Choosing the best time to visit Angkor Wat is tricky. Rain can detract from the experience during the low season, but heavy crowds — also a nuisance — descend on the ruins during the dry season.
Cambodia’s crown jewel, the ruins of Angkor Wat and the surrounding Khmer temples, lure more than two million foreign visitors per year. Sometimes you'll feel as though most of them chose the same day as you to visit.
Although Angkor Wat is open all year, getting good photos of the vine-strangled temples without scores of tourists clamoring around on them requires a bit of good timing. Cambodia's most famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, also considered to be the largest religious monument in the world, attracts visitors throughout the year.
Tourist arrivals to Angkor Wat between 2014 and 2015 actually dipped nine percent, but arrivals grew by 23 percent to Phnom Penh.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Angkor Wat
Following the typical weather patterns for much of Southeast Asia, the best time to visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia is during the dry season from late November to early April.
December and January are the driest months, but they are also the busiest as hordes of visitors and tour buses flock to see the monuments.
April and May are unbearably hot months in Cambodia.
Avoid them unless you can handle heat and suffocating humidity as you explore the ancient temples.
To really get the most out of your three-day-pass to Angkor Wat, consider timing your visit to coincide with one of the shoulder months between the monsoon and start of dry season; November is often a good bet.
With a little luck, you'll still have sunny days that aren't scorching hot but fewer crowds with which to contend for photos.
Monsoon rains move in around late May or June and persist until the end of October. October is typically the wettest month, while January receives the most sunshine.
Angkor Wat Month by Month
Mother Nature doesn't always follow the calendar, but the climate around Siem Reap / Angkor Wat is roughly as follows:
- January: Dry; peak month
- February: Dry
- March: Dry
- April: Hot and humid
- May: Hot, humid, increasing rain
- June: Rain
- July: Rain
- August: Rain
- September: Rain
- October: Heavy rain
- November: Less rain; more sun
- December: Dry; peak month
Other Factors for When to Go to Angkor Wat
The Lunar New Year festival (which includes Chinese New Year and Tet in neighboring Vietnam) causes nearly every attraction in Southeast Asia to become extremely busy for a couple of weeks as people travel during days off. Accommodation prices go up, and negotiating a better deal at hotels becomes difficult. Dates change annually, but the holiday hits in January or February.
Angkor Wat is open 365 days a year, from 5 a.m. until 6 p.m. (closing time is only loosely enforced, so you can exit at your leisure).
Although the Angkor complex is open 365 days a year, it may be busier than usual on Cambodian public holidays. Many holidays are based on the lunarsolar calendar, so dates change from year to year.
The Khmer New Year (coincides with Songkran in Thailand; always April 14-16) may not be the best time to visit Angkor Wat. Instead, go enjoy the cultural festivities!
Tips for Angkor Wat Busy Season
- Get an early start but avoid the popular sunrise photo spots.
- Plan to eat at irregular times so that you can enjoy the temples while everyone else is taking a breakfast/lunch/dinner break.
- Many visitors follow a relatively predictable circuit through the temples. Mix up your itinerary by exploring temples in a different order.
- Although many visitors opt to hire a tuk-tuk and local driver or guide, consider renting a scooter or mountain bike to avoid traffic and explore on your own terms.
- Grab a copy of the book Ancient Angkor — you’ll find it for sale everywhere — or a good map and hire transportation to temple ruins that are farther afield. You may be lucky enough to have some remote ruins nearly all to yourself!
Visiting Angkor Wat During the Monsoon Season
Visiting during the monsoon season presents several new challenges. Aside from the obvious disadvantage of having to explore the many outdoor temples in drenching rain, roads can become rutted, muddy, and impassable during heavy downpours. Remote temple sites may become difficult — if not impossible — to reach. Low areas turn into muddy pits, eliminating options such as biking around the area. Despite best efforts, getting photos of the memorable temples will be way more difficult during torrential rains.
On the plus side, visiting Angkor Wat during the monsoon season means less competition for stairs and photos. You can still luck out with spurts of sunshine, sometimes consecutive days at a time, even during the monsoon season. Intense showers may only pop up in the afternoons, leaving you with plenty of time to explore each morning.
Tip: Mosquitoes are more of a problem during the wet season. Know how to avoid mosquito bites while traveling.
How Long for Angkor Wat?
To visit Angkor Wat, you’ll have to purchase either a one-day, three-day, or week-long pass. Although travelers with tight itineraries in Southeast Asia try to squeeze in as many sights as they can in a day, remember that the Angkor complex is actually the largest religious monument in the world! It's spread over miles of jungle. You’re going to need more time than you think to not end up rushing around.
The temples are spread over more than 248 square miles in Cambodia. If you're serious about exploring Angkor, plan on purchasing at least the three-day pass.