"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Banteay Srei Temple, Cambodia.

Banteay Srei Temple.

Banteay Srei Temple.

January, 2020.

One day, when I look back on my adventures exploring The Angkor Temples, I imagine I might reflect on which of these magnificent creations was my favourite. Even at this early stage I feel Banteay Srei could be a strong contender. Located a considerable thirty two kilometres from the centre of Siem Reap, many casual tourists miss the place altogether.

Exploring Banteay Srei.

Banteay Srei Temple.

After all, there are just so many gorgeous temples to visit, most of which sit bunched together within easy reach from the city. However, in this writer’s humble opinion, it would be scandalous to come all the way to Cambodia and not see Banteay Srei.

Banteay Srei Temple Cambodia.

First impressions can be deceiving.

As first impressions go, Banteay Srei certainly keeps its cards close to its chest. After forty minutes crunching through the country roads in our tuk tuk, my reaction was muted as we arrived at the east entrance. Uh… this is it? 

Banteay Srei Temple, Cambodia.

Banteay Srei Citadel of the Women.

Banteay Srei Temple.

Indeed, this is one of the smallest temples of the ancient Khmer Empire. But it’s not as diminutive as it first appears. Something that swiftly becomes clear as you make your way under the entrance arches into the spacious, dusty inner courtyard.

Banteay Srei Temple.

Banteay Srei Temple.

Moreover, what it lacks in size, Banteay Srei definitely makes up for with a history and design that sets it apart from every other Angkor temple. Firstly, it dates back to 987 and is one of the few temples in the region not commissioned by a king. In fact, it’s widely believed that a Brahman priest connected to King Jayavarman V ordered its construction.

Banteay Srei.

Banteay Srei Temple.

Secondly, construction took place using red sandstone, which gives the complex a highly distinctive pinkish hue. Furthermore, historians believe that a team of women built the place! As the theory goes, the carvings on display here are too intricate for the hand of a man. Not convinced? How about Banteay Srei’s name then, which literally means The Citadel of the Women.

The Citadel of the Women.

Visit Banteay Srei Temple Siem Reap.

Banteay Srei Temple.

You’ll find many of the temple’s most impressive carvings right in the centre of the complex. They’re scattered among the main shrines, the remains of the so-called Sanctuary and its flanking northern and southern libraries. Championed as the “jewel in the crown of Angkorian art”, these are some of the finest stone carvings anywhere in the world!

Banteay Srei Cambodia.

So amazing it simply couldn’t have been a man.

It’s well worth slowing your visit down and taking the time to seek out Banteay Srei’s fascinating details. Expect to see thousands of lotus leaves and female deities clutching flowers. There are plenty of mythical guardians on display too, including human figurines with monkey heads. Several scenes depict The Ramayana, one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India.

Banteay Srei Temple, Cambodia.

Banteay Srei Temple.

Banteay Srei Temple.

As with so many of The Angkor Temples, it’s common for visitors to catch a photoshoot or two. From wedding pictures to magazine shoots and even filming for TV shows, you never know who or what you might bump into.

Photoshoot Banteay Srei Temple Cambodia

Getting arty at Banteay Srei.

Amazingly, this incredible temple sat entirely lost in the jungle for thousands of years. It was a French archaeologist who discovered its ruins in 1914. Following an extended period of inactivity and looting, the esteemed French novelist and politician André Malraux was arrested for stealing several statues from the temple.

Citadel of the Women

Banteay Srei Temple.

Finally, in 1930, a grand restoration project began using as many original architectural elements as possible. It was a huge undertaking of course, and one that remains active today. Historians say a key moment came in 2003 when the team installed a drainage system to drastically reduce long term damage.

Banteay Srei Temple, Cambodia.

Surrounding moat Banteay Srei Temple.

The moat surrounding Banteay Srei.

On your way out, why not take a walk around the temple’s northern and southern sides. The moat and surrounding trees make for some beautiful spots for a rest. As for the timing of your visit, I’d recommend avoiding mid-afternoon as there are very few spots of shade to hide in within the temple itself.

Angkor Pass tickets

Explore The Angkor Temples, Cambodia.

You can visit Banteay Srei with The Angkor Pass, purchased both online and in person at The Angkor Archaeological Park Ticket office. Bear in mind that this temple is some distance away from the main cluster, thus you would need to either have your own set of wheels or a tuk tuk driver.

Monkey statues Banteay Srei.

Banteay Srei Temple.

For more on this incredible region of Cambodia, check out more of my travel reports on The Temples of Angkor.

You can also read my exhaustive guide to the sights, cafes, restaurants and hotels of Siem Reap.

Or maybe delve further afield with my travel reports from across Cambodia.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.


  • Anna

    So many temples… i definitely want to see them all! Just hoping i have the time!! Cheers.

    August 21, 2022 - 9:09 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Anna, I hope this guide helps you to decide which ones you want to see the most. Thanks for reading!

      August 22, 2022 - 9:55 am Reply
      • Anna

        It has been super helpful… but now I’m a bit worried I wont see them all! I didnt realise there was so much!! Do you think if I use my time wisely (three days) I can be at angkor wat, thom, bayon, ta prohm and banteay srei? Hoping for these at least. Thanks.

        August 22, 2022 - 10:02 am
      • Leighton

        Hey Anna, I think you could easily cross off all those in a day at a leisurely pace. Just get an early start 🙂 You know, I don’t wanna complicate things further but actually my favorite temples of all were at Koh Ker, north of Siem Reap. I’ll be posting about those in a few weeks but I guess you’ll leave them for another trip 😉

        August 22, 2022 - 10:30 am
      • Anna

        Lol don’t go adding more, you’re stressing me out! 🤣🤣🤣 haha just joking. Im an early bird so will definitely get out early and make the most of my days. Thanks for your advice, much appreciated!

        August 22, 2022 - 10:40 am
      • Leighton

        You are very welcome Anna and don’t worry, you’re gonna have a blast! 💥

        August 22, 2022 - 10:42 am
  • Anonymous

    Interesting to learn about the Banteay Srei Temple! Great pictures too. The stuff about the Brahmin priesthood is interesting and complicated. While Brahmin is the priestly caste, ‘Brahman’ is a term for the ‘supreme Soul’, one who pervades all beings and is pure consciousness.

    August 21, 2022 - 12:28 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Anonymous, thank for getting in touch! Appreciate the info about Brahman and Brahmin, yes it’s a bit complex for a simpleton like me ha ha. Please forgive me if you are a regular reader, WordPress is putting through some comments from registered users as anonymous. I’m looking into this!

      August 22, 2022 - 12:32 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Amazing intricate details. Looks very peaceful. So it was built by women and then they lost it for centuries. Sounds more like a man. The real question is how does a priest amass the wealth necessary to build a temple such as this? Enjoying your new digs?

    August 21, 2022 - 2:09 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      “sounds more like a man” ha ha. Hey Memo, actually our “new digs” turned out to be a total nightmare. in fact, yesterday’s arrival in Georgia stands as one of the worst days of travel I’ve had in the last twenty odd years. It will make a good short story one day, that’s for sure. Fear not though, we have managed to prevail.

      August 22, 2022 - 9:58 am Reply
  • kagould17

    I can see why this was one of your favourites. There seems to be an inner light coming form the red sandstone and the carvings are very intricate and well done. Couple that with the lack of crowds and you have a winner. Thanks for taking us there Leighton. Allan

    August 21, 2022 - 2:40 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Allan for following me on this journey through the Angkor Temples. Just one more to go and then a much welcomed change of scenery 😉

      August 22, 2022 - 9:59 am Reply
  • Anonymous

    Wow yet another one! How incredible to think that this may have been constructed and created entirely by women all those years ago when such things weren’t even contemplated, normally. Amazing….if indeed it is the case. Will definitely now be extending our time in Siem Reap when we get there.

    August 21, 2022 - 4:25 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Phil, glad to hear that the Angkor Temples continue to impress. I actually wish we’d managed to do more, but as you’ve seen there is much more to Siem Reap’s bow. Unfortunately, your comment came through as anonymous again. I only know it’s you because I saw your like come through moments before your comment. I am at my wit’s end with all this as it seems there are 3-4 regulars affected. I’m gonna continue to annoy WordPress about it, in the meantime could you please sign off as Phil for the next few articles, would really appreciate that mate.

      August 22, 2022 - 10:19 am Reply
  • Anonymous

    This is an impressive temple historically and in aesthetically. It will definitely get a visit if I get back to Siem Reap. The carvings are magnificent. I’m slightly familiar with The Ramayana from Hanuman World in Phuket. It seems that each country and religion in the area has its own take on that epic.

    August 21, 2022 - 5:58 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey there, so cool that your visit to Phuket brings some familiarity to this experience. You’re right, the carvings really are something else, even by Angkor standards. Unfortunately, your comment came through as anonymous, so I’m unable to identify who it is. I have a feeling it’s you John @salsaworldtraveller? I’m having to do detective work at this point.

      August 22, 2022 - 10:25 am Reply
      • Anonymous

        Exactly right, Leighton! That is great detective work.

        August 22, 2022 - 5:03 pm
  • wetanddustyroads

    Dated back to 987 … and still the evidence of a temple is so clear – that’s truly amazing! Oh of course, it’s because women built it 😉. I like this temple – so far, it might be one of my favourites as well.

    August 21, 2022 - 6:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Right Corna, those women really knew how to carve! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed this romp through the Angkor Temples, just one last piece to come out on Wednesday.

      August 22, 2022 - 10:31 am Reply
  • Swankie

    Looks incredible, for sure need to take a trip to Cambodia for this 🙌🏻

    August 21, 2022 - 7:29 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Swankie, you certainly wouldn’t regret a visit to Siem Reap and at least two days touring the Angkor Temples.

      August 22, 2022 - 10:32 am Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    Stunning that this temple was likely to have been completed by women with all its ornate carvings. We are going to be spoilt for choice when we finally make it to Cambodia. Hope your weekend has gone well!

    August 21, 2022 - 9:41 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Marion, this is one temple that’s definitely worth putting in the extra mileage. Thanks for keeping up with this series, much appreciated!

      August 22, 2022 - 10:35 am Reply
  • Anonymous

    As far as beauty goes, I think this is my favorite temple so far. The pretty pink stone and intricate details are very feminine. My mind (feeble as it is) wants to believe that this temple was built to honor women, even though women (possibly) constructed it. Regardless of what the true story is, the temple is exquisite. I hope I get to see Seim Reap in person someday. Thank you for sharing this, Leighton.

    August 21, 2022 - 11:44 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah, I’m so glad that this one has topped your list. Banteay Srei is just so unique in its look and with its history. But because of its location, so many people don’t get around to it. More’s the pity. Kellye, I’m so sorry that your last two comments have come through as “anonymous”. I only know it’s you because I saw that the comment came from “Lubbock Texas”. I’m going to bother WordPress support about this, because several of my regular readers’ comments are coming through as anonymous. In the meantime, could you sign your comments off with “Kellye” just so I know who’s who? Thanks so much for your continued support of the blog!

      August 22, 2022 - 10:51 am Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    I can see why this would be one of your favorites too. Seems like you can take you time exploring. It also does look like it has a woman’s touch 🙂

    August 22, 2022 - 12:51 am Reply
    • Leighton

      A woman’s touch indeed! It does seem to have more elegance than most of the other temples. Thanks for dropping by Lyssy.

      August 22, 2022 - 10:53 am Reply
  • Anonymous

    Banteay Srei is also one of my favourites, for its small size, easy to understand, and especially for the preciousness of its decorations, of a great finesse. Politically it is also interesting that it was not built by a king. Because of the distance I would advise to rent a car with driver for the day and see other places around Siem Reap.

    August 22, 2022 - 2:55 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hello, I’m sorry that this comment has come through as “anonymous”, there is an issue at the moment for some users where the system isn’t recognising certain accounts. Yes that’s some solid advice about renting a car or a tuk tuk, as I mentioned in my article. Thanks for stopping by!

      August 22, 2022 - 10:08 am Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    Another interesting post! I love that the temple was built by women. The stolen statues reminded of an article I read a few years ago in the New Yorker about actor John Barrymore. Apparently he took a totem pole that belonged to the Tlingit tribe in Alaska, and was plagued with bad luck the rest of his life. I wonder if the same curse fell on the Frenchman.

    August 22, 2022 - 4:28 am Reply
    • Leighton

      I remember the Barrymore story! What a scallywag. As for the Frenchman, I’m sure that’s a fascinating tale if anyone has covered it. I’m gonna make a note of that and see what I can find. Thanks for your comment Tricia.

      August 22, 2022 - 10:56 am Reply
      • Travels Through My Lens

        He certainly was! My son-in-law is part Tlingit, which makes it hit close to home, as they say. I’m interested in hearing what you find out about the Frenchman. Thanks!

        August 22, 2022 - 12:16 pm
      • Leighton

        I just had to look up the word Tlingit, thanks for teaching me something new there Tricia.

        August 22, 2022 - 12:18 pm
      • Travels Through My Lens

        Sure thing!

        August 22, 2022 - 12:20 pm
  • NortheastAllie

    This is another very impressive temple and the red sandstone gives it beautiful hues!

    August 22, 2022 - 8:06 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Allie! I also really love Banteay Srei’s reddish glow.

      August 22, 2022 - 8:15 pm Reply
  • Anonymous

    Yay I can comment on your post again! I love this temple- it definitely has more femininity and gracefulness to it with the pinkish color and that intricate detail everywhere. A very different feel from the temple with all the kings faces which was meant to impress while this one just seems to want to be enjoyed.

    August 22, 2022 - 9:28 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Meg! Totally agree that this temple isn’t trying too hard to impress, it just has a natural grace and elegance that shines through. Yes, good news that you can comment but bad news that you have come through as “anonymous”. If you scroll through this thread you’ll see that quite a few others have been affected. Trying to get WordPress support to sort this out, In future posts could you sign the comment off with Meg, just in case I don’t catch the like directly before the comment. Cheers!

      August 22, 2022 - 9:35 pm Reply
  • 100 Country Trek

    It was such an amazing area we visited . So many historic structures. These are such beautiful images .Anita

    August 22, 2022 - 10:08 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you very much Anita. Glad you also enjoyed your time in Angkor.

      August 22, 2022 - 10:11 pm Reply
  • Diana

    I’m enjoying this tour of lesser known temples!

    August 23, 2022 - 5:20 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for checking in Diana!

      August 23, 2022 - 9:47 am Reply
  • hollymrichards

    Such a wonderful insight! And I cannot believe the intricacies of the details for this one. Fantastic photography as always!

    August 23, 2022 - 12:52 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you very much Holly, just one more Angkor temple to come before I move onto a new aspect of Siem Reap 🙂

      August 23, 2022 - 1:07 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    What a small, yet mighty temple. The attention to detail on some of the carvings is just amazing. It’s really neat how women are thought to have built it.

    August 23, 2022 - 3:20 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Trust the ladies to build one of Angkor’s most impressive temples. Thanks for stopping by guys.

      August 24, 2022 - 1:21 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    Small and unassuming as Banteay Srei Temple might seem at first, its intricate carvings rival, if not exceed, other temples’! To imagine Banteay Srei being constructed by women is progressive to modern-day eyes, but all the same, it is definitely worth the way’s over! Can’t wait to see where else you checked out in Angkor Wat (if you did, at least)!

    August 24, 2022 - 8:10 am Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s impossible not to love this one, right? Definitely worth the extra time clunking around in a tuk tuk. Just one more Angkor temple left Rebecca. We’ll have to go back one and day and so some more. Thanks for keeping up with this series.

      August 24, 2022 - 1:24 pm Reply
  • Bama

    My first trip to Cambodia really was scandalous! 😆 And I want to fix this real soon. You took some really nice shots of the details — something I will certainly do when I see Banteay Srei in person. I have a feeling I will probably end up taking too many photos in this place.

    August 25, 2022 - 11:05 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey man, glad you enjoyed this look at Banteay Srei Temple. These days I always take more photos than I need, learning the lessons from the past ha ha. Thanks for reading and contributing to the thread.

      August 25, 2022 - 11:08 am Reply
  • travelling_han

    I love it, the carvings are amazing and what a wonderful place to visit. I can’t believe there are so many temples in Cambodia so close together 🙂

    August 25, 2022 - 7:16 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your visit Hannah.

      August 25, 2022 - 7:47 pm Reply
  • Annie Berger

    I’m so glad you took the time to head out to Banteay Srei in your tuk tuk as we did the same thing way back in 2013 and I remember feeling it made our exploration of Angkor Way complete. It would have been so easy to ‘just’ explore the main temples but adding in Banteay Srei rounded out our and, obviously your, appreciation of your time. Thanks for reminding me through your excellent text and photos of how stunning Banteay Srei is, Leighton.

    August 26, 2022 - 3:49 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you Annie, appreciate you taking the time to read and leave your thoughts.

      August 26, 2022 - 8:41 am Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    Battery Srei remains one of my favourites too. Maggie

    August 29, 2022 - 3:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for visiting Maggie!

      August 29, 2022 - 3:38 pm Reply
  • Erik Magnus

    Very cool. Would love to visit Banteay Srei and Cambodia in general. Thanks for the share!

    August 31, 2022 - 12:53 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Erik, appreciate the read, the comment and indeed the follow. I have written dozens of articles about Cambodia, hope you find a few more that fuel your wanderlust.

      August 31, 2022 - 12:56 am Reply
      • Erik Magnus

        I will take a look when possible. Thanks again!

        August 31, 2022 - 1:00 am
  • Toonsarah

    This is one I really wished we’d been able to see at the time, and even more so after reading this post! The carvings look marvellous (I use the word advisedly!) and I love that soft pink hue of the stone 🙂

    September 10, 2022 - 6:30 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Sarah, I’m glad you like the cut of Banteay Srei’s jib. It’s a gorgeous little ruin, I’m sure you’re going to do justice to it one day through your lens.

      September 10, 2022 - 6:40 pm Reply
      • Toonsarah

        Hmm, not sure – we rarely go back to places as there are always new ones to tempt us!

        September 10, 2022 - 7:12 pm

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: