Originally created in the 1200s and 1300s as the first capital of the Kingdom of Siam, this site has an astounding number of ancient Buddhist temples.
Sukhothai Historical Park earned a UNESCO heritage site designation for its role in the early Kingdom of Siam, with a lasting influence on modern Thai culture. Visit Sukhothai Historical Park to learn about Thailand’s origin and appreciate the astounding architecture. More than 20 wats or temples stand in the area; many are still well preserved. Look for numerous large statues of Buddha.
The park’s five zones, some of which have a separate admission fee, cover an area of 27 square miles (70 square kilometers). Many of the most impressive temples are in the central zone, a good place to start. This was the center of the ancient city of Sukhothai. Notice lotus flowers in the peaceful moat and ponds surrounding the temples.
Wat Mahathat was the spiritual heart of the Old City of Sukhothai and remains the most impressive temple in the central zone. Its large seated and standing Buddha figures are surrounded by mounded stupas and conical prangs. Kings used this temple until the 16th century. Chedis, with the distinctive lotus bud shape, originated here and became popular across the kingdom.
Wat Phra Phai Luang in the northern zone was built by the Khmers prior to the formation of the Kingdom of Siam. Look for a huge seated Buddha statue in the cubical pavilions of Wat Si Chum in this zone. The eastern, western and southern zones contain additional temples in varying states of repair.
Walk, rent bicycles or hire a tuk tuk to travel between temples of the park. Allow 1 to 2 days to explore the area. Visit the site during Loy Krathong in October or November to view the ruins decorated with lights, with a sound and light show, fireworks and parades.
Sukhothai Historical Park opens daily from early in the morning. If time permits, visit Si Satchanalai, about a 1-hour drive north. Also part of the UNESCO designation, this ancient town was the center of the country’s ceramic trade. Fly from Bangkok to the modern city of New Sukhothai, drive or take a bus from major Thai cities. Use a songthaew shared taxi to travel between cities.