Angkor Cycling Tour: Three days of temples by bicycle (self-guided)

Visiting Angkor Wat is one of the highlights of South East Asia. And the best way to see Angkor Wat is by bike.

The temples of Angkor top every Southeast Asia bucket list, and for many travelers, are the sole reason to go backpacking in Cambodia. Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat, exploring the mysterious faces of the Bayon, climbing over the tree roots that have overtaken Ta Prohm…the list of iconic Angkor moments goes on and on. While most travelers see the temples by hiring a tuk tuk, by far the best way to experience them is with a self-guided Angkor cycling tour.

 

In this post, I’ll explain why you should consider cycling at Angkor. I’ll lay out the perfect itinerary to make the most of your visit to the temples. And I’ll end with a few practicalities. I hope this post inspires you to take on the temples on your own two wheels!

 

Why cycle around the ruins of Angkor?

 

Cycling is cheaper than Angkor Wat tours by tuk tuk.
Cycling around Angkor Wat allows you to go at your own pace, rather than following a tuk tuk driver’s itinerary.

 

I know what you’re thinking — Cambodia is hot, and the Angkor temple complex is huge. So why would you want to see Angkor by bicycle instead of hiring a tuk tuk to drive you around in comfort?

 

Well, a few reasons. For one, hiring a tuk tuk is expensive. Figure on $15-25 per day for tuk tuk tours, depending on how far you want to go and if sunrise is included. Add that up over a few days and it ends up being well outside a backpacker budget. Even if you share with someone (the tuk tuks can hold a maximum of two people), it’s still pricey. In contrast, bicycle hire costs $2 per day.

 

Additionally, the tuk tuk drivers have well-established routes and a sense of how long you should spend at each temple along the way. While the drivers’ recommendations can be helpful sometimes, many travelers complain about feeling rushed. Sure, you can negotiate a more personalized trip. But you’ll have far more flexibility if you explore Angkor Wat by bike.

 

Finally, an Angkor Wat bike tour is the best way to get a true grasp of how vast this ancient city was. Zipping around in a motorized vehicle all day, you can easily lose your perspective on the scale of the place. Plus your entire experience will be colored by the sound of an engine revving up. With a bicycle, you can enjoy those quiet moments between temples, while gaining an increased respect for the work it must’ve taken to build a city at this scale before any machinery existed.

 

How many days do you need for an Angkor cycling tour?

 

Take three days for your Angkor Wat cycling tour so you don't feel rushed.
The ideal Angkor travel itinerary if you’re biking is three days — so you can see the further-out temples.

 

If you hire a tuk tuk at Angkor, you could reasonably expect to cover most of the main sights in a day. You’d be rushed, and you’d miss out on the more outlying temples, but you could do it.

 

Not so much with a bicycle. You need more time to “see it all.”

 

I highly recommend spending three days at Angkor to thoroughly explore by bicycle. This will allow you to keep a relaxed pace, see some of the outlying temples, and check off everything on the Little and Big Circuits. Plus, the three day Angkor ticket is the best value for money — at $62 vs. $37 for one day.

 

Don’t worry too much about getting “templed out” (the traveler phenomenon of seeing so many temples that they all start to look the same). Angkor is so impressive that you’ll be every bit as amazed by the temples you visit on the third day as on the first.

 

The perfect three day Angkor cycling itinerary

 

This Angkor Wat bike tour will take you to all the main temples and a few more off-the-beaten-path ones.
This Angkor bike tour will take you to all the main temples and a few more off-the-beaten-path ones.

 

My self-guided Angkor cycling tour starts slow and saves the best for last. It takes you to some early temples that see fewer visitors, around all the main highlights, and culminates with sunrise at Angkor Wat on the last day.

 

This cycling guide rewards patience. You’ll be tempted to go straight to Angkor Wat when you arrive. But if you do that, the more modest temples will seem unimpressive and boring. Trust me, the main attraction has far greater impact when you save it for last.

 

Day 1: Roluos Group and part of the “Big Circuit”

 

Don't forget the small temples on your Angkor Wat bicycle tour.
Save visiting Angkor Wat for the third day. Start at the smaller temples and work your way up.

 

Get an early start this morning — it’s going to be a long day. Have breakfast at your guest house or in Siem Reap and pick up your rented bicycle first thing. This first day combines some of the earlier temples with a couple of the biggest highlights of the complex, but it logs a lot of kilometers on the bike.

 

Your first stop is the Angkor ticket office. It’s about 4 km outside Siem Reap, on a side road off the main road to Angkor Wat. This is the only place to buy tickets in the entire complex, and you cannot purchase them in advance — the clock starts on the day you buy them. You can use cash or a credit card. The office opens by 5:30 am, but if you’re here by 8:30 am, you’ll be in good shape.

 

Roluos Group

 

Your destination for the morning is the Roluos Group of temples. The three temples here are the earliest ones open to visitors in the entire archaeological park. While they lack the grandeur of Angkor Wat, they’re still intricately carved and beautiful, and they’re more off the beaten track than the main temples — they don’t even make it into many Angkor travel guides.

 

The only downside? They’re about 15 km away from the ticket office. Still, this is an easy morning trip and well worth the diversion.

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To get here from the ticket office, cycle along the main road west (Rd. #60) until you reach a roundabout. Take the right-hand exist to go south on Route 67. After 2.5 km, you’ll hit the main road to Phnom Penh — take a left here and follow it until you see the signs for the Roluos Group. The full ride takes about an hour.

 

The main attraction here is Bakong, the most impressive of the early temples. It’s a symbol of Mt. Meru. Some of the plasterwork here dates to the original construction, and it has several impressive stupas. The other two temples in the group are Preah Ko and Lolei — both worth visiting, but both in a state of disrepair, as they were built with less durable materials.

 

Preah Khan

 

From the Roluos Group, you have the longest ride of this Angkor cycling itinerary ahead of you to the next stop — Preah Khan. Double back toward the Angkor ticket office, but instead of turning left at the roundabout on Rd. 60, keep going north. You’ll eventually hit Rd. 661 (it’s small!), which will take you into the temple complex near Ta Prohm. Keep heading north and follow the signs to Preah Khan. Look for somewhere to stop for lunch along the way — the restaurants in the Angkor complex are more expensive.

 

Preah Khan is one of the largest temples of Angkor and is well-preserved. Better yet, it sees fewer visitors than most others on the Big Circuit. One of the highlights of this temple is it’s a true blend of Hindu and Buddhist iconography, as is visible in styles of the main entrance gates. (East = Buddhist, North/South/West = Hindu.)

 

The complex is huge — the walls are nearly a kilometer long — and you could easily spend an hour exploring.

 

Preah Neak Pean

 

Next, it’s a short 3 km hop east to Preah Neak Pean. This small temple is one of the best examples of water and statuary work in the complex.

 

The temple’s name (also spelled Neak Poan) means “entwined serpents.” You’ll see why when you encounter the water basin with a monument of two naga with their tails linked at its center. Other key features are water spouts in the shape of an elephant’s head, and some lovely bas reliefs.

 

This is one of the smaller temples on today’s Angkor cycling itinerary, so you can breeze through in under half an hour.

 

Ta Som

 

Your next stop is another short ride away — the atmospheric, overgrown temple of Ta Som. While Ta Prohm is the most popular Angkor temple for seeing the jungle overtake the ruins, Ta Som is a less crowded and equally photogenic alternative.

 

The famous tree is at the eastern gate. Beyond this, the temple has few notable features — snap your photo and continue on your Angkor Wat bike tour.

 

Eastern Mebon

 

It’s another quick 3.5-km ride to your next stop — the Eastern Mebon. This temple is known for its elephant guardians and for being one of the few you can climb.

 

The temple was once surrounded by a moat, but now it’s on dry land. It was also never fully completed, and you can see the various stages of construction if you walk around the outside.

 

This one is another quick stop — you only need 15 minutes or so to see it.

 

Pre Rup

 

The final stop on day 1 of this Angkor cycling itinerary is Pre Rup, one of the most popular sunset spots in the temple complex and a little over 1 km south from the Eastern Mebon. Even if you don’t stay for sunset, it’s a great place to visit in the late afternoon light.

 

The highlight of this temple is the detailed carvings on the towers. It may once have been a crematorium.

 

If you want to stay for sunset, get here by 4:30 pm — it gets very crowded.

 

After you visit Pre Rup, you’re done for Day 1! Continue south on the road through the temple complex, around to just before Angkor Wat, and take the main road back into Siem Reap. Find yourself a cold drink and some food!

 

Day 2: The “Little Circuit”

 

One of the best parts of Angkor travel is that first glimpse of stunning Ta Promh.
Ta Prohm is one of the highlights of an Angkor Wat cycling tour.

 

You can sleep in a little bit this morning — it’s the shortest day of your Angkor Wat cycling tour. But don’t worry, it still packs a big punch. Get ready to see some of the biggest highlights of Angkor.

 

The “Little Circuit” is “only” 17 km long. In a rush, you could cover it in half a day. But you’ll enjoy it more if you spread it out over a full day, broken up with a leisurely lunch at one of the restaurants in the complex. If you’re on a tight budget, bring snacks — the food inside Angkor is expensive.

 

Cycle through Angkor Thom

 

This morning starts with a short ride through the heart of the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Head straight toward Angkor Wat from Siem Reap and take a left once you reach it — ride along the main road parallel to the temple. Don’t stop today; tomorrow you’ll explore this area more thoroughly.

 

You’ll ride past the iconic Bayon, the Terrace of Elephants, and other important ruins in this city before exiting via the eastern “Victory Gate.”

 

Chao Say Tevoda and Thommanon

 

The first stop this morning is at the small, fully renovated temple of Chao Say Tevoda. It’s really just one room. This is a great example of typical Khmer architecture.

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You’ll only need about 15 minutes here to check it out and snap a few photos.

 

Next, go just 200 meters north to Thommanon, the sister temple to Chao Say Tevoda. You could even leave your bike at the latter and walk this route, which would give you a good sense of how huge this ancient city really is.

 

Thommanon is a small temple dedicated to Siva and Vishnu, and is among the more well-restored temples in the complex. Again, it’s fairly small — you need about 15 minutes to see it — but notable for its similarities to Angkor Wat itself.

 

Spean Thma

 

This enormous stone bridge is the only one left of its kind of the Angkor temples. When Angkor Thom was first constructed, dozens of these bridges spanned the city. (The water levels were much higher back then.) Today, most have fallen apart.

 

You can still see the arches in the bridge today, as well as a large water wheel nearby. This is another quick visit — 15 minutes is plenty.

 

Ta Keo

 

Another kilometer away is the half-finished temple of Ta Keo. This is a fascinating look at Khmer construction styles in ancient days. Theories abound about why it was never completed — including bad omens due to a lightning strike, the death of the ruler, and poor choice of materials.

 

The architectural style is very typically Khmer, but Ta Keo is also quite large. The largest tower is nearly 50 meters high. The monument was dedicated to Siva.

 

This is one temple worth taking your time at — allow half an hour.

 

Ta Nei

 

Ta Nei is the one Angkor temple where the journey is every bit as great as the destination. Instead of taking a tuk-tuk-clogged paved path, you reach this temple on a 1.5-km jungle road. Far fewer tourists head in this direction relative to the rest of the Little Circuit.

 

The road is good enough to cycle on, and the views of the forest are great. It’s easy to imagine what this area was like before the collapse of the Khmer empire.

 

The temple itself is simple and covered in roots and vines. It’s refreshingly peaceful, if not the most spectacular temple of this Angkor cycling tour.

 

Between cycling to and from the temple and visiting it, you’ll need about an hour for this trip. Head back the way you came to reach the main road.

 

Ta Prohm

 

Take your bicycle south 2.5 km to reach the highlight of today’s Angkor cycling itinerary. Ta Prohm is one of the most beautiful temples in the entire Angkor complex, and one of the most popular. Don’t expect to have it yourself — but don’t even think about skipping it because of the crowds.

 

The temple has spent the last millennium losing ground to the massive trees surrounding it. The roots and vines now clog many of the doorways, windows, and sections of roof. Entire stone blocks are held in place solely by the trees. It’s otherworldly.

 

Ta Prohm was an important Buddhist temple in its heyday, with as many as 80,000 worshipers. When you can see them through the moss, bas reliefs depict its importance. You can explore many of the corridors, but others are blocked by trees or fallen stones. The restoration work is dedicated to preserving the forest as well as the temple.

 

Take your time at Ta Prohm, especially if you like photography. You could spend over an hour — maybe even two hours — exploring.

 

Banteay Kdei

 

Once you’ve hand your fill of jungle vibes, hop back on your bike and cycle 1 km south to Banteay Kdei. This Buddhist monastery sees few visitors, but is one of the largest and most impressive at Angkor.

 

Take a walk around the monastery to see each of the main gopuras (gates), which are decorated with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara. This walk will take you about an hour. Along the way, stop to check out the views over the royal baths known as Sra Srang. The baths used to contain a temple in the center, but it’s no longer there.

 

Prasat Kravan

 

Most of today’s Angkor cycling itinerary has been about impressive temples. So finish it up with one of the best displays of carving and storytelling in the complex, second only to Angkor Wat itself.

 

Prasat Kravan is 1.6 km south of Banteay Kdei along the road back to Angkor Wat. It doesn’t look like much from the outside. But the interior carvings are magnificent. They tell stories of Vishnu and Laskhmi, his consort, including the legend of Vishnu’s dwarf incarnation encapsulating the world with three giant steps.

 

You can see all of the carvings at Prasat Kravan in about an hour.

 

And with that, the second day of your Angkor cycling tour is over! Go back to Siem Reap and spend the rest of the afternoon by a pool (or in some air conditioning). Go to bed early — you have a very early morning tomorrow!

 

Day 3: Angkor Wat for sunrise and Angkor Thom

 

Bayon Temple is not just about the faces -- the bas reliefs are amazing too.
Bayon Temple and its mysterious faces are incredible.

 

This is it — what the previous two days have been building towards. Today, you’ll see all the main highlights of the Angkor complex. And it all begins with an Angkor Wat sunrise.

 

Angkor Wat

 

Even if you’ve cycled past it a few times already, nothing can match your first real glimpse at Angkor’s largest and most iconic temple. The best way to see this Wonder of the World is to get here for sunrise. This involves leaving Siem Reap at about 5 am. I’m ashamed to admit that I missed it, and I’ve never really stopped regretting it — so even if you’re not a morning person, GO.

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As spectacular as Angkor Wat is from the outside, it’s just as amazing from the inside. The entire interior is covered with spectacular bas reliefs depicting legends from the Ramayana. The level of detail is simply astounding — walk in a counter-clockwise direction to view them as they were originally intended, and keep an eye out for the heavenly nymphs that appear throughout.

 

Allow at least two hours for visiting Angkor Wat, not including watching the sunrise. But every minute you spend here is worth it.

 

Angkor Thom

 

As impressive as Angkor Wat is, it faces stiff competition from the ruins in the heart of the ancient city of Angkor Thom. This massive development was the center of Khmer power for hundreds of years. It’s surrounded by city walls (and formerly a moat). Even if you just check off the main monuments, you’ll need half a day to explore.

 

You’ll enter the ancient city through the South Gate, which is also the best-restored. From here, cycle 1.8 km to reach the first major monument — the Bayon, the most famous and mysterious Buddhist site in the park. Its 216 faces of Avalokiteshvara are the most prominent feature, but the temple also features a full 1.2 km of bas reliefs. You need about two hours to see everything, starting from the ground level, making your way up through the bas relief halls, until you reach the top level with its faces and towers.

 

Next, cycle 1 km west to reach the Baphuon, a multilevel temple linked to the main road via a 200 meter walkway. You can climb all the way to the top level, which takes about an hour from the main road.

 

Continue 500 meters north to the Terrace of Elephants. This is exactly what it sounds like — although in its prime, it was the main gathering place for ceremonies. Another couple hundred meters north is the Terrace of the Leper King, most famous for its nude statue at the center, but also featuring additional bas reliefs.

 

The final stop on your trip through Angkor Thom is Preah Palilay, a small temple 800 meters northwest. It’s another jungle-takes-over-the-temple spot, but worth visiting as one of the few temples inside the walled city.

 

And with that, you’re at the end of this Angkor cycling itinerary! If you have more time (and energy!), double back and explore Bayon Temple or Angkor Wat some more before riding back to Siem Reap. It’s been a long three days, but you’ll feel an amazing sense of accomplishment at having powered your own way through these temples.

 

Renting a bicycle in Siem Reap

 

Siem Reap guesthouses all rent bicycles for cheap.
You can rent a bicycle for $1-2 per day from any guesthouse in Siem Reap.

 

Renting bikes in Siem Reap is as easy as walking down the street or going to your guesthouse. Many shops and almost all guesthouses rent them out for $1-2 per day. (Note: “Day” is usually defined as morning-to-evening, so if you want to keep the same bike overnight, you may pay slightly more.)

 

Rental shops provide you with a lock and sometimes a helmet. Chain locks are best — the temples don’t have bike racks, so you’ll usually have to find a tree or a sign. Rental companies may keep your passport as a deposit, while your guesthouse will probably just ask for an extra $20 to hold until you return the bike.

 

If you aren’t up for cycling all under your own power, you can also rent an e-bike. This costs $10 per day, and you can recharge at several stations throughout the archaeological park.

 

Weather and roads during your Angkor cycling trip

 

You'll have to contend with heat and humidity during an Angkor cycling tour, but no hills.
Angkor is fairly hot and humid, but at least the roads are flat.

 

First, the good news: Most of the roads you encounter on an Angkor cycling trip are flat and well-maintained. You may occasionally have to ride on a dirt road, but even those are usually in good shape — no potholes or giant stones. (This may be slightly different in rainy season.) If you ride out to the Roluos Group, you’ll have to take main highways — but in Cambodia “highway” is really just a busy road, and the shoulders are plenty wide enough for cyclists. You’ll even meet tons of kids riding to school.

 

Now, the bad news: the heat and humidity in Cambodia can be unbearable. Angkor is in a tropical climate, after all. Bring more water than you think you’ll need or buy it along the way. Dress for the weather — merino wool clothes are best, as they’re quick-drying and help keep you cool. Pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

 

The best time to visit Angkor to avoid the worst heat is November-February. In March, the thermometer regularly tops 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I did this Angkor cycling itinerary in March and found the first day to be very long in the heat, but still doable.

 

Overall, cycling Angkor Wat and the rest of the complex is a great way to see these spectacular temples. You’ll save money and have more flexibility than taking a tuk tuk, but you’ll still be able to reach the further-out temples. If you like to be active on your holidays, you should surely consider a cycling tour of Angkor!

 

Have you visited the temples of Angkor? Did you hire a tuk tuk or moto, or take a bike? Leave a comment!

 

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Visiting Angkor Wat is a Southeast Asia bucket list item. The best way to see Angkor Wat is by bicycle. This three-day self guided Angkor Wat tour will help you plan your dream trip. #cambodia #southeastasia #travel

 

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April
3 years ago

I agree. There’s nothing like cycling around Angkor Wat. You have so much more freedom to stop at any time to take in the scenery or a group of monkeys near the road. I rode a bike for 2 of the 3 days I was there. I’ll admit, I hired a tuk tuk to do the Grand Circuit as I hadn’t been on a bike in years and I needed some rest (though going through all those temples is a workout in of itself). Yes, you have that annoying motor noise and the views are blocked by the driver and… Read more »

Melissa
3 years ago

Ahhh great post! We just arrived in Siem Reap and are going to do a version of this itinerary over the next 3 days. Thank you so much for all the helpful info!

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[…] book a visa run through a travel agency for about $25 to renew, or just hop over to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. Both of these options are cheaper and faster than visa […]

Jaya
Jaya
3 months ago

Hey big thanks for this 😀

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