When visiting the Angkor Complex in Cambodia, one of the first doubts that come up is whether to take the short circuit or the grand circuit. After visiting the temples and doing both circuits, I must say I recommend the short circuit. If you want to know why, keep reading.
The short circuit includes Bayon (the main temple in the Angkor Thom area), Angkor Wat (of course), and the very impressive Ta Prohm (my personal favorite). While you must have heard about Angkor Wat many times, and you might be aware that Ta Prohm appears in the Tom Raider movie, you probably never heard of Bayon. But our experience there was really great. If you have time, on a day in which you are not doing the circuit, visit Bayon late in the afternoon. Around 4 pm it will still be open, but there will be almost no tourists left. You will have a huge, amazing temple, all for yourself. It feels like being inside an adventure movie.
Angkor Wat is very well preserved, while the huge Ta Prohm temple has been completely taken over by nature. Trees grew up around the buildings, and now they are almost part of the construction. It’s something really unique.
The short circuit is cheaper, it focuses on the best temples, and it’s… well, shorter. That’s something to consider, because it’s really hot in Siem Reap (the Cambodian province where the Angkor complex is located), and since there’s a lot to walk around you’ll be very tired after several hours. With the grand circuit you’ll also get to see Preah Khan, which is, of course, a very spectacular temple. But in my opinion it’s not as amazing as the other three, and it’s not enough to make the grand circuit worthwhile.
You’ll probably want to hire a tuk-tuk driver. Not only it’s cheaper than going by car, but since the tuk-tuks are more open, they are better to see the area. And the air goes through them really well, so you won’t miss the air conditioner. We changed to a car on our last day, and regretted it.
Instead of taking the grand circuit, you could use the second day to visit one of the waterfalls around, as well as the Banteay Srei temple. This is a pink temple, really different from the others, and also very spectacular. It’s a bit far from the Angkor complex, though, so you need to have a full day just for it and one of the waterfalls. But I think it’s more interesting than staying another day visiting only the Angkor complex.
Overall, the Angkor complex is probably the most spectacular historical site I’ve seen until now. The temples are amazing and the combination between the huge historical buildings and the way the jungle tries to take over the place is really spectacular. As I said, you get the best of it with the short circuit, and if you stay more days you can go and visit the waterfalls and the temples around them. It’s a really amazing experience.