Last Updated on August 23, 2023
Angkor Wat, meaning “Temple City” or “City of Temples,” is a temple complex in northwest Cambodia. More than three times the area of Vatican City, it is the largest religious complex in the world.
Today it is a national symbol and sacred site of Cambodian Buddhism. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a significant Asian tourist destination.
It was built near the town of Siem Reap in the 12th century by Suryavarman II of the Khmer Empire. In 1177, after Angkor Wat was sacked by the enemy of the Kmer, the new king established a new capital. He also built a state temple (Angkor Thom and the Bayon) nearby.
Both sites were deserted and overgrown during the ensuing centuries by the jungle.
In 1860, Angkor Wat was discovered by French explorer Henri Mouhot, who popularized the site in the West. In his notes he wrote: “One of these temples, a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo, might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.”
If you’re visiting Cambodia, be sure to see Angkor Wat.