Banteay Srei or “Citadel of Women”” was not built by a King as the other Angkor temples. It was built by a Brahman of royal descent who was the spiritual teacher of King Jayavarman V. It is the only temple carved in hard pink sandstone in the Angkor region. It was discovered in 1914 by French archaeologists who described it as a “precious gem” and a “jewel in Khmer art”.

It is no incidence that Banteay Srei becomes one of the most famous Cambodia temples despite being one of the smallest temples in Angkor Complex. It owns the most exquisite carvings in the whole of Angkor with amazing mastery, perfection and accuracy of its design, which surprised all archaeologists, architects, scholars and visitors coming here. Amongst Banteay Srei highlights, the most impressive architecture are the refined carved walls of the central sanctuary and guardian sculptures in the corners of the central tower.

The central sanctuary is the prime example of its fine decoration – no space was not carved and the walls are covered with bass-reliefs of floral as well as geometrical motifs. The two inner libraries have two delicate pediments. The east facing pediment of the southern library portrays a scene from the Ramayana in which Shiva and his wife Uma are sitting on the summit of Mount Kailasa. The western pediment depicts the scene where the God of love Kama throws an arrow at Shiva to make him interested in Uma, and enraged by this distraction Shiva gazes upon him with his third eye reducing Kama to ashes. The east facing pediment of the northern library shows the scene where Indra, God of the sky, creates rain to put out a big fire in the forest started by Angi, god of fire, to kill a Naga that lived in the forest. The western fronton of this room depicts Krishna murdering his uncle because he tried to kill him when he was a child.

Source: Collected

Banteay Srei, one of the smallest sites at Angkor, is considered as the jewel in the crown of Angkorian Art. Banteay Srei means ‘Citadel of the Women’, and it is said that it must have been built by a woman, as the elaborate carvings are supposedly too fine for the hand of a man.

The best time to visit Banteay Srei:

In general, the best time to visit Cambodia is from December to February due to moderate temperature and less downpour. So it is the same as the most beautiful time to visit Banteay Srei. But, in a  day, the ideal time to visit it is in the early morning or late afternoon. The temple doesn’t feature the same mazes of corridors as Bayon, and it’s not possible to sit in the shade of its walls like at Angkor Wat as they are too small to create much shadow. It’s best to visit during the cooler times of day, which can also give you the opportunity for some stunning photos of the pink-colored temple in the changing light.

How to get there

Banteay Srei is just over 20km from the main Angkor complex and a little over 30km from Siem Reap center. It’s a pretty drive by tuk tuk, through villages and rice fields, and takes around 30 minutes from the temples of Angkor. It’s also possible to do by bicycle, and is accessible by taxi as well. On the way to the temple you will pass the superb Landmine Museum; an information center and NGO which specializes in relief work for children affected by landmines and is well worth a short visit.

What things to do surrounding Banteay Srei:

Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity is a wildlife rescue center that rehabilitates and homes rescued animals, then let them back into the wild if possible. The center is home for many impressive animals such as gibbons, lorises, leopard cats, turtles and several types of birds of prey. The Center also set up guided tours for visitors to explore that endangered animals, normally starting at 9A.M or 1P.M.

Kbal Tuek Community Forest

The Kbal Tuek Community Foret is a fledgling ecotourism project, focusing on protecting the local forest from development and encroachment. There are available guided tours there, especially recommended to explore the unique flora and fauna of the forest such as such as the carnivorous pitcher plant “bompong lok” because it is very difficult for you to find it by yourself.

Cambodia Landmine Museum The Cambodia Landmine Museum is one of the most tourist attraction surrounding Banteay Srei temple. It provides information about the history of landmine use by all sides of Cambodia’s civil war and the devastating effects that these weapons have had on the population and continue to have.

Banteay Srei Butterfly Center

Located on the road to Banteay Srei temple, the Banteay Srei Butterfly Center is considered as the largest butterfly enclosure in Southeast Asia. With the thousands of Cambodian butterflies, clients can join daily tours here to explore the life cycle of butterflies and butterfly farming, even feeding.

Kbal Spean

Part of Phnom Kulen National Park, Kbal Spean is known as the “river of 1,000 lingas,” lingas being phallic carvings that represent the Hindu god Shiva. The riverbed and the rocks surrounding Kbal Spean waterfall are intricately carved with Hindu symbols dating from the 11th and 12th centuries, including lots and lots of lingas. It takes only about 45 minute walk through the forest to come waterfall and carvings. Entrance to the site is available until 3 p.m. and requires an Angkor Archaeological Park ticket, which must be bought in Siem Reap and cannot be purchased at Kbal Spean.

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