Ask any 90’s kid and they will tell you how iconic Lara Croft from the movie Tomb Raider is. Fawned over by both men and women alike, the much-loved character played by extremely talented Angelina Jolie was an inevitable blockbuster. We give you a low-down on all the places to visit in the UNESCO Angkor Area, hidden to the world for almost 400 years, in Cambodia that lets you imbibe your favourite adventurists’ vibe. By Amitha Ameen

1. Ta Prohm

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🕉 🚩 🇰🇭 In 1186 A.D., Jayavarman VII embarked on a massive program of construction and public works. Rajavihara ("monastery of the king"), today known as Ta Prohm ("ancestor Brahma"), was one of the first temples founded pursuant to that program. The stele commemorating the foundation gives a date of 1186 A.D. Jayavarman VII constructed Rajavihara in honour of his family. The temple's main image, representing Prajnaparamita, the personification of wisdom, was modelled on the king's mother. The northern and southern satellite temples in the third enclosure were dedicated to the king's guru, Jayamangalartha, and his elder brother respectively. As such, Ta Prohm formed a complementary pair with the temple monastery of Preah Khan, dedicated in 1191 A.D., the main image of which represented the Bodhisattva of compassion Lokesvara and was modelled on the king's father. The temple's stele records that the site was home to more than 12,500 people (including 18 high priests and 615 dancers), with an additional 80,000 souls in the surrounding villages working to provide services and supplies. The stele also notes that the temple amassed considerable riches, including gold, pearls and silks. Expansions and additions to Ta Prohm continued as late as the rule of Srindravarman at the end of the 15th century. After the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century, the temple of Ta Prohm was abandoned and neglected for centuries. As of 2013, Archaeological Survey of India has restored most parts of the temple complex some of which have been constructed from scratch. 'I'm a Hindu temple, I'm beyond the limits of time just as the Sanatana Dharma." 📸 @lost_temples

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We’ll start with the obvious. Ta Prohm or ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ served as the mystical backdrop where Lara explored the ruins of Angkor. Partial, larger-than-life stone faces and abandoned ruins of what was once a Buddhist temple, subsumed by the jungle are what is in store for you. Gigantic roots of silk cotton and Ficus trees serve as the backdrop for travellers who want that perfect Instagram shot. Narrow corridors, steep stairways and massive trees growing out of the walls of this temple give it a mystical aura.

2. Angkor Wat

No itinerary to Cambodia is complete without the mention of Angkor Wat. This legendary temple is famous amongst travellers and tourists alike for many reasons. The largest religious monument in the world, one among the handful of temples dedicated to Hindu god Lord Brahma and home to the best sunrise spot in the world – just a few of the many attributes that make this temple iconic. Did we mention the world’s scariest stairs are here at Angkor Wat that are nearly 70% inclined, and you need to hold on to a rope to make your way up and into the inner sanctum of the temple?

3.  Bayon Temple

Hauntingly beautiful would be the best way to describe this temple situated at the heart of the ancient city of Angkor Thom. More than 200 faces, each four-metres high are present inside the temple with an evident display of wear and tear. What is most noticeable is that all of the faces feature the same serene smile and closed eyes, almost like they are representing a state of nirvana. In regard to who these faces represent, there is still a debate between some saying that it represents Brahma while others insist that it is of Jayavarman, a former ruler of Khmer Empire (present-day Siem Reap).

Angkor is not for the faint-hearted and cannot completely be explored in one day. But, spending just one day in this wondrous archeological site is enough to really get an insight into the life and times of the Khmer Dynasty, the last empire to rule this region.

The Details

How To Get There: There are daily flights from all major metro cities to Phnom Penh.

Entry To Angkor: Visitors can opt for the one-day or three-day Angkor Archaeological Park pass

Best Time To Visit: November-April

Related: No More Elephant Rides At Cambodia’s Angkor Wat From 2020