Detail from Beng Mealea temple ©
For those visitors especially charmed by Tah Prom's jungle clad stones within the Angkor Wat complex, it is well worth making the five-hour round trip to visit Beng Mealea, a little-visited sandstone temple, now fused with the surrounding jungle. Built in the 12th century as a Hindu temple, and long since abandoned, this sprawling complex is on a similar scale, and built in a very similar style, to Angkor Wat, and closely approximates what the first western visitors there must have experienced when stumbling upon these forgotten wonders.
Little is known about the temple's history but it was probably once the centre of a town long ago overtaken by the dense Cambodian jungle. If you prefer to travel off the beaten track then Beng Mealea, overgrown and largely unrestored, will captivate you with its mystery and the relative freedom of the experience of exploring it. You are allowed to climb and investigate and the peaceful atmosphere encourages many visitors to spend time reading, writing or relaxing in a chosen spot among the ruins. Many of the carvings have been desecrated by earlier souvenir hunters, but in other ways the integrity and atmosphere of the structure has benefitted from the small number of visitors.
Address: 45 miles (70km) from Siem Reap