This is my guide on how to the best Angkor Wat sunrise based on multiple trips to the temples of Angkor Wat and many early morning sunrises.
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Angkor Wat Sunrise Guide
Capturing that quintessential shot of Angkor Wat at sunrise will take some effort. Looking for the best place for sunrise in Angkor Wat? Here is my guide & tips to the best spot to stand and photograph Angkor Wat at sunrise.
Angkor Wat Sunrise important Information & FAQ
What time do the gates open for Sunrise at Angkor Wat? 5:00 am
Can I buy tickets to Angkor Wat at Sunrise? Yes, as of 2017 the ticket windows are open at 5:00 am. However, in order to get a good spot and see the sunrise, you should buy your Angkor Wat for sunrise if you purchased your tickets the day before or earlier.
What time does the ticket booth open for Angkor Wat? 5:00 am – 5:30 pm
Tips for Sunrise at Angkor Wat
- Get to the temples early – This is by far the most important step, especially if you are traveling during high season. The gates to the temple open at 5 am, and you need to be there as they let the first people in. An early start ensures you a good spot to watch and take pictures from. Suggest leaving your Siem Reap hotel at 4:45 am or earlier.
- Wear Clothes that cover your shoulders and knees, please respect the culture
- Buy Your tickets the day before for the sunrise. Besides being able to enter the gates right away you also get admission to the temples for sunset the day before.
Best Place for Sunrise in Angkor Wat
The Quintessential photo of Angkor Wat at sunrise is from the reflection ponds in front of the main temple. This is a great spot to get that sunrise shot of Angkor Wat, but there are also many other great spots for sunrise inside the ancient city of Angkor. Here are some of my favorite sunrise spots.
Sunrise at Reflection Ponds of Angkor Wat
The best place for sunrise in Angkor Wat, in my opinion, is on the left side of the walkway, all the way to the left, while still on water edge facing the temple spires. Walk in past the guard at the main walk way, and through the first entrance into the walled main complex.
From there stay on the path until you approach the pond on the left side and head down a convent set of stairs toward the pond.
Sunrise Main Reflection Pond Tips:
- Find a spot with limited lily pads, this is some thing I never thought of and in some shots, you can barely see the reflection through the weeds in the water.
- Make sure to stand as absolutely close to the waters edge so nobody moves in front of you, look for patches of ground where people could try and get in front of you especially at the corner of the pond this can happen here.
- Another annoying one is people have begun to throw some stones to stand on into the pond so they can jump in front of everyone, avoid those spots.
Angkor Hill – Phnom Bakheng Sunrise Spot
The second most popular spot inside of the Angkor Wat complex is Angkor Hill. Compare to the reflection ponds, this place is almost empty. high on the hill on top of the Phnom Bakheng temple, you’ll a nice view of the main temples of Angkor with the sun coming up behind it.
This view point gives you a much different perspective of Angkor Wat surrounded by trees and the early morning haze. This temple is also popular for sunset where the temple is front lit.
Scope it out the day before
Buy tickets late in the day, the day before you plan to head to the sunset, this allows you access to the temples for sunset that day. Take the opportunity to look at the temple and plan where to stand.
During my last visit, the pond on the right side was very low barely filled with water and would not give the reflection you are after. But this is the reason for scoping it out, it’s very dark that early in the morning so you need to know where you are going so people don’t get there first! Also, have a backup plan if for some reason you get there late and ‘your’ spot is gone.
Plan a few days to catch a good sunrise
Most sunrises are pretty good in Siem Reap, but not all are super colorful. Give yourself a few days to catch a great one.
Angkor Wat Sunrise Photography Tips
Most people come to Angkor Wat for sunrise to get a picture of the beautiful temples with the swirling colors of the dawn. However, most people leave with grainy or blurry photos of a wonder of the world. Here our guide on how to photos to be proud of and that you could actually print of Angkor Wat at sunrise.
Bring a tripod for sunrise
Some of the most interesting and colorful shots you will not be able to hold your camera for. During the early light, you will need to have your camera set to an exposure length that requires a tripod. I have a mefoto travel tripod which is sturdy but folds up small so it’s not a hassle to carry around the rest of the day at the temples.
Use Long Exposure techniques
I find the easiest way to take long exposure photos when you are first starting out is to use the “A” or Aperture Priority Mode if your camera has one (most DSLRs will).
- Set your camera on the tripod
- Se the Aperture to a medium aperture like 7.1 or 8, or a wider setting like F3.5 or lower in the very early morning.
- Use As low of an ISO setting as possible ISO100 is best, but you may need to raise it for the camera to focus. The higher the ISO the more noise or graininess your photo will have.
- Be sure to switch off any lens stabilizers (“VR” or “OS”) switches are usually on the lenses
- Set the focus point
- Take the photo – The camera will adjust the settings for shutter speed.
- Review the photo and make any corrections a needed
If you haven’t used the “A” – Aperture Priority mode you should play with it before standing in front of the temple.
Set your focus on a high contrast area
When it’s very dark out some cameras have trouble focusing, so if your photos look out of focus, then move your focus point to an area of the shot where there is high contrast.
The best is something dark and something bright, like the edges of the temple spires. Most cameras use contrast to find focus, so help them out use high contrast areas.
Use a remote or built-in camera timer
Just because you are on a tripod it doesn’t mean you are out of the woods… You still need to minimize shaking when you are pressing the button to shoot. This is done a few ways, the cheapest is to learn to use your timer function, giving the camera a few seconds to settle after you press the button.
Another way is to use a remote shutter, either a plugin or wireless remote can actually snap the picture so you don’t have to touch and shake the camera. This is important in low light and long exposure situations because that camera is actually taking the picture for, in some cases, several seconds and any movement in the camera will cause blurring in your shot.
Stand your ground
Sunrise at Angkor Wat is hugely popular and there can be lots of crowds in the morning. Some visitors try to push their way to the front for a photo and some people can be very rude and disrespectful. Don’t be one of those people, and don’t let those people ruin your shot or your morning.
It’s not the people who come to Angkor Wat at 5:00 am, it’s the people who come in late you have to worry about. If one guy has climbed in front of you and your shot, call them out – if they are in your shot they are probably in other peoples too.
Use Lightroom or a photo editor
Make your photos come to life, or fix an issue you may have had while taking photos at sunrise with a tool like Lightroom on your computer. Even a perfect shot can be enhanced using a photo editor, this will take your Angkor Wat Sunrise photos to the next level.
Don’t worry if your shots don’t look like they belong on a postcard when you are done because the ones on the postcards probably didn’t either. Using the techniques above will land you some shots to be proud of, but there is no postcard in Siem Reap that hasn’t been photo-shopped at least a little bit. If you want to take your photos to the next level try putting them through some post-processing.
If you have been to Angkor Wat and want to share your best shot put a link in the comments to a Flickr account (or similar).
Best Places to Stay near Angkor Wat
Most tourists visiting Angkor Wat for sunrise choose to stay in Siem Reap. We have stayed in some amazing places for less than $30 per night. It’s easy to find a great place to stay in Siem Reap.
As long as you don’t stay too far outside the city there isn’t much difference in locations as it relates to getting there for sunrise, just make sure your driver knows what time you want to arrive at the gates of Angkor Wat for sunrise.
Tuk Tuk Driver for Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Looking for the best tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap? Look no further, Sok is the man for the job. We have recommended Sok to hundreds of visitors to Angkor Wat and he’ll take good care of you and make sure you make it to the Sunrise on time.
This is the biggest issue with Drivers in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, they can be late or just not show up for sunrise. If you only have a few short days in Angkor Wat, don’t miss your chance to see sunrise because of a driver. Learn more about the best tuk tuk driver in Siem Reap here.
There’s nothing that really compares to watching the sunrise of the temples of Angkor Wat. This is a truly special place in the world and the very best time to see it is during sunrise.
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