“Phnom” means “hill” in the Khmer language. Phnom Bakheng is a 65-metre hill a few hundred metres south of the gate to Angkor Thom. It is the only natural hill in the area.
Phnom Bakheng is one of Angkor’s oldest temples. It was built as a state temple between the late 9th and early 10th centuries, when King Yasovarman constructed it as the centerpiece of his new capital, Yasodharapura, later absorbed into Angkor. The first mountain-style temple built there, Phnom Bakheng represents Mount Meru, home of the Hindu gods. Despite its architectural and historical significance, the temple is popular today mainly for its panoramic view of Angkor Wat, particularly at sunset.
Climbing the hill after a day walking around the monuments can be a challenge, but the view from the top just before sunset is a rewarding sight. You see the sun go down over the western Baray while the five towers of Angkor Wat slowly disappear in the jungle to the east.