Google Maps has added Cambodia's ancient temples of Angkor to its World Wonders Project.
More than 90,000 images captured by the Internet giant's Street View cameras have been collected and made available in a virtual tour of the Khmer temples and stunning countryside surrounding the remote Angkor World Heritage Site.
Cambodia's leading tourist destination this week joined Stonehenge, the Grand Canyon, the architectural ruins of Pompei, Italy, and more than a dozen other online panoramas that Google Maps has assembled to bring culturally and historically significant venues to anyone with access to a computer.
"The sunrise at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is one of Southeast Asia's most iconic and breathtaking vistas," Google Maps product manager Manik Gupta said in announcing the latest wonder that now can be visited in cyberspace. "We hope this new imagery will not only let people experience the scale and beauty of Angkor wherever they are, but also demonstrate how technology can change the way cultural treasures are preserved for generations to come."
The collected images include artists' depictions of the temple surroundings in medieval times, black-and-white photographs from the early 20th century and 360-degree images of the monuments captured in recent days by Google's ubiquitous cameras panning at street level. Extensive written history of the site is available through a link to the Google Cultural Institute's online repository of millions of artifacts and sites worldwide.
The sprawling temple complex built in northwestern Cambodia between the 9th and 14th centuries draws about 2 million visitors a year. Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon said he hoped the online access would inspire even more visits.
Preservation advocates, however, have been urging an annual cap on the number of tourists allowed at the site, fearing the eightfold growth in visits over a dozen years exposes the elaborate carvings and fragile monuments to damage.
Angkor was designated a World Heritage Site in 1992 by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun