Top Ten Archaeological Ruins

Asia: Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The celebrated temples of Angkor are Cambodia's greatest tourist attraction. The largest religious monument ever constructed, Angkor Wat's 100 or so temples are the sacred remains of what was once a much larger administrative and religious center. The temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries to glorify a succession of Khmer kings. Most of Angkor was abandoned in the 15th century and the temples became cloaked by forest. Unknown to the world until French naturalist Henry Mahout wrote about their discovery in the 19th century, the central wat is surrounded by four smaller towers, standing in a rectangle of about 2,800 by 3,800 feet and surrounded by a moat. The towers which seem to jut from the jungle's undergrowth feature mesmerizing carvings depicting the customs and culture of the Khmer people, Hindu epics, and the life of King Suryavarman. Fashioned in a bold, curvaceous style, these figures seem to leap off the stone wall. Passageways, moats, and palaces also remain, representing centuries of building in the Angkor complex. Apart from Angkor Wat, two other magnificent temples to visit are the Bayon and Ta Prohm. Another worthwhile side-trip is to the Tonle Sap, the great lake in central Cambodia.


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