Set among dense forests, the temple complexes of Angkor (Here means Angkor Wat in Cambodia) and Bagan (in Myanmar) are both among the most remarkable architectural masterpieces and striking historical ruins in Southeast Asia.
Which to Visit
Which you should visit first is a matter of opinion. Ideally, you'd be able to visit both Angkor and Bagan.
If you are on your first trip to Southeast Asia, we suggest you focus on the rich cultural heritage of Angkor, as it reveals the ancient civilization of the Khmers and sightseeing can easily be arranged.
Most visitors to Myanmar stay approximately 9 days, visiting Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake, not simply Bagan alone.
So if you have prepared enough time and money – for hotels generally cost more in Myanmar than in Cambodia – and want a unique experience, in a somewhat quieter yet still wonderful medieval world, take a trip to Bagan, and also visit other fascinating spots in Myanmar.
Angkor or Bagan
|Located in||Siem Reap, Northwestern Cambodia||Mandalay region, Central Myanmar|
|Arriving||Siem Reap International Airport hosts regular flights from many Asian cities||Nyaung U Airport hosts regular flights from Yangon and Mandalay|
|Getting around||Tuk tuks, bicycles and cars||Electric bikes, bicycles, horse carts and cars|
|Popularity||Popular with tour groups, especially among Asians||Still outside the average visitors' radar|
|Crowds||Flooded with people in the dry season, from November to February||Relatively few, bringing more freedom to explore|
|Main attractions||Outstanding temples: Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm and Banteay Srei||Three areas: Old Bagan, Nyaung U and New Bagan|
|Special experiences||Cycling through the jungle or driving a quad bike||At least 2 days to explore the archeological zone and visit the temples|
|Visiting time||1 day to see the highlights and 3 days to see most of the temples||Taking a horse cart or a hot-air balloon flight|
|Budget (including hotel, tour and food expenses)||Mid-range costs are around US$120-150 per day||Mid-range costs are around US$220 per day|
|Suited for||First-timers to Southeast Asia who are interested in history, religion and architecture||Travelers who are looking for unique experiences and would like to explore the wonders of the medieval world|
My experience in Thai
All of this was well organized by the local office. The holiday was wonderful. Our guide, Mr. Longdy（ Siem Reap）were exceptional. He shared his extensive knowledge of the many wonderful places we visited, and were flexible to take us to additional places along the way based on discussions. Thank you so much .shared their extensive knowledge of the many wonderful places we visited, and were flexible to take us to additional places along the way based on discussions.More
kelli, Jul 2023
From the day I submitted an inquiry request, I instantly received a response from Monica asking my preferences for my trip. She has been attentive and responsive to our every needs and we very much appreciate it. Looking forward to our trip in November but many thanks to Monica for making this experience to seamless thus far.More
Sana Samhouri, Jul 2023
Very professional agency for a memorable trip to Asia
A special thanks to Albee who worked with us and helped to tailor the itinerary to our taste, she was amazing and always available for whatever we needed. The trip would not have been the same without her and her team. Thank you!More
Daniela, Jul 2023
It was our first time in Cambodia and …
It was our first time in Cambodia and we had a wonderful time. The accommodations, food, and sites were really beautiful. We ended our trip with a relaxing massage. Sam was very accommodating to our needs and knowledgeable. Thank you for the laughter and for being so kind.More
Amy Oakes Moon, Jun 2023
Our guide Borin - never boring!
Our guide Borin, in Cambodia, was knowledgeable, understanding and thoughtful in every aspect of the plan he put together for our trip to Siem Reap and in its execution. He can read the room, and knew exactly how to pace the tour, when to pause, when to break, and how to prepare us for the maximum benefit. He is extremely kind and caring, and it showed at every turn. He also is a dab hand with the camera, and we have a lot of great pictures to show for it. Kudos to my Asia Highlights coordinator - Cathy Chen, for picking Borin. Borin works with a driver (007) who was also very kind and caring. Whenever we returned to the car, he would have cold towel rolls and chilled water to refresh us. So amazingly considerate. It was an unforgettable experienceMore
David Muliyil, Jun 2023
Our guide, Anna, was fantastic! She was highly informative and a delight to spend our days with. Would request her again if we were to return!More
Alejandra M Almonte, Jun 2023
We've had such a great experience…
We've had such a great experience planning our honeymoon with Alisa at Asia Highlights! We gave her our dream itinerary, thinking that it might be impossible to do all the things we wanted, but Alisa made our dreams a reality! She's gone so far above and beyond to answer ALL of our questions and make little adjustments that will make a huge impact on our experience.More
Lauren, Jun 2023
Alisa knows how to work fast and please a customer.
Alisa is very helpful and works very fast. I am a very difficult client because Inknow what I want in therm of hotels and comfort. She had a lot of patience with me, and moved a lot the plan of the trip, always following my requests. It was a pleasure organizing my trip with her. I recommend her a lot! Thanks Alisa. Malala from Argentina.More
maria laura artola, Jun 2023
In addition, I want to specifically mention the guides provided in certain locations. Rum, in Siem Reap, made the most memorable experience possible. His positivity was contagious - even when it felt like 1000 degrees and we were tired. He brought it all to life, and created a couple days of Ankor Wat, etc. that we will never forget! He heard my daughter's request for specific Cambodian food, and changed our itinerary to go to a village and eat at a locally known shop. He brought the dessert she asked about to us in the car! Overall, he and his driver "Lucky" were a reason to go to Siem Reap. In addition, the other guides (minus one which was switched out immediately) were stupendous. Mon in Bangkok was friendly and provided a great day there; Eak in Chiang Mai gave us a world-class food-tour and day touring the city and its surrounding temples with lots of laughs; Tommy in Hanoi kept us from getting killed in the traffic and gave a stupendous food and architecture/history tour - so very friendly and funny; the fishing village tour in Hoi An, as well as the side-car tour in Saigon, were both unforgettable! Thank you Sharon, and Asia Highlights. Would definitely use again for future trips!More
Teri Simpson, Apr 2023
Cambodia and Vietnam adventure!
Our guide in Cambodia, Meas Darapolaith (Pol), was absolutely amazing. He was knowledgeable, friendly and so helpful. His English was excellent and he shared important insights about history and the magnificent sites we visited. We highly recommend him!More
Jennifer Roth Krieger, Apr 2023
My daughter and I wanted to discover SE…
My daughter and I wanted to discover SE Asia. Being the first in that region, we wanted to use a tour service company. We ended up using Asia Highlights. From the beginning we were impressed with their services. We left home with of mind because all the pre-travel arrangements were taking care and communicate to us efficiently. All our questions were answered promptly. Once in the countries, we were welcome by our excellent tour guides. Everything was taking care for us. We did not have one issue. They selected the right tours guides for us, they were highly knowledgeable and so much attentive to our needs. We had Dhat in Vietnam and Borin in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I highly recommend Asia Highlights. I came back home so much rested, and with plenty of wonderful pictures and memories. I will definitely use Asia Highlights again for my next trip to Asia.More
Isabelle Dessaux, Apr 2023
Fabulous tour and guide in Cambodia
We have been touring Cambodia, guided by Borin ( and driver 007) for the last 2 days. What a fabulous experience! Borin has been a wonderful guide, the best so far in Southeast Asia, explaining the history and culture of Cambodia through his tours of the temples in and around Angkor, as well as the Landmine museum. He has answered all our questions, made sure we were comfortable, and that we have had great food. 007 made sure we always had enough water and cool towels for our face/neck.We highly recommend Borin as a tour guide for Cambodia!!More
Monica, Mar 2023
Best Travel Service for Asia Travel
Alisa Liu was in charge of making the arrangements and she helped us from the start to make all of the arrangements and also helped us when we had questions and requested some adjustments. Her service is of the highest professional level. We are 100% confident that our trip will be perfect. We’re also 100% confident that, if anything comes up during our trip, that Alisa will be there to guide us through and take care of us. We won’t even consider using another agency for travel around Asia and we would like to have Alisa work for us again.More
Leo Pospichal, Mar 2023
Tour of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand
The tour guides and drivers were another high point. All were very good, friendly, knowledgeable and spoke English well. There were two that I want to call out for their excellence. Chan Sovannarith in Siem Reap was our guide in Cambodia. He really made the experience special. His knowledge, willingness to answer all my questions, helpfulness and general attitude made him fun to be around. In order to praise the second exceptional guide I have to explain about an unfortunate occurrence that I had. I'm normally a very active senior, but after leaving Cambodia for Laos I was suddenly struck by the most intense back pain I've ever experienced, couldn't even roll over in bed (turned out to be sciatica). The guide, Mr. Sonophet, really went the extra mile. He went with my traveling companion and bought a back brace and medications for me. When that didn't help much he took me to a clinic where I was seen by a doctor, given a shot and pain meds. He hand-made a walking stick for me that I'm still using! He made it possible for me to somewhat participate in the activities, i.e. a bed on the boat down the river. When it was time to move on to Bangkok he got me a wheelchair at the airport. I can't thank him enough for these kindnesses! This problem lasted for the remainder of the trip, through Bangkok and Phuket and these guides were also very helpful getting wheelchairs, etc. It was a terrible disappointment to have this wonderful trip disrupted, but it would have been SO much worse without the great help that I received from the guides and my poor travel companion!More
Deb M, Mar 2023
In good hands with Sam
Sam Ol took very good care of us - lots of information, listened to and answered all our questions, was passionate about the places we visited and about his people and country. He was kind, had a great sense of humor, and made sure we felt safe and comfortable at all times. He helped us to fall in love with Cambodia in 3 short days.More
Carol Jones, Feb 2023
Best tour guide in Cambodia
When we first arrived at the airport in Siem Riep it was so nice to be greeted by Mr Sam Ol. We instantly fell at home when we saw his friendly smile. We were impressed by his great English and knowledge of the temples. On the tour to the temples Sam took care of us every step of the way. He took awesome pictures of us. It felt like we were on a tour given by our brother who is also a professional photographer. Also, we appreciate his humor as well as the fact he had an answer for every question we had. I give Sam 5 stars, best tour guide ever :)More
Len S, Feb 2023
Mr. Sam our guide in Cambodia, he and the driver out standing service they went above and beyond touring, my wife so amazed beautiful country, we're planning back here near the futures. Thank Mr. Sam,We'll feedback the whole trip next week when we be home in USMore
Pho Lover, Feb 2023
We are still in the middle of our trip, but we are just finishing up our time in Cambodia and our guide, Borin, has been AMAZING!!! He has truly made our time here unforgettable and I plan on referring all of my friends and family to come visit this beautiful country! Thank you, Borin, for everything you did to make our trip so fantastic!More
Danielle Blount, Feb 2023
Excellent service and Wonderful Guides
All of our guides have been terrific. Mr. Sam in Siem Reip was especially wonderful. Both he and our driver were polite, safe knowledgable and informative. Sam made our trip memorable and enioyable. We will definitely recommend Sam and Asia Highlights to our friends.More
Kaaren, Feb 2023
Great tour guide Charity at Siem Reap
Our experience in Siem Reap could not have been any better thanks to our outstanding and cheerful guide, Charity. Her very good English speaking made it so easy to learn so much from her. She understood and answers all of our questions.She was relaxed and very knowledgeable. She went out out her way to help us make amazing pano photos of the cotton trees at Siem Reap and on our sunset cruise. She also advised us on Chanrey Tree restaurant—what we found to be the very best vegan restaurant on our first three weeks of our Asia tour. So glad to have vegan meals with very little oil!!! We are not supposed to have oil and is very hard to find vegan with no oil. Went went back the next night.More
Barbara Cornyn, Jan 2023
Angkor — located in Siem Reap, northwestern Cambodia, Angkor was the capital of the great Khmer Empire from approximately the 9th to the 15th centuries. The ruins of Angkor now occupy 77 sq miles (200 sq km) and contain around 70 temples. At the heart of Angkor is the magnificent Angkor Wat, the largest single religious monument in the world.
Many of the temples have been restored under the direction of a French institute, the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient (EFEO), which has been in charge of conservation work since 1907. Since 1992, Angkor has collectively enjoyed protection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Now, official figures show that over 2 million tickets were sold annually over the last few years to foreigners visiting the ruins of Angkor. The popularity of the site presents challenges to the preservation work.
Bagan — was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Its ruins are scattered across an arid plain in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar. Once a thriving metropolis, the Bagan Archaeological Zone occupying 26 sq miles (67 sq km) is now home to the remains of over 2,000 temples and pagodas.
Bagan today, with its amazing wonders, is the main attraction in Myanmar's nascent tourist industry. Since the 1990s, many of its ruins have been undergoing a renovation program overseen by the military government.
Rebuilding work has often been conducted using modern materials, regardless of the original architecture, and this must have been a big contributing factor in the denial of the designation ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site' to Bagan.
Another significant setback is that Bagan has suffered from hundreds of earthquakes. The latest was on 24th August, 2016, a major earthquake damaging almost 400 temples. Now, a reconstruction effort is being made by the Bagan Archaeological Department, with the help of UNESCO experts. As a result, visitors are currently prohibited from entering the damaged temples.
Angkor — Siem Reap International Airport hosts regular flights from many Asian cities, especially neighboring cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
Bagan — most foreign visitors arrive in Myanmar by air at Yangon or Mandalay, before transferring to Bagan. Flights to Bagan arrive at Nyaung U Airport.
Angkor — tuk tuks are easy to find around the temples. They're a fun but rather bumpy experience.
Bicycles are also available. These might tire you out after a lot of walking, unless you really like cycling.
The most flexible and hassle-free way of getting around is to hire a private car with a guide.
Bagan — electric bikes are widely available and an ideal way of exploring, although they sometimes run out of power. The rental company will come and provide a fresh battery as necessary.
Bicycles are easily rented from most hotels. Just be aware that they are liable to pick up a puncture.
A slower way to travel is to hire a shaded horse cart, with a driver who knows the area well and provides a commentary.
Perhaps the most relaxing option is to hire a private car with a driver and guide. This usually costs about US$80 per day, much better value than merely renting a taxi.
Angkor — three types of ticket are available: a 1-day ticket for US$20, a 3-day ticket for US$40 (valid for any three days within a week), and a 7-day ticket for US$60 (valid for any seven days within a month). Tickets should be bought at the ticket-office on the road from Siem Reap to Angkor.
Bagan — entry tickets to the archeological zone cost US$10 per week. Once paid, you can explore this fascinating area at your own leisure. Tickets can be bought on arrival at the airport or at some of the larger temples.
Major Sites Worth Visiting
Angkor — Angkor Wat is best visited from the west entrance, at sunrise or sunset. Bayon, Ta Prohm and Banteay Srei also shouldn't be missed.
Bagan — most visitors explore three rewarding areas: Old Bagan, Nyaung U and New Bagan. Among the many temples and pagodas, the beautifully preserved Ananda Pagoda is the most stylistically refined.
Angkor — the temple complex at Angkor, with its remarkable architecture, is enormous. Normally, any visit to Angkor includes the most famous three temples: Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm. After being shown around the three temples, you may wish to try some fun activities such as cycling through the jungle or driving a quad bike. There are many good opportunities for photography here.
Angkor is popular with tour groups, especially among Asians. So you'll find the temples are flooded with people in the dry season, from November to February. It tends to be quieter with fewer tourists in the rainy season, from June to November.
Bagan — a hot-air balloon floating across the sky has become an iconic image of the archaeological zone. Taking a hot-air balloon in the early morning to view the thousands of temples, you'll enjoy a fun experience flying over the Bagan complex, with an unrivaled perspective.
Mysterious as it is, Myanmar is still outside the average visitors' range. So you will find relative peace and quiet here, along with more freedom to explore.
Angkor — Siem Reap serves as a gateway to Angkor, and the tourist industry in Siem Reap has experienced a major boom. The variety of lodgings and eateries in Siem Reap, together with easily arranged transport and tours, has made sightseeing in Angkor quite a straightforward thing.
Most visitors to Cambodia stay 3 to 5 days, visiting both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. If you only have 2 or 3 days, save your time for Siem Reap. If you stay a week, Battambang might be a good place for extension.
As for budget, mid-range costs are around US$120-150 per day, including hotel, tour and food expenses; quite a good-value option.
Read more about Plan a Trip to Angkor Wat
Bagan — despite the fact that Myanmar still lacks adequate infrastructure, many visitors have flocked to the country since the easing of the boycott on tourism in 2010.
Most visitors to Myanmar stay approximately 9 days, visiting Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake. Please note that by Southeast Asian standards, hotels of all grades are expensive here, so the mid-range costs are much higher than for Angkor, at around US$220 per day.
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