The Temples of Angkor are stunning, but usually enjoyed by childless travelers. This is a shame because almost all the temples are great places to visit with children, even little ones.
But after traipsing around Angkor for nine days with our two-year-old in a backpack carrier, we know a few things. Here are our best tips for enjoying Cambodia and its temples with a small child.
Let Kids Be Kids
The Temples of Angkor are not quiet and refined. Your kids, no matter how rambunctious, are unlikely to be louder than the tour guides shouting on bullhorns. Additionally, these temples are mostly outdoors and largely in ruins. Time and the Khmer Rouge have broken anything fragile and no one will look askance at your child’s climbing (though getting in the way of people’s photos will earn you withering looks).
The best temple for letting Jude explore on his own was Preah Khan. It was large and mostly flat; Jude could wander through rooms without any steep climbing and there was plenty for us to see.
Ta Prohm—known for its picturesque overgrown silk-cotton trees and its scenes in the Tomb Raider movies— is also good for kids with its ample but not steep or dangerous climbing.
Plan Some Adult-Only Touring
There are a few temples where little kids aren’t allowed because it isn’t safe and others where having little kids with you would be challenging. We managed to see some of these places by taking turns exploring and staying with Jude. We also gave him a break from temple touring one day and let him run around the hotel gardens with a sitter while we went out on our own.
I would reserve Beng Mealea, the wildest and most overgrown of all of the Angkor temples, for children over 8. It offers great scrambling and climbing opportunities for older children and adults. The day we toured it (the babysitter day) we saw two parents trying to manage three smaller kids and looking pretty frazzled. The two oldest were in dangerous looking climbing situations and the youngest was crying because she wasn’t allowed to join them. Their car passed our tuk-tuk on the way back to Siem Reap and the parents looked exhausted and glum.