On a recent visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia with my family to see the famous temples of Angkor Wat, I wanted to introduce them to the magical sights a step at a time – and selected the temple Banteay Srei as our first stop. It’s one of my favorite temples, it’s beautiful and small of size. It’s also about 30 minutes from Siem Reap, a little off the “circuit” of the tourist groups, making it often less crowded. If Angkor is on your list of places to visit, Banteay Srei should be part of your visit!
Banteay Srei was built in the late 10th century, the only one not built by a king. It’s built from red sandstone, typical for the period, with elaborate carvings on the walls. The translation of its modern name is “citadel of the women”, probably to the many beautiful carvings of women on the walls. It is built along a single East-West axis and you are approaching the site through an outer gate and over a causeway. The main temple consists of three concentric enclosures and you will reach the outer wall first. Between the first and second wall, there are some ponds that make for great photos of the inner temples, so take your time to wander around. The inner wall and buildings within it are very well decorated, so make sure to look at the images close-up. Unfortunately, due to the many visitors, some of the buildings are roped off to avoid damage from tourists not being careful.
Because of its small size, Banteay Srei is best explored with few tourists around, so talk to your driver about it. I’d suggest to go early in the day (when many tourists watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat), during lunch time (if you can take the heat) or late in the day (when everybody is already on their way home). Our excellent driver, Din, dropped us off at a side entrance, making it feel a little more private! There is a small information area at the entrance to the temple, giving you a great overview of the history, discovery and restoration. You’ll also find excellent information about the composition, style and materials used. This is a good introduction, making Banteay Srei a great start to the exploration of the Angkor temples! If you want to find out even more about what you are seeing, check out Wikipedia – it has more information about the temple than most guides will share!
Even if you are only in Siem Reap for a short visit, make sure to add Banteay Srei to your itinerary, you won’t regret it!