Wat Phnom Description:
Sitting atop a manmade hill, Wat Phnom is Cambodia’s iconic center of the Buddhist faith.
Local legend says that a widow named Madame Penh found a set of Buddha statues floating down the Mekong River in a hollowed out koki tree. She erected a shrine to contain the holy images, and named it Wat Phnom. The town that would spring up around the sanctuary would come to be known as Phnom Penh.
However, it’s more likely that the temple as founded by King Ponhea Yat of the Khmer Empire sometime in the 15th century when he moved his court from Angkor to Phnom Penh seeking a more defendable location for his capital after repeated raids by the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand). The king’s ashes are enshrined in the stupa west of the main sanctuary.
Visitors climb a broad staircase flanked by a pair of writhing naga, dragon-like snake spirits, to reach Wat Phnom.
The rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s took a heavy toll on this Buddhist temple, as well as many others in Phnom Penh. Restoration efforts in the last few decades have resorted much of the temple’s former glory. The sanctuary features a seated Buddha statue cast from bronze, and the interior walls are covered with painted murals depicting scenes from the Jataka, stories of Buddha’s lives before reaching enlightenment, and the Reamker, the Khmer Empire’s version of the Hindu epic Ramayana.
Best Time to Visit Wat Phnom:
Phnom Penh’s weather is the most pleasant during the December to May dry season. Starting in June the temperatures begin a steady rise that continues through November as the monsoon season sweeps through the country. During this time of the year, rain showers in the mornings and the afternoons provide cooling relief from the high daytime temperatures, and the extra precipitation restores the city’s plant life to a vibrant green.
How to get to Wat Phnom:
Wat Phnom is the center point of Phnom Penh. It can easily be spotted rising from its manmade hill in the heart of the city. Guests enjoying one of our Cambodia tours usually reach the temple in a private vehicle along with their chauffeur and guide while exploring the city.
Wat Phnom Highlights:
Wat Phnom is Phnom Penh’s founding landmark, namesake, and thriving center of the city’s Buddhist practitioners. Its excellent grounds, beautiful architecture, and ancient religious murals and icons should not be missed while enjoying a luxury tour of Cambodia.
Buddhist temples in Cambodia require visitors to wear modest clothing that covers their shoulders, arms, and knees while walking through the sanctuary. Some areas may also require you to remove your shoes before proceeding.