Sukhothai Travel Guide
Sukhothai is the capital of Sukhothai Province in the lower part of northern Thailand and is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Old Sukhothai, which comes with a staggering amount of ancient Siam architecture.
Old Sukhothai, meaning the ‘dawn of happiness’, was the Thai capital from the 13th to 15th century and is located just a few kilometers west of the small modern town. The town today, known as new Sukothai, is a bit of a characterless place with a different look and feel to many Thai towns, yet it does have plenty of guest houses.
The old capital is a walled city with many ancient temples that have been largely restored and is today well maintained. It is known as the central zone and is surrounded by four other zones - north, south, east, and west - that cover a huge area. The temples in the central zone are the best maintained.
The central zone has some stunning ruins scattered over a sizeable area with lakes, moats and bridges galore. Mat Mahathat is one of the main attractions here. It features a huge Buddha statue, a large central chedi and a sala. Wat Sra Sri is perhaps the most poignant ruin with its island setting and access by wooden bridge. Sunsets from here can be spectacular.
The main sites to see in the north zone of Sukhothai are Wat Phra Phai Luang, with its many structures and stucco reliefs, and Wat Sri Chum, with its giant seated Buddha. You can actually walk up behind the statue through a narrow passage.
Don’t overlook visiting the various sites outside the walled city, where you will happen upon many other temples in various states of disrepair. The best way to see these is by motorbike or bicycle and in the morning before the tourist hordes arrive.
Unfortunately prices have been hiked for foreigners visiting Sukothai’s ruins, with each zone having a separate fee. You can, however, buy an all-encompassing ticket which also includes Si-Satchanalai Historical Park to the north of Sukothai. Bicycles are available for rent near to the ruins and there is also an electric tram available for tours in the central zone.
Getting There & Away
Sukothai is a 40-minute flight from Bangkok although most people either arrive by train or bus from either Bangkok or Chiang Mai. There is no train station in Sukothai, with nearby Phitsanulok having the closest station. Buses leave from here frequently for Sukothai, an hour to the west.
Things to Do
- Old Sukothai
This is essentially the walled center of the historical park (the central zone) located to the west of new sukothai and is surrounded by ramparts and has four main gates.
- Ramkhamhaeng National Museum
Exhibits featured at the museum include objects found in the region and gifts from the abbot of wat ratchathani.
- and Wat Mahathat
This moated complex lies in the center of the park and is the main highlight.
- Wat Si Sawai
Located southwest of wat mahathat amid nice scenery, this temple is said to have been a hindu shrine before it became a buddhist monastery.
- Wat Sa Si
A singhalese-style chedi located on a small island near the center of old sukothai featuring a stucco buddha statue and fine sunsets.
- Wiang Ko Sai National Park
Featuring stunning scenery, hot springs and waterfalls, this park is 80kms from sukothai and has accommodation.