Grab your camera and head deep into the Cambodian jungle to discover the lost city of Angkor – a temple complex built in the 12th century. The ruins of Angkor will have you feeling like you’ve stepped onto the set of an Indiana Jones movie, so get ready to channel your inner Indy as your explore the archaeological site. Giant tree roots strangle temples, ancient carvings are cracked at the seams and massive sandstone walls lie overturned on the jungle floor.

Step back in time with eight epic facts about this mysterious medieval city that was once swallowed by the jungle and almost lost forever.

1. Five million tonnes of sandstone were used to build Angkor Wat.

Cambodians are pretty tiny people, so try to imagine them carrying bricks weighing up to 1,500 kilograms each from a quarry almost 40 kilometres from the site and it just doesn’t add up. The workers had to get creative, which is why it’s thought that canals were used to move the sandstone up the river.

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2. Preah Khan once contained 60 tonnes of gold which today would be worth around $3.3 billion.

Built by King Jayavarman VII to honour his father, the temple contained more bling than a Kanye West video. The ostentatious crib housed gold, silver, gems, 112,300 pearls and a cow with gilded horns (because who doesn’t want a cow with gold horns?).

3. It cost Paramount Pictures $10,000 a day to film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

In 2000 Hollywood rolled into town with Angelina Jolie to film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, putting the lost city of Angkor firmly on the map, injecting tens of thousands of much-needed dollars into the local economy. One lucky baby also won the lottery when Angelina Jolie adopted the seven-month-old after visiting an orphanage.

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4. Angkor Wat is the biggest religious complex on the planet.

The complex’s main temple, Angkor Wat puts Vatican City to shame (sorry Pope Francis) – it’s four times the size! Plus, the entire city of Angkor used more stone than all the Egyptian pyramids combined, and took over an area larger than modern-day Paris.

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5. Angkor is thought to have taken 35 years, 300,000 workers and 6,000 elephants to build.

Like scenes out of a disaster blockbuster film, the medieval period saw a dramatic shift in climate across South East Asia. Tree ring samples show sudden fluctuations between extreme dry and wet conditions – revealing catastrophic flood damage to the city’s vital water network. As a result, Angkor entered a dark spiral of decline where it never recovered.

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6. In its heyday (the late 12th Century) Angkor covered 1,000 epic square kilometres.

It’s hard to comprehend that this medieval city was so far ahead of the rest of the world and that it would be another 700 years before London reached a similar size.

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7. Archaeologists uncovered new secrets about Angkor using laser technology.

In 2012 a bunch of archaeologists (who may or may not of been from the future) criss-crossed the jungle with remote sensing technology mounted on a helicopter, firing a million laser beams every four seconds to record variations in ground surface technology. In just two weeks they found undocumented cityscapes etched on to the forest floor, with temples, highways and elaborate waterways spreading across the landscape.

8. Ta Prohm is famous for what looks a stegosaurus carved into the temple stone.

Carved centuries ago in the temple of Ta Prohm, long before paleontological dinosaur reconstructions, its stegosaurus likeness raises many questions that for now can’t be answered. So for now, let’s go with the theory that dinosaurs once roamed the Cambodian jungle.

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Laura McWhinnie
Laura McWhinnie is an Australian writer, photographer, presenter and founder of THIS ISLAND LIFE® ( – a blog that follows summer around the globe to bring you warm-weather inspiring travel, fashion and adventures.