Angkor Wat is one of the most impressive sites in the world, and was immediately a highlight of my southeast Asia trip. The temples are breathtaking! While you need to visit them in Cambodia to appreciate it, below is a photo tour of the experience.
I’ll start with some sunrise photos, because that’s what it’s famous for and I love them! I’ll show you the geography, then sprinkle in a little history, with photos throughout the post.
Where is Angkor Wat?
Angkor Wat is located in Siem Reap, in Cambodia. Along with Angkor Thom, the Bayon temples, and Ta Prohm, Angkor might be the best two-day trip you can take in all of Asia.
Angkor Wat was built by the vanished Khmer empire. It was constructed during the reign of King Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1113 to at least 1145.
Did you know?
Angkor is located in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap literally translates to ‘defeat of Siam,’ which is today’s Thailand. It’s a conflict that goes back centuries, between the Siamese and Khmer people.
The real “tomb raider” ?
This is Angkor’s only temple with tombs, despite the “Tomb Raider” movie being shot at nearby Ta Prohm, where there’s no tombs.
“Angkor Wat” translates to “The city that is a temple.”
Aspara dancers everywhere!
There are more than 1,860 carved Apsara dancers in Angkor Wat.
Did you know?
I found this interesting – “Angkor Wat” translates to “The city that is a temple.” It’s true, it’s both a city and temple at the same time.
Stories in the Walls – a closer look
How long did it take to build?
They say Angkor Wat took 30 years to build, which seems like a long time, until you see all the rich detail on nearly every wall. Nearly every wall has details you can miss!
Why was Angkor Wat built?
Scholars say the temples were built for funerary purposes, since its bas-reliefs are meant to be viewed anti-clockwise, a direction that was associated with death in the Khmer empire.
From Hindu to Buddhist?
This stone sculpture depicts the 8 arms of Vishnu, the powerful Hindu god, but with the head of Buddha. When Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple, the head of Vishnu was replaced with the head of Buddha.
Many devatas grace the walls. Devata is another word for deva, the Hindu term for deity
My favorite in the Angkor Wat complex?
Finally, if you’re going to Siem Reap, you’ll definitely also want to check out both the Bayon temples / Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm (post coming soon). Those are my favorites!
Travelers consistently say that Bocas del Toro Panama is among their favorite parts of Central America, especially for backpackers and travelers. Bocas is an archipelago (group of islands) with beautiful beaches, wildlife, adventure, and great backpacker vibe. It also has good food, and a great party scene that attracts backpackers from around the world.
Most people have only heard of Bocas del Toro Panama from the TV series Survivor (17 countries filmed there) – it’s a real place and worth a visit. While many people visiting Panama only get to Panama City, Bocas is a hidden gem.
5 days of Island Hopping in Bocas
Every day we chose an activity or an island to go to – then hopped in a boat to go check it out.
31 photo tour of Bocas del Toro Panama
Here’s a 31-photo tour, with some highlights from our five days of island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama:
Playa La Estrella – Starfish Beach
While it doesn’t get nearly as much acclaim as the other beaches, Playa La Estrella has easily the most beautiful water next to their nearly private beaches. The name literally translates to Starfish Beach, and you can see why – they’re everywhere!
Playa La Estrella, the most beautiful beach in Bocas
Tip: please do NOT touch the starfish or take them out of water – it actually kills them.
Sunsets in Bocas del Toro Panama:
The views are amazing all over the Bocas del Toro archipelago – it’s even more beautiful after the sun goes down.
Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos
Red Frog Beach is the most famous of the Bocas del Toro beaches. It includes the combination of hiking and rare Red Frogs in the forests right near the beach. I liked this beach, but found La Estrella to be more of my idea of relaxation.
Red Frogs are fascinating but tiny – most were an inch long (about the size of my pinky finger)
Dolphins in Bocas del Toro Panama!
There’s dolphins all around the archipelago. You can book a dolphin tour, but we saw lots of dolphins just on our various boat trips to snorkeling while island hopping in Bocas Panama.
Delicious food in Bocas!
Nearly every meal comes with a beautiful view. We couldn’t get enough of the seafood, which was super fresh, being a busy archipelago. Most of the restaurants are on Isla Colon, but a few others are just a short boat ride away. Dress at most restaurants, even the fancier restaurants, are “beach town casual” (as we call it).
Surfing in Bocas too!
There’s a bunch of spots for surfing, and each surf company seemed to have their secret spots, depending on what level you are, and what time of day we’re going out. We were complete novices (I learned how to surf in Bali but apparently you don’t become an expert of going just once). There’s apparently really good surfing in Bocas, as the one of the top surfers in Panama is actually from Bocas del Toro.
Tip: Our surf lessons were at a secluded area right off the beach. Do NOT leave anything of any value on the beach. Don’t leave your wallet, phone or camera – it will disappear. While Bocas is generally very safe, it’s not the richest of areas, so leaving anything by the beach is just begging them to walk with your stuff. Bring your rented board and that’s it – we were warned that even t-shirts get disappear. Bocas isn’t dangerous, but your belongings are valuable to others.
Snorkeling & kayaking around the islands
Take a boat trip to go snorkeling – ours was relaxing and came with a delicious lunch. Rent a kayak and enjoy the waters.
The Bocas archipelago has 9 main islands, 52 cays, and thousands of islets with coral reefs and mangroves. Kayaks and boats aren’t the only ways to get around –
Transportation in Bocas
Isla Colon is the main island where the vast majority of restaurants and bars are located. There’s guys on the docks just waiting for your business – it was never difficult to find someone to take us on boat to the other islands. We also took taxis, bikes, kayaks, and more.
Check out the quality the bicycles before you rent them. We rented bikes for just $5 for the day – as it turns out they were appropriately priced. My didn’t even have handles and had a slow leaking flat.
We stayed at the oceanfront Pukalani Hostel, located right on the water and even includes a pool! It’s located away from the craziness (and noise) of Bocas Town, but close enough to take a quick cheap taxi to and from the party. It was perfect for us, although it’s a bit far from the action.
Pukalani has a swimming pool, pool table, punching bag, BBQ, and decent free WiFi. The family that runs it are super friendly and welcoming. They have a kitchen too – the food was adequate for when you can’t make it into town.
Location: It’s a short taxi ride, and while it’s walkable during the day, after dark there’s no street lights so you might consider the taxi. At times you might wish you were closer to the restaurants and bars staying in Bocas town, but this location gives you a chance to recharge and actually sleep when some bars are still raging. And did I mention it’s right on the water with a pool?!? It was our home base while island hopping in Bocas del Toro Panama.
A dose of reality –
Keep in mind that it rains quite a bit in Bocas; I was lucky to have a dry week, but I’ve heard that’s not typical. Also, not all beaches are as beautiful as Playa Estrella. We were a little disappointed with the quality of the beaches until we stumbled upon Star Beach. The best part of Bocas was the backpacker community.
Bocas del Toro Panama nighlife!
The best part of Bocas may be the Bocas nightlife, where travelers from around the world all go out and meet each other over a few libations. Check out my post on Bocas after dark.