You’ve heard of, or maybe even been to Angkor Wat. The massive Cambodian temple is engulfed in banyan roots and overrun with tourists. But stray a bit from the main attraction of the Angkor Complex, and you’ll stumble upon Ta Prohm Temple. The lesser known Bayon-style temple was built in the mid-12th to early-13th century and was originally used as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. You may actually recognize the eerie surroundings from the temple’s cameo in the popular movie Tomb Raider. In 1992, the site was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The best part about this tourist attraction is that the tree sanctuary of Rajavihara (Ta Prohm’s original name) has been kept in the same condition as it was originally found, save some minor restorations. Today, the site is impressive to visit, but in its heyday, 79,365 people maintained its appearance and guarded 40,620 pearls and 4,540 other precious stones within its walls.
When to go: Though the structure is breathtaking at any hour, experience its beauty early in the morning when the sun is rising. Located in the east, the temple has a great view of the sunrise and you can avoid the crowds by getting there when most tourists are sound asleep.
What to do: Besides marveling at the fig, kapoka, and banyan tree roots and trunks that twist around the temple pillars, there are paths that take you through the structure. Observe the Sanskrit inscriptions on the stone walls, explore the interior courtyard and other passageways, or go on a tour with a guide who will inform you of the ruins’ history. That being said, if you decide to explore on your own, follow the routes and landmarks that indicate the paths within the temple to avoid getting lost. Also, we suggest bringing a compass and flashlight, just in case.