Dedicated to Shiva in his manifestation as the mountain god Shikhareshavara, the magnificent temple of PREAH VIHEAR makes maximum use of its spectacular setting high up on the Dangkrek escarpment overlooking the plains of Cambodia and Thailand far below. The temple was built between the ninth and the twelfth centuries. Most of the work is attributed to Suryavarman I (r. 1011–50) who enlarged an old religious centre founded here by a son of Jayavarman II and installed one of three boundary linga defining the extent of his territory (the others were placed at Phnom Chisor and at the hitherto unidentified site of Ishanatirtha). Both Suryavarman II (r. 1113–50) and Jayavarman VII (r. 1181–1218) subsequently made further additions to the temple.
Constructed entirely of sandstone, Preah Vihear has an unusual layout for a Khmer temple, with four enclosures laid out in a row, rather than concentrically, as is usually the case, with each successive enclosure taking you higher and higher until you reach the summit, from where there are spectacular views along the jagged line of the Dangkrek Mountains.
Around 30km by road south of Preah Vihear, the formerly modest village of SRA EM (or Sa Em) has experienced a massive boom over the recent years as a result of military and tourist developments at Preah Vihear and now provides a useful jumping-off point for visits to the temple, with public transport, accommodation and places to eat.