The ruined island city-state of Ayutthaya—the once great capital of the Kingdom of Siam toppled by the Burmese in the 18th century—is now a remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lying at the confluence of three rivers north of Bangkok, Ayutthaya Historical Park protects magnificent crumbling stone temple spires, sun-worn Buddha statues, and other remnants of the three palaces, 400 temples, houses, and markets that thrived in Ayutthaya’s heyday.
Ayutthaya’s ruined temples and statues—interspersed around and within the present-day town—are easily visited on foot or by bike, though biking is by far the most popular option. Many half- and full-day walking, biking, and bus tours visit Ayutthaya, and you can even book a full-day bike tour departing from Bangkok. Most tours visit the following top sights: Wat Phutthaisawan, St Joseph’s Church, and the Ayutthaya Historical Park’s Wat Phra Sri Sanphet (the model for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok), Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit (home of Thailand’s largest bronze Buddha), Wat Mahathat (featuring the famous Buddha head wrapped in tree roots), and Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Sites farther afield, such as the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace are sometimes also included on tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There is an entrance fee to enter the Ayutthaya Historical Park.
- Most visitors spend at least a half-day exploring the vast, 715-acre (289-hectare) city site.
- If biking, note that traffic lights are missing from some intersections—be sure to look both ways, and always assume cars and trucks have the right of way.
- The ruined temples are still considered sacred. To be respectful, wear long pants or skirts, show no bare shoulders, and always remove shoes before entering a temple building.
How to Get There
Ayutthaya is 47 miles (76 kilometers) north of Bangkok, about an hour’s drive from downtown. Ayutthaya Historical Park, home to four of the most popular temples as well as the Royal Palace at Wiharn Phra Mongkol Bophit, is located in the center of the present-day city. Other archaeological sites are sprinkled around the island of Ayutthaya.
When to Get There
November to February, when Ayutthaya is cool and dry, is the best time to visit—though it’s also Thailand’s busiest. If you can, come during Loi Krathong, a November Thai holiday that involves ornate hanging lanterns, markets, music, and cultural performances spread over three days. No matter the time of year, visit in early morning to beat the crowds and maximize your time.
Ancient Artifacts in Ayutthaya
The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum houses almost all of the remaining artifacts uncovered during archaeological excavations of the former kingdom. This is a great place to learn about the history and culture of the area and the people who lived here centuries ago.