Small but perfectly formed, the delicately carved rose pink temple of Banteay Srei is a masterpiece of Angkorian art. The name means “Citadel of the Women,” likely because of its many carvings of “apsara” nymphs. First built in 967 AD, long before Angkor Wat or Angkor Thom, it’s about an hour’s drive from the main archaeological area.
Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, Banteay Srei was built by a scholar priest who probably tutored King Jayavarman V. See the site’s three towering shrines, a sanctuary, and two libraries, decorated with scenes from the Ramayana, as well as two ornate gates, a causeway, and a number of rest houses.
The temple is northeast of downtown Siem Reap and many tours combine it with other sites in that direction, such as Kbal Spean (which is known for the River of a Thousand Lingas), Beng Mealea, or Phnom Kulen National Park. You can enter Banteay Srei with a 1-day, 3-day, or 7-day Angkor Pass.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Banteay Srei is a must for photographers and anyone with an interest in Angkor art and architecture.
- Buy an Angkor Pass in advance; it is not available at the complex.
- The site offers bathrooms, souvenir stalls, parking, and a number of eateries around the temple.
- The Banteay Srei complex has accessible bathrooms. Low steps lead up to the temple structure, so travelers who rely on wheelchairs can only admire the carvings on the outside.
How to Get There
Banteay Srei is around 22 miles (36 kilometers) from downtown Siem Reap and 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the Angkor Wat temple complex. The site is far enough from the main complex that most visitors choose to head there on a different day, but the sites can all be visited in one day if necessary. There is no public transportation to the complex, so most people join a tour, hire a driver, or book a private guide.
When to Get There
Banteay Srei is open from early in the morning until late afternoon seven days a week. The site is quieter in the mornings and late afternoons, when the temple’s colors are also at their most beautiful and photogenic.
Kbal Spean and the River of a Thousand Lingas
If the carvings at Banteay Srei pique your interest, then Kbal Spean, about 7 miles (12 kilometers) up the road, makes a great addition to the day. A beautifully carved riverbed, which fills with water between July and December, it’s also known as the River of a Thousand Lingas. Beside the lingas (phallic symbols representing the god Shiva), carvings include gods, goddesses, and even animals, while there’s a waterfall to cool off after your hike.