Here comes another highly cultural itinerary for you. This time, I’ll be taking you outside of Bangkok to tour the ancient Ayutthaya temples. But don’t worry that it’ll get repetitive after a few because guess what, there are food recommendations too! And when it comes to food, Ayutthaya is one of the best in the country.
I won’t be going too deeply into each temple’s history and will be focusing more on the city and the overall experience. But I do plan to dig deeper into each of these marvelous temples in my upcoming posts.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click through & make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!
Coming to Thailand
As of February 2023, neither a COVID test nor proof of vaccination is required to enter Thailand. Check HERE to see whether or not you’ll need a visa.
If you’re a language lover (like I am), get yourself ready by learning the 25 most essential phrases you will need when in Thailand.
Items you’ll need in Thailand
- Sunscreen: Trust me, you’ll need it, especially walking around these temples in Ayutthaya. Shades are limited and for some reason, the sun feels stronger there. I recommend this vegan and nature-friendly one. In case you’re heading south to swim in the ocean next!
- Water bottle: It is HOT there. Stay hydrated and reduce plastic waste while you’re at it!
- Insect repellent: Mosquitos that bite in daylight are the most vicious of them all. Keep yourself safe from potential Dengue fever with these easy-to-use, non-sticky wipes!
- Cash and small change: For street food and local transport!
- A good camera: Because Ayutthaya is GORGEOUS
Succeeding the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai, Ayutthaya stood as the second capital city of Thailand and a major Southeast Asian power for over 400 years from 1351 to 1767. The economy was booming, with traders coming in from China, Japan, Portugal, Spain, Holland, and France.
During its days, the city fell twice to Burmese power. Once in the 16th century where it recovered, and again permanently in 1767.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ayutthaya Historical Park consists of 16 historical sites. Eleven of those sites are temples. Most temples are open from 8 am to 5 pm and require an entry fee of 50 baht (about 2 USD). You also have the option to buy the Historical Park Pass for 220 baht (6.5 USD) and visit most of the sites free of charge.
What Ayutthaya is famous for
History, of course. But in terms of food, these are what you should never leave the city without trying.
Traditionally sold in boats, these tiny bowls of noodles were made with as little soup as possible to avoid spilling when the merchant would hand them over to customers from the boat. The unusually rich taste was intended to make up for the lack of soup itself.
Tiny bowls of noodles contain a tiny amount of soup but are insanely rich in taste. Source: Unsplash
Roti Sai Mai
Thai-style cotton candy wrapped in sweet, thin sheets of roti. You will probably find some in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand. But Ayutthaya is where these rolls of magic are at their best!
Giant River Prawns
These lobster-type and lobster-sized freshwater prawns are common in this area of the country. So when you step into an Ayutthayan restaurant for some of this delicacy, rest assured they’ll be freshly caught. The best way to enjoy them is plainly grilled with Thai spicy seafood dip.
The City Vibe
Ayutthaya is a city, but a tiny one compared to Bangkok and therefore a much better slow travel option. Most of the Historical Park sites are inside a small island that takes less than 10 minutes to drive across. Some of the temples are off the island but are still within a 5-10 minute drive.
The vibe is semi-rural. Nicer locals, slower pace. You’ll be completely okay biking around the city with ease. In fact, that is the best way to see the Ayutthaya temples, and I will die on this hill.
I highly recommend splitting your Ayutthaya trip into 2 half days at the very least, so you have an hour or two at each temple. This way you can pace yourself, enjoy the small-town vibe as a break from Bangkok, and take in the local food scene. I’m not providing exact times for this itinerary so that you can improvise and see which temples you’d like to add/skip at your own pace.
And remember, it gets HOT. Even hotter than Bangkok sometimes because the air is much less polluted. So whatever you choose to do with my recommendations, remember to pace yourself well.
Check out my FREE E-Book for tips on how to best take care of yourself in the crazy humid heat of Thailand, and the temple dress code. Granted, the ancient ruins are much less strict with the dress code than working temples. Shorts are likely fine, but it’s always best to be safe.
Trip from Bangkok
I recommend leaving Bangkok by 7 am. That way you’ll get most of the first day to explore. The best way to get there is an air-conditioned minivan (3-4 USD per person). One leaves from Mo Chit every half an hour or so. Below is, in my opinion, the best way to find and book a van from Bangkok. They provide you with very clear, concise instructions after booking.
The trip takes a little over an hour, depending on traffic, it could take about an hour and 40 minutes. Sit back, relax, and drink lots of water because the day is about to get very outdoorsy.
Settling in at Ayutthaya
The van drop-off is right in the buzzing center of Ayutthaya island. Grab yourself a frog-headed tuk-tuk (welcome to Ayutthaya!) and head over to your hotel to drop your luggage off, if any. Though I think you’re more than okay with just a backpack for 2 days.
The tuk-tuks in Ayutthaya charge by the hour, not the number of trips. So let them know to wait for you while you contact the hotel front desk to help store your luggage. Most hotels won’t let you check into your room until the afternoon.
At this point, you have two options. I highly recommend contacting the hotel when you book to see if they rent out bikes to guests. If they do, definitely book one. Your life would be amazing because you can just return it at the end of your day. In this case, you can let the tuk-tuk go.
Grab your Bike!
But if your hotel doesn’t rent out bikes, drop your bags off and get back on the tuk-tuk. T.W.T. Tour comes highly recommended for bike rentals (Contact them in advance to book). So ask the tuk-tuk to take you there. A bike should cost you no more than 70 baht a day (Around 2 USD).
T.W.T. Tour: 10/29ง. Soi Naresuan 2, Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ayutthaya 13000
Let the tour of Ayutthaya temples begin!
Famous for the Buddha’s head entwined in a tree, it is also one of the oldest temples in Ayutthaya, built sometime in the 14th century. It was considered one of the most important temples of the kingdom.
You’ll need about 30-45 minutes to explore every corner of this temple.
Address: Wat Mahathat, Naresuan Rd, Tha Wasukri, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Ayutthaya 13000
Easily one of my favorite ancient temples here, the main Prang (Khmer-style stupa) is still intact since 1424. It is also the only one you’re allowed to climb up to as far as I know. There is a little nook at the top of the stairs where many valuables were found during the past century.
There’s no parking lot at this temple, so leave your bike at Wat Mahathat and simply walk a block over!
I’d give Wat Ratchaburana a little bit more time since you can go up and explore the Prang as well. One hour should be enough.
Address: Chikun Rd, Tha Wasukri, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ayutthaya 13000
Lunch at Baan U Thong
Grab your bike from Wat Mahathat and head south (right) on Chikun Rd until you reach the T-intersection with U-Thong Rd. Here, you should be face to face with your recommended lunch spot, Baan U Thong restaurant. Their grilled river prawns are to die for.
Address: 39/11 Moo 1, U-Thong Rd, Pratuchai District, Ayutthaya 13000
Bike Parking for the Afternoon
Biking from Baan U Thong, you’ll see a bike parking area on your right-hand side before reaching the temple complex. See the map below for reference.
Wat Phra Ram and its Park
After you’ve parked your bike, walk back south along the street and take an afternoon stroll around Wat Phra Ram. This temple is unique because the locals consider it more of a recreational area than an ancient temple. The grounds are not as big as the other temples, but it’s packed full of trees and little ponds. Consider this an afternoon break where you wait for the sun to chill out.
Grab yourself a bottle of water from a street stall outside and let your mind and body cool down for an hour or so.
Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit
After you’re satisfied exploring Phra Ram Park, head back out to the street and walk north (right) until you reach a courtyard of orange bricks. You’ll find yourself right in front of Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit.
This working Buddhist sanctuary is right next door to Wat Phra Si Sanphet in the same courtyard. And since you’re passing it anyway, why not head in and check out the giant Buddha statue inside? Entry is free, so you won’t need to show your pass.
Half an hour is more than enough, I would say.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
This is easily the highlight of this itinerary, so I’d spend an hour or two here.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet stands inside the ancient palace grounds and was the royal chapel of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, just like Wat Phra Kaew is to Bangkok. In fact, Wat Phra Kaew was modeled after it. The temple is famous for the 3 identical concrete stupas standing tall and elegant in the center of the grounds. If you look at the famous golden stupa of Wat Phra Kaew, you will see the resemblance between that one and these 3 originals.
One thing I love about this temple is that no matter how crowded it gets, the grounds are big enough and you will likely find some corner to yourself. But since you’ll be going towards the end of the day, the crowd should already start to disperse.
And that should wrap up your first day of the Ayutthaya temples tour!
Address: Pratu Chai, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ayutthaya 13000
After Wat Phra Si Sanphet, grab your bike and head straight south on that street until you reach the T-intersection with U-Thong Road. Turn right onto U-Thong road and be prepared to stop right away. It’s snack time, coming up on your left-hand side!
Abeedeen-Pranom Sangaroon is not just your average Roti Sai Mai vendor. It’s in the Michelin Guide. Hello, Real Deal! Be prepared to stand in line for a bit here. But I promise you, it’s worth it. It’s a takeaway shop so feel free to buy yourself a set or two of this sweet magic for later.
Be sure to have some change on you as well since they only take cash. Check out my FREE E-book on how to stay convenient with paying cash to street vendors in Thailand.
This is where you’d really want to consider checking with a hotel before booking whether or not they have bikes. Because most bike rental shops won’t let you rent overnight, you’ll be running to return it and lose your means of transportation to dinner…
For dinner, I recommend Sala Ayutthaya, another Sala Hotel which is my favorite boutique brand. Enjoy a selection of fusion dishes and watch Wat Putthaisawan light up across the river.
Your second day starts bright and early! At 7:45 am, catch a frog-headed tuk-tuk out of the island. We will be exploring some of the most prominent temples on the outer rim of the city. Your hotel concierge should be able and more than happy to help you call a tuk-tuk over if there’s not one of them around.
Since you’ll very likely be paying for 5 hours of their time which is 1,250 in total, I’d recommend going with the full-day rate which is 1,000 baht. They’re yours for the day no matter how you may want to change up your plans.
If you can’t see this temple at night, see it first thing in the morning! Although the tourist entrance is from the side, the front of the temple faces the river to the east (people traveled by boat in that era). The calm morning sun shines directly onto its main Prang, and it’s a sight to behold.
If you’d like to take your experience a step further, there are Thai traditional dress rental shops all along the street across from the visitor entrance. Trade your action outfit up for some Sbai and gold belts and take some awesome pictures in the costume around the temple.
Thanks to a very popular period Thai drama from a few years ago that mentioned Wat Chaiwatthanaram, I promise you won’t be the only one doing this.
An hour should be enough to see everything, but add on one more if you need to get dolled up!
If you did have dinner at Sala Ayutthaya the night before, you’re probably already impressed with this temple and its gigantic, brilliant white main Prang.
But that’s not all! Wat Phutthaisawan is home to another giant reclining Buddha. Not as big as the one in Wat Pho of Bangkok, but still impressive nonetheless.
Wat Yai Chaimongkol
The word Yai means “big” in Thai… and they’re not kidding. The gigantic main stupa of this temple is visible from most parts of the city.
Constructed in 1357, it is one of the oldest temples of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Spend half an hour or so strolling the grounds and climbing up the stupa stairs for photographic proof of how big the stupa is.
Boat Noodles for Lunch
From the temple, walk out until you meet the main street and turn left. Walk for about 3 minutes and you’ll find the most famous boat noodle shop in Ayutthaya on your right-hand side. The Krung Sri Boat Noodle.
As I’ve mentioned, the servings are traditionally very small. So don’t feel guilty about having to have 3-4 bowls of this delicacy.
Return to Bangkok
Have your tuk-tuk drop you off at the same place you got off the van the day before. Address below.
Ayutthaya Win Van Stop: Naresuan Rd, Hua Ro, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Ayutthaya 13000
And that is it for your 2-day Ayutthaya temples tour! If and when you get to do this, I’d love to hear it. Send an email through the “contact me” button, or DM me on Instagram and let me know how it went!
- Baan Luang Harn
- The cheapest option (From $39) with amazingly cute decor
- Baan Tye Wang
- If you’re looking for an option with A LOT of cultural character, this is it! The price starts from $42
- Sala Ayutthaya
- The most high-end option for luxury travelers, the price ranges from $152-$460