Sunrise at Angkor Wat – A Self-Led Adventure

Witness the magic of sunrise at Angkor Wat with this self-led journey so you can take in the beauty without the crowds of pushy tourists.

Catching the vivid colors erupt behind the silhouette of the world’s largest temple is an unforgettable experience. Catching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is an incredible bucket-list event, that brings out thousands of people a day! The best part is you can witness all the magic without getting caught in these massive tour groups. 

With the right planning and a very early start, you can have an incredible experience in Siem Reap to dodge the crowds, save money, and move at your own pace.

Be prepared for everything that is awaiting you at Angkor Wat, and learn more about the secrets hidden in these ancient temple grounds. 

Sunrise at Angkor Wat with pink skies

Table of Contents

Check out the best list of 20 unique things to do in Siem Reap!

Best Time to Visit Angkor Wat for Sunrise

Time of Day

If you want to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat you’ll need to plan for an early morning. Plan to leave Siem Reap before 5:00 am and head straight to the complex (buy your tickets in advance!)

Sunrise times fluctuate between 5:30 am to 6:30 am throughout the year, so always plan to arrive around 45 minutes before the sun rises to get a good spot and catch the early morning colors. The earlier you are, the more likely you’ll beat the crowds of tour buses and groups!

Time of Year

Depending on when you go to Angkor Wat, you will have a different experience based on the cloud cover, colors in the sky, and crowds.

Dry Season (November-April) tends to be best for sunrise colors. With less moisture in the sky, there is a lower chance of clouds obscuring the view of the sun, and a more crisp array of colors. However, to get the colorful sunrise you’re dreaming of, there need to be some clouds in the sky to catch the sun’s rays.

This is also the hotter time of year, so be prepared for scorching days as you explore after sunrise!

Wet Season (March-October) may have unique cloud formations for a dramatic sunrise. However, you may also get completely clouded out and not get any colors at all. It is very important during this time of year to look at daily forecasts to guarantee a successful sunrise before you choose to lose sleep!

Equinoxes. Every spring and autumn equinox, the sunrise aligns perfectly with the central tower of Angkor Wat. It’s no coincidence, the ancient architects and astrologers who constructed this massive temple planned it that way! 

I witnessed the sunrise at Angkor Wat during the Spring Equinox of 2024, and it was magical. It felt other-worldly and so impressive that they could construct such a massive structure with a high degree of accuracy. 


Alignment of the sun during the sunrise at Angkor Wat on the spring equinox

How To Get to Angkor Wat for Sunrise

Private Tour

Many people opt to join a tour group for either the ‘small circuit’ or the ‘grand circuit’. This is a 5-8 hour experience, costing you about $35, taking you to between 4-8 of the complex’s most famous temples. 

The many people I’ve talked to that went this route came back exhausted, drained, and completely ‘templed-out’. They started the tour with sunrise at Angkor Wat and progressed to other temples throughout the heat of the day. 

Almost everyone who valued the experience of seeing Angkor Wat said if they could do it again, they would go on their own. Which leads to the best options.


“Tuk-tuk? You go to see temple? Maybe tomorrow?”

The call of the drivers is hard to miss walking the streets of Siem Reap. Which makes it easy to find a driver! They can be your escort throughout the day, taking you exactly where you want to go while also guiding how to beat the crowds.

A tuk-tuk ride at sunrise will cost you about $8 round-trip. This price increases if you want to be there longer and explore more temples after!

Motorbike Rental

Motorbike rental was our favorite way to explore the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We could go at our own pace, stop where we wanted, and we felt completely immersed in our surroundings.  

Motorbike rentals are the cheapest option for transport since they only cost about $7/day and can be shared between 2 people!

I've seen some blogs say 'it's illegal for tourists to drive motorbikes in the complex'... that is completely untrue! Just be sure to wear a helmet and follow all road signs (some roads are a one-way during morning hours)


The Angkor Wat complex is about 6km from the city center of Siem Reap. The cycle over takes about 30 minutes (and there is a fun side path towards the end of the Charles de Gaulle road). 

Bikes have access to a lot of the complex that motorized vehicles don’t. You can park right at the temple entrances, and explore hidden paths between temples for a unique experience in the dense jungle!

Many accommodations provide bicycles for free, or they are only $6/day to rent!

Girl on a bicycle at the east gate of Angkor Wat
Cycling through the East Gate of Angkor Thom

Best Spot to see Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Reflection Pools

The “best” photo spot is at the left reflection pool. Unfortunately, this pool is under renovation until 2026, and has a massive fence built up around it! So, the right pool is your best bet.

To get here and get a good spot where you can see the reflection without anyone else in front of you, expect to arrive at the temple at least 45 minutes before sunrise. Once the tour buses start pulling in, the crowds flock to this area!

Main Gate

This is where professional photographers line up with their tripods and telephoto lenses to capture the sunrise at the earliest possible moment. It is great if you have a high-quality camera with a zoom lens, but won’t be that great with any standard camera. The main gate is shown in the photo below, and gets very crowded very early!

Temple Entrance

For a unique photo spot, head directly to the entrance of Angkor Wat. There will be a sign saying “Do not pass” which prevents tourists from entering the temple until 6:15 am when it is moved. 

This spot is best for mornings when there may not be great colors, but you want to make sure there are no people in the shot. It also allows you to be the first one to enter the temple for a completely different unique experience!

East Side Angkor Wat

While most people try to capture the sunrise at Angkor Wat on the west side, where the sky’s colors illuminate behind the temple’s silhouette, you can have a solo experience on the east as the golden rays illuminate the temple for a different experience! This is great, especially for mornings when there aren’t expected to be significant sunrise colors. 

Angkor Wat is falling victim to overtourism - too many people in one place. Be a responsible traveler, do not litter, stay on the marked paths, and do not carve into or steal anything from the temples!

Crowds gathering during sunrise at Angkor Wat
Overtourism at Angkor Wat

Get the Most out of Angkor Wat

Walking around ancient temple grounds is way more exciting when you learn about the history and hidden details you would otherwise overlook. If you don’t choose to go with a tour group (which I recommend), there are other ways to learn as you explore!

The two best ways are with a private tour guide that is already waiting for you at the park, or with an audio guide. 

Private Tour Guides are easy to find once you arrive at Angkor Wat – for $15, you can have a personal guide walk you through the history while giving you way more attention than you would get with a tour group.

Audio Guides or Podcasts are another great way to learn about history and have a completely individual experience. This is great to listen to while you’re biking through the forest between temples, or on the way over!

I loved listening to 'Angkor Wat' by the BBC Our Time channel during our early morning bike ride to the complex!

Preparation: What to Bring

Tickets to Angkor Wat

You cannot enter the Angkor complex without an official ticket. Do yourself a favor and get this before the day you plan to go! Lines at the ticket queue get pretty big on the morning of and require a detour as the ticket office moved to Apsara Rd, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia.

We had the luxury of being in Siem Reap for 3 weeks, so we went with the 7-day pass for $72. This was by far the best choice for us so that we could break up our temple viewing into different days. We never got caught in lines or crowds and were able to optimize every morning to have a unique experience. If you’re a bit more planned out than us, 3 days would have been sufficient!

  • 1-day = $37
  • 3-days = $62
  • 7- days = $72

Get your ticket at 5 pm the day before, and go into the complex for free that evening to catch the sunset! The gate check people stop looking at tickets after 5:00

What to Wear

Angkor Wat is an active temple used by Buddhist monks and visited by locals. It is expected that all travelers are respectful of this and wear modest clothing that covers their knees and shoulders! Nobody is going to stop you based on what you’re wearing, but you will look like the ignorant tourist who overlooked this cultural requirement. 

It is essential to have some cute temple clothes for events like this. Better yet, be sure to have a sarong with you in your Southeast Asia packing list so you’re ready for any temple, or beach, and to stay protected from the sun!

Packing List

Don’t forget the following for a stress-free day exploring Angkor Wat!

  • Water – Do not underestimate how hot it is!
  • Insect Repellent – I didn’t see any mosquitos in March, but be cautious in the wet season
  • Snacks – food is very expensive inside. Plan ahead and even bring some things for a picnic in the grassy area in front of Angkor Wat!
  •  Camera – Be aware of the signs for camera usage. Many areas restrict selfie sticks, 360 cameras, and drones, while other areas are free to use any camera!

Summary - Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Witnessing the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a bucket list event and can be the highlight of your travels if you plan it right. If you don’t, you may get caught in massive crowds and miss the spectaculars of the sunrise completely!

If you get your ticket in advance, get to a good photo spot, and don’t try to cram all of your temple exploring in one day you’re sure to have a kick-ass experience that you won’t forget!

Angkor Wat is only 1 thing to do in Siem Reap, be sure to check out everything else waiting for you in the city center and around Cambodia!

Posted by Taylor Mallaber

Leave a Reply