Angkor Wat is the largest religious complex in the world, a sprawling 402 acres spotted with temples, arches, and monumental stone heads overgrown with ropey silk-cotton trees. Angkor Wat was constructed during the Khmer Empire, a golden age when Cambodia was ruled by ‘God-kings’ who built palaces and temples, and ushered in a era of prosperity.
Suryavarman II began Angkor Wat as a temple complex dedicated to Vishnu. In 1177, the partially completed Angkor was sacked by the Chams, enemies of the Khmer. After the invasion, King Jayavarman VII rebuilt and completed Angkor Wat — and for 500 years, the temple served as the magestic heart of Cambodian society, first as a city and trade hub, and in the 17th century as a Buddhist temple.