x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

See Angkor, not crowds

I am interested in visiting the temples of Angkor in Cambodia but I have heard that the site is full of tourists. Is there any way of escaping the crowds?

I am interested in visiting the temples of Angkor in Cambodia but I have heard that the site is full of tourists every day and that the most popular temples are packed with of people. Is there any way of escaping the crowds? The Angkor Archaeological Park contains the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer empire, dating from the ninth to the 15th century. The extraordinary beauty of temples such as Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom and Bayon has drawn millions of tourists to the site in recent years, and it is true that on most days the car park is filled with coaches. With tarmacked roads connecting the biggest and most famous temples, most visitors travel to and from the site by motorised vehicle, making for a less than relaxing experience.

One way of avoiding the crowds is to hire a bicycle from your hotel in Siem Reap and make the 20-minute journey to the site on two wheels. Once you are inside the park, you can then explore at your own pace. Another simple measure you can try is to visit the park first thing in the morning before most of the tour groups arrive and the crowds begin to swell. Lunchtimes, too, can be a good time to savour the peace and quiet as most tour parties return to their hotels for lunch (eating facilities within the park are limited to simple shacks selling noodles).

Once you have seen the main temples, it's easy to avoid the crowds. The Angkor Archaeological Park covers 400 square kilometres and you could easily fill a week just visiting the outlying temples, most of which see only a handful of visitors every day. You will, however, need to hire a rickshaw driver or private guide to take you to the sites, as most of the outer temples are too far to get to by bike. Banteay Srey is some 30km north-west of Angkor Wat and your car or rickshaw driver will charge you about an extra US$10 (Dh37) to take you there.

Alternatively, you could join a small-group organised trip to take you on a cycling tour of both the main and the outlying temples. For example, Active Travel Cambodia (www.activetravelcambodia.com; 0084 43573 8569) offers a six-day tour in a small group from $655 (Dh2,405) per person including food, accommodation, bike hire and park entrance fees. Organised trips are also available through Responsible Travel (www.responsible travel.com) from $420 (Dh1,500) for four days including accommodation, transport, guides and admission fees.

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