The largest religious structure in the world and Cambodia's greatest attraction is Angkor Wat. Wats are Buddhist temples, which generally consist of several buildings surrounded by a wall. They are found in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. The definition of a wat can differ per country, so a Hindustani or a Christian temple can also be a wat.
The Angkor Wat is praised not only for its beauty, but also for the enormous size of the temple. The outer wall has a circumference of 3.6 kilometers and is completely surrounded by a moat. Within the three walls there are three stepped plateaus. On the upper plateau are five towers, of which the highest tower, also the highest point of the temple, is 65 meters high. The recognition for this special construction goes entirely to the Khmer people.
The Khmer Empire was founded in the territory of present-day Cambodia in the 8th century, but extended across parts of China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam during its heyday. During this prosperous period, Angkor was the administrative and religious center of the empire and was designated its capital. In the 15th century, the Khmer decided to move the center of the empire to Phnom Penh, which we know today as the capital of Cambodia. Angkor was abandoned and forgotten to disappear into the jungle.
Several hundred years later, in the mid-19th century, French explorer Henri Mouhot stumbled upon the temple. In his notes he spoke of a construction so beautiful that it is not believed that the Khmer had been responsible for the construction of the temple, but that it originated from a period similar to the Roman Empire. In the following years, Angkor Wat became popular with tourists, leading to renovations in the 20th century. Nowadays you can join one of the many tours to the Angkor Wat and other temples in the area.