrance guards on the east side of the temple by the road said it had actually opened already at 5 am.
It’s quite distinctive from other temples seen so far since it’s made of brick and has many terraces. It’s a fairly early temple, dating from the 10th century. During the sunrise it glows particularly orange, and is lovely as the first rays of sunlight hit the striking towers at the top, lighting it all up.
Food: After visiting Pre Rup we backtracked and cycled back towards Srah Srang to have breakfast. We ate at Romdoul Coffee, and also had a coffee and avocado shake (both delicious). It was a surprising hipster place and very popular with local cyclists. It only opens at 7 am, so it was closed before we went to Pre Rup but had opened by the time we came back.
Cycling directions: Head back past Pre Rup and onwards to the north. Again, there’s a cycle path on the left side of the road.
It’s a lovely cycle through the rice fields, with palm trees and cows in the distance. There are watery moats and many other fields growing a variety of crops.
3. East Mebon Temple
East Mebon Temple is quite similar to Pre Rup. If you only chose to visit one, East Mebon has some cool elephant statues so is perhaps the one to choose. Again you can climb to the top of the temple and see nice views over the surrounding countryside.
The temple is actually in the middle of the East Baray. This was a large reservoir which regulated the water supply for rice irrigation. When the temple was first built, it was constructed on an island in the middle of the water. Water covered the lowest 5 metres and on each side of the temple are what used to be landing stages. However, today the reservoir is empty and you can’t tell it ever existed unless you look very closely.
Cycling directions: Continue onwards and the road bends slightly left. You’ll soon see a large reservoir on your left (the Jayatataka Baray) and the next temple is soon on the right.
4. Ta Som Temple
Ta Som Temple is a fairly small, but very well-proportioned temple and it’s generally quite quiet. Make sure to walk to the far eastern end. Here, at the far end of the temple and outside the first gate, is a second gate. This is a popular photo spot because of the photogenic tree roots surrounding the stone gateway. The tree has actually been sawn off partway up, but it still looks super cool.
The best spot to take photos from is on a stone slightly in the water on the south side of the clearing (left side when looking back at the gate). It was very peaceful in this little clearing when we were there so we sat for 15 minutes. We ate a snack while admiring the cool faces in the tower and the surrounding tree routes. Then we left the birds and sounds of the jungle to walk back through the temple.
Cycling directions: Back on the bikes, head right from the temple along the cycle path and follow it around the corner of the reservoir. Soon you’ll come to the parking of the next stop.
5. Neak Pean Temple
Neak Pean Temple is a small temple on an island in the middle of a large reservoir. When we were there the water levels were high and the lake was very beautiful. Many waterlilies covered the surface, with dead trees sticking out near the shoreline, surrounded by jungle. There’s no shade when crossing the lake, so remember your sunhat or umbrella.
The temple itself is not that impressive, but there are nice reflections in the water and it’s fun to be on an island. Neak Pean means coiled serpent, and the temple symbolises the source of the four great rivers of the world. People used to come here to bathe.
Cycling directions: Continue along the cycle path and you end up joining the main paved road at the end of the reservoir. Head left (south) alongside the reservoir. Soon you’ll come to some shops. Instead of parking your bike here, you can actually keep cycling to the right along a dirt track. This track is lined by stone pillars and leads to the eastern entrance gate of Preah Khan. Leave your bikes on the grassy area before you cross over the temple moat.
6. Preah Khan Temple
From the east, there’s a long entranceway with pillars and then an impressive gate leading into the complex, the centre of which is still quite far. Preah Khan Temple is very big and has a very long central corridor that just keeps on going. There are some cool trees growing out of it and it’s a nice setting in the jungle, but I didn’t think it was a particularly special temple. One interesting feature in the complex is a two-story building with round columns, looking like something from ancient Greece. It’s known as the library, but nobody actually knows what it was used for.
Cycling directions: Back at your bikes, take the small dirt path south along the outer edge of the temple moat. It’s a fun little trail. Keep following it around by the water. You’ll pass the temple’s southern entrance gate, and then shortly after the next corner the path leads off to the left. Soon you’re back on the main road.
If you want to check out the impressive western entrance gate to Preah Khan, cycle right for 200 metres. It’s particularly nice in the afternoon light.
Cycling directions: Return back and continue along the main road as it heads to the northern gate of Angkor Thom.
7. Angkor Thom City Walls
After admiring the beautiful northern gate, it’s time to cycle around half of the city walls. To get up on the walls, head inside the gate and take a dirt path heading upwards to the west. The walls are built of laterite, but with a wide earth embankment on the inside, so you’re cycling on earth (don’t imagine the Great Wall of China). There’s a small dirt path on top of the walls which is very fun to cycle.
Shortening the Big Circuit Cycle Tour
If you don’t backtrack for breakfast but continue onwards, it removes 4 km. We headed back because we weren’t sure how many food options there were ahead of us. When we cycled on we saw that actually there were many good places we could have gone to.
If you don’t cycle around the walls (but this is very fun) you’ll remove 3 km from the cycle tour. It will be much faster because you’ll be on a paved road rather than a dirt path (with some minor tricky ups and downs).
Cycling along the walls
In one or two places the wall has collapsed. At these locations, you have to follow the short detours down and back up the walls. These paths are slightly tricky, but it’s very short so you can get off and push if you aren’t confident. Watch out for the thick sand!
The embankment is roughly 8 metres high, and from here there are nice views over the moat and the farming land on the other side. At the wall corners, there are cute little temples. Fittingly, these shrines are all called Prasat Chung, or ‘Shrine of the Angle’. corners. It’s never busy on the walls and it’s a great break from the temples, so a highly recommended activity.
Cycling directions: Follow the walls until you reach the southern gate where you can descend back down to the main road. Head through the gate.
You pass both Phnom Bakheng Temple Hill and Angkor Wat, so if you missed these on the Small Circuit or want to explore more, now is the time to do so. If not, keep on cycling.
Cycling directions: Round the corner of Angkor Wat’s moat and you’ll soon reach the road heading straight back to Siem Reap. You can follow this all the way into town. Remember a headlight as it might be getting dark by the time you’re here.
This completes the Angkor Wat Big Circuit Cycling Tour. Below is a summary of the temples seen on the route. For another day of fun exploration, read our Angkor Wat Small Circuit Cycling Guide. Or see our Overall Guide to Cycling at Angkor Wat for more details about bike rental and organization.
Angkor Wat Big Circuit Cycling Tour Temple Ratings
Apart from the cycle, which is 43.5 km, you also end up walking a short distance (about 5.5 km). This is a much shorter walk than on the Small Circuit Tour because the temples on the Big Circuit at Angkor Wat are much smaller.
|Srah Srang||***||Sunrise over the lake||0.3|
|Pre Rup||***||Brick pyramid, lovely morning light||0.8|
|East Mebon||***||Elephant statues||0.8|
|Ta Som||****||Tree roots surrounding the gate at the far end||0.6|
|Neak Pean||***||Walking over the lake||1.3|
|Preah Khan||***||Long central corridor||1.6|