Angkor Wat Discovery

The Angkor Wat Discovery is the somewhat controversial concept that refers to the visit of French naturalist Henri Mouhot to Angkor Wat in 1860 and the publication of his travel notes in 1863. These memoirs had an umprecedented reception in Europe and Mouhot was credited with the discovery of the "lost city of Angkor". However, the French explorer was not the first European to visit Angkor Wat nor the first one to write about it. The earliest and most detailed account of Angkor was written by the Portuguese Diego de Couto in the mid 16th century and described how a Cambodian King came upon the ruins while hunting elephants. During the 15th and 16th centuries various Spanish missionaries traveled to the site and left written reports about their visits. In 1603 the Spaniard Gabriel Quiroga wrote "In 1507 a city was brought to light that had never been seen or heard of by the natives".

Moreover, the 17th century brings us accounts of Japanese settlements at Angkor. An inscription with Japanese calligraphic characters found on a pillar on the second floor of Angkor Wat dating back to 1632 is good proof of it. Another Japanese man, Kenryo Shimano, is the author of the oldest known Angkor Wat plan. During his travels to Angkor some time between 1632 and 1636 he drew a very detailed map of the temple.

Angkor Wat temple in 1866.

Angkor Wat temple in 1866.

Buddhist pilgrimage to Angkor Wat

While the Europeans were writing at different times about the discovery of the "lost city", Angkor Wat and the other Angkor Temples were already known to the buddhist monks that cared for them from the 15th to the 19th centuries. It is in part thanks to them that Angkor Wat remains mostly intact. In the 16th century a Khmer court returned briefly to Angkor to restore it as a Buddhist shrine.

Cambodia travel information and Angkor Wat tour specialists ABOUTAsia are based in Siem Reap just 4km from Angkor Wat. At the heart of the organisation is a guiding research centre providing Cambodia vacation advice and industry leading tours planning.


Peerless service standards and local positioning have made us the tour operator of choice by international luxury travel groups and discerning independent travellers to Angkor Wat, Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

For Angkor Wat information contact ABOUTAsia Travel