Cambodia’s Angkor Wat has been digitally mapped for the first time, allowing people to visit the World Heritage Site from the comfort of their armchair using Google Street View.
The project is part of a growing trend aimed at internet users who might otherwise never have the chance to visit the cultural and architectural wonders of the world.
Google took more than a million photos of Angkor – the result is 90,000 360-degree views of more than 100 temples.
Street View allows web users to zoom in on an area, and then explore.
“Recently we’ve done the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, Mount Fuji,” said Manik Gupta, project manager at Google Maps.
“But the scale of Angkor Wat is what makes this unprecedented,” he told AFP at the project’s launch on Thursday.
“It is such an iconic place, people say it is the eighth wonder of the world, and it gives you this incredible sense – look at every single small nook and cranny, you’ll find art work.”
The Angkor Archaeological Park contains the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating from the 9th to the 15th century.
To create the project Google used a new innovation called “Trekker”.
Fifteen digital cameras are attached by a long pole to a backpack, and each one records a 75 million mega pixel photo every two and a half seconds.
By walking around the Angkor Wat temple complex, they are able to photograph areas that Google’s Street View cars cannot reach.
“Street View launched in 2007, and since then we’ve amassed a huge amount of experience. We’ve even used snow mobiles and trains, and Trekker is the latest tool,” Gupta said.
Google Maps was launched in 2005, followed by Street View and more recently Google Art, which provides tours of major galleries and museums.
For the latest project, five local men were given the job of trekking around the temples for up to eight hours a day to record the experience.
A huge amount of Cambodia’s heritage was destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.
About 4.2 million tourists visited Cambodia last year, a 17 per cent increase on 2012, the majority of whom visited the temple complex.