The Incredible Angkor

The archaeological site of Angkor, located in the northern Cambodia province of Siem Reap, was inscribed in 1992 as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This incredible site features more than 400 square kilometers of forest and remains of the various Khmer Empire capital cities from the 9th through 15th centuries. The Angkor Archaeological Park includes the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and the Bayon Temple and its awesome sculptural monuments.

Angkor was the center of the Khmer Kingdom for many centuries and the architectural features within the Park are testimony to the importance of Angkor to the Khmer people and civilization.  The significance of Angkor to Cambodian cultural heritage continues today, and images of the Angkor Wat have appeared on every version of the Cambodian national flag since the nation gained its independence from France in 1953.

Towers of Angkor Wat, Cambodia 1

Angkor was named Yashodharapura by Yashovarman I, during the 10th century.  The city was planned as an administrative and worship capital for the divine monarch, and Indian religious and political beliefs and theories influenced the planning of the city as well as the architectural designs of its numerous temples and structures.

The temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm exemplify Khmer architecture, and most of the people who built the temples and grew food for the elite were rice farmers, using techniques that have endured with little alteration until the present day. The Khmer were also skillful builders and engineers as well as talented artists in stone and wood.  The Khmer engineers designed reservoirs and roads connecting the kingdom’s cities, and Khmer poets were responsible for the inscriptions found today on many of the temples and religious structures.  Today, the Park is inhabited, and its residents are primarily rice farmers.

Enigmatic faces of the Bayon Temple of Angkor Thom, Cambodia n1

The houses and most of Yashodharapura’s buildings were made of wood, thatch, and bamboo, and have disappeared over the centuries after the city was abandoned in the 16th century.  Angkor’s walls, reservoirs, roads, and religious buildings, however, were built of stone and laterite to honor the Buddha or a variety of Indian gods, and these have survived and been renovated with UNESCO’s help.

The Angkor Archaeological Park is one of the world’s most important archaeological locations and is a critical tourism draw for the Cambodian economy.

UIG contributing photographer Jon Bower’s images of Angkor, are both stunning and informative.  Enjoy a slideshow of Jon’s work here and please let us know if you have interest in more of his work from Angkor.

All images in this post ©Jon Bower.  All images featured in this post and on Kaleidoscope are available for licensing.  Please contact us at:

Sources: by David Chandler

Reynolds, Frank E.. “Angkor”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 15 Jan. 2020 Accessed 23 June 2023.

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