Angkor Wat: Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm, perhaps most famous for the Laura Croft Tomb Raider movie, is a temple complex within Angkor Wat that is partially overgrown by the surrounding forest. It is a magical place for the photographer.

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After a great lunch at a small restaurant, the Tropical Rohal Village, we then headed to Ta Prohm!

History of Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is one of the major temples built by Jayavarman VII in the late 12th to early 13th century.  It’s principal Hindu deity Prajnaparamita, the Perfection of Wisdom,  was carved in the image of Jayavarman’s mother, and Ta Prohm also housed another 260 deities, although more were added over the years. 


It’s original name, Pajavihara, meant the royal monastery, and thus is the typical square configuration of most Khmer temples, with concentric galleries with corner towers and gopuras.

Like most of the temples in Angkor Wat, the jungle reclaimed the previously cleared and built areas, and when ‘rediscovered’ in the 1800s, the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient chose to leave Ta Prohm in its overgrown state.

The collapse of one of the galleries at Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia.


It is one of the temples with overgrown trees intertwined among the ruins and lends to its mystical and apparently abandoned feel.  Most of the underbrush were cleared, but the major trees and growth were left undisturbed, with the occasional attempts to shore up those areas of the ruins not already in a jumbled pile of blocks. 

These huge trees, the silk-cotton and the strangler fig, add to the atmosphere of the temple and made it a natural location for the filming of the ‘Tomb Raiders’ movies.

Impressions of Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm, of all the temples and cities we visited, had the most atmosphere and sense of ancientness (if that is a word).  The jumble of blocks that used to be walls and roofs of the various galleries added to the overall sense of benign neglect and mystery.  And provides the photographer with a world of opportunities for taking some great photographs.  

Many of the images a photographer would capture would be of the tree growth among all the temples walls and tumble of blocks and will present the problem of how to compose the photograph to show the enough of the tree and enough of the temple to satisfy the photographer.

I found that the 24-70mm offered the best choice of lens for this location, the 24mm was wide enough to get a sense of the grand expanse of the growth, but the 70mm end provided enough focal length to isolate areas of the scene.  You are not that far away from any area of the temple, so a telephoto greater than 70mm is unnecessary. 

A gallery at Ta Prohm at Angkor Wat Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Taken with my Tamron 24-70mm lens at 42mm.


Doorway at Ta Prohm made famous by the Tomb Raider movie. Angkor Wat Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Taken with Tamron 24-70mm lens at 24mm.

 Unless you arrive really early in the morning, the place will be crawling with people.  This temple is famous for being the backdrop for part of the Tomb Raider movies, and so it tends to be a very popular location to visit in Angkor Wat.  So one has to be patient and be willing to wait until the groups of people move on, ushered by their tour guides.  Occasionally my tour guide would help with crowd control so I could take the photographs I wanted to take. 

Apsara surrounded by the tree roots at Ta Phrom, Angkor Wat Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I have a lot of great shots from Ta Prohm, and if you go, you will too.  There are just so many locations to photograph around the site that it is a wonderland of opportunities.  It’s different in many ways from some of the other locations in that the merging of man-made structures and nature provides an unusual mix of scenes to photograph.  The next two photographs are some of my favorite from Ta Prohm.  It is nearly impossible not to get some great photographs from this location!

A large tree growing from out of the ruins of Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia.


One of the galleries at Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Some of my favorite photographs from Ta Prohm

Psst…check out these other posts…

Other Posts in this Series "Angkor Wat"

Previous Post: Angkor Wat: The Temple Complex
Next Post: Banteay Kdei


David Cote is a landscape and travel photographer who makes stunning photographs of beautiful locations around our wonderful world. When not selling photography at art shows or online, he can be found sharing his love and knowledge of photography with others who love photography.

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