Highlight Attractions - Phnom Bakheng


Phnom Bakheng has become most famous as a place to take stunning sunset photos. With spectacular views all around, including Angkor Wat and the town of Siem Reap, this is the place to view much of the surrounding area.


Phnom Bakheng is located in the Angkor group of temples, about 1.3k north west of Angkor Wat, 400 meters south of Angkor Thom and about 6 kilometres north of the town of Siem Reap.

Attraction Information

Phnom Bakheng was built in the late 9th to early 10th century by King Yasovarman I.

Soon after Yasovarman became king, in 889AD, he decided to move the capital from Roluos, 13km southeast of Siem Reap, to the area known today as Angkor. His new capital was named Yasodharapura, and Bakheng was built as his state temple. Because of this, Bakheng is sometimes called the 'first Angkor'.

The temple was dedicated to Shiva Brahmanism, and the name given to the temple and to the king, as the divinity, was Yasodharesvara - “The Lord of (the one) Who Bears Glory”.

The original city of Yasodharapura is barely distinguishable today but, in its day, was even larger than Angkor Thom.

Phnom Bakheng is built on a natural hill. The hill top was first cleared and then the 65 metre high temple was carved into the rock and then faced with sandstone with very steep stairways on all four sides. Today, many of the seated lions, which flanked the steps at each of the five levels, remain but most of the 109 towers have now collapsed.

Access and Surroundings

From the car park, it is about a 15-20 minute walk to the temple, before a steep climb up the temple's steps. Although the new path up to the temple is in good order and well kept, some may find the gradient to be hard work at times.

The hill may also be ascended, or descended, by taking an elephant ride.

Regardless of how you climb the hill, the temple itself can only be accessed by climbing one of the 4 very steep stairs. The workout is well worth it though with spectacular views of the surrounding area, to quite some distance on a clear day.

On a clear day, from the upper platform, it is possible to see: the five towers of Angkor Wat, Phnom Krom to the south west near the great lake, Tonle Sap, Phnom Bok in the north east, Phnom Kulen in the east and the West Baray.

Tourist Tips

You will need an Angkor pass to visit this temple.

The view from this temple should not be missed.

Although the temples close to visitors in the evenings, the road remains open, so you may like to stop to eat some Khmer cuisine at one of the roadside restaurants.

Although not overly necessary, a torch may be a good idea when climbing the hill before dawn or after dark.

Don't be surprised if you encounter large numbers of visitors at dawn or sunset as this is a very popular location at those times.


The best times to visit are morning or sunset, both for sunrise and sunset photos, but also because the temple can get very hot as it is very exposed.

The Angkor area visiting hours are from 5:30am until 5:30pm, but your tuk-tuk driver may want to pick you up at 4:30am to guarantee to get you there for the sunrise. Sunset is at about 5:30pm and your driver will probably want to leave Siem Reap by 4pm.


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