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If you want to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat then you need to know these tips and tricks to avoid the crowds and make the most of this incredible sight!
Small Group 8-Hour Sunrise Tour
We went on this Angkor Wat sunrise tour and we highly recommend you check it out so you don’t have to worry about anything but the pictures you take. Getting a small group tour will be more affordable and being in a group really doesn’t affect the sunrise in any way. You also get a 5-6 hour guided tour around some of the best temples in Angkor Wat after sunrise so it ticks so many boxes. You can also get the private version of this tour here.
- Visiting Angkor Wat
- Important Tips For Sunrise At Angkor Wat
- Camera Tips For Sunrise At Angkor Wat
- Our Travel Camera Recommendation
- Best Time To See The Sunrise At Angkor Wat
- General Tips For Visiting Angkor Wat
- Our Tour Experience
- Other Activities In Siem Reap
- Where To Stay In Siem Reap
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Packing List Essentials
Visiting Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is one of the most spectacular things you can see and do in Cambodia. There are few attractions that even come close to its history and beauty. But if you want to make the absolute most of your visit then sunrise at Angkor Wat is the way to do it.
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This guide will go through all of the things you need to know about sunrise at Angkor Wat but remember to also watch the video below so you can actually see where you’ll need to stand to get the best shots.
Also, if you’re looking for accommodation in Siem Reap then check out this fantastic hostel for budget travellers or this incredible hotel for people who want a little more luxury.
Important Tips For Sunrise At Angkor Wat
Who would’ve known seeing sunrise at Angkor Wat would have so many important tips! This is because many thousands of people are known to watch the sunrise each day and if you don’t come prepared then you may miss that picture or that moment you’ve been waiting for.
Pre Purchase Your Tickets
If you want to make the most out of your sunrise at Angkor Wat then you NEED to enter the park when it opens. We visited Angkor Wat during a significant lull in tourism and we still had to wait for our tickets in the morning for about 15 minutes. Imagine what it would be like during normal tourism numbers!
Also, you may see tour companies or sellers advising that they can pick up tickets for you the day before. This is not possible as you need to be present when the tickets are bought as they need your picture on the actual ticket. See this document for clarification.
So basically, do not try to buy your tickets on the morning of the day you want to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. There are a couple of ways you can pre-purchase tickets;
- Make your way to the ticket office on the day before and book your tickets in advance yourself. You must arrive at the ticket office AFTER 4.45 pm as they will not issue a ticket for the following day before this time. The office closes at 5.30 pm so do not leave it too late.
- If you are thinking of going to Angkor Wat for more than one day then there are 3-day and 7-day tickets available for purchase. In this case, I recommend going at a normal time in the morning of the first day, purchasing your tickets and then coming for sunrise on one of the other days.
If you do not pre-purchase your tickets then you are significantly risking missing sunrise at Angkor Wat altogether. If you read the rest of this guide or have watched the video above then you will see that we did not pre-purchase tickets. We did not need to as there were hardly any tourists in Cambodia at the time and we still got to the park whilst it was getting light.
Speak to your tour guide before you go to see if they will be able to help you with this. They might also know the average recent numbers of people visiting Angkor Wat at sunrise so can advise you whether to pre-purchase your tickets or not.
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Entering The Park At Opening Time
If you have pre-purchased your ticket then you should plan your morning to get to the entrance of the park a few minutes BEFORE it opens. This means that the second the park opens you will be able to enter and maximise your chances of getting a decent spot.
The opening time changes throughout the year from around 4 am to 5 am. The official website states that it is only ever 5 am but speak to your driver or tour operator as it is quite frequently earlier than this. There is nothing worse than getting there at 5 am and seeing that a couple of thousand people have already entered the park before you.
Choosing A Spot For Sunrise At Angkor Wat
There are a few really good places to stand and watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. I’ll go through the best 4 here but there is a really good section of our video where I literally show you the places to stand so make sure to check that out as well.
The Left Reflecting Pool – The Number 1 Spot
This is known as the ultimate sunrise at Angkor Wat spot but even at this pool, there is an exact place where you want to stand. The back left (position 1 on the graphic) offers you what is considered to be the best photographic composition of sunrise at Angkor Wat as anywhere else around the pool you will not get the iconic reflection that looks so good.
If you are late then there are some good spots along the right-hand side (position 2 on the graphic) of the left reflecting pool. The composition is still good but you will not get the reflection in the water.
The Right Reflecting Pool – A Close Second
We actually ended up going for the right reflecting pool for our sunrise at Angkor Wat experience as the left reflecting pool was closed for renovation. However, we were incredibly lucky with the weather for our day and managed to get some absolutely beautiful pictures of the sunrise.
If you do no manage to get the ‘perfect’ spot on the left reflecting pool then the right reflecting pool is pretty darn amazing.
The Central Causeway
You may think that this would have taken the top spot but in reality, the view and subsequent composition for photos are a little hampered by the palm trees lining the sides of the causeway.
Needless to say, it is still an amazing place to watch the sunrise and if you’re particularly good at photography, you may be able to use the trees to frame an awesome picture.
The Ancient Libraires
There are two ancient libraries behind the two reflecting pools which offer an elevated position to the sunrise at Angkor Wat. If you just want to watch the sunrise then these two monuments may be the best place to go as they will probably be considerably less busy than the other spots mentions so far.
The photography opportunities are still good but you won’t get the iconic reflection.
When To Stay Until
If you’re going to listen to any of the tips in this sunrise at Angkor Wat guide then let it be this one! I kid you not, most of the crowd completely disperses before the sunrise has even finished, and I guarantee you will be preparing to leave with them.
The sun is up, everything is bright, the day has begun, time to explore the rest of Angkor Wat, right? Wrong.
It takes a while for the sun to actually make it above the temple. This is when you can get the incredible silhouette photos that are so iconic with this beautiful spot.
It only takes an extra 30 minutes or so after everyone starts to leave so just wait it out. If you are going to get pictures then being in a group tour might make this a little difficult as the guide may force you to leave with the group. This is why I highly recommend getting the private tour so you can have more control over how long you stay in certain areas. Check out the private tour here (the one we actually took).
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Taking A Tour
We have been to Angkor Wat twice. The first time we had a driver who took us around and dropped us off at the most popular spots and the second time we opted to go for a sunrise at Angkor Wat tour.
The 1st experience with just a driver was very good but it’s not until you do it with a registered tour guide that you realise how much you are missing out.
Let’s start with the sunrise itself. The guide took us to exactly where we wanted to be and there was no time wasted at all. He then gave us as much time as we needed and even gave us tips about getting the best shots throughout the sunrise.
After this, we then had a guided tour of the same temples that we visited before but learnt SO MUCH about them. It’s staggering the amount of history in this complex and I was so happy that we actually decided to learn a bit about it rather than explore the complex on our own again.
I highly recommend getting a tour and you can book the private tour here and the small group tour here.
Camera Tips For Sunrise At Angkor Wat
Whether you have an amazing full-frame mirrorless or your smartphone, you will be able to capture incredible images of the sunrise at Angkor Wat. If you don’t believe me then take a look at the two examples below.
However, there are some decent tips that should allow you to make the most out of your equipment.
Long Exposure Techniques
If you’ve read any other guides then you will have seen everyone going crazy about long exposure techniques at Angkor Wat. However, I’ll go into a bit more detail here as there is only a very particular time you should be doing this during sunrise at Angkor Wat; and that is when there is still not enough light for your camera.
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This is when the sun is literally just peaking (or even before it peaks) above the horizon. To the naked eye, the sky should still be a deep navy blue, you should be thinking that it is still dark.
If you stick your ISO to its lowest setting and then play around with some long shutter speeds of around 1/2 a second or more, you should be able to create a gorgeous image capturing the subtle hues of reds and purples lighting up behind Angkor Wat.
As the shutter speed is quite long you NEED to have your camera on a tripod as otherwise, it will just be a blurry mess. As soon as the sky has significantly lit up, there is no need for long exposure.
Do not use long exposure if you are trying to get a sharp reflection in the reflecting pools. A long exposure will simply blur the water which will ruin that shot.
If you want to create a silhouette of the sunrise at Angkor Wat then it’s actually quite a simple thing to do. You need to tell your camera to expose correctly to the sun. On a phone just tap the sky or the sun and it will darken the whole image so the sun or sky looks correct. This will make Angkor Wat completely black – aka a silhouette.
If you have a camera then there are a couple of ways to do this. If you are familiar with ‘metering’ then you can ‘spot meter’ onto the sun or sky which will have the same effect or you can simply use the exposure compensation dial (will be a + or -) and you can adjust your exposure until you are happy with the shot.
You may be thinking that you can create the silhouette in post by darkening the image, however, if you have not exposed the sky correctly then it will just be a white sheet and no matter what you do you will not get any of the clouds or incredible contrast back.
Really Fancy Technique
If you want to be really fancy then you could take a picture with the sky and sun correctly exposed and then take a picture with the temple correctly exposed. In post, you could then put them together to get a pretty cool effect of the sun rising behind a fully lit Angkor Wat. I didn’t do it but it’s not a bad idea.
It doesn’t matter how many fancy techniques you use if you don’t put the camera in a good spot, to begin with. Always remember to move the camera around, try different elevations and angles, use what’s around you (like trees and water) and experiment as much as you can.
Our Travel Camera Recommendation
If you don’t have a camera then I HIGHLY recommend the Panasonic Lumix ZS70K. It is an affordable point-and-shoot camera that can be picked up and used by anyone of any ability. The camera captures gorgeous images and surprisingly excellent video whilst fitting in your pocket. The main difference between this and your phone’s camera is that it also has an incredible optical zoom so you won’t miss any of the shots you need to take. Check it out here.
Best Time To See The Sunrise At Angkor Wat
It goes without saying that you will want to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat without complete cloud cover or rain. The dry season in Cambodia is from around December to March but this also coincides with the most tourism.
In a perfect world, you would get a nice clear day during the low season (we got exactly this in June) but it actually rained every single day we were in Cambodia, we were just insanely lucky on the day we went to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat.
Therefore, I recommend going during the dry season from Monday to Friday. Just remember to pre-purchase your tickets and get to the park at opening time!
General Tips For Visiting Angkor Wat
It’s not all about the sunrise at Angkor Wat and you’ll probably have a whole day planned after you have finished with the sunrise. Here are a few tips to get you through the rest of the day.
As Angkor Wat is an exceptionally religious place, they are extremely strict when it comes to wearing the correct clothing. I was literally blown away by the number of people who did not follow these rules. It’s insanely rude and you will not get access to some areas of the temples.
These rules are for everyone, not just women.
- Cover The Knees – Everyone must cover their knees throughout the day. We both chose to wear trousers but you can wear shorts as long as they cover the knee completely.
- Cover The Shoulders – Everyone must be covering their shoulders throughout the day. I do not recommend a shawl for this as they may not allow you entry because you can remove the shawl at any time.
- Cover The Midriff – Do not have an exposed midriff at any point during the day.
You will see many people throughout the day not following these rules but they have gained access to the complex. This is normal but they will not be allowed access to the most interesting parts of the complex, for example, the lookout at the very top of Angkor Wat.
There are many places throughout Angkor Wat to get food but I do recommend taking some breakfast if you are going for sunrise at Angkor Wat. We took some pastries that we had bought the day before and that worked really well.
It will be exceptionally hot throughout the day so I highly recommend taking a decent amount of water with you. You can buy water in the park and if you are with a guide they should also have water for you throughout the day.
Be Respectful Of The Monks
You may see monks walking around the temples. I am sure some of them don’t mind their pictures being taken or being spoken to but remember to ask. It is incredibly annoying when people just take pictures of people without their permission.
Also, women are advised not to approach the monks due to their strict rules surrounding this.
Beware Of The Sun
You will find that there is very little shade in some of the temples and the sun can be very overbearing as the day wears on. I recommend taking a sun hat and putting on a decent factor of sunscreen.
Our Tour Experience
We went with a Full-Day Angkor Wat Sunrise Private Tour with a Guide. We got a tuk-tuk driver and a registered Angkor Wat guide to take us throughout the complex for 8 hours.
In the beginning, the tour made it very simple to arrange our tickets (you should arrange your tickets the day before) and to get to the sunrise spots with time to watch the sun come up behind Angkor Wat.
As it was a private tour we were not rushed and we could stay at the sunrise spot for as long as we wanted which was handy. After sunrise at Angkor Wat, we were taken around 3 different temple locations and were given a very informative guided tour of each of them.
This is one of the most highly-rated agencies in the whole of Siem Reap and we actually did 2 experiences with them that turned out extremely good.
Check out the exact tour we went on here.
Packing List Essentials
Other Activities In Siem Reap
Cooking School In Siem Reap
We took this cooking class in Siem Reap and it was immense. Have a read of our full review for more information.
Where To Stay In Siem Reap
Budget Accommodation – Siem Reap Pub Hostel
Probably the best hostel in all of Seim Reap. Siem Reap Pub Hostel offers mixed dorm rooms as well as private rooms which are all super clean and affordable. It also has a decent pool, bar and communal area. To be honest, it’s exactly what you want in a hostel so look no further if that’s the vibe you’re going for.
Our Recommendation – Central Indochine D’angkor Hotel
The Central Indochine D’angkor Hotel runs quite a few offers throughout the year which makes it an absolute steal for the price. It has everything you could possibly want in a superb hotel so definitely check them out here to see if they currently have an offer.
If they don’t then check out Sam So Boutique Villa as an alternative.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Best Tour To See Sunrise At Angkor Wat?
We recommend getting a private tour – This is the exact tour we went on.
How Long Is The Sunrise At Angkor Wat?
If you get there when it’s still dark and wait until the sun is above the iconic towers then this can last nearly 2 hours. In reality, you’ll probably be there for just over an hour.
Should I Go To Angkor Wat For Sunrise?
Absolutely! We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it’s a great way to start your Angkor Wat experience.
Is Sunrise At Angkor Wat Worth It?
Yes. You have to get up early but once you see it, you won’t regret it.
What’s The Best Spot To See The Sunrise At Angkor Wat?
People say it’s the left reflecting pool but either reflecting pool is exceptional.
It’s a lot of information for just a sunrise, right? Well, once you see it you’ll realise that this is one of the best sunrises you will ever see in your whole life. Let us know in the comments if this guide has been helpful and if you have any improvements that could be made!