Image: Wat Ratchaburana, Ancient Ruins in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Ayutthaya – The Machu Picchu of Thailand

This post was last updated on February 18th, 2020 at 02:10 pm


Just 80 kilometers north of Bangkok you will find the Ayutthaya Historical Park, the former capital of Siam, ancient Thailand. In Ayutthaya, 33 kings ruled until the city was destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767. It is one of the best places in Thailand to see ancient temples and palaces.

 

Ayutthaya is a Must-See in Thailand

This was once one of the world’s richest and most impressive cities. Ayutthaya is to Thailand what Machu Picchu is to Peru or Chichen Itza to Mexico. It was full of temples, treasures, and impressive palaces. Today there are dozens of ruins that will take you back in time in an impressive way to its’ glorious past.

 

TIP – The best way to discover Ayutthaya is by bike. You can rent a bike for 40 to 50 baht ($1.30 to $1.60) per day. Rather lazy or tired? A scooter costs 250 to 300 baht ($8.10 to $9.80) per day.

 

Mid-December there is a big party in Ayutthaya. A festival is celebrated in honor of the mention of the city as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and given its beautiful temples, that mention is more than justified. The highlight is the evening show with fireworks and music around the ruins.

 

Fireworks at ratchaburana temple
We saw beautiful fireworks near the Ratchaburana Temple!

 

8 Fun Things to See or Do in Ayutthaya

In its heyday, there were more than 400 temples here, but today there are only a few left standing. Most are restored but some are in their original condition.

 

Before you visit the temples you must know that there are two parts; the temples on the “island” and the temples outside the island. You can easily combine both parts by renting a bicycle.

 

The Island

This is seen as the most important part of Ayutthaya. Here you will also find the most beautiful and impressive temples. A number of these are described here. This part is also called the Ayutthaya Historical Park and contains more than 60 ruins.

 

TIP – For most temples, you have to pay an entrance fee of 50 baht (US$1.60).

 

1. Wat Lokaya Sutha

Wat Lokaya Sutha is a restored ruin of a monastery. This is one of the most impressive places in Ayutthaya and, therefore, one of the most visited. You will find remains of floors, walls, and pillars of the monastery that once stood here.

 

This temple is also called the “Temple of the Reclining Buddha” because of the gigantic reclining Buddha statue. The statue is 42 meters long and 8 meters wide. Impressive!

 

Reclining Buddha of Wat Lokaya Sutha in Ayutthaya
Reclining Buddha of Wat Lokaya Sutha

 

2. Wat Phra Sri Sanphet

This is the most important structure here. It was built in 1448 and restored twice. King Ramathipodi II built a 16 meter high Buddha here in 1500 that was covered with gold. 170 kilos of gold to be exact!

 

Unfortunately, this statue was destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767 and the gold was melted down. It was once the largest and most beautiful temple here. The architecture of this temple is breathtaking.

 

TIP – If you translate the name of the temple you get something like “Temple of the Holy, Sparkling, and All-Knowing.”

 

Image of: Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Phra Si Sanphet in Ayutthaya. We wonder what it looked like in its heyday!

 

3. Wat Phra Mahthat

The Wat Phra Mahthat is actually just one statue, but one of the most photographed. It consists of a large stone Buddha head that comes from a large tree.

 

Nobody knows how the head ended up here, but it is thought that it has to do with the floods that plagued the area.

 

Locals say that two brothers had a big fight over who would become the king of Siam. The winner of the fight, King Ramathibodi I, then built a palace and all Buddha statues here are in honor of his brother.

 

They say the head in the tree would be his brother’s face. What a great fate! 😉

 

Take Beautiful Pictures

Do you want to take the most beautiful photos? Then go out in the evening and head for the Wat Ratchaburana. This is illuminated impressively in the evening! It guarantees beautiful photos.

 

4. Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit

This temple stands next to the Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and here you will find one of the largest bronze Buddha statues in Thailand. This is 12.5 meters high and was badly damaged by a lightning strike around 1700. The Burmese army also once tried to destroy this temple.

 

Incidentally, Myanmar donated some 200,000 baht (around $6500) in 1956 to restore the temple.

 

It seems that during the war between the Siamese and Burmese, the Burmese army did not destroy this place (as one of the few) because they were so impressed with the temple.

 

TIP – Entry is free.

 

5. Wat Ratchaburana

This is the temple with the most beautiful details. You can enter the temple to see its beautiful interior; it is a bit small, but definitely worth it! The temple was built in 1424 by King Borom Ratchatirat in honor of his deceased brothers who both fought for the throne. The entrance fee is 50 baht ($1.60).

 

Image: Wat Ratchaburana, Ancient Ruins in Ayutthaya, Thailand

The Wat Ratchaburana, a beautiful ancient temple

 

Outside the Island

Outside the island, there are also a number of temples that are worth visiting. Here are the most important temples and ruins.

 

TIP – Bang Pa-In Palace is located about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) southwest of Ayutthaya. This is a beautiful summer palace.

 

6. Wat Chaiwatthanaram

This is the most important temple outside the island, thanks to the 35-meter high prang (tower). This temple, built in Khmer style, is still in good condition. It was built by King Prasat Thong around 1630 to honor his mother. The construction took 20 years!

 

Image: Wat Chaiwatthanaram temple
The Wat Chaiwatthanaram Temple on a sunny day

 

A number of other temples in Thailand have been built on the basis of this temple. The eight high chedis are the eye-catchers that are all connected. You will find 120 seated Buddha statues scattered throughout the area. This temple reminded us of the Prambanan in Indonesia.

 

TIP – Entrance to this temple is 50 baht ($1.60).

 

7. Wat Phanan Choeng

This temple is crowded during the weekends because of the ceremonies that take place there. The reason that this temple is so popular is the 19 meters high Phra Phanan Choeng Buddha that stands in the temple. This temple contains 84,000 (!) small Buddha statues in addition to the large Buddha.

 

What many people do not know is that this is one of the most revered temples in Thailand and it is believed that the statue “cried” when the Birmanem burned Ayutthaya in 1767.

 

TIP – Entrance is 20 baht (US$0.65).

 

8. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

This temple was built in 1357 for monks from Sri Lanka. It was built for King Naresuan and because of the beautiful garden around this temple, it is often considered one of the most beautiful temples. At the entrance, there is a 7 meter long Buddha.

 

It is one of the less visited places in Ayutthaya. Festivals and celebrations are regularly held here by Thai residents, which make the place monumental and sacred.

 

TIP – Entrance is 20 baht (US$0.65).

 

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol temple in Ayutthaya
The Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, very impressive!

 

History of Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya owes its name to the Indian city of Ayodhya, which means something like “invincible.” The city was built in 1351 and grew rapidly due to the expansion of trade routes between India and China. Ayutthaya only really grew up around the fifteenth century and controlled an empire that covers most of today’s Thailand.

 

Ayutthaya grew into a huge city, which in 1685 had a million inhabitants. For comparison; that is roughly twice the population of London at the same time.

 

The growth of the city brought not only wealth but also international residents including Chinese, Persians, Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French. Over the years, temples have been added by various kings.

 

Day Trip from Bangkok

Since Ayutthaya is only 80 kilometers from Bangkok, most come here with a day trip from Bangkok. That’s a shame because you can easily stay here for two days. In addition, the temples are beautifully lit in the dark.

 

Boat Tour

If you do opt for a day trip, take a boat trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya over the Chao Phraya River. During this trip, you will see the real beauty of Thailand and you will cruise past other sights such as the Wat Arun temple.

 

TIP – Costs vary per provider, but it is possible for about US $50 per person.

 

Where to Stay in Ayutthaya

We recommend staying at least 1 night in Ayutthaya. It is especially beautiful here in the evening and it is a shame if you have to return to Bangkok on time and miss the sunset at the temples. There is no lack of accommodation in Ayutthaya.

 

TIP – Check the best accommodations in Ayutthaya here!

 

One of our favorite accommodations is the Baan Thai House.

 

Baan Thai House
Picture of the Baan Thai House, check it out!

 

How to Get to Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Historical Park is easily accessible from Bangkok. The easiest is the bus, minivan or train where the minivan is the fastest but often also the most expensive option.

 

To Ayutthaya by Train

The train is slower than the minivans but it is a cheaper option. The train runs to different places. The most important places are Bangkok (15 to 65 baht, 1.5 hours) and Chiang Mai (200 to 1400 baht, 14 hours).

 

To Ayutthaya by Bus

The easiest and cheapest way to get here is by bus. Buses from every corner in Thailand drive to Ayutthaya. Some origin cities are;

 

 

TIP – You can also take a taxi. Back and forth (incl. time at Ayutthaya) costs between US $40 and US $50.

 

Buy Transportation Tickets Online

You can purchase tickets for transportation online through 12GoAsia, a site that we use a lot during our travels through Asia. Here is an example of all current routes and prices from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.

 

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