Dedicated to the mountain god Shikhareshavara (a manifestation of Shiva), the stunning Khmer temple of Preah Vihear is the most dramatically-situated monument in all of Cambodia. Set atop a 625-metre high cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, this sandstone temple was constructed between the ninth and 12th century, and was declared Cambodia’s second UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
Because of the temple’s location on the Thai-Cambodian border, there are ongoing disputes as to who owns the complex. This has been the case for centuries, and tensions flared between 2008 to 2011. Today there’s a heavy military presence at the complex, so trips here can be cancelled at short notice.
The 800-metre long temple has 162 stone steps to climb a sheer 120 metres up the hillside, so be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen for your adventure. It’s well worth it, however, for the breathtaking views of the Cambodian jungle and lowlands. One of the best kept secrets is that when you reach the Main Sanctuary (home to a tiny Buddhist temple), you can sneak out the left side to see Pei Ta Da Cliff. You’ll get some of the best views and photos from here! (Perhaps we should’ve kept that to ourselves)
We love that Preah Vihear is a bit more hidden and isolated than Angkor Wat – you’ll generally find less tourists here too. Even seasoned travellers will succumb to its serene atmosphere, stunning views of the Cambodian jungle and the ‘Ancient Pathway’ with over 2,000 steps that slowly descend through the forest from the temple.
Plan your trip to Preah Vihear today.