Looking for a different experience and seldom visited temples, I came across a map that implied several different trails throughout Angkor. The first, and the longest of the hikes, is a trail atop the Angkor Thom Wall. Many don’t even know this wall exists. They simple pass through the South Gate in route to the temples.
I started this hike from the South Gate and traveled in a clockwise direction. After passing through the South Gate, I had my Tuk Tuk driver drop me off and asked him to meet me back in 3 hours. Looking south at the gate, ascend the right side up a short hill. Once on top, the trail is obvious.
(South Gate moat bridge as seen from the wall trail) Photo by: John Maurizi
(Southwest section of the Angkor Thom Wall trail) Photo by: John Maurizi
After less than one mile, you reach Chrung Temple. This is a small outpost temple and probably one of the least visited sites at Angkor Thom along with the other corner temples you will encounter along the wall.
(Chrung Temple) Photo by: John Maurizi
Turn right continuing to follow the obvious trail with the moat to the left. The trail is flat and a joy to hike. After about one mile you will reach the West Gate to Angkor Thom. This gate, again seldom visited, is the only major gate at Angkor that is still only a dirt road making for more great photo opportunities.
(West Gate from atop the Angkor Thom Wall trail) Photo by:John Maurizi
Descend from the trail to the right and cross the road. Take a moment to enjoy the peace of the West Gate absent of tourist. Pass through the West Gate for a different view. To get back atop the wall, cross the road and ascend a short but steep hill and continue on the trail.
(West Gate of Angkor Thom) Photo by: John Maurizi
This northwest section is the most shaded along the hike. The trail curves through the forest like hiking in a fairy tale. This was one of my favorite sections. After another mile you will reach the Northwest corner temple called Prasat Chrung. It is a surreal feeling coming upon this small temple.
(Northwest section between the West Gate and Prasat Chrung) Photo by: John Maurizi
(Prasat Chrung – Northwest) Photo by: John Maurizi
Turn the corner and continue to the North Gate. As you approach the North Gate from the trail, you are nearly eye level with the west facing Buddha atop the Gate. Amazing detail. The North Gate, to me, is more photogenic from different angles than the other three gates.
(West side of the North Gate from the trail) Photo by: John Maurizi
Descend the trail to the right. As you approach the road, be sure to look back up at the North Gate for another unique view of the west and south facing Buddhas.
(West and South facing Buddhas at the North Gate) Photo by John Maurizi
Once on the road, pass through the gate and turn right to follow the trail, after a short distance there is a break in the wall in a short steep hill where you can gain access to the trail again. Be sure to look back behind you before ascending the wall for another unique view of the North Gate.
(Looking back at the North Gate and the east facing Buddha) Photo by: John Maurizi
The trail continues to the northeast corner and another Chrung Temple which is in more disrepair. Soon after turning this corner you will reach the Victory Gate. Descend to the right, cross the road and ascend back onto the trail.
(Victory Gate) Photo by: John Maurizi
After a shorter distance you reach the East Gate, also known as Gate of the Dead. The distance is short because the Victory Gate and the East Gate are both on the east side of Angkor Thom. The trail between the Victory Gate and the East Gate is amazing. The East Gate is different from the other gates because it is a dead end road just past the gate. Hardly anyone travels back here.
(Trail from Victory Gate to East Gate) Photo by: John Maurizi
The southeast corner is the last on the trail and the location of the Hendrix Temple which is in the best condition of the corner temples. After turning this last corner, the trail opens up a bit and you have excellent views of the Angkor Thom moat.
(Hendrix Temple) Photo by: John Maurizi
(Trail between the Hendrix Temple and the South Gate) Photo by: John Maurizi
The trail ends at the South Gate where you started. In total, the trail is a little less than 8 miles with the only elevation change being from descending and ascending the Gates. Your Tuk Tuk driver should be there waiting. It’s a good idea to get a bite to eat before the next adventure.
The next hike for this day is amazing and another that is seldom traveled although it is in the heart of Angkor. This trail circles Angkor Wat along a patch of land between the Angkor Wat moat and the out wall of the temple.
(West side of Angkor Wat) Photo by: John Maurizi
From the West entrance, after crossing the moat, turn left and follow a boardwalk/trail. Soon the boardwalk ends and turns to a dirt trail about where the wall begins. Turn the first corner with great views of the moat along the trail. Soon you will reach Ta Loek, the north gate. While most flock to the center of Angkor Wat, few visit these outer gate entrances.
Photo by: John Maurizi
(Ta Loek – the north gate to Angkor Wat) Photo by: John Maurizi
The trail continues, rounding the next corner. The next gate is the East Gate which is more popular because you can cross the moat here and have a shorter walk to access the center of Angkor Wat. It is also much more shaded than the West entrance.
(East Gate – Ta Kuo. View from inside the wall) Photo by: John Maurizi
The last Gate you encounter is the South Gate known as Ta Pech. This by far is the least visited of all the gates. Passing this and rounding the last corner, the trail enters a dense forest area unlike any other part of the trail. Soon you emerge to the west side of Angkor Wat.
(South Gate – Ta Pech) Photo by: John Maurizi
The trail is only two miles but take time to explore the gates and peace of this seldom traveled trail.
With time remaining in the day and if you have enough energy, there is more to explore within the walls of Angkor Wat. Of special interest to me and others who are fascinated with the history of the Khmer people, take time to view the bas-reliefs surrounding the outer galleries. Also, the stone carvings of Apsaras are outstanding.