A self-guided cycling tour is an adventurous way to experience Angkor Wat Archaeological Park.
Map of Information for a Bike Tour of Angkor Wat
Tips for Angkor Wat Self-Guided Cyling Tour
- There are no ATMs on the cycle route so bring enough cash to pay for water and food along the route. Bear in mind you will probably get change in Riel, and people might be unhappy breaking a $100 bill.
- Bring lots of water and try to use reusable bottles. You will see lots of ice-cold water sold everywhere. Coconuts are great. So is Coca-Cola.
- We took a few snack bars to sustain us in case we got hungry far from any restaurants.
- Sunscreen, sunhat and sunglasses are highly recommended.
- Sunhat and umbrella are good against the sun – don’t be one of the pained-looking tourists who forgot their sunhat. I had never used an umbrella for the sun before and it was surprisingly effective.
- Bring a headlight* for the early morning starts!
- Make sure to get your ticket stamped at the poorly signed Angkor Ticket Checkpoint every day before entering the complex.
- Our rented bicycles didn’t come with locks, but the hotel owners told us not to worry about having the bikes stolen.
- Download the Maps.Me App beforehand – it’s good to have a backup map.
Angkor Wat Self-Guided Cycling Tour Overview
This page gives a detailed guide about the cycling experience and things to think about. We cycled around Angkor Wat for two days and have separate articles with a detailed route map of both the Small (Petit) Circuit and the Big (Grand) Circuit. These are the names of the two main routes around the temple complex.
Angkor Archaeological Park versus Angkor Wat
Everyone has heard of Angkor Wat, and before visiting I thought there was only one great semi-ruined temple in the jungle. However, Angkor Wat is the name of only one of many temples within the Angkor Archaeological Park. However, the name Angkor Wat is often used to refer to the entire park, which we also do here. The Archaeological Park is very large and while you have to walk within the temples, it’s too far, often several kilometres or more, to walk between the temples so you need some transportation.
Options for getting around Angkor Wat and why cycling is the best
There are a few options for exploring Angkor Wat:
- Rent bicycles: you can either rent a mountain bike (which I’d recommend), a street bike, or an E-Bike (bear in mind in Siem Reap these are more like electric scooters and you will have to charge it within the park).
- Go on a guided cycle tour of the park*: a good option if you want to get some exercise and have fun cycling but don’t want to plan your own route or organise your own bike rental.
- Hire a tuk-tuk with driver: This is a popular option and your hotel can almost certainly arrange this. Make sure to clearly agree the price in advance together with how long you are going for and where you want to go.
- Hire a car with driver: This option is similar to hiking a tuk-tuk but more expensive and less immersive because you will be stuck in AC rather than feeling the lovely humid air on your face.
- Go on a guided tour of Angkor*: If you don’t want to cycle or arrange anything yourself, there are several popular and well-reviewed tours of Angkor Wat that you can book online in advance.
- No motorbikes allowed: As a tourist you aren’t allowed to enter the site with a normal scooter or motorbike.
Who should choose a self-guided cycling tour of Angkor Wat?
You should cycle by yourself around Angkor Wat if:
- You have a moderate level of fitness – spending a day cycling and walking in the heat can be draining. Our recommended routes are 35-45 km long, with almost zero uphill.
- You don’t mind adventure and excitement – if getting a little lost or cycling through the jungle on your own doesn’t sound too scary.
- You have time to read up on the history and archaeology of Angkor Wat beforehand, or have a guide to the site – it’s a lot more enjoyable if you understand something of the temples before visiting, and you won’t have a guide to explain it all.
What are the benefits of cycling?
- You can explore the temples at your own pace – nobody but you will decide where you go and how long you spend at each temple.
- You feel like you’ve ‘discovered’ some of the temples by cycling up to them through the jungle.
- You can get away from the crowds – there are several sections of the cycling routes that are quite empty.
- You can see some of the countryside and come across less-visited temples.
- Cycling is fun – there are some small dirt path sections of trail in some locations, and a dedicated paved cycle path in others, which winds about and undulates up and down a little.
- You can explore the walls around Angkor Thom – you can cycle around the walls of the largest complex. It would be too far to walk and you can’t reach them on other methods of transport.
- You can imagine you’re the only ones exploring the jungle and temple complex of Angkor Wat.
What is cycling around Angkor Wat like?
Cycling around Angkor Wat first involves cycling to the complex from Siem Reap, about 5 km along one straight, flat road. In the early morning this road is fairly empty but dark, so remember to bring a headlight*. In the evenings the road is busier and dark again, but for most of the road’s length, there is either a large margin or a cycle lane.
Inside the Angkor Wat complex, the roads are generally less busy and for a large part of the routes there is a dedicated cycle lane, or you can cycle on dirt paths and tracks. This is what makes cycling a very pleasant option.
What if I, or my bike, fail at cycling halfway?
If at any point you want to give up cycling, it’s good to know that the plentiful tuk-tuks can carry at least two bikes plus two people. There are tuk-tuks waiting near the big temples, or waving down an empty tuk-tuk also works well. One of our bikes broke near the end of our second day, and we were happy to find a tuk-tuk to continue with us and our bikes on the tour.
You can also try and use PassApp or Grab. These are both local versions of Uber, with PassApp specific to Cambodia, and Grab coming from Malaysia. You can pay in cash for both – try to have many smaller notes, since sometimes the drivers ‘don’t have any change’. You can also pay using any card for Grab, or a Cambodian-only card for PassApp. When first using PassApp, it’s easy to accidentally set your location as your destination, so check before you confirm your ride.
Coping with the heat while cycling around Angkor Wat
Cycling is more tiring, but not really much hotter than a tuk-tuk. You will take a bit longer to get places, but the routes are fairly shady. Additionally, you should wear either a helmet or sunhat while on your bike, and you get a pleasant breeze as you whizz along. Legs, however, do become tired.
Tips for staying relatively cool:
- Wear a sunhat (or helmet while on the bike). This really is a must-have item. We saw several tourists without sunhats and they looked like they wanted to die.
- Take an umbrella for walking. This is especially useful for the later afternoons, as the sun rays come from a lower angle and seem even stronger as they hit your face and entire body. Having an umbrella allows you to shade yourself from this.
- Keep hydrated. Bring water, buy cold water, drink coconut juice and ice-cold coca-cola.
- Eat. You lose many salts while sweating, so the common hot and salty noodle soup for breakfast or lunch is ideal. We found it fully revitalising.
- Some temples such as Angkor Wat have large inside sections, so spend the hot afternoons wandering around in the relatively cool, shady corridors.
Choosing a Guided Cycle Tour of Angkor Wat
If you do want to cycle but also want a guide, there are several well-reviewed and popular cycling tours available*. The most popular tour by far is the sunrise small-group tour*, where you’re collected from your hotel (very) early to watch the sunrise and enjoy a mix of cycling and walking around several temples.
On most tours, you are driven to Angkor Wat and start cycling from there. Additionally, you have the advantage of a tour guide who knows the best routes and can describe the architecture and history of all the temples. However, you can’t go at your own pace (unless you book a private tour*).
How to Hire a Bike in Siem Reap
Many hotels in Siem Reap have bicycles to rent and this is the simplest option. We checked on Booking.com* to see if ‘bike rental’ was included in the hotel description. We also emailed the hotel before we arrived to ask them to reserve two bikes for us.
We stayed at Babel Siem Reap Guesthouse*, a lovely hotel, and rented decent Giant mountain bikes. I’d recommend a mountain bike over a street bike as they’re more comfy and fun, plus there is a bit of ‘off-road cycling on this self-guided cycle route. Also, they’re often only $1-2 more per day.
Our bicycles came with helmets and locks. Some bike rentals do not come with locks. Bring a small bicycle lock if you are worried about this. When leaving our bikes in the small car parks at Angkor Wat, we never felt that it was a dodgy place to leave our bikes as temple security guards are always there.
Bike Rental in Siem Reap
If your hotel does not rent bicycles, there are several bike rental options in Siem Reap. It’s best to call them in advance to arrange your bikes, and some shops even provide delivery service to your hotel.
- Cavar Biking Siem Reap Rental & Tour (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*)
- Blue Sky Bike Rental and Tours (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*)
- Aing Kimsan Bicycle Shop (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*)
- The Smiling Frog Bike Rental (Website)
E-Bike Rental in Siem Reap
You can rent an E-bike, though they can only go 20-30 km before they need recharging, so this can be a worry. You’ll have to stop somewhere for an hour or two during the day to recharge them. Green E-Bike* and Blu E-Bike* are two similar companies renting out nice E-bikes. These E-Bikes are more like tiny electric scooters without pedals, so you don’t do any cycling. Blu is marginally more expensive, but the bikes are bigger and there’s not much to choose from between the two. Their offices are both near the market in central Siem Reap.
How Many Days to spend Cycling around Angkor Wat?
Cycling Tour of the Big Circuit and Small Circuit of Angkor Wat
If you don’t have too much time but would like to see most of the temples in Angkor Wat, then you need at least two days of cycling. The routes around the temples at Angkor Wat have been divided into the Small (Petit) Circuit and Big (Grand) Circuit ever since the French opened Angkor to tourism many years ago. Cycling these routes allows you to see basically all of the main temples and interesting features of the complex.
The Small Circuit Cycle Tour visits all the main temples of Angkor Wat. These are centred around Angkor Thom and include Angkor Wat, the Tomb Raider Temple and the Bayon (many faces temples). The Big Circuit Cycle Tour includes less-visited temples which though still grand, are not quite on the same scale as Angkor Wat. However, the route does feature some nice countryside, a huge lake and secret photo spots.
Small Circuit or Big Circuit first?
I would recommend the Small Circuit on your first day, and the Big Circuit on the following day. The Small Circuit is busier and you will probably be stressing about getting to all the temples. On the second day, cycling around the Big Circuit of Angkor Wat, you can be more relaxed. You can take time to enjoy the countryside, peace and quiet, and the lovely temples that you come across.
Two days of cycling sounds too much…
If you think two days of cycling in the heat is too much, then cycle one day and take a tuk-tuk on the other day. If you do cycle just one day, make it the Big Circuit. I initially thought it would be the other way around because the Grand Circuit is longer. However, the cycle path on the Grand Circuit is much more fun. You get to cycle through the countryside, ‘discover’ temples yourself from the little-used paths in the jungle and can cycle around the Angkor Thom Wall. The Big Circuit has fewer tourists and local traffic as well. It feels like you’re on your own adventure if you cycle.
The Small Circuit is also fun to cycle, but is a lot more about the temples than the cycling. This means it makes slightly less of a difference if you cycle or hire a tuk-tuk.
If you have more time …
If you have more time, you could spend an extra day or two cycling around Angkor Wat. There are some less popular and smaller trails within the complex that you could check out. Additionally, you could spend more time at each temple.
What to bring on a Cycling Tour of Angkor Wat
- Angkor wat Guidebook*
- Cash – at least $10 per person
- Water and snacks
- Phone with Maps.Me
- Rain jacket
- Insect repellent
Remember again, bring a sunhat. We saw many sad tourists dying in the sun because they forgot a sunhat. An umbrella is also not a bad idea to shelter from the strong afternoon sun rays.
Buying a Ticket to Angkor Wat
You can choose 1-day, 3-day or 7-day tickets to visit Angkor Wat. The 3-day ticket is cheaper than two 1-day tickets, so we bought this. Since you came all the way here, spending only 1 day is not enough to see all the temples. We bought our tickets online at the only official ticket seller – don’t buy your tickets elsewhere.
For the online tickets you must upload a passport-style photo of yourself, fill in some details, pay and then print them out. You get an email with the tickets to print immediately after you pay. It was very simple and worked well – you don’t have to worry about queueing or anything for tickets when you arrive. It’s best to print two copies just in case – on our first day our paper ticket got a bit damp, crumpled and slightly ripped. We still used it the second day but by the end, it was barely readable and we wished we had another copy.
You can also buy tickets in Siem Reap from a ticket booth in a random location (see map↑). However, it saves time and hassle to buy your tickets in advance as you can just print them out yourselves. They cost the same amount.
What are the opening hours of Angkor Wat?
Most of the temples at Angkor Wat are open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. Because they are lovely at sunrise, Angkor Wat, Srah Srang, Pre Rup & Phnom Bakheng open earlier at 5 am. Additionally, Pre Rup & Phnom Bakheng also stay open later, until 7 pm, because they are nice for sunset. On our cycling routes, the Small Circuit Route visits Angkor Wat for sunrise and Phnom Bakheng for sunset. The Big Circuit Route visits Srah Srang and then Pre Rup for sunrise.
Brief History of Angkor Wat
Most of the temples inside the Angkor Wat complex were built in the period 802-1431 AD, which is also known as the Angkor Era. This is the time that Cambodian power was at its peak in Southeast Asia. The rulers at the time were either Buddhist or Hindu, and some of the statues inside the complex have been altered from depicting e.g. Buddha to depicting Vishnu.
French archaeologists ‘rediscovered’ Angkor Wat in 1860. They soon began to turn it into a tourist attraction, as well as studying its history. More recently, Lidar mapping (which accurately maps the earth’s surface even through the trees), enabled archaeologists to see many patterns in the grounds near the temples. These new maps show the boundaries of fields, roads and houses. It revolutionized the understanding of Angkor Wat, as archaeologists saw new evidence for the number of people who lived in the temple cities and what kind of lifestyles they led.
Discover the history of Angkor Wat yourself
There are many ways to learn about Angkor Wat yourself, one of the best being a copy of the popular guidebook Ancient Angkor*. Additionally, you can read fiction books set in the area, listen to podcasts and watch documentaries. When you arrive in Siem Reap you can visit the Angkor National Museum (get the audioguide) and discover more just before you visit the temples yourself. Having some understanding of the background and history of the Angkor Wat temples will greatly increase your enjoyment of visiting these fascinating monuments.
This book is an invaluable resource if you make your way self-guided around the temples. You can buy it online and study it beforehand, or it’s available to buy on-site at the entrance to many of the larger temples. It’s slightly old so hasn’t got new information about Lidar mapping or recent discoveries, but it’s still the go-to guidebook and very popular. There’s a great summary at the front of the history, religion and architecture of the site.
It does go into a lot of detail about some things, for example the bas-reliefs (carvings) which I found a bit boring. Additionally, I wouldn’t agree with all the temple ratings. For example, the Bapuon Temple is given 1 star because when the book was written it was overgrown, but now the temple is restored and super cool.
Other ways to learn about the history of Angkor Wat
- Listen to a podcast, such as the BBC In Our Time Angkor Wat episode. It’s perfect to listen to when travelling to Angkor, or before you leave.
- Read a fictional book set here, such as A Woman of Angkor*. It’s easy to read, fast-paced, and brings the grand temples to life.
- Watch a documentary. There are many options on YouTube to learn about the site before you visit.
- Read the description in any Cambodia Guidebook* (Hint -guidebooks to Vietnam often include Angkor Wat as an add-on)
- Visit the Angkor National Museum (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*). This is a museum in Siem Reap and you can spend a couple of hours there. It makes more sense to visit the museum before the temples so you understand what you are about to see and to whet your appetite. The audio tour is definitely worthwhile, there aren’t many written signs.
More about Cambodia and how to reach Siem Reap
Documents to Print for a Trip to Cambodia including Angkor Wat
- E-Visa for Cambodia (apply for this a few weeks in advance)
- Angkor Wat Pass (book this online before your visit)
- SafetyWing Travel Insurance* (or other travel insurance)
- Hotel in Siem Reap Booking Confirmation
- Hotel in Phnom Penh Booking Confirmation (if also staying here)
- Bus tickets* (or any other internal transport you have arranged)
- Passport Copies (in case you lose your passport)
Getting from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Buses from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap take about 6 hours and cost roughly $10-12 per person each way. Most buses in Cambodia are called ‘limousine buses’ and most are ‘VIP’, though they are just the standard buses everyone takes.
To travel efficiently between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap we caught an overnight bus each way. This bus leaves Phnom Penh at 11 pm and arrives in Siem Reap the next day at 5 am (on the way back the timings were identical).
What is the bus like?
If you’re not that tall (around 5ft6) the bus beds are quite comfy. However, if you are very tall (>6ft) the sleeping bus might not be a comfortable experience for you as the bus ‘beds’ are not very long. There are also several buses that go during the day.
You get given a blanket and a small bottle of water. It was initially very hot when we got on the bus, but when it set off the AC turned on and it actually became a bit too cold! I wished for a warmer jumper or an extra blanket. The beds are quite narrow and there isn’t much space to put stuff, so only take onto the bus what you need for the night and your valuables. Big luggage has to go in the main luggage storage space in the coach.
Booking Bus Tickets
We booked tickets with Mey Hong Transport Bus Company (Website, Book with 12GoAsia*). Mey Hong bus company had good reviews online and a very understandable and professional website. It was easy to book tickets online, and we were immediately emailed our tickets. We printed these out to take with us. They already had our names in a book at the bus stations.
Where are the Bus Stations?
Phnom Pen Bus Station
The bus stations themselves were a little random, especially the one in Phnom Penh which is here. It is actually where it comes up if you search google for Mey Hong Transport, in a rather non-descript place. It’s in a shed-like building in a suburb and not that well-signed from the outside. The waiting area did have some useful seats and a restroom (bring your own toilet paper).
We went to the bus stop in a tuk-tuk directly from the airport. Download PassApp and Grab (two versions of Uber but for Cambodia) before arriving and you can use these to book a taxi straight from the airport without the hassle and inflated prices of a normal airport taxi experience.
We arrived early, and after checking in at the bus place, we visited TK Avenue Mall, a rather fancy mall nearby. Some of the cafes/restaurants there stay open late (until 10 pm or later) so you can eat for drink something while waiting for the bus. Make sure to return to the bus stop in good time for the bus departure.
Siem Reap Bus Station
The location of Siem Reap Mey Hong Transport Bus station is shown above (see map↑). It’s quite convenient for the centre of town. There’s seating and a restroom at the back. When your bus arrives in Siem Reap it drops you off on the other side of the road. Greeting you will be many tuk-tuk drivers and tour guides wanting to take you places. This is convenient if your hotel is far away, but ours was just a five-minute walk.
Accommodation in Siem Reap
We stayed at Babel Siem Reap Guesthouse*, a super beautiful place with a focus on sustainability. There’s a lovely pool (amazing to jump into after a hot day cycling) and they rent good bikes (Giant mountain bikes) for a low fee ($5 per person per day). There’s also a cool little restaurant and bar area with good WiFi and chill vibes. Conveniently, it’s also very close to the bus stop we used and not far from the start of the cycle towards Angkor Wat Temple Complex. It’s in a very quiet area and yet also close to the centre of town and many other restaurants and bars. The river is nearby, a nice stroll in the evenings.
Accommodation in Phnom Penh
We stayed at Onederz Hostel* in Phnom Penh. It was definitely a downgrade from Babel Guesthouse* and had the feel of a hostel rather than a boutique hotel. But the rooftop pool was cool and the room totally acceptable and clean. It was near the river, a perfect location in Phnom Penh and close to the centre of everything, yet it was quiet at night and not expensive. There are plenty of other options.
Guidebooks to explore more of Cambodia
Remember to see our detailed description for the Self-Guided Cycling Tour of the Small Circuit and Self-Guided Cycling Tour of the Big Circuit Routes at Angkor Wat. If you want to cycle elsewhere in Asia, there are some great bike rides in Bali.
FAQs for a Self-Guided Cycling Tour of Angkor Wat
To get to Angkor Wat, first head for Siem Reap. Angkor Wat is then a 5 km cycle along a straight, flat road north of town.
Most of the temples at Angkor Wat are open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. Because they are lovely at sunrise, Angkor Wat, Srah Srang, Pre Rup & Phnom Bakheng open earlier at 5 am. Additionally, Pre Rup & Phnom Bakheng also stay open later, until 7 pm, because they are nice for sunset.
Angkor Wat is in Cambodia.
It’s easy to rent a bike in Siem Reap. It’s easiest if you stay at a hotel that does bike rental, and organize with them before you arrive to make sure they have a bike for you. It costs roughly $5 per day for a decent mountain bike. You might find an old road bike for cheaper, but there are some off-road sections and since you’re cycling quite a long way, a comfy mountain bike is nice.
The length depends on how far you want to go. A loop of the small circuit, including the cycle ride from Siem Reap, is 36 km. A loop of the large circuit, again including the cycle from Siem Reap, is 43.5 km. During the day you’ll also walk quite far when you’re exploring all the temples.