Ta Prohm Temple is a very popular part in a typical Angkor tour. It's the only major stop that wasn't fully reclaimed from the jungle. Many of the walls and structures have been smothered by huge silk-cotton trees and strangler figs, which grow over, around, and through the ancient stone blocks. These trees both hold the ruins together and cause them to collapse.

A visit to Ta Prohm really gives you the feeling of discovering something hidden and truly ancient, giving you a real Indiana Jones vibe. The area served as a filming location for the 2001 movie, Tomb Raider. While other Angkor temples were digitally altered, Ta Prohm’s appearance was largely unchanged in the film.

Ta Prohm Temple - one of the highlights of 5 Great Angkor Temples in 3 Days and 10 Best Things to Do in Cambodia (Read all about Siem Reap here)

photo by Harald Hoyer (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

History of Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm Temple was a monastery – one of King Jayavarman VII's 1st major temple projects from the 12th to 13th century, which was dedicated to his mother. It is estimated that this vast, 600-room structure and the surrounding area once had a population of over 70,000 people. The temple was home to high priests, monks, assistants, dancers and labourers. It controlled a great wealth of jewels and gold, as well as an estimated 3,000 nearby villages.

The temple contains a maze of courtyards and galleries, and it is well worth spending some time to explore its many dark corridors. Some walls and doorways of the ancient buildings have been left overgrown and gripped by huge trees and other foliage. Flocks of parrots in the trees add to the atmosphere and give you the feeling of discovering a temple lost in the jungle. With this image in mind, it's not hard to imagine what the French naturalist Henri Mouhot must have felt when he ‘discovered’ the temple in 1860.

photo by Sasha Isachenko (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

Ta Prohm Temple design

This is an excellent example of the monastic complex-style temples. Thanks to a wooden walkway built around the compound, it's quite easy to explore the temple ruins. Ta Prohm Temple has relatively few bas-reliefs, but you'll find one that some believe to resemble a stegosaurus, but is more likely to be a rhinoceros or boar on a leafy background.

The dramatic tree roots covering large parts of the buildings make it a popular place among photographers. Naturally, this means that it can sometimes be as crowded as Angkor Wat and Bayon. Visit in the early morning to have most of the place to yourself and enjoy the full ‘jungle explorer’ effect. You can reach Ta Prohm Temple about 1 km east of Angkor Thom.

photo by Clay Gilliland (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

Ta Prohm Temple

Location: Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller