Phetchaburi doesn’t feature on many travellers’ bucket lists, though it’s often passed through en route between Bangkok and the beaches and islands of Southern Thailand. There’s plenty to keep you busy for a few days (or longer!) in Phetchaburi, with interesting caves, the biggest national park in Thailand, and these beautiful buildings.
Also referred to as Khao Wang (Palace Hill), Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park is a striking former royal palace complex. Split over three main hills, there are numerous buildings and structures with a blend of Thai, Chinese, Khmer, Sri Lankan, Indian, and European styles. The previous royal residence is a stunning Chinese-Portuguese building, and it sits atop the western hill. The ornate ceremonial hall, star-gazing observatory, the small royal temple of Wat Phra Kaeo, the maroon five-tiered pagoda of Phra Prang Daeng, and the white bell-shaped stupa of Phra That Chom Phet are other gorgeous highlights throughout the site.
The temple of Wat Yai Suwannaram dates back to the 1800s and is one of the most stunning religious buildings in Phetchaburi. A teak pavilion contains beautiful woodwork, decorative pillars, and striking murals. The window-free ordination hall has some of the country’s oldest murals inside and there’s also a Khmer-style pagoda and a wooden hall on stilts.
A fascinating ancient site, Wat Kamphaeng Laeng was built during the Khmer era. It originally served as a Hindu place of worship and was later changed to a Buddhist temple. There are four laterite towers and you can still see the remains of plasterwork Buddha statues that were added during the Ayutthaya Kingdom. In addition to the historic remains, the temple has been expanded and is still an active place of worship with everything that you’ve likely come to expect in a Thai Buddhist temple.
One of the most significant temples in Phetchaburi, Wat Mahathat Worawihan displays Khmer-era architectural designs and decorative features. The walls have attractive and highly detailed carvings that depict mythical creatures, spiritual beings, and religious objects. The main tower reaches 42 metres into the skies, visible from far and wide, and is surrounded by several smaller prangs and numerous statues of the Lord Buddha. Local lore says that the plaster-covered prangs contain sacred relics. The colourful roof tiles on the halls shimmer and glint in the sunlight and there are many details to admire.
Also known locally as Wat Phra Non (the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha), Wat Phra Phuttha Saiyat is an ancient temple believed to date back to the Ayutthaya period. The main feature is a long statue of a reclining Buddha, with the temple having been built around the statue to protect it from the elements. There are several chambers within the large statue, though they are now closed off.
Phra Ram Ratchaniwet, also known as Ban Puen Palace, is a decadent European-style building that was once used as a royal palace. Designed by a German architect, it vaguely resembles one of Germany’s lavish summer palaces. It features baroque and art nouveau styles, and the interiors are as elegant as the outside. Expect spiral staircases with attractive banisters made from teak, marble flooring, and exquisite tile work. The halls do, however, have a somewhat neglected feel about them, with just a smattering of antiques, furnishings, and statues to punctuate the open spaces. Surrounded by well-manicured grounds, the former palace is now within a military base.
Situated in the north of the province, close to the border with neighbouring Ratchaburi, Wat Kuti is filled with history. The ordination hall is built from teak wood and almost every surface is covered with exquisite carvings that tell the story of the Lord Buddha’s life. A seated Buddha image, flanked by two lions, stands in front of the entrance, and a golden pavilion has been erected over the wooden structure for conservation purposes.
Wat Khoi is an impressive sight, with a pale façade, golden spires, and details that make it look like it could have been taken from a fairytale. There are many interesting statues and stucco reliefs, and the greenery covered hill in the background adds to the visual splendour. The main hall, which displays almost perfect symmetry, is fairly small. It’s one of Phetchaburi’s more modern temples, though the traditional designs help to create a much older feeling.
A fantastic attraction for travellers interested in culture, anthropology, and history, the Thai Song Dam Cultural Centre offers a window into the world of one of Thailand’s ethnic groups. Also known as the Lao Song, the Thai Song Dam originally came from the border area between Laos and Vietnam. Having migrated to Thailand several centuries ago, Phetchaburi is now home to Thailand’s largest Thai Song Dam community. The complex showcases traditional buildings, which are distinctive to others found around Thailand. Buildings are filled with day-to-day items and you can also enjoy diverse cultural performances.
Located in the province’s seaside town of Cha-am, Mrigadayavan Palace has been carefully restored to show its previous splendour. Also sometimes known as The Palace of Love and Hope, the Thai name translates as The Land of Deer. The former royal palace was constructed in the 1920s by King Rama VI. It features three inter-connected complexes, each with a glorious throne room. The 16 European-like buildings are constructed from golden teak wood and all main areas offer terrific views of the sea.