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Ever wondered about the ruins and desolate existence of temples in the remote locations of Cambodia? If you are journeying to untapped places across the country, Prasat Beng Mealea in Cambodia is a temple complex worth visiting. Often known as the ‘Jungle Temple’, the temple complex was built on an ancient highway, which explains its uniqueness. The temple’s history is deeply rooted in the Khmer Empire and its existence. While ruins remain and the jungle has taken over the temple’s structure predominantly, Beng Mealea is a place worth visiting the next time you visit Cambodia.

About Prasat Beng Mealea

The view of the temple in Cambodia.

Image Credit: Gary Todd for Wikimedia Commons
Often called the ‘Jungle Temple’ or ‘Lotus Pond Temple’, Beng Mealea is located 66 km from Siem Reap and 40 km east of the Angkor Complex. The temple was built under the reign of Suryavarman II and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
The entire temple is spread across an area of one sq. km, which explains why the significance of this jungle-covered temple is still pronounced. Featuring the staple Angkor Wat style of architecture and sandstone material, the stability and beauty of the temple don’t require any introduction. Somehow, historians depict that the untouched rawness of the jungle-covered temple adds to its mystery and realism. Nature has somehow claimed its dominance over the temple; its entire complex is covered in shrubs, vines and bushes.

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Prasat Beng Mealea History

History of Prasat Beng Mealea

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As mentioned, Beng Mealea was built in the early 12th century by King Suryavarman II, the same ruler responsible for the iconic Angkor Wat. There isn’t much concrete information about the significance of the temple’s construction. However, legends depict that it was done so people could have a temple complex to worship Lord Vishnu. Due to the similarities between Beng Mealea and Angkor Wat, some historians even believe that Beng Mealea was constructed as a prototype of Angkor Wat.
The temple’s construction primarily uses a blend of laterite and sandstone, showcasing the Khmer artisans’ exquisite craftsmanship. Beyond the Hindu mythology and motifs that adorn the temple’s walls, there are Buddhist designs and inscriptions. Back in the day, the temple was built on the highway leading up to Preah Khan Kompong Svay, streamlining connectivity. Like Angkor Wat, even Beng Mealea was abandoned in the 16th century. It was later rediscovered in the 19th century by the French explorers. Although the temple complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, it remains abandoned and untouched.

Marvel At Prasat Beng Mealea Architecture

Architecture ruins of Prasat Beng Mealea

Image Credit: Gary Todd for Wikimedia Commons
When describing the temple’s dimensions, the outer enclosure of the temple measures 152 by 181 metres while the moat measures 875m by 1025m. Like most temples inspired by Khmer architecture, even the Beng Mealea temple has entrances on all four sides, despite the temple facing eastward.
Due to the temple’s abandoned and unrestored nature, the three enclosing galleries in its perimeter remain in ruins. The temple has completely collapsed, but the remnants add to its charm. Beyond the inscriptions on the temple walls, the pathway to the temple features a seven-headed Naga on either side.

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Things To Do At Prasat Beng Mealea

Things to enjoy Prasat Beng Mealea

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Most tourists consider visiting Beng Mealea as part of a day trip expedition. So, once you are there, the following are a few things to indulge in:

  • The true charm of the temple lies in its ruins. So, the moment you step inside the temple, the first thing you must do is wander through the corridors, the ruins, the rocks and the boulders to get a closer look at the once-tall temple’s details and architecture.
  • Despite being in shambles and run down on the ground, the true beauty of the Beng Mealea temple lies in its history. While knowing about it firsthand from books is one thing, having a guide explain the details in real time is an entirely different experience. So, opt for guided tours if you want to indulge in such a rewarding experience.
  • Besides exploring the main temple complex, consider venturing to the surrounding areas. A moat once encircled the temple, remnants of which can still be seen. Additionally, several smaller satellite temples and ruins dot the landscape, offering a glimpse into the temple city’s vastness. It further enriches the beauty of the Prasat Beng Mealea Cambodia.

Best Time To Visit

Prasat Beng Mealea ruins resting in Cambodia

Image Credit: PsamatheM for Wikimedia Commons
Like most of Cambodia, visiting Beng Mealea is best between November and March. The weather is comfortable during this period, making it perfect for travelling far from Siem Reap and exploring the temple ruins.
However, the downside to visiting during this period is the hefty crowds. It becomes overwhelming sometimes, especially with the prices you’d have to pay for flights and accommodation.

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Prasat Beng Mealea Timings

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Image Credit: Gary Todd for Wikimedia Commons
The Prasat Beng Mealea timings are from 07:00 AM to 05:30 PM. Since it’s a little far from Siem Reap, consider visiting and exploring the temple complex in the early morning and covering other temples afterwards.

How To Reach

A road in Cambodia

Image Credit: PsamatheM for Wikimedia Commons
If you take the direct route, Beng Mealea, Cambodia, is around 66 km from Siem Reapz. If you travel via the Angkor Archaeological Complex, you can cover the distance in 58 km. However, the roads are narrow, and traffic is an issue. You’d also need a pass to take this route.
The second and more elaborate route to reach Beng Mealea is via National Road 6 towards Phnom Penh. You’d need to continue on this road until you reach Damdek village and take a left on Road 64. From there, it is a direct drive to the temple complex. Some common transportation options for the trip include taxis, tuk tuk or vans if you are in a group.

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If you are ready to venture off the beaten path and explore a temple that’s in ruins in Cambodia, consider visiting Beng Mealea. The place holds rich history and mystery to its existence, especially with the overgrown ruins but its existence provides a glimpse into the beauty and essence of Khmer architecture. With the added mystique of the jungle in the surroundings, there is an added element of adventure and discovery while you are on your trip to Cambodia.

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Cover Image Credit: Gary Todd for Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions About Prasat Beng Mealea

How much does it cost to go to Beng Mealea?

Since Prasat Beng Mealea Angkor is part of the Angkor Archaeological Complex, you will need to buy a pass to be able to explore the insides of the temple.

How long does it take to visit Beng Mealea?

Due to the offbeat location of the Prasat Beng Mealea Angkor, you can consider it a half-day trip because the to and fro commute takes about 2-3 hours.

Can I visit Prasat Beng Mealea without a guide?

Guides are not mandatory to explore Prasat Beng Mealea Siem Reap. You can do so on your own. However, a guide gives you additional information about the place’s history.

What are the nearest attractions to Beng Mealea?

Some of the nearby attractions from Prasat Beng Mealea Siem Reap include Phnom Kulen National Park, Phnom Bok Temple (Prasat Phnom Bok), and Roluos Group (Roluos Temples).

Can I visit Prasat Beng Mealea during the rainy season?

The Prasat Beng Mealea temple is open year-round, so you can visit it any time of the year.

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