Sukhothai Historical Park Itinerary: What you should See and How much time you should Spend

Sukhothai Historical Park Itinerary: What you should See and How much time you should Spend

Sukhothai Historical Park Itinerary.

Founded in 1238, Sukhothai was the first independent kingdom of Siam. It was the cradle of Thai civilization, the birthplace of Thai art, architecture and language. It is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing some of the most incredible ruins in the country.

Sukhothai Historical Park covers 70 square kilometers and contains over 190 ruins spread out in 5 zones. So, you may ask: how should I plan my time there? I searched the internet and still couldn’t get a really clear answer. Another factor: entering each zone costs 100 Baht per person, so going to each of the 5 zones would cost the two of us 1000 Baht ($ 40 CAD or $32 US). Is it really worth visiting all 5 zones?

I ended up planning 2 full days to see Sukhothai Historical Park. While I’m glad we did (and I’ll explain why later) it was too much time.

We got really lucky. When we arrived at the gates of the park on April 2nd we were told that access to the whole park was free. Why? It was the birthday of the Royal Princess. We had originally thought of spreading out our sightseeing over 2 days but because of the free day we decided to visit all the main temples, in all the zones, in one day (when you’re a full-time traveller you get cheap). It ended up being all we – or anyone – really needs.
* if you can, try to plan your visit for April 2nd 🙂

The truth is that although there are some incredible temples in Sukhothai, there are only a handful that most travellers really need to see. And these temples are all located in 2 zones. So no need to visit all 5 zones.
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Sukhothai Historical Park Itinerary. Map

 

Above: Map Credit Thai Thai Sukhothai Guesthouse. Temples marked with a star are the most important temples in Sukhothai Historical Park. Click on the map for a larger version that you can print out and use for your visit.

 

The Temples you really Need to See in Sukhothai Historical Park

 

1. Wat Mahathat

This temple was the most important royal temple in the Sukothai Kingdom. It is located right in the middle of the central zone (the central zone covers the Old City of Sukhothai, a square in the middle of the park surrounded by walls and moats). The Temple area is the largest of any in Sukhothai Historical Park and includes an incredibly large number of stupas, prangs (Khmer originated conical towers), and Buddha figures. There are two temples is Sukhothai Historical Park that took our breath away – this is one of them.

Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai

 

 

2. Wat Si Sawai

Wat Si Sawai has a Khmer influence (from what is now Cambodia) and some say this temple is a miniature version on Angkor Wat. I wouldn’t go that far – but it is very impressive with its 3 large and detailed prangs.

Wat Si Sawai, Sukhothai

 

 

3. Wat Sa Si

This temple is on a small island and features a very impressive white sitting Buddha backdropped by a large chedi. Its setting makes it very picturesque.

Wat Sa Si, Sukhothai. Sukhothai Historical Park Itinerary: What you should See and How much time you should Spend

The temples above are the most impressive in the central zone, which itself is by far the most impressive of the zones in the Historical park. Visitors will be surprised by 1) how close the sites in the central zone are to each other, 2) how clean and well-organized the Old City is, 3) the variety of different temple styles you’ll find in this zone.

We spent 3 hours in this zone, seeing 5 temples as well the King Ramkhamhaeng Monument and spent 1 hour at Wat Mahathat alone.

 

You’ve explored the central zone. What other zone (and temples) should you see?

It’s easy: The Northern Zone. It features the other mind-blowing temple in Sukhothai Historical park.

 

4. Wat Si Chum

This incredible temple is one of the most photographed in Thailand. Within a Mondop (a cubicle shaped pavilion) is the largest Buddha image in Sukhothai. It is majestic, beautiful and powerful. The Buddha is named Phra Achana which translates to “He who is not frightened”. It was built in the 13th century and there are several legends associated with the Buddha, including that – upon seeing it – Burmese armies fled Sukhothai. I previously mentioned that Wat Mahathat took our breath away. Wat Si Chum impressed us just as much.

Wat Si Chum. Sukhothai Historical Park Itinerary: What you should See and How much time you should Spend

 

 

The above are by far the most impressive temples in Sukhothai in our opinion. While some other temples may have important historical significance, many are in ruins and just don’t compare to the above. A few photos from other various temples:

Sukhothai Historical Park Itinerary: What you should See and How much time you should Spend

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So how much time do you really need to visit Sukhothai Historic Park?

You can easily do it in one day. We started at 9 am and finished at 2 pm (ie. 6 hours). During that time we went through all the zones and stopped to visit at least a dozen temples and monuments. What people really have to know is that ALL the main temples I’ve listed above (and more) are all very close together in the Central Zone. Most people bike between them, or take an electric Tuk Tuk (as we did), but you can just as easily walk between them. Wat Si Chum, the only ‘must-see’ Temple out of the Central Zone is very close by as well (although fine by bike or tuk tuk, I would not recommend walking).
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I mentioned that I was happy we were staying in Sukhothai a 2nd full day. Why?

Because on the second day we visited Si Satchanalai Historical Park, an hour away from Sukhothai. What I recommend if coming to Sukhothai is: 1) seeing Sukhothai Historical Park the 1st day, 2) visiting Si Satchanalai the 2nd day.

 

 

Practical information

Getting there: Sukhothai lies about 7 hours north of Bangkok and about 6 hours south of Chiang Mai. We chose to come here from Chiang Mai by train (5 ½ hours to Phitsanulok, then another hour by bus or taxi to Sukhothai). We pre-bought our tickets online using 12Go Asia. We were able to print our travel vouchers at our Chiang Mai hotel. When travel day came we went to the station, traded the vouches for tickets, and just climbed on board the train. Easy. Many transportation options available below.

Powered by 12Go Asia system

 

Accommodation: We’ve stayed at the Thai Thai Guesthouse which is great value at 1,000 Baht/night (beautiful room, big pool, wifi, free breakfast). Very nice.

Eating: We find restaurants in Old Sukhothai overpriced for what you get. The best and closest is the Sukhothai Kitchen. Good food, good portions, service could be a lot better.

 

Related: Bbqboy’s Ultimate Guide to the Best of Thailand

 

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Sukhothai Historical Park Itinerary
Sukhothai Historical Park Itinerary

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17 Comments

  1. Oh, your lovely photos make me want to hop on a plane and get to Thailand as fast as I can. There’s something magical about visiting a place that was once a kingdom and the temples look incredible! Thanks for all your tips and I’ll definitely be referring back to your blog posts when I plan my next SEA trip.

  2. Haven’t been there but done Phimai, Phanom Rung and Muang Tham which are Kymer style and few foreigners out that way. Phimai has a good museum as well. Angkor has been taken over by Chinese tour groups apparently. Seen some horrendous crowd photos.

    1. Thanks Tom. Yes, not places many people go to. I’ve heard of Phimae but haven’t been…
      We were in Angkor and it’s spectacular. But you are right about the Chinese tours.
      On that note, I just posted on Pattaya. Curious to your thoughts.

  3. An interesting place. The architecture is similar to Cambodian temples in Angkor Complex, but Angkor Complex includes more temples an their ruins.

    1. Yes, while Sukhothai is nice it just doesn’t compare to Angkor in the number of temples or the overall ‘Wow” factor. Angkor just much more impressive, could easily spend a week (we spent 3 days a couple of years ago and even then didn’t see everything…)

  4. The Wat Si Chum looks awesome and l can see why it’s one of the most photographed places. How cool to get there on the birthday if royalty, unexpected and welcome ?. Keep loving Thailand!

    1. You;re right Andy, it’s known as one of Thailand’s highlights but it’s a bit out of the way and many don’t make it there…

  5. I was very keen to visit Sukhothai on my visit to Thailand back in 2013, but I did not think we had enough time since we were only in Thailand for 2 weeks. I do regret it now looking at your amazing photos. I am surprised that you don’t actually need to spend a lot of time there to see most of the main Temples. We are planning to visit Thailand again in January/19 so I will take on board all this information you are providing here, including the guest house you have stayed at. I love blog posts like this with lots of very honest and practical information…thank you 🙂

    1. The biggest issue people have with Sukhothai is that it is far from everywhere. We’re now in Ayutthaya which is 90 minutes from Bangkok and packed with day trippers. Sukhothai by comparison is very quiet…which is really nice.
      The Guesthouse is great and I’m not sure why it’s called a guesthouse as it’s almost like a resort. One of the best value places we’ve stayed in anywhere and I really recommend.

  6. It certainly does make me want to return to Thailand again after reading about your trip to
    “Dawn of Happiness”!

      1. No, I have not been there before though I have read a bit about it
        and it was nice to read about it again via your blog upon my return from Chiangmai today.
        I agree, it is quite impressive and reading about your happy experience exploring
        Sukhotai’s historical sites make it even more interesting.

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