Phnom Bakheng is very popular with tourists for its breathtaking sunset view on Angkor Wat. Being one of the oldest temples from the Angkor era, it served as a temple mountain in honor of the Hindu god Shiva.
King Jasovarman I (899 - 900) moved the capital of his empire from Roluos to the location which will be known as Angkor. He created a city with a surface of 16 square kilometers. It was bigger than Angkor Thom which will be built later. The centre of the city was a natural hill of 67 meter high with on top the State Temple. The temple consist of a bottom, five platforms and on top a terrace. Once 108 towers surrounded all levels but most of them collapsed. On the top level we find a sanctum and four towers in the form of a cross. The temple was devoted to the god Shiva and was used as tomb for king Jasovarman I.
The sunset from Phnom Bakheng is very impressive. Many people climb up the steep slopes just to catch a view of it. Phnom Bakheng is located 400 m south of Angkor Thom. A sandy path will take you to the foot of the temple, where steep, small stairs will lead you to the top terrace. You can also go by elephant to the foot of the temple. They will charge you 15 $ for one ride. In high season it can be very crowed on the hill and it won't be easy to find a good spot to see Angkor Wat in the warm glow of the sun. Please keep in mind that Angkor Wat is 1.3 km away, so you need a good camera with a big lens to make a close shot. On the otherside you will have an incredible view on Tonle Sap lake and Kulen Mountain. After enjoying the sunset, be careful climbing down the stairs. There are no lights so a small flashlight can be useful.