Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991 as the Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns, the city does not disappoint. If you are a lover of culture and history, don’t forget to go to Sukhothai Historical Park and its associated towns on your next visit to Thailand!
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Sukhothai Historical Park
Although it may be known to the world as a UNESCO Heritage Site, it has been known to Thai people as our first capital city. Today separated into 2 parts–the modern-day town of Sukhothai, where the locals and their lifestyle spots are, and the Historical Park. The two are about 10 minutes apart by car.
History of Sukhothai
The city of Sukhothai was once a military outpost within the ancient Khmer Empire (modern-day Cambodia). Then in 1238, the Tai tribes in Sukhothai rebelled against the Khmer governors in the city and established the outpost as an independent Tai state. This rebellion marked the beginning of Thai history, where traces of modern-day Thai culture started to consolidate.
Over the next century, especially during the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great (1279-1298), Sukhothai expanded and became a powerful kingdom in Southeast Asia. By 1290, the Thais had a script of their own.
After the death of Ramkhamhaeng, however, Sukhothai began to lose its power, with vassal states backing out one by one and submitting to the rising Ayutthaya Kingdom (1351-1767) instead. When Maha Thammaracha IV of Sukhothai passed away in 1438, an Ayutthayan prince was sent with his troops as a viceroy. And thus ended the independent kingdom of Sukhothai.
Getting there from Bangkok
There are officially 5 ways to get from Bangkok to Sukhothai. I’m only going to list out 4, as I highly NOT recommend using the train. Unlike the sky trains in Bangkok, these trains are not in the best state. You’ll find yourself sitting on hard wooden seats, sweating from the hot outside air, and still having to make transfers and get on more rides from the city to the park.
If you have 7 hours to spare in your itinerary, the bus is your most economical option. Taking off every hour or two from Bangkok’s Mochit terminal, which you can easily get to by the sky train, the bus will take you straight to Sukhothai bus terminal for roughly 400 Baht ($12).
Use this form below to begin your search.
Or even better, if you plan on going from Bangkok straight to the historical park itself (about 15 minutes from Sukhothai city) use this form below. Some of the bus companies will drop you off right at the park gate. Pricing remains in the same range.
If you have a less limited budget, but VERY limited time, I suggest taking the plane, which will take you no longer than 2 hours including check-in and everything else. Flying domestically in Thailand is inexpensive. If there are flights from Don Mueang (domestic airport), you’ll pay between $50-60. If you’re less lucky and have to fly out from Suvarnabhumi, still around $87-140.
Ready to make plans? Search for your flight to Sukhothai below!
If you have a lot of time… and a lot of money… and you love to relax, hire a taxi! And no, I don’t mean the green-pink-yellow city taxis with broken air conditioners. I mean the luxurious airport ones, which are the only ones that would willingly take you 5 hours away from Bangkok anyway.
These will cost you anywhere between 6,000-8,000 Baht ($170-$230), and the journey will take about 6 hours, sometimes closer to 7. If this is your preferred way to go, search for a taxi below.
Disclaimer: Unless you’re VERY comfortable with driving on unpredictable roads with unpredictable drivers, don’t go with this option. If you’re not comfortable with driving on the left side of the street, don’t go with this option either.
Thailand’s Car Rental Requirements
- Must be at least 21 years of age
- Must have had a driver’s license for at least a year
- The driver’s license must have an English translation
- Must always present a passport with the license
- NOTE: I recommend getting an International Driving Permit as well for safety. I do it when traveling, too.
Just like hiring a taxi, driving there will take you from 6-7 hours. The better part is you have the car to yourself for the whole trip (if you feel safe driving, of course). Rental cars start at surprisingly low rates here, around $190 per week not including gas and insurance. If you’ve read my disclaimer above, have seen the street traffic in Thailand before, and still decide to go with this option, search for your car below.
Main Attraction: Sukhothai Historical Park
If you ask me, Sukhothai Historical Park is a perfect place to slow travel in.
There are 150+ ruins scattered around the park. Twenty-six of them are temples. Eight sites are inside the actual “park” area where you can easily cycle or walk around with not much car traffic. About 10 more are outside the park but inside the old city wall. The rest are further away but still considered close if you have means of traveling other than walking.
I’ll list the top sights of the park below.
- Hours: 6:00 am – 6:00 pm daily
- Fee: 100 Baht (Approx. $3), 110 Baht if entering with a bike
- Bike Rental: There are a handful of shops right outside the park gate. Rental on average is 30-50 Baht per day (Approx. $1-2).
Sukhothai Historical Park holds 26 temples in total. Even though this might seem like a lot for a roundup of “top sights,” I tried my best to narrow it down to 7 for you. Read on to discover how and why each is significant and worth visiting.
Entering the park gate along the main road, this will be the first magnificent sight that greets you to the left.
Wat Mahathat is the biggest temple in the park, and in Sukhothai Kingdom as well. It served as the kingdom’s royal chapel (like what Wat Phra Kaew is to Bangkok today) for all 200 years and was where important religious ceremonies were held for the kingdom.
Don’t miss out on the inconspicuous platform across the street from Wat Mahathat’s entrance. It may look like nothing today, but this is the base of the old royal palace where the kings resided. It was also here that Ramkhamhaeng the Great first inscribed the Thai script on a piece of stone.
Wat Si Chum
After Wat Mahathat, this is easily the biggest attraction in Sukhothai even for locals. Only the Mondop structure is left intact. But not just that… inside the Mondop is a Buddha image that’s 11.3 meters in width, and with a height so magnificent, you just have to see it in person. The disintegrated roof also exposes the Buddha and its spectators to natural light, making the sight much more impressive.
Wat Si Sawai
As a history lover, this was one of my top favorites in the park. Wat Si Sawai is one of the only 3 structures in Sukhothai that were known to be standing BEFORE the Thai rebellion. It could very well be over a thousand years old. Plus, isn’t it beautiful?
Wat Sa Si
Known as the most beautiful temple in Sukhothai Kingdom, Wat Sa Si faces a lake and looks absolutely impressive from the other side. I’d suggest visiting in the morning to see the light shining onto the temple.
Wat Trapang Thong
This is the only working temple in and around the historical park area. The ancient stupa is still standing, but you’ll see new sanctuaries that were built for practical purposes as well.
The most iconic thing about Wat Trapang Thong is its “Sapan Boon,” meaning “bridge of merits” that leads visitors over the lake to the temple. Every day at 6:00 am sharp, Thais, both local and tourists, would line up on this bridge to make food offerings to the monks, a longstanding Buddhist tradition.
It is known as something you must do when in Sukhothai, but not in the literal sense, of course. If you’d like to join the locals and go all in with your Sukhothai trip, be in line at the bridge in polite attire (long pants, sleeved tops) by 5:40 am. There will be plenty of vendors selling food nearby for the offering.
Wat Chang Lom
The name means “temple surrounded by elephants,” and you’ll see why! In ancient Thai culture, elephants are seen as strong enough to move rocks and defend cities (old kings fought wars on the back of elephants). So they became a symbol of physical and mental strength, used to stand guard outside temples where peace and faith are stored.
Since there’s another Wat Chang Lom in Si Satchanalai Historical Park as well, don’t confuse the two! And yes… that one is also surrounded by elephants.
Wat Sapan Hin (Temple of the stone bridge)
Apart from the unique “bridge of stone” you need to hike to get up, not much is left of this temple apart from a very old standing Buddha statue. But the stone bridge is worth a picture or two, and this particular Buddha image was so significant that it was mentioned in the first Thai inscription, I wouldn’t miss out on this one.
Guide to using local transportation
Unless you’re renting your own bike for the entire duration of your stay, below are the two most common ways you can get around town.
In Sukhothai, you’ll easily see these lined up in front of the park visitor center. They look like a hybrid between a Bangkok tuk-tuk and a golf cart, painted in vibrant colors like blue, red, or orange.
These local drivers are super friendly and tend to pack heaps of knowledge about Sukhothai so they can guide their passengers. They usually charge by the hour, between 250-350 Baht each hour ($7-10).
Hire one of the tuk-tuks to get you around the 26 temples, or from the park to the bus terminal if you’re doing a day trip elsewhere!
Motorbike Passenger Trucks
If you think they sound weird… they are. They look like a hybrid between a Bangkok tuk-tuk and a Songtaew (open-air passenger truck). There’s a driver in front with a motorbike… which is hooked up to, uh, a Songtaew bogie. These hold around 4-6 people at a time, with 2 rows of 2-3 each facing each other.
A quick 10-minute trip from one of the nearby hotels to the park would cost you only 60 Baht ($2) on these. If you ask your hotel concierge to call you a ride to the park, it’s very likely going to be one of these bike trucks. But hey… you haven’t been to Sukhothai if you didn’t hop on one!
Since you’re on my blog, don’t worry about whether or not you’ll get the cultural twist in hotel decors and services. I’ve got you covered!
I was looking at a couple of top options and ended up staying at Thai Thai Sukhothai Resort, which exceeded my expectations in every way.
Points to note… most, if not all, of these hotel concierges will gladly call a ride for you to go to the park. The ride costs around 60-80 Baht ($2-3) depending on the distance. From what I’m recommending, the cost shouldn’t go beyond this range.
Tier 1: Legendha Sukhothai Hotel
- Starting with the top-tier option! Room pricing here ranges from 2,900-7,000 Baht (Approx. $83-200) with the most expensive being a two-bedroom villa.
- What initially caught my attention about this place is a traditional Thai kitchen corner that they put up for show in the common area.
Tier 2: Sriwilai Sukhothai
- A block or so further away from the park, this is the mid-tier option.
- Price ranges from 2,800-4,300 Baht (Approx. $80-124), unfortunately, no villa option here.
- The first thought I had when looking at this place was “such pretty bathrooms!” Right behind the hotel grounds is also a rice field, so you’ll get a decent view when relaxing by the pool.
Tier 3: Thai Thai Sukhothai Resort
- This is the most economical option, with rooms and villas ranging between 900-2,000 Baht (Approx. $26-60). However, their service score tops the first two by a mile.
- From personal experience, they deserved that score. The staff was very attentive, quick to respond, and very polite throughout our stay. The smartest way to spend your money, in my opinion.
- The bed was also to die for. So comfortable it was hard to get up in the morning!
The food you must try
Of course, all Thai food is delicious. The two I’ve listed here, however, are the ones you will NOT find anywhere else in the country. It has to be here in Sukhothai, and HERE ONLY. Don’t miss out!
If you’ve tried some noodles without soup in Thailand before, this is another variation of those. The sauce is “Spicy pork tom yum” so be prepared to sweat a bit. But I promise you won’t have any pork tom yum noodles as delicious as here. So mix that noodle up and enjoy!
The unique element here is instead of traditional noodle veggie choices like kale or celery, you get sliced-up yard-long beans instead! I was skeptical at first, but oh boy, did it go so well with the taste.
You can order it with soup or without, but I recommend trying it the traditional way first, which is without.
Officially known in Thai as “Khanom Bueang,” this is not to be confused with the generic Khanom Bueang or Thai crepes you find at street stalls.
This dish is actually an omelet! Stuffed with pork and bean sprouts, enjoy it with Thai Acar (pickled vegetable sauce) and maybe a cup of jasmine rice if you have a big appetite.
Thanks to how underrated Sukhothai still is (not sure why…), none of these places you’ll need a reservation for. Even at the most crowded ones, you just have to plan a bit off hours (maybe 11:30 am or 2 pm) and you’ll be more than okay.
- Ban Rak Mai (They only have a FB page in Thai, sorry 🙁 But just so you have an idea)
- Location: 101 Mueang Sukhothai, Sukhothai 64000
- Contact: +66-81-400-9584 or FB messenger
- Mai Klang Krung (The most famous one, but I personally prefer Baan Rak Mai’s taste)
- Location: 139 Jarodvithi Thong, Thani, Mueang Sukhothai, Sukhothai 64000
- Contact: +66-55-621-882
- Ta Pui Noodles
- Location: 2/147 Charotwithithong Road, Ban Kluai, Mueang Sukhothai, Sukhothai 64000
- Contact: +66-84-686-8928
Recommended Day Trips
While the main historical park has a lot to offer and I recommend basing yourself there, below are two spots in the surrounding area that you shouldn’t miss, either.
Si Satchanalai Historical Park
An “Associated Historic Town” to Sukhothai, and another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Si Satchanalai is about an hour north and an easy day trip. There are about 25 temple sites and monuments to see inside the city wall and a handful more in the surrounding area. Sounds like a lot but one day is more than enough.
While Sukhothai was the King’s seat and the administrative center of the kingdom, Si Satchanalai was the crown prince’s quarter and the spiritual center. Taking a walk around this park today, you can still feel its spiritual power. Well-covered under trees with rays of light shining through, you’ll find yourself in a mystical forest with beautiful castle ruins hidden in between.
How to get there from Sukhothai Historical Park
- Take a Songtaew (passenger pick-up truck) from Sukhothai Historical Park to Sukhothai City bus terminal for about 60 Baht. ($2)
- Then take a bus from Sukhothai up to Si Satchanalai for 50 Baht. (Approx. $2)
- NOTE: I recommend getting to the city bus terminal by 9 am at the VERY LATEST. There are no such things as bus schedules there. The later you arrive, the less chance you have of getting a bus.
- Hours: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
- Fee: 100 Baht (Approx. $3.5)
- Bike Rental: 50-60 Baht/Day (Approx. $2)
- Highlights: Wat Chang Lom, Wat Chedi Chet Taew, Wat Phra Si Mahathat (Not to be confused with the royal chapel Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai)
Ban Na Ton Chan: The Immersive Local Homestay
If you have MAYBE 2 days instead of one, I highly recommend getting out of Sukhothai City and visiting this local community for a night or two.
It’s not one single resort, but a community of locals working together to run a cultural immersion program for visitors. When you book a homestay ($30/night/person), they’ll put you up in one of their 16 beautiful homes with a host who’ll live in a completely separate part of the house from you. They will greet you when you arrive, bring you traditional meals for dinner and breakfast, and that’s about it.
Below are 2 very special experiences you can do here for a very small extra fee.
Evening Cultural Tour
Starting at around 4 pm, a local guide will pick you up in a traditional truck. They’ll drive you around to explore the local culture with multiple stops. You’ll get to taste the local lime and honey snack, walk in a rice field, see the other homes, and try your hands on a traditional fabric-making machine.
Price: 450 Baht per person ($13)
Sunrise cloud inversion hike
Even if you’re not a morning person, don’t miss out on this one. And don’t forget to ask your host for some coffee for “tomorrow’s hike” the night before. Bring the coffee with you.
Your guide will pick you up at 4 am sharp to hike up to the village viewpoint. The 1 km hike takes about 30 minutes to an hour depending on your fitness. And it’s in complete darkness so bring a headlamp.
Once you’re up there, your guide will prepare the coffee you’ve brought and serve it to you in a bamboo mug. Yes, the actual, freshly-cut bamboo trunk. It kicks up an aroma like nothing else. As you enjoy your coffee, watch the sunrise over cloud inversions. Magical, right?
Price: 450 Baht per person ($13)
Getting there From Sukhothai
- Take a tuk-tuk from the park to the Sukhothai City bus terminal for 100-150 Baht (Approx. $3-4)
- Buy a ticket for an air-conditioned bus to Ban Na Ton Chan for 50 Baht (Approx. $2)
- You can ask the conductor to let you know when you’ve arrived at the correct stop. Some would even go as far as calling a motorbike taxi for you.
- Take a motorbike taxi from the bus stop to the village for about 160-200 Baht ($5-6)
Below, I’ve gathered all the prices I mentioned earlier and put them into a list so it’s easier and more accurate for you when planning. Note: Everything is listed on the higher end and for one person.
Starting with the big bucks like travel to and back, and accommodations first, I’ll assume a 7-day trip.
Travel to Sukhothai and Back to Bangkok
- Bus: $15 x2 = $30
- Plane: $140 x2 = $280
- Taxi: $230 x2 = $460
- Rental Car: $190 (for the week)
- AND Gas: $100 (Estimated distance total: 700 miles)
With hotel cost, I’m going with the average point between all 3 recommended hotels so it looks more solid. Of course, it goes down if you go with my recommended option 😉
For 6 nights: $140 x6 = $840
Estimated Daily Cost
Below are the little costs which I’ll list for one day.
Transportation of choice
- Tuk-tuk: $10 x7 = $70 (if you’re not worn out after hour 7, then I commend you…)
- Motorbike truck: $60 x2 = $120 (assuming you’ll travel from and back to your hotel and rent a bike)
- Bike rental: $2
Meals: $5 x3 = $15
Day Trip expenses
This is if you plan to visit Ban Na Ton Chan or Si Satchanalai
Transportation (to and back)
- Songtaew / Tuk-tuk (Sukhothai park-Sukhothai terminal)
- $2 x2 = $4
- Bus (Sukhothai terminal-Si Satchanalai/Ban Na Ton Chan)
- $3 x2 = $6
- Motorbike taxi (Village-Bus stop)
Per night: $30
Tours and Tickets
- Village Tour: $13
- Sunrise Tour: $13
- Si Satchanalai entrance: $3
- Si Satchanalai bike rental: $2
Conclusion / Tour Options
And that was it! I hope you enjoyed reading, learning, or planning, and that this post has helped you with whatever it was you were looking for.
But you know what I like the most when visiting a new city? Day tours guided by locals. They give you so much insight and exclusive bits into the city like nothing else. Plus, I always gain a new friend or two from them. Without further ado, I’m going to leave you with a few options for Sukhothai. But please do what you feel would suit you best!
The Best Planning Resources
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Sukhothai, which means the dawn of happiness in Thai, was the first capital of Thailand in the 13th century. It’s famous for its Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is like an open-air museum brimming with ruins of temples, palaces, and Buddha statues.
While you can walk around some parts of Sukhothai Historical Park, it’s quite spread out, like a sprawling ancient city. Renting a bicycle is a popular option and makes exploring the park much more manageable. Striking a tour deal with the local tuk-tuks is also an option. The drivers are very knowledgeable about the park and speak enough English to tell you its stories. The price shouldn’t go beyond 300 THB per hour.
Sukhothai’s royal chapel in its days of glory, Wat Mahathat is an absolute must. Then there’s Wat Si Chum, with its massive seated Buddha peeking through an opening. And don’t miss Wat Sra Sri, set beside a tranquil pond, perfect for some peaceful reflection!
As long as you avoid April through August, which are either too hot or raining too much, you’ll be okay. Although the Loy Krathong Festival in November is particularly magical, with lanterns lighting up the night sky and floating on the ponds, and light shows telling historical tales at Wat Mahathat.
Absolutely! Sukhothai isn’t just about feeding your soul with history; it’s also about feeding your stomach with amazing food. The town offers a delightful array of local eateries and street food stalls, where you can savor Sukhothai noodles, a local specialty. Mai Klang Krung is the most famous restaurant in town.