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Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is an architectural masterpiece and the largest religious monument in the world – covering an area four times the size of Vatican City. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th century, around the year 1110-1150, making Angkor Wat almost 900 years old.

The temple complex, built in the capital of the Khmer Empire, took approximately 30 years to build. It was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu before becoming a Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century.

One of the first Western visitors to the temple was Antonio de Madalena, a Portuguese friar who visited in 1586. Angkor Wat was then effectively rediscovered by the French explorer Henri Mouhot in the 1840s. Mouhot described Angkor Wat as “grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome” and spread the word about this incredible monument to the western world.

The French, who ruled Cambodia for much of the 20th century, restored the site in the early 1900s for tourism purposes. However, this work was then disrupted by the Cambodian Civil War and during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Angkor Wat sustained minimal damage – however there are still bullet holes on its outer walls due to the battles of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953 and has controlled Angkor Wat ever since.

In 1992 the temple complex was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is now a highly popular tourist attraction in Cambodia - welcoming 2 million visitors every year.