Within Angkor Archaeological Park
Daily, 5am – 7pm (open for sunrise/sunset tours)
Admission: Included in Angkor Pass ($37/$62/$72)
Washroom On Site: No
A magnificent brick red pyramid temple with attractive views from the top and bottom.
By the time you leave Siem Reap, the image of Pre Rup as you drive along in your bouncing tuk tuk will be easier to remember than your bank PIN. You will likely pass by the colossal vermilion towers shooting up towards the sky every day as you enter Angkor Park.
When your tuk tuk driver finally understands where you want to go after you’ve completely butchered the pronunciation of “Pre Rup” (you’ve been calling it “Pree Rupp” all this time, haven’t you? It’s apparently “Pray Roop”), your driver can drop you off at either the south or east gate. The east gate is the main entrance, with the parking lot as well as shops directly across the street. However, this also means a lot more tourists will be lollygagging here, blocking your photos and way into the temple. The south gate is much less busy. Your driver will only be able to stop and drop you off quickly at the south gate since there is no lot or shoulder to pull over. Whichever gate you choose to enter at, your tuk tuk will be waiting at the east gate lot when you finish.
Our driver was a pro and wisely dropped us at the south entrance. The sight that greets visitors at the south is not as polished as the main gate. On the upside, you’re less likely to be harassed by merchants pushing their wares on you. If you don’t know what to expect from Pre Rup, the sad state of the south enclosure wall can really detract from the splendour just behind it. To the right of what was once the main gate, an entire section of the wall has opened up, which serves as a natural point of entry.
Before you jump right into tackling the steps, take some time to walk through the galleries and explore the towers (which are in particularly good shape) in the courtyard. Most other tourists will not bother with them and will rush the pyramid as if it’s a Protoss Nexus, and you’ll have free rein of these points of interest.
It’s a breathtaking sight to be standing at the base of the pyramid, gazing up at this crimson behemoth. You’d naturally want a photo of the stairs rising up to the glorious central tower, especially on the most picturesque eastern staircase, but good luck getting a photo that’s not blighted by other tourists posing for their own photos. We visited during the low season at the hottest point of the day, and even I got only a glorious eight seconds of no one on the stairs. If you’re keen to get a cool solitary shot of you climbing the steps, you might have better luck on the stairs on the other sides.
Pre Rup can be ascended by the staircases at the four cardinal directions. The steps are very steep – reaching as high as your knees depending on your height. If you were hoping that one of the staircases was “the easy one,” I didn’t find it. There will be no escaping getting sweaty and gasping for air as you desperately squint upward to see how many stairs are left.
At the top, you’ll find five gopuras arranged in an X pattern. Would you believe it? To get inside the central tower you’ll have to… climb more steps. Cheeky. False doors and barrier ropes may block your entry to certain towers that are being restored. Outwardly, you’ll be greeted with spectacular views of the surrounding jungle and the grounds. If you have an ambitious travel companion with you, you can get awesome shots of each other across Pre Rup if one of you goes to the outer gopuras mentioned earlier.
This was one of my favourite Angkor temples during our trip to Siem Reap. The entire look of it just inspires you to climb onto its tall foundations like a little kid. Despite being horribly sleep-deprived from a crappy hotel and the sun beating down on us, I was in good spirits for our entire visit to Pre Rup.
When To Visit
Pre Rup is one of the few Angkor temples that are open for sunrise or sunset viewings. The unique hue of Pre Rup would be set ablaze by optimal dawn or dusk, I imagine. If you’re too tired to wake up ridiculously early or too impatient to hit the bars at sundown, the colours of Pre Rup are also enhanced by early morning or late afternoon sunlight, according to guides. This also means that this will be the busiest times.
In between these two points around the noon hour is when most people would have left for lunch or to escape the heat. If you plan your visit to coincide with midday, you’ll have the best chance at a quieter temple, but there will be no relief from the sun when you’re at the top of the pyramid. You can duck inside the towers, but it isn’t much better in there with the stagnant air. The light bouncing off the red bricks won’t help to dull the sensation that you are inside a volcano.
It’s up to you what’s more important: potentially lovelier photos with tons of strangers in them, or sacrificing your comfort for a chance at solo shots. If you’re in the latter category and it’s the off-season between May and October, I would say suck it up and go for it. I’m not sure how much prettier the colours could’ve been if we went to Pre Rup at the suggested times, but from our pictures, you can see how uncrowded it was and how many photos we got with absolutely no one else in the shot. However, in the peak season, Angkor Park itself may be too crowded for it to make much of a difference.