Visit one of the few remaining lost temples of Cambodia and get well off-the-beaten-track at Beng Mealea – the wild ruins overrun by the jungle, not by the tourists.  

By: Mark Barnes | Published: 16 Mar 2024

Beng Mealea is one of the most evocative Angkor temples around Siem Reap.

A central tower lies in rubble with vines and roots slowly constricting walls adorned with ancient Khmer art. Through the dappled light of huge trees growing through the ruins, impressive carvings hint at the importance of this once great temple.  

There is just enough standing at Beng Mealea to appreciate the grandeur, yet the invading jungle gives it the haunting feel of a ruined city.

The complete lack of tourists only adds to the lost world vibe at Beng Mealea.

It should be included on any Siem Reap itinerary. Read on to find out how to visit this magnificent ruin in Cambodia.

WHY VISIT BENG MEALEA

Beng Mealea is one of the best Angkor temples around Siem Reap.

While other temples have a consumed-by-the-forest feel such as Ta Prohm and Ta Som, their roots and vines are actually maintained to stop the temples from being completely overrun.

Beng Mealea on the other hand, is almost completely wild. The central tower lies in a pile of rubble and walls are crumbling from the weight of vines and tree roots.

Apart from a few boardwalks, the temple remains completely untouched. But there is just enough temple standing to suggest a lost grandeur. The invading jungle gives it the haunting feel of a truly ruined city.

The other reason it is one of the best things to do in Siem Reap is that no one goes and you’re very likely to have the whole place to yourself.

HISTORY OF BENG MEALEA

Beng Mealea was built in the 12th century in the reign of King Suryavarman II. It was constructed as a Hindu Temple, but like many Angkor Temples, the carvings depict a mix of Hindu and Buddhist symbols.

Designed in the Angkor Wat style, the central sanctuary is surrounded by three galleries, which are enclosed by four walls. The entire area is surrounded by a moat 1200 metres long and 900 metres wide.

It is thought the temple was abandoned in the 16th century and was not discovered until French explorers stumbled upon it in the 19th century. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2020 in anticipation of becoming a fully recognised UNESCO site.

WHAT TO SEE AT BENG MEALEA

The best thing to do at Beng Mealea is to simply stroll around and soak up the atmosphere, but here are a few things to keep an eye out for.

  • The collapsed tower in the central sanctuary.
  • The 3 galleries surrounding the sanctuary.
  • The north-eastern library with the depiction of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk.
  • The southwest library with the curved roof intact.
  • The decorated lintels depicting Hindu scenes.

It’s no longer permitted to climb over the boulders, but make sure you walk around the back of the temple to see a good section of the outer wall still in place.

BENG MEALEA TICKETS

Until recently, it was possible to buy an individual ticket at the entrance. However, Beng Mealea is now included on the Angkor Pass, and you cannot see it without purchasing this pass.

Keep in mind, you cannot buy the pass at the entrance to Beng Mealea. The only place you can buy the Angkor Pass is at the ticket centre in Siem Reap (Corner of Road 60 and Apsara Road) or online.

We recommend ordering your Angkor Temples Pass online before you go.

  • 1-Day Pass ($37) – Entry to all the Angkor temples for 1 day.
  • 3-Day Pass ($62) – Entry to all the Angkor temples for any 3 days in a 10-day period.
  • 7-Day Pass ($72) – Entry to all the Angkor temples for any 7 days in a 1-month period.

We suggest you buy the 3-day pass and follow our 3-day Siem Reap itinerary.

BENG MEALEA HOURS

Beng Mealea is open every day from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm.

WHERE IS BENG MEALEA?

Beng Mealea is 40 kilometres east of the main Angkor temples.

HOW TO GET TO BENG MEALEA

Beng Mealea is a 1-hour drive from Siem Reap and best visited by taxi. It costs about $45-$55 for a taxi driver to take you from Siem Reap to Beng Mealea, wait while you visit the temple, and then take you back to Siem Reap.

The 60-minute drive from Siem Reap keeps visitor numbers down. We have been twice, arriving shortly after it opens both times, and were the only people there.

You can also go by tuk-tuk, it’s a bit cheaper, but it takes 90 minutes each way so you’re on the road for an extra hour.  

BENG MEALEA DAY TRIPS

You can visit Beng Mealea on its own, but it often makes more sense to include it on a half-day or full-day trip that includes some of the other highlights around Siem Reap.

Here are some other ideas:

OUTER TEMPLES TOUR

There are several temples dotted around Siem Reap that can be combined on a day tour to Beng Mealea.

Start at the Roluos Group, next head to Beng Mealea, and then to Banteay Srei for the incredible Khmer carvings.

Many tours include the ‘lingas’ (fertility symbols) in the river Kbal Spean, but personally we don’t think it’s worth the effort. Instead make a stop at the Cambodia Landmine Museum, which is on the road back to Siem Reap.

Costs & Duration – A taxi should cost about $75 to complete the circuit of the above sites. The Landmine Museum is $5 per person. The entire circular route with stops takes about 6-7 hours.

BENG MEALEA, BANTEAY SREI AND KOMPONG PHLUK

This is a busy, but excellent day. In the morning get and early start and take a taxi to Beng Mealea, and then go to Banteay Srei before heading back to Siem Reap.

In the afternoon join a floating village tour of Kompong Phluk. This is what we recommend on Day 2 of our 3-day Siem Reap itinerary.

Costs & Duration – The taxi to Beng Mealea and Banteay Srei should be around $65, the Kompong Phluk tour is around $25 per person.

BENG MEALEA & KOMPONG KHLEANG

Beng Mealea and the floating village of Kompong Khleang make a great day out.

Both are near each other to the east of Siem Reap and both are more off the beaten track than other temples and villages.

Furthermore, you can also support the community by using Kompong Khleang Tours. This organisation gets ongoing approval for its activities from the village, involves them in decisions, and employs villagers. Profits are reinvested back into the community with almost 50% helping to fund education at the Bridge of Life School.

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