Set high on a cliff in the Dangkrek Mountains, close to the Cambodia-Thai border, Prasat Preah Vihear, or Sacred Shrine, enjoys the most spectacular setting of any ancient Khmer temple. Offering breathtaking views across the lush green plains below, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is believed to have been built on the site of a 9th-century sanctuary dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu God of Destruction. The greater part of the complex was constructed during the reigns of King Surayavarman I (r.1002–50) and Surayavarman II (r.1113–50), the great builder of Angkor Wat. The earliest surviving parts of the temple, however, date from the 10th century. Following the decline of Hindu worship in the Khmer Empire, the temple was dedicated to Buddhism.
Churning of the Ocean of Milk
At the northern entrance to the third gopura is a bas-relief that portrays the Hindu myth of creation, depicting Vishnu creating the Universe.
Central Shrine and Prasat
Located at the uppermost level of the complex, the Central Shrine and Prasat (religious hall) are completely dilapidated and await restoration. The shrine currently houses a Buddhist temple venerated by local Cambodian and Thai visitors.
Pei Ta Da Cliff
Offering spectacular views of the surrounding plains 1,500 ft (500 m) below, the precipitous Pei Ta Da Cliff has a small cave beneath its edge, which is accessed by a narrow crevice that is blocked off at times for safety.