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Published on December 8, 2014

The glory of the Khmer Empire lives on in these temple ruins in Cambodia; at least two have won UNESCO World Heritage recognition.

1.1. World Heritage Site

Cambodia has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: one is an icon of Cambodian identity, the other is only catching up. Both are still worth visiting!

1.1.1.     Angkor Wat, Siem Reap province

Angkor Wat is the centerpiece and star attraction of the vast Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap: a 208-hectare square temple delineated by a wall and a wide moat, crossed by a 250-metre causeway… and that's just the outer perimeter. From the center of the square rises five towers surrounded by galleries; the tallest is 213 meters high.

Its gargantuan yet balanced proportions, as well as the amount of detail in every surface – from carvings of lithe apsara maidens to a long, long gallery depicting the churning of the sea of milk in Hindu mythology – elevate Angkor Wat beyond being a mere "temple" to a work of art for the ages. Tourism Cambodia official page.

1.1.2.     Preah Vihear Temple, Preah Vihear province

Now that the border issue has been settled, Preah Vihear Temple can now be fully appreciated by visitors to Cambodia. Constructed in the 6th century by King Yasovarman I and remodeled later by Suryavarman II, Preah Vihear Temple stands beside a giant cliff on the Danggrek Mountains overlooking the province that bears its name.

Visiting Preah Vihear requires a series of ascents up the temple's four levels and courtyards housing a royal residence, snake-shaped stair banisters and stone lions, and passing five ornate gopura (entrance buildings) of ornate design. Tourism Cambodia official page.

1.2. Cultural Heritage Site

The temple complex of Sambor Preikuk points to a rich pre-Angkorian culture that predates Angkor Wat by over 700 years.

1.2.1.     Sambor Preikuk, Kampong Thom province

Formerly named Isanapura, the ruins of Sambor Preikuk in Kampong Thom Province are all that remain of a temple complex dedicated to Shiva and built around 700 years before Angkor Wat. Around a hundred temples can be found throughout the woodland that now covers the site, and only half of them are recognizable as human constructions. But plenty of fascinating detail can be seen in what remains – Indian-style architecture implemented in a variety of towers, linga and yoni, walls and lion sculptures. Tourism Cambodia official page.