Sukhothai is a small city in Northern Thailand, most famous for the ruins of the ancient city Sukhothai. The province is located on the lower edge of the northern region, 427 km north of Bangkok, and covers some 6,596 square km. The city is a popular tourist destination because it is located near the ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai, which was the Thai capital during the 13th Century C.E. The historical Sukhothai was the first capital of Siam founded by King Ramkhamhaeng.
The province’s temples and monuments have been restored and Sukhothai Historical Park is an area with numerous sites of historical interest which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other interesting places include Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, Ramkhamhaeng National Park, Sri Satchanalai National Park, and The Royal Palace and Wat Mahathat. Established in around 1238 to 1257, Sukhothai literally means “Dawn of Happiness.” Though the golden era of Sukhothai no longer exists, tourists should bear in mind that respect and admiration for the renowned ruined twin cities of Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai is highly valued. The best time of the year to see Sukhothai is from November to February when the weather is cooler. Other than that you can go any time of the year.
Sukhothai is a city in central Thailand and home to Thailand’s first ancient capital. For lovers of history and culture, Sukhothai is a must-visit and we’d encourage anyone to add Sukhothai to their Thailand itinerary. However, getting to Sukhothai isn’t so easy, it’s a little off the main train lines, so buses, private tours and transfers could be what you need. Information on visiting Sukhothai, touring the UNESCO listed Sukhothai Historical Park, where to stay, touring by bike, golf buggy and more. Everything you need to know to organise a trip to Sukhothai Thailand.
1/ Sukhothai Old City
This UNESCO World Heritage site stands as a testament to Thailand’s storied and colorful past. Nearly 200 temples were excavated and partly reconstructed here, providing visitors with a chance to get a unique look at what Thailand’s early capital might have been like. In the city’s heyday, three earthen walls and two moats surrounded the old center. Twenty-one wats and four ponds were uncovered during excavations. This was the cradle of Thai culture, and archaeologists have found the remnants of artistic and religious works that would define a society for centuries.
2/ Wat Mahathat
The most splendid wat of the ruined city (and one of the oldest and most important in Thailand) is Wat Mahathat. It originally stood next to the ancient Royal Palace (a wooden building of which no trace remains) and covered an area of four hectares. The temple was surrounded by 185 chedis (Buddhist stupa), six wiharn (prayer halls) of varying sizes, a bot, and eleven salas—very little of which can still be seen. The towering main chedi at the center of the site is most impressive, with both a wiharn and a bot. Built in a purely Sukhothai style, the top is crowned by the tip of a lotus bud.
The middle section resembles the Khmer prangs, and the high square base is decorated by a procession of worshippers with 40 figures of about one meter high on each side. The niches of the four corner chapels show fine stucco work, rosettes, scenes from the life of Buddha, and gods and demons in conflict. The central chedi once contained the gilded statue of the Phra Buddha Shakyamuni, which King Rama I had removed and brought to the Wat Suthat in Bangkok at the end of the 18th century.
3/ Wat Traphang Ngoen
To the west of Wat Mahathat, on an island covered with lotus blossoms in the Traphang Ngoen (“Silver Lake”), lies the outstandingly beautiful chedi of Wat Traphang Ngoen. With a large Buddha image on a pedestal taking central stage, this small 14th-century temple is set so both the sunrise and sunset light illuminate it perfectly.
While the roof of the temple is now gone, the columns that once sustained it are still in place. On a separate tiny island—that you can see but not access— there are also the ruins of an ordination hall and a pedestal that are part of this temple.
4/ Wat Sa Si
This stunning temple might not be the largest in the park, but it’s certainly one of the most beautiful ones. Sitting in the middle of Traphang-Trakuan lake and accessible by crossing a wooden bridge, Sa Si’s ruins consist of 10 chedis still standing, as well as six rows of columns and the breathtaking statue of a seated Buddha.
Some of the wat’s buildings are still inhabited by monks. Every year on the 12th month of the lunar calendar (which usually falls around November), Sa Si becomes the central celebration spot for Loy Kratong (light festival), in which the lake is transformed into a fantastical sea of light with thousands of tiny floating candles.
5/ Wat Sorasak
According to inscriptions carved on the temple itself, Wat Sorasak was built in 1412, towards the end of the Sukhothai Empire. The 24 exquisitely carved elephants that still guard the decaying bell-shaped chedi of Wat Sorasak are one of the real highlights of the park. Elephants are considered protectors in Buddhism, and ancient kings often kept rare white elephants in their kingdoms as a representation of their power and wealth.
This elephant guard style is also seen in other parts of Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai, and Kamphaeng Phet. Parts of the wat have been restored in recent decades—this includes the niches occupied by statues depicting Buddha sitting in a rare “western” position, with legs hanging down.
6/ Wat Si Chum
Visitors to Wat Si Chum will be especially impressed by the mondhop: a huge, windowless cuboid construction that stands on a high pedestal. Built in the 14th century, the temple is easily recognizable because of its 15-meter-tall silver seated Buddha leaning against a brick wall in the open.
A narrow enclosed staircase on one of the southern walls leads to the roof and to beautiful open views of the park. The enclosed stair passage was once home to engraved slates featuring different images of Buddha. Ruins of another temple and a brick building that contains a seated Buddha can also be found in the area.
7/ Wat Phra Pai Luang
Wat Phra Pai Luang is one of the oldest temples in the Sukhothai area. Thought to date from the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th century, it was once one of the most important wats in the region.
Beautiful stucco adorns the steps of the chedi here and the outside wall, foundations, and ruins of four rows of columns that still remain from the wiharn.
Though less famous than some of the other temples in the old city, this is a nice one to visit because it’s less popular, which means smaller crowds. Save your visit for later in the day, so you can enjoy the quiet sunset falling over the ruins.
8/ Wat Traphang Thong Lang
Wat Traphang Thong (also known as “the Temple of the Coral Pond”) sits on its own island in the complex, and it’s only accessible via a bridge. Although much of the stucco on the temple walls has been heavily damaged, the square temple still sits magnificently high on a platform and overlooks the park.
The flat relief on the southern side shows Buddha, striding over steps. Protected by two parasols, Buddha is accompanied by the Hindu goddesses Indra and Brahma, as well as by worshippers. This is assumed to be the first visual representation of a stepping Buddha from the Sukhothai period. On the north side, a relief depicts Buddha taming the elephant Nalagiri, which his cousin Devadatta had set upon him.
9/ Ramkhamhaeng National Museum
The Ramkhamhaeng Museum is dedicated to house and preserve finds from excavations conducted at both Sukhothai Historical Park and Sri Satchanalai Historical Park. The museum provides a good overview of the development of the Sukhothai style from the era of Khmer influence to the rise in popularity of the Ayutthaya style.
Particularly noteworthy are Sukhothai-style and walking Buddha images (considered among the most beautiful representations of Buddha), a seated Buddha from the Wat Chang Lom in Si Satchanalai, and a replica of the Ramkhamhaeng inscription (believed to be the earliest Thai writing on record). The museum garden showcases a number of stucco sculptures, a ceramic kiln, and a number of large antique structures. The admission fee includes a detailed brochure in English.
Based on the diverse of history and culture in Mae Hong Son offer for travelers, we have carefully created this 2 day suggested-tour which including combine travel style.
Day 1: Sri Satchanalai Historical Park
AM: You first visit Sri Satchanalai Historical Park, located on the bank of the Yom River at Tambon Muang Kao, Sri Satchanalai County, only 55 km away from the town of Sukhothai.
The ancient town, formerly call “Muang Chaliang”, was named “Sri Satchanalai” during the Phra Ruang Dynasty when a new administrative centre was established to replace Chaliang. This ancient town occupied more than 320 hectares (800 acres) of land. Of this, the 91- hectare (288 acres) area within the old laterite ramparts and the city moat is the focus of sightseeing in the historical park.
PM: Continue to discover Sukhothai Historical Park or the 1st Capital of Thailand. Found in the 13th century, Sukhothai (literally means Dawn of Happiness) was the first truly independent Thai Kingdom, which enjoyed a golden age under King Ramkhamhaeng, credited with creating the Thai alphabet. The superb temples and monuments of this great city have been lovingly restored in Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see for all travelers.
Day 2: Ramkhamhaeng National Museum – The Northen Zone
AM: You will visit the most highlighted temple in Northern of Sukhothai. Topping the list of things to do in Sukhothai is the Northern Zone. It’s smaller than the Central Zone, but it contains the most popular Sukhothai temple: the massive seated Buddha at Wat Si Chum. The temple itself is quite small, but the Buddha enclosed in Wat Si Chum measures 15 meters high. Its fingers — with gold-plated nail polish — are taller than most people! This is one of the most photographed Buddhas in the world and a classic image of Thailand, so prepare for bigger crowds here. Once you finish taking photos, visit the biggest temple in the Northern Zone, Wat Phra Phai Luang. It’s also one of the oldest in the Sukhothai complex. The Khmer style is evident in its prangs and chedis.
PM: You will head straight for the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, at the entrance to the Central Zone.
1/ Kuay Tiao
A twist on the usual Chinese-Thai kuay tiao nam, or noodle soup. The “Sukhothai noodles” blend rice noodles with crushed peanuts, thinly sliced long beans and lime juice to offset a slightly sweet broth, which can be served on the side (heng) or in the bowl (sai nam). Located on Jarod Vithithong on the way from New Sukhothai to the historical park, Ta Pui does an excellent version with roasted pork — order it heng and the smiley staff will serve the broth in a ceramic bowl on the side. The large and popular open-sided restaurant also sells pork satay, crispy deep-fried pork fat, look chin muu ping (skewered pork balls), khanom tuai (pork rice flour dumplings) and a range of teacakes and other local products.
2/ Khao Soi
Northern Thai egg-noodle curry soup with chicken, along with sai oua, an herbaceous Northern Thai sausage, and the tart-and-spicy green chilli paste known as nam prik num at a nondescript hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Nikorn Kasem Road. Take the first right after crossing the bridge from New Sukhothai, walk for a few hundred metres and look for the yellow crunchy fried noodles on display in front of an old wood shop house on the right.
3/ Pad Thai
The basic ingredients in a traditional Pad Thai are rice noodles stir-fried with tofu, eggs, and a sauce made with tamarind paste, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, chiles, and palm sugar (which is often less refined than cane sugar). Pad Thai is characterized by rich, vibrant flavors, from funky (fish sauce and dried shrimp), to sour (fresh tamarind paste), to sweet (palm sugar). Recipes for Pad Thai vary, but there’s almost always a base of wide rice noodles, a generous sprinkle of crushed peanuts on top, and a lime wedge served alongside. The addition of a quick, wok-scrambled egg and a pile of fresh bean sprouts are also part of most versions of the dish.
4/ Khao Man Gai
A Thai dish called Khao Man Gai has been gaining popularity in Japan recently. In Thai, khao means rice, man means oil and gai means chicken meat. This popular Thai dish is made by boiling chicken meat and using the soup stock to cook the rice. This time, we will be introducing shops which offer classic Thai chicken rice in Sukhothai.
The best months for good weather in Sukhothai are January, February, March, November and December. The highest average temperature in Sukhothai is 38°C in April and the lowest is 29°C in December. The weather and climate of Sukhothai is suitable for a sun vacation.
Between November and May the weather is mostly dry with little rain expected for much of this time. The dry season in Sukhothai is broken up into the periods of cool season (November to February) and hot season (March to May), when it is not unusual for the temperature to reach up to 40°C. The wet season in Sukhothai is from May to October. The rain usually comes in the form of short showers, lasting an hour or two. As the rainy season progresses, the rain can become heavier and more constant, traditionally reaching peak levels in August and September.
By air: The city has its own Sukhothai Airport (THS). The airport is located about 25 kilometres from the city. However, only Bangkok Airways operate flights to Sukhothai Airport from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. It’s the most convenient and expensive way for reaching the ancient capital. Prices starting from $53 US without luggage.
By train: Train travel is one of the great pleasures of Asia, but alas it’s not the most convenient option for Sukhothai. The closest station is in Phitsanulok which is 60 kilometers to the east of the city, so a journey by train needs to end up with a transfer to a public bus or a private tuktuk charter, the latter of which can be quite pricey.
There are ten trains a day from Bangkok Hua Lamphong and six trains a day from Chiang Mai, with journey times of around 7 hours and 5 hours respectively. Ticket costs vary wildly depending on the class of travel and the speed of the train; expect to pay as little as 70 baht from Bangkok ($2.50 US) for a third class ticket with fan all the way up to 1,500 baht ($46 US) for an express sleeper train with air con.
By bus: The most popular choice for most travelers, the buses to Sukhothai are frequent and plentiful. What they gain in popularity they lose in journey times, however, as the trip can be a bit lengthy (especially if you’re starting from Bangkok and have to factor in the ever-present traffic jams!). Expect a 7 hour trip from Bangkok or a 5 hour trip from Chiang Mai.
Buses from Bangkok leave from the gargantuan Mo Chit bus station to the north of the city center. There’s no real need to book a ticket in advance from the city unless it’s holiday season, as buses leave every half an hour at peak times and there are usually seats to be had. Fares are 500-700 baht from Bangkok ($16-22 US.
Throughout this article, we wish you to have an idea of how to travel to Sukhothai for your best experience. In case you are looking for your own travel agent, who can offer a wonderful and hassle-free trip, please feel free to let us know. We always commit our best to make it your once-in-a-lifetime journey.