Angkor is the heart of Cambodia and holds many ancient structures and mysteries. It’s also the main reason why many people visit Cambodia.

We want you to have some fun and useful knowledge before exploring the ancient temples. Are you ready to learn five cool things that you didn’t know about Angkor Wat?

1. Angkor Wat was never lost

Cambodian monk meditating on temple grounds
An often repeated yet common misconception is that a Frenchman, Henri Mouhot, discovered Angkor Wat in the 1800’s. In fact, what you didn’t know about Angkor Wat is that it was never actually lost. It has been continuously occupied since the early 15th century CE.

At that time, there were a variety of factors that led to the Angkorian Empire moving away from Angkor and towards the Phnom Penh region. Even after the move, Angkor remained occupied and became an extremely important religious site.

One interesting fact about Angkor Wat is that the first known western person to visit was a Portuguese Capuchin Friar named Antonio da Madalena. You can learn more about the friar’s account in the book ‘The Civilization of Angkor’ by Charles Higham.

2. There’s more to Angkor than Angkor Wat

Siem Reap Shuttle
Angkor Wat is the magnet that attracts millions of tourists to the Kingdom of Wonder every year but, what about the hundreds of other ancient religious temples that dot the region’s landscape?

Something that many didn’t know about Angkor Wat before their trip is that the archaeological park is home to hundreds of ancient structures, monuments, barays, and temples. All are spread throughout Cambodia’s natural landscape of jungle, hills, and plains.

So, are you ready to explore?! Travel to the birthplace of Angkor or discover one of Angkor’s abandoned capitals.

3. Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu Temple

Did you know that Angkor Wat is the largest religious complex in the world?!

Yes.

Ok, but what you didn’t know about Angkor Wat is that it was originally a Hindu creation.

Today, most visitors believe that it is a Buddhist monument. In fact, the entire stretch of Southeast Asia is strewn with remains of Indian (Hindu influence). Even the name of Bangkok’s airport → Suvarnabhoomi (Suvaṇṇabhumī means “Golden Land” or “Land of Gold” and might be a region named Aurea Regio in “India beyond the Ganges” – Suvarnabhumi Airport).

I’m sure that a lot of you missed that! So tell all of your friends!

4. The ancient hidden city Mahendraparvata lies under Angkor Wat

There’s an entire city hidden underneath Angkor Wat.

Yes, it’s true. That’s something you didn’t know about Angkor Wat!

In 2012, archaeologists used a breaking new technology – The LIDAR – to survey the ground beneath Angkor, more specifically Phnom Kulen.

Thanks to the technology, Jean-Baptiste Chevance and Damian Evans discovered amazing findings that led to the discovery of Mahendraparvata! Mahendraparvata means Mountain of the Great Indra. This ancient city is older than Angkor Wat by about 350 years!

The region was scanned again in 2016 because Damian Evans believed that there was more to be found.

Guess what … He was right!

The latest scan of the tropical floor has surprised the entire world showing that the 2012 findings were only a part of Mahendraparvata. In fact, there were several other cities, all interconnected, which makes this the largest city in the world during the time period!

5. Angkor Wat is one of the few temples that faces west

Siem Reap Shuttle
Did you know that most of the temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park face to the east?

Strange, right?

Even stranger is the fact that Angkor Wat stands out by being one of the few temples that faces west. It’s thought that this is the case because Angkor Wat is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.

According to the legends, Vishnu sits in the Ocean Milk and is considered the Supreme God personality in front of whom all other gods sit. All of the gods that sit facing Vishnu are facing east. This means that Vishnu, looking at the gods before him, faces west.

So, what did you and didn’t you know about Angkor Wat? Tell us in the comments! If you’re going to visit Angkor, you’ll be staying in Siem Reap. And if you’re staying in Siem Reap, you need fun things to do!