The Elephant Terrace, also called Terrace of the Elephants, is an ancient wall and platform that forms most of the western edge of the Royal Square of Angkor Thom. This square only a few hundred metres north to the Bayon temple in the centre of Angkor Thom was the secular core of the city, serving for parades and festivals. The Elephant Terrace separates this square from the compound of the Royal Palace, being a kind of high entrance platform to it. The so-called Victory Avenue from the Victory Gate just ends in front of the Elephant Terrace. Thus, it most probably served as the Royal audience hall, from where the king and his family and court officials watched public events such as military parades and presented themselves to the people. The terrace carried pavilions of perishable materials. Remains of painted lead tiles of a former roof have been found nearby.
The Elephant Terrace is two and a half metres up to four metres tall. The outer walls of the Royal Palace are hidden behind it for a viewer on the ground level of the Royal Square. The terrace is 300 metres long, expanding from the entrance front of the Baphuon temple compound to the taller, but shorter neighbouring Terrace of the Leper King.
The Elephant Terrace has three main platforms and two smaller ones. At the southern stairway, there are sculptures of three-headed elephants with lotus flowers in their trunks. The southern half of the sandstone wall, or even a larger part of the facade, has life-size bas-reliefs depicting pairs of elephants with their mahouts. Each of the pairs is distinctively rendered, all of them vividly, some in hunting or fighting scenes.
The wall is not only adorned with those name-giving carved elephants, but also with impressive Garudas and lion-headed figures supporting the central stairway and sculptures of seated lions flanking the stairs. A second raised platform on the terrace is decorated with winged females called Kinnaris, geese called Hamsas, and genies called Yakshas praying on lotus flowers. The northern part of the wall carries large scenes depicting warriors, wrestlers, acrobats, dancers, charriot races and, maybe, even a kind of Polo. The northern section, furthermore, has an often photographed five-headed horse. Most probably it is Balaha, an animal representation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The northern platform clearly was extended and changed in the middle of the 13th century.
As in the case of many buildings of Angkor Thom, the Elephant Terrace is a construction started by the founder of this new capital Angkor Thom, Jayavarman VII, in the late 12th century, but completed or modified by his successors.
The Elephant Terrace faces to the east, thus, morning hours offer better light for taking pictures. There is no ticket checkpoint in front of the terrace, but on the way from Siem Reap to Angkor Thom.