Sukhothai Historical Park was once the capital of the Sukhothai kingdom between 1238 and 1438. Today Sukhothai Historical Park is large area of ruins.
Unlike many other UNESCO Heritage sites Sukhothai Historical Park enjoys fewer crowds. The flat landscape of the park means that hiring a bicycle is one of the best ways to view the ruins.
Sukhothai ins sanskrit means सुख उदय "dawn of happiness". Sukhothai was also the first capital of Siam.
Sukhothai Historical Park is broken up into several areas. Each area has its own separate entrance fee. See more below.
Sukhothai was once a part of many Tai kingdoms in what is now northern Thailand. Sukhothai was known as Sukhodaya and was under Khmer rule. You will see many Khmer style ruins throughout the park similar to that of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Pho Khun Sri Naw Namthom annexed Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai into its own kingdom in the 12th century. Feuds between various rulers culminating with Sukhothai being taken over by the Mon people only to for it to be won back again by a coalition of Thai clans in 1239. Sukhothai soon after became the first capital of Siam which was founded by King Ramkhamhaeng. King Ramkhamhaeng is also accredited with the creation of the modern-day Thai alphabet and for introducing Theravada Buddhism to Thailand.
Sukhothai's rise in power lasted just over a century when in 1378 the kingdom of Ayutthaya to the south took over power of the region. Sukhothai itself continued to develop as a city though. It was only later in 1583 when Sukhothai's fall as a city occurred quite barbarically. The crown prince of Ayutthaya forcibly relocated people from Sukhothai (and other northern regions) to the south. This was done to support the war with the Burmese.
Today Sukhothai Historical Park contains many ruins from Sukhothai's past which have been preserved very well.
Here is a map of Sukhothai Historical Park which includes temples and ruins.
Download a full map of Sukhothai Historical Park
Sukhothai Historical Park forms a rectangle about 2 km east-west by 1.6 km north-south. Overall there are 193 ruins in Sukhothai on 70 square kilometers of land.
The park is broken up into several sections. The most popular being the Central and Northern Sections.
- Wat Mahathat - Wat Mahathat is one of Sukhothai’s best temples to visit. Completed during the 13th century Wat Mahathat served as the royal palace and administrative capital for the entire Sukhothai Kingdom. It still remains the largest of all the ruins in Sukhothai’s Historical Park
- Sitting Buddha at Wat Mahathat - Surrounding Wat Mahathat are several Buddha statues that are still visited by Thais to day. This sitting Buddha is one of the most beautiful in the park.
- Wat Si Sawai in Sukhothai - This is Sukhothai's most visited Khmer style temple. Complete with three prangs it's located in the southern park of the central zone..
- Wat Sa Si
- Wat Sra Sri & Tra Pang Tra Kuan
- Wat Si Chum & Wat Pra Luang - Wat Phra Phai Luang has one of the Khmer style prangs famous in Angkor (Cambodia) and in Sukhothai. There's also an assembly hall here (roofless) which is quite large and backs onto a stretch of water.
Wat Si Chum is one of the most famous Buddha statues in the world. Standing inside a now roofless temple the massive statue looks out through the front archway.
- Buddha Statue with Diamond Eyes – Luang Pho Petch - located near Wat Si Chum this very small temple contains a famous Buddha statue with diamond eyes. You'll need to find a monk to give you access first though!
- Wat Sangkawat - Two small temples in a remoter area in the northern section.
- Wat Paa Mamuang
- Wat Sii Thon
Sukhothai Historical Park is broken up into several sections. Each of these sections has its own ticket and price. It's advisable to hold on to all your tickets when traveling around the park.
- Entrance to Sukhothai Historical park = 100 baht
- Bicycle surcharge = 10 baht
- Mystery all section ticket = 350 baht (if you can find the right person)
Food and drinks are a touch and go affair in the park. There are a few cafes. They are not too outrageously expensive. But if you are on a budget bringing ones own water will half your cost.
Most people rent a bicycle to get around the park. They are available outside the main park (central area) gates and across the road where there are several rental stores. Renting a bicycle in Sukhothai costs approx 50 baht per day.
There is a small electric tram that operates during the peak season which brings people around the central area of the park. It costs 40 baht to ride the tram.
The park is open from 6am-18.00. Keep in mind the bicycle shops closed between 17.30 and 18.00 too. I’ll write later about night time viewing of the temples but sufficed to say, it’s very dark and very isolated so don’t get caught out alone after dark.
Sukhothai Historical Park is a part of Sukhothai city. The Historical Park is commonly refereed to as the "old city". While the more modern part of the city is know as the "new city".
Buses to / from Chiang Mai often stop off near the gates of the old city before moving on to the new city bus terminal. Bangkok buses stop off at the new city bus terminal. From the bus terminal you can take a Songthaew to either the old or new city.
Most budget accommodation is located in the new city though there is a selection nearby the historical park too.
To get to / from the old city / Historical Park and the new city there are regular blue buses / vans which charge 30 Baht (20 min ride). Or you can hire a tuk tuk for 500 baht.
For full details check out how to get to Sukhothai. You will also find more information including accommodation review on this guide to Sukhothai city.
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