Best Sunrise & Sunset Spots in Siem Reap

8 coolest locations with insider tips

Siem Reap is photographers' dreamland, not only for the marvelous temples of Angkor Wat, but also incredible sunrise and sunset views. Angkor Wat and Phnom Bakheng are known for the most popular spots, however, if you want something off-the-beaten-track, check out these 8 coolest places.


Sunrise/Sunset Basics of Siem Reap ...

  • The average daytime length of Siem Reap is 12 hours and daytime is tend to get longer after March, also the beginning of the rainy season.
  • The best time for sunrise photo is a 30-minute span during the civil twilight and the sunrise when objects are clear, which is usually among 0530am - 0630am in different seasons.
  • With most of its temples and ruins facing west, the grand compound of Angkor Wat is better for sunset photos while some of them offer awesome shots in the early morning.
  • Angkor Wat at sunrise and Phnom Bakheng at sunset are the most photographied spots, meaning that crowds are expected.

8 Best Spots for Sunrise & Sunset

Imagine the first sun ray pierces through the trees and casts on the ancient temples. Such a dramatic shot is what draws photographers to Siem Reap. However, sometimes it's mysterious atmosphere that tells more. In our picks of the best spots for sunrise and sunset in Siem Reap, each location sets a story-telling background that is best presented by your own photo skills. Lighting is the key. Photos are featured distinguishly at different times of the day.

1. Ta Prohm: Mysterious Vibes at Both Sunrise & Sunset

While most people pay their visits at this tree-covered temple during the afternoon, little do they know that its unique setting is ideal for both sunrise and sunset. The temple is eastern-facing. While morning lighting can be tricky, the biggest perk is its serenity with big tourist groups (who are probably flocking in front of the Angkor Wat's main gate at this time). It has shorter span of sunlight before the sunset due to the over-covering trees but the light among the trees awning the ruins gives out a pretty tomb-raider vibe.

Gatsby's Insider Tips:

1. During the dry season, the best time for sunrise starts between 0550am and 0600am and the entire temple is less lit than other sites throughout the day.
2. The uneven ground can be hard to place a tripod.

2. Bayon Temple: Light Changes on the Stone Faces

Bayon Temple is located to the northwest of Siem Reap. The most photographer-friendly feature is a plethora of towers facing different directions, which makes it a favorable spot for distinctive features at sunrise and sunset. Stone faces overlayering up the towers boast for delicate details and they are better captured in the first sunlight at the west point of the platform. There are three towers in a line with a backdrop of clear morning sky, don't miss that. At sunset, as the sculptures and rocks are overcast, take it as a chance to make some silhouette shots.

Gatsby's Insider Tips:

1. Put your camera or phone on time-lapse to record dramatic changes of the light, which is ideal in the early morning when there are less tourists.
2. No need for changes of lens, a lens of 55-200mm or something similar should be good to go. Pack light as it requires some climbing up to the top platform.

3. Banteay Srei: Beautiful Details at Sunrise

20 minutes by driving outside of Siem Reap, this small temple used to be one of the less-visited sites but now it's gaining more and more attention. Reasons are pretty obvious: finest details of the sculptures and carvings, graceful layout with much to tell. Despite its fame, it's still our favorite for sunrise photos but we'd recommend a focus on the details rather than the entire construct. The arch thresholds at the gate, Apsara fairies engraved and the two libraries and the sanctuary which features the most elaborate carvings -- these are where the finest shots can be expected.

Gatsby's Insider Tips:

1. The most ideal time for sunrise photos is before 0700am. As it's a bit far away, we'd suggest you to set out before 0530am during the dry season.
2. A mid-range or long lens would be good for zooming in the details. The main color tone of the temple is reddish pink, a filter could add up some elegant or contrast touch.

4. Ta Som: Jungle Temple at Sunset

Similar in style to Ta Prohm Temple yet Ta Som is less-crowded during most time of the year. It could be a nice extra-leg destination after a visit of the grand circle of Angkor Wat. Sceneries of crazy-looking giant trees and maze of entryways and libraries interlinked by roots ooze out mysterious atmosphere while the sun is dimming down. In its eastern gopura, an enormous fig tree is strangling the overgrown ruins, quite a priceless shot when the last ray pierces through the entrance! Set at the eastern point of the Grand Circuit, afternoon is a better time to make this jungle temple all to your own.

Gatsby's Insider Tips:

1. Although most travelers would forsake this temple in the day trip, flocks can be seen at around 0300 - 0400pm, which is also the best time for sunset photos.
2. Light insufficiency can be a problem during the rainy season, which can be compensated by adjusting your ISO or just make a black-and-white shot.

5. Pre Rup & Eastern Mebon: Afternoon Visit Till Sundown

The combo of Pre Rup and Eastern Mebon is a perfect afternoon trip option. They are slightly off the eastern edge of the Grand Circuit. The two temples are set in the basin that used to be a reservoir and nowadays, with the water dried out, big trees take over. The reddish bricks are gracefully heightended at sunset and views from the top of Pre Rup are evocatively sweeping. The best features of sunset photos here include elaborate details of the lintels and giant elephant sculptures standing at four points of the platform. Pre Rup is more vertical thrust than Eastern Mebon and some climbing is required.

Gatsby's Insider Tips:

1. These two temples are 20 minutes away from Siem Reap, try to get there at least 1 hour before the sunset.
2. During winter, chances to capture star trails after sundown at the top of Pre Rup.

6. Ta Keo: The Highest Point to Capture Sunrise or Sunset

Ta Keo Temple was supposed to be the highest monument if it were ever finished. The main sanctuary is siutated on a 22-meter high five-storey pyramid, overlooking the surrounding area in a clear day. Thanks to its height, this temple is good for both sunrise and sunset. It can be woven into an itinerary of Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom, respectively on its east and west sides. After a sheer climb, you will get to the top tier where you can find prasats (or stupas) with one at the center and four at different directions. The sanctuaries house some linga statues that seem to be forgotten by time.

Gatsby's Insider Tips:

1. A mid-range lens is good for the stupas on the top. Without climbing up, you can also use an ultra-wide angle lens to capture its grandiosity on a lawn.
2. It can be slippery to climb during the rainy season. Getting up is easier but you'd better pack up all your gear and hold tight to the railings while descending.

7. Roluos Group: Exclusively for You

Roluos is an ancient town 13km east out of Siem Reap. Oftentimes off the tourist radar, this ancient temple complex preens on unique style and more otherworldly vibe. It consists of three major temples: Preah Ko, Lolei and Bakong. Temples are set away from each other without covered by trees, which ensures sufficient sunlight at any time of the year. The temples are smaller in scale but not at all shy of details: unique Preah Ko-style (only one remaining in Angkor Wat) and beautiful carvings of Apsara faries on the walls, and its sandstone exterior shines brightly under the morning sun.

Gatsby's Insider Tips:

1. Roluos Group is included in the Angkor Wat Pass and it's better to visit in the morning. To catch the first sunlight, we'd suggest you to set off before 0500am.
2. It takes about 3 to finish the complex if you don't stray to the nearby villages. On the way back, include Eastern Mebon for a sunset view.

8. Phnom Krom: Views of Siem Reap & Tonle Sap Lake

If you want something different than temples or just a day outside of the bustling town of Siem Reap, Phnom Krom is the best place to go. 12km northwest of Siem Reap, pack up your gear and some snack for a hike on this rocky mountain. Once on top, sweeping views of Siem Reap and Tonle Sap Lake are totally worthy some shutter clicking, which is better at sunset, too. Phnom Krom Temple at its summit is largely left forgotten in shreds, providing a post- apocalypse feeling. Besides the temple and picturesque views, the mountain-foot villages are also welcoming.

Gatsby's Insider Tips:

1. Phnom Krom is in the opposite direction of the main temples of Angkor, better to make it the last leg of your visit. Tuk tuk and bike are both good ways to go.
2. There will be a 140-meter climb to the top, pack light for the go. An ultra wide-angle lens is needed.

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