The Top 10 Things to Do and See in Ayutthaya, Thailand

The Thai city of Ayutthaya is worth visiting for its stunning temples and historic sites
The Thai city of Ayutthaya is worth visiting for its stunning temples and historic sites | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Amanda Chain
30 October 2020

Ayutthaya is Thailand‘s hidden archaeological gem, brimming with Buddhist temples, monasteries and ancient statues of monumental proportions. Dating back to 1350, the city has had a rich and turbulent history with its fair share of glory and strife. This is a Unesco World Heritage city worth seeing; here is our list of the top 10 things to do and see in Ayutthaya.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram

Buddhist Temple, Building
Map View
Tree and pagoda at Wat Chaiwatthanaram - Ayutthaya
© Pinant Thamnajit / Alamy Stock Photo
Wat Chaiwatthanaram is a magnificent Buddhist temple in Ayutthaya situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. A number of temples throughout Thailand take their design from this building, an eye-catching arrangement which includes a raised platform and eight towering chedis, or chapels. All of the chedis are attached to secret passageways and have colourful paintings illustrating the life of Buddha inside. There are 120 sitting Buddha statues dotted around the area; originally thought to have been painted black and gold, they now sit dressed in orange drapery, creating a peaceful, picturesque scene.

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet

Ruins
Map View
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, meaning Temple of the Holy, Splendid and Omniscient in English, was revered as the grandest and most beautiful temple when it served the Siamese capital over 700 years ago. Today, it remains a stunning testament to the culture of times past. Built on old palace ground, the site is comprised of three ancient chedis, or chapels, these ruins being all that was left of the temple after it was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. The steps here are steep, the architecture breathtaking, and there is the option of an elephant ride to the site if you are feeling weary and sun-drenched.

Wat Lokaya Sutha (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Monastery
Map View
Ayutthaya, Thailand - Nirvana statue at WAT LOKAYA SUTHA in Ayutthaya, Thailand. It is part of the World Heritage Site - Historic City of
© beibaoke / Alamy Stock Photo
Wat Lokaya Sutha is the restored ruin of a monastery located in northwest Ayutthaya, in the Pratu Chai sub-district. This is one of the most impressive sites in the region, and is certainly an unmissable spot for any trip to Ayutthaya. You can explore the ancient remains of the monastery’s floors, walls and pillars, and examine the detritus of archaic Buddha images. The highlight of this ruin is the ginormous reclining Buddha statue, 42 metres (138ft) long and eight metres (26ft) high. The Buddha is usually wrapped in brightly coloured orange cloth, and there is a small altar at its side where visitors can make offerings. If travelling on a hot day, make sure to relax with a refreshing mango juice at one of the roadside cafés overlooking the temple.

Wat Phra Mahthat

Buddhist Temple
Map View
One of the most photographed spots in Ayutthaya, Wat Phra Mahthat is comprised of a large stone Buddha head set in a colossal and deep-rooted tree. Exactly how the head became locked in its present location is unclear; however, it is thought to be linked to the immense flooding and destruction of previous years, and the rapid growth of vegetation that ensued afterwards. Legend has it that, a few metres from this spot, two brothers fought violently over who would succeed as the King of Siam. The victor, King Ramathibodi I, subsequently built the palace and all the Buddha statues here in honour of his brother. The head in the tree is believed to originate from one of these statues, and so is thought to be an eerie replica of the defeated brother. Whether or not this story is true, it makes a popular and interesting anecdote when visiting the attraction, told often by guides around the area.

Ayutthaya Historical Park

Park, Ruins
Map View
Chedi of Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Ayutthaya Historical Park, Ayutthaya, Thailand
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Ayutthaya Historical Park is a must-see for history buffs and admirers of archaeology. The park incorporates the zone designated as a Unesco World Heritage site and is comprised of 67 stunning temples and ruins. The huge area includes the former Siamese capital city, with imposing Buddha statues set within a serene and striking landscape of blue skies and greenery. A visit here is an unbeatable way to experience the beauty of what was the Siamese centre of power and commerce.

Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon

Ruins
Map View
reclining Buddha  of Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon,  Ayutthaya
© Peter Schickert / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the lesser visited temple sites in the city, Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon offers a more intimate experience of Ayutthaya’s architectural ruins. There are magnificent rows of Buddhas encompassing the main temple here, and another giant and imposing sleeping Buddha, whose sole is believed to emit magical qualities; many locals rub coins on the feet of the statue in order to be blessed with good luck. There are towers around the site in various states of preservation, and stunning statues inside the temple are adorned with intricately moulded golden leaves. Festivals and celebrations are regularly held here by Thai locals, reinforcing the idea that the area is monumental and sacred.

Boat tour from Ayutthaya to Bangkok

Thailand is a country that embraces the water surrounding it, with ferries and boats being extremely popular modes of transport in all regions. An exciting way to experience a Thai river journey is to board a boat cruise from Ayutthaya to Bangkok along the Chao Phraya River. During the trip, you have a chance to relax and unwind, to glide past the primitive beauty of the city and to spot exciting attractions such as the Wat Arun temple on the water’s edge. Tours can cost as little as £42, with a popular choice of operator being Viator, offering air-conditioned transportation and an expert English-speaking licenced guide on every tour.

© Stefan Ember / Alamy Stock Photo

Wat Panan Choeng (Golden Buddha)

Buddhist Temple
Map View
Wat Panan Choeng is a Buddhist temple on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. When traversing the stairs here, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the gigantic golden Buddha figure majestically posed above the site. It is 19 metres (62ft) high, 14 metres (46ft) wide, and is universally revered throughout the region as a sacred figure for mariners. The effigy is one of the oldest, largest and most worshipped statues in Thailand, with legends claiming that it wept tears when the Burmese burnt Ayutthaya down in 1767. This temple is still widely in use for religious ceremonies, so take care when visiting to dress appropriately in accordance with Buddhist custom.

Bang Pa-In Palace

Historical Landmark
Map View
Bang Pa In palace Ayutthaya, Thailand
© Sunisa / Alamy Stock Photo
Constructed in the 17th century, Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, also known as the Summer Palace, is the former residence of the Thai monarchy, and is used today for royal retreats and holidays. Russian and Chinese architecture as well as traditional Thai designs blend brilliantly to create a colourful and symmetrical exterior here. Climbing the brightly painted lookout tower is highly recommended if time permits, since it offers amazing panoramic views of the surrounding city. The palace remains largely open to guests all year round, with tours available for the Chinese-style royal palace and throne room as well as the lavish, vibrant gardens.

Viharn Phra Mongkhonbophit

Historical Landmark
Map View
Viharn Phra Mongkhonbophit is a restored temple ruin, a magnificent structure that houses another stunning Golden Buddha. The temple, the name of which translates as Buddha of the Holy and Supremely Auspicious Reverence in English, was built in 1538 and has undergone many intense restorations over the years. It was once a site of sanctuary during a war between the Siamese and Burmese, with the Burmese allegedly being so in awe of the site’s beauty that they left it untouched.
These recommendations were updated on October 30, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.