Sunrise can be one of the most majestic times to experience Angkor Wat. A kaleidoscope of purples, reds, oranges, and yellows fill the sky and reflecting pools, framing one of the most extraordinary wonders of our world. In order to experience this awe-inspiring moment, however, you need to plan. The sun rises early, after all, and Angkor Wat is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world.
Check the weather
This should be obviously, but there is no reason to wake up early if there’s no chance of a good sunrise. While you can’t predict the future, there are plenty of weather apps that do a good job of providing hourly forecasts. Look for clear skies to partly cloudy, and pray for good colors.
Buy your tickets the day before, or hire a guide
The ticket office typically starts selling tickets for the next day around 5:00 pm. Arrive at the ticket office around 4:45 pm to be one of the first to purchase tickets for the following morning. If you are unable to purchase tickets a day in advance, the ticket office opens at 5:00 am, so make sure you are one of the first in line when it opens. Your other option is to hire to handle all of the details for you. This can be a hassle-free way to ensure you have tickets to the main event, as well as transportation.
Plan your ideal viewing location
The reflecting pool just to the left of the main temple complex typically holds the best location for photographs. The reflecting pool on the right is also good, however in our experience it is more likely to be dry during certain parts of the season. Also, be mindful of the lily pads. Nothing ruins the reflection in your photos faster than a lack of actual water to create the reflection. If you are able, scope out your ideal location a day or two prior to your sunrise viewing. This will give you a good game plan in order to efficiently find your ideal location when you arrive early in the morning.
Leave early, and establish your viewing location
Sunrise at Angkor Wat is popular, to say the least, and you will likely find yourself in a large crowd of people. In order to ensure you get a good viewing location, leave your Siem Reap hotel early, at least by 4:30 am. Additionally, unless you are a tall person, be prepared to fend off crowds vying for position. Typically, if you can establish a place by the water’s edge you should be fine. Do be aware that people have taken to standing on rocks a few steps into the water, so try to be away from those areas, and don’t be afraid to nicely request people to move if they’re blocking your view.
After sunrise, tour the temple
Use the remainder of the cool morning air to tour the temple in a more relaxing setting. The light from the rising sun will begin to highlight various areas of the temple for amazing effects, and you’re more likely to find areas with little to no tourists at such an early hour. That said, the line to climb the towers forms very early. It is a good idea to check its length, but we recommend planning a second visit, or simply leaving adequate time for the queue.