There’s no right or wrong way to explore Angkor Archaeological Park, but you can be strategic about it. Start with official 'Wonder of the World' and the largest religious site on Earth, Angkor Wat but get up early to see it at sunrise as they'll be a lot of people with the same idea. Alternatively, go for a hilltop complex like Phnom Bakheng at dawn to avoid crowds (most people visit here at sunset). It's best to do most of your exploring before the midday sun hits, although the 'Tombraider Temple', Ta Prohm, is a good one to go to in the afternoon, as it's shaded (read: half-eaten) by tightly-knotted banyan trees. Get the three-day temple pass ($62) if you're here for anything longer than a weekend break, as it's worth taking time to explore the smaller, off-road temples like Preah Pithu, in and around the main city of Angkor Thom.
For the more adventurous, you can make the one-hour trip outside of town to the mysterious twelfth century temple, Beng Mealea. Found deep in the jungle, it has the same 'unearthed' feel as Ta Prohm, but without the tourists queuing up to do an Angelina Jolie pose in front of it. Scrambling around piles of crumbling bricks and roots wrapped around sandstone, you'll feel like the true explorer of a lost empire.
Get some background at Angkor National Museum. Put it all into context at this comprehensive museum, which explores the Buddhist and Hindu treasures found at the nearby temple sites and tells the full story of the powerful Angkor civilization. As the museum gives an overview, rather than detailed explanations of the early Khmer royals and their grand schemes, it might be better to go before you visit the Angkor complex.
Watch the sun rise over the Angkor Temple to reveal the natural beauty of this area. Roam around and gaze across at the amazing scenery and unrivaled architecture. Stroll through the temple's complex chambers and learn the site's fascinating history.