While the Cambodian government has come to view tourism as an important cog in the national economic wheel, the tourism boom is a mixed blessing for visitors. The Angkor region attracts two million tourists annually, and despite the site’s luxurious sprawl, hordes of photo-happy travelers often can be found jostling elbows as they try to capture the morning light at Angkor Wat and the nearby town of Siam Reap, gateway to the temple complex. High season hits when expected—when the monsoons and accompanying horrid humidity of the summer months have passed. The most popular months for tourists are November to January, when temperatures linger in the high 70s to low 80s.
A few smaller windows of opportunity for travel exist, especially if you want to avoid the crowds and the bad weather. March is one option, although by April, only the hardiest travelers will want to gamble on the arrival of rain and 90 degree heat and the possibility of flooded roads (though adventurous travelers may want to check out Khmer New Year in late April.) Another possibility is September and October, the tail end of the fall monsoon, before the crowds arrive and when sunshine and rain start to alternate, creating breathtaking views of the stone sculptures and carvings.
June through August is the low season. Heavy rains are a near-daily affair that turns roads into gumbo and keeps travelers at bay. Of course, this can be an ideal time to find bargains galore in Siam Reap and to enjoy the temples at their quietest. Touring the complex itself can be as daunting as determining the right time of year to go. To get the most from your visit, give yourself three days and target one or two temples a day. Some attractions, like the tree-choked Ta Phrom, can offer several hours of wandering enjoyment alone. Also, consider hiring a local tour guide; many are available throughout Siam Reap. Or, sign up for a day hiking or biking trip organized by an established tour operator, like Intrepid Travel. Knowledgeable tour guides and operators can help you avoid the crowds—an important factor in such a well-traveled locale.