When we visited Cambodia, we were a bit desperate to discover its fascinating temples complex, the Angkor Wat. We wanted to spend hours on end wandering around the temples. However, we didn’t want to be the regular tourists, in a quest to get that perfect-ready-to-share-on-social-media type of photo. Little did we know that we would end up falling in love with Angkor Wat in the rain.
That’s because we were lucky enough to catch a mesmerizing Angkor Wat sunset sprinkled with rain. Trust me, if you mix a sunset with rain together with ancient Hindu temples, then you are in for a treat! So I am here to convince you that you can choose to wake up later (you are on holiday, for the Gods’ sake!), to skip the sunrise over Angkor Wat and just aim for the sunset show!
Angkor Wat – Best Time to Go
Before starting our Cambodian adventure, we tried to research which is the best month to visit Angkor WaI. We don’t usually give so much attention to this aspect when planning a trip. But we wanted to have at least an idea of which is the best time to go to Angkor Wat.
So, if you search for the best time of year to visit Angkor Wat, you will notice that this ain’t the most straightforward task. Because you are not the only one searching for this – there are more than 2 million people per year longing for some great Angkor Wat photos.
In the end, the fight goes between two main characters: the dry season and the rainy season. Siem Reap (the central hub for the temples) experiences both seasons each year.
The dry season runs from November to April, and then the rains make their way from May until October. The rains are usually the scary factor that chases tourists away. We met one couple that had visited Angkor Wat in June and told us that they were drenched continuously by the pouring rain.
But at the same time, visiting the temples during the dry season, especially in December or January, means you most likely be surrounded by tons of travelers.
We chose to visit at the end of October, which is typically considered the wettest month. But the Gods were on our side, and we didn’t have as much rain as we expected. We had two nights of heavy rain and only a couple of hours of light rain during the day.
However, I wouldn’t say October is the best time to visit Angkor Wat as the temperatures were really high. And the humidity was not helping at all, we were sweating like pigs all the time.
But we had a great advantage – the lack of tourists. We have numerous photos where it looks as if we were the only ones there. That’s because we did enjoy some time by ourselves at a couple of temples. So, in the end, we were glad we chose a hot month and the sweating was well worth it!
But what is Angkor Wat and why all the fuss about it?
It’s actually difficult to provide an Angkor Wat definition because for us it was one of the most incredible places we visited. The Angkor site is a complex of initially Hindu temples, which later became Buddhist places of worship.
The Angkor Wat, allegedly the world’s largest religious monument, is the biggest temple (and the most famous), built at the beginning of the 12th century A.D. It also proudly represents Cambodia on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
What’s so impressive about Angkor is its size. The complex stretches over more than 400 km² and gives visitors the feeling that they are on a movie set. It used to be the capital of the Khmer Empire and unfortunately suffered terrible damages during the violent rule of the Khmer Rouge regime and also because of earthquakes.
In order to get a real feel of the place and understand it, you should allow yourself at least three days. Don’t underestimate it! If I were to describe Angkor Wat in one word it would probably be – overwhelming. Because this is exactly how we felt after only one day of wandering around the temples. I mean you can try and do a three-day tour, or even just a one day tour, but you will definitely wish you had stayed longer.
However, our Angkor driver (a very nice tuk-tuk driver which we hired to take us from one place to another) told us that the complex must be savored properly. To try and understand its history, its architecture (by the way, the huge sandstone bricks used in building the temples were not bond by using mortar, but with a natural compound), to fully explore it. And this for us included experiencing a sunset at Angkor Wat.
To go or not to go to Angkor Wat at sunset
I have to admit that I have a soft spot for sunsets. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t chase them. It’s not that I go searching for what season has the best sunsets or how and when the sunset can be enjoyed in a certain place. But we have to face it, the sun does set on a daily basis. It’s up to us whether we want to witness this majestic natural phenomenon or not.
When visiting Siem Reap, you will notice that almost every agency will offer you either an Angkor Wat sunrise tour or a sunset tour. There are tons of travelers fighting for that perfect shot of the sunrise over Angkor Wat. And you will see them trying to find that best place for sunset. Angkor Wat has so many viewpoints that it’s actually to fail in getting a great photo.
Initially, we thought of skipping the Angkor Wat sunrise. We were either feeling too tired or the rains washed away any hope of a clear sky. And we were on the verge of making the same decision for the sunset.
But something made us change our minds and in our last day in Siem Reap, we decided to jump in a tuk-tuk and catch the sunset. The tuk-tuk driver told us that we won’t see much as there were some really angry clouds in the sky and some serious winds. However, we simply ignored him and asked him to speed up as it was already too late.
When Angkor Wat becomes Angkor Wet
The moment the tuk-tuk driver dropped us in front of Angkor Wat, I told Vlad that we will probably have a raining sunset. And my inner Nostradamus was right. We barely managed to take a photo when the rain started seriously.
We started running towards the temple to take cover but our sunset rain managed to drench us. Everybody was trying to take shelter inside the temple when all of the sudden there was silence. We were all in awe as we were watching the incredible show in front of us.
On one side the sky was embellished with a perfect rainbow. On the other side, towards the temple (remember, it faces the sunset, not the sunrise), we had a game of colors. The temple had different shades than the day before because of the rain.
It sounds cliché, but it truly was a perfect rain! And so we got convinced that yes, Angkor Wat deserves to be enjoyed at sunset. And in our case, it was an exceptional example of perfect pairing between rain and sunset.
Eulogy for our sunset in rain
Thus, we learned our lesson not to underestimate some touristic clichés. Sometimes you just have to follow your instinct and do what you feel. In our case, chasing the sunset turned out to be far from a story about clear blue skies. It was the story of a perfect moment. One with spicy ingredients: a fierce rain, angry clouds, tremendous wind and unforgettable colors. So, thank you for the rain, Gods of Angkor! You sure gave us some great memories.
What about you? Where did you get to experience the most wonderful sunset of your life?