The Best of Ayutthaya in a Day
Ayutthaya was the 2nd capital of the Kingdom of Siam between 1350 and 1767.
Our first visit to Ayutthaya was 10 years ago. We had come on a daytrip and had been so incredibly impressed by the temples we had seen on that visit that this time I scheduled 3 nights (2 full days) in Ayutthaya. In hindsight that was a mistake. I’ll explain that further below.
How to get to Ayutthaya by yourself
Train is the cheapest option. Buy a 3rd class seat – it’ll cost you 15 Baht (about 50 cents US) and will take on average 2 hours from Bangkok’s centrally located Hua Lamphong Railway station. And there are tons of trains doing the route throughout the day.
How to see the Highlights of Ayutthaya
Hire a Tuk Tuk when you arrive in Ayutthaya. It’s the easiest way to see a whole bunch of temples in a day. When you get off the train you’ll have Tuk tuk drivers asking you if you want to hire them. Pick one you like. The going rate is 200 Baht an hour. Tell them the temples you want to visit (that’s the next section).
You can also take a day tour from Bangkok which is the easiest thing to do. I’ll cover that further below.
Temples you HAVE to see in Ayutthaya
1. Wat Mahathat (the temple with the Buddha head in a tree)
One of the oldest temples (built in the 13th century). Wat Mahathat was the most important temple in the kingdom and Royal ceremonies were held there. Today there are lots of ruins and Buddhas with their heads chopped off. The consensus is that this was done by the Burmese when they sacked the city in 1767 (although I’ve heard others say that this was the work of looters). The temple is also the site of the most famous photo opportunity in Ayuthaya – the Buddha head located within the roots of a giant tree.
2. Wat Ratchaburana (the temple with the incredible prang)
This temple has the most incredible Khmer-style prang (tower-like spire) in Ayutthaya. When King Intharacharthirat died in 1424, two of his sons killed each other fighting for the throne. A 3rd brother took power and had this temple built in their remembrance. You can climb inside the prang for nice views.
3. Wat Phra Sri Sanphet (the temple with the 3 Chedis)
A large temple complex with a row of 3 huge Chedis. This temple used to be in what was the Royal Palace of Ayutthaya and at the time it housed a 16 meter high gold-covered Buddha image (which was destroyed and melted down). Note: Right next to the chedis is a modern hall containing Phra Mongkhon Bophit, a 12 meter Buddha image. Make sure to visit it while you’re here.
4. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon (the temple with a huge amount of Buddhas)
A large, very photogenic temple complex with rows of restored Buddhas looking over a huge chedi (which you can climb for great views). Lots to see, including a large reclining Buddha and many smaller chedis. Note: Very close to Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is Wat Phanan Choeng, a modern complex which houses a beautiful 14.25 meter high Buddha. It is a favorite of Thais who come here to pray.
5. Wat Chaiwatthanaram (the huge river temple complex)
A huge Khmer-style temple complex located along the river. It has a huge main prang surrounded by 4 chedis and over 120 seated Buddhas. This temple is a favorite of visitors who come here, rent a traditional Thai custom, and spend the day taking selfies of themselves around the temple grounds.
The above 5 temples are “must sees” in Ayutthaya.
I figure you need anywhere between 4 and 5 hours to visit these temples if visiting by Tuk Tuk (allowing for a leisurely pace).
Want to add a few more temples?
I would suggest:
– Wat Phra Ram. Temple complex with huge prang right next to Wat Phra Sri Sanphet.
– Wat Thammikarat. Lion figures around a chedi. Huge amount of roosters (based on a legend of a wager over a cock fight )
– Wat Lokaya Sutha. A huge reclining Buddha.
By the time you’ve finished all the above you’ll be ready to take the train back to Bangkok.
So why would I not recommend an overnight stay in Ayutthaya?
We stayed 3 nights in a small family run place near the Historic Center. We felt a bit stuck at times.
1) Outside of the temples, Ayutthaya is just not a very pretty place and when night falls you don’t want to be out. Streets are dark and I don’t think we’ve seen any town with as many stray dogs.
2) No Tuk Tuks or Taxis run at night. Our host recommended going to a restaurant at the river – but failed to tell us how to get there except to walk. When asked she said there was no taxi or tuk tuk service to call.
3) You can see all the main temples in a full day.
Really, there just isn’t any reason to stay in Ayutthaya overnight.
Instead, I would book a Day Trip from Bangkok. There are many options.
- With a Private Driver. Note the price is per group, so it is very affordable if you are 2 or 3 people.
- This very popular tour takes you to Ayutthaya in the morning, then back to Bangkok where you are taken on a river cruise that takes you past all the major temples in the capital. So you see the best of both Ayutthaya and Bangkok in one day.
Related: Ayutthaya or Sukhothai – which to Visit? Our vote
Related: The Hypothetically Perfect Day in Bangkok
Related: Songkran in Pattaya. And on actually enjoying Thailand’s “Sex Capital”
Related: Bbqboy’s Ultimate Guide to the Best of Thailand
Have you been to Ayutthaya? What were your highlights?
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This was really helpful. We are also a couple blogger, but still rooted to our home 🙂 Like you we aspire to adopt travel full time.
We are soon planning to visit Thailand – Bangkok, Sukhothai and then Chiang Mai. And have provisioned one day for Ayutthaya from Bangkok via a private taxi, as we are in a group of 8. Will definitely try not to miss these temples.
Have you been to Erawan National Park from Bangkok? If so, will like to know if you found the visit worth it and how you commuted.
Hi Neha! Private taxi the way to go, especially with that many people. I guess the same taxi will bring you to the various temples. You’ll enjoy Sukhothai as well, more compact, cleaner and fewer tourists.
No, haven’t been to Erawan National Park.
I really liked this post on Ayutthaya. The layout is really good and the information is helpful as I’m writing up about my visit there this year and I was able to cross-reference your photos with the ones I took to confirm which temples I went too.
Thanks Hilton, glad it could be of help! 🙂
Having enjoyed a two-week visit in Siem Reap earlier this year, I’d come to Ayutthaya in a heartbeat for a chance to see more of the temples. Your photos show an incredible array of things to see and I can’t imagine cramming everything into one day. It’s interesting that the city hasn’t upped it’s tourist allure but I expect, if you make a visit back in a few years, you’ll find it all changed. I would have booked a few nights there as well.
Most of the major temples actually get a lot of visitors Anita, especially Chinese tour groups doing day trips from Bangkok. The lesser known temples get much less.
It’s very doable by tuk-tuk in a day, you probably won’t spend more than 45 minutes at any one temple and most are close to each other. We did ALL the major temples in 2 days, but the first day we walked (and saw 4 temples in the center) and on the 2nd day had a half day by Tuk-tuk where we saw the temples outside the center.
The temples at Siem Reap much bigger than Ayutthaya and there are so many to see. We spent 3 days there and still didn’t cover everything. You must have really covered a lot over 2 weeks and I hope you write about it soon! (you’ve been taking a break too long Anita 🙂 )
I like the roosters. Wonder who won the wager. So it’s dogged in Ayutthaya. In Jerusalem they have cats.
Just like in the Balkans. We lived in Split last year and there were cats everywhere.
Get a map from 7/11 and go exploring.
Not a fan of Ayuthaya and always hotter there than Bangkok. Kanchanaburi province is real nice.
Never been to Kanchanaburi. I’ve heard about the railway but don’t know much else about the province…
Great post! Thanks for sharing.Pictures are too good.Keep sharing.
Great tips Frank, I would have booked 2-3 nights, so it’s nice to know not to. I can see why you made the return trip. Absolutely fabulous.
brillianjt colours coming through on the pics Frank! Its definitely easy enough to reach from Bangkok in a day including return. I took a mini bus. In fact I think I did a lot of it on foot apart from the bus to the entrance and back. It was only three years ago…. dont remember much, Lots of visitors. but I guess that’s Thailand these days. great post!
You’re right – lots of visitors now, when we came here 10 years ago we had the temples almost to ourselves.
There are a few temples in the middle that can be explored on foot (including some of the above) but a whole bunch are scattered on the outskirts and on the other side of the river.
Frank, you brought back so many memories. We went in June of 2015. I had hired a guide and driver before arriving in Thailand. My husband had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. With the heat, he needed a refuge between temples. We did all the temples you listed. The guide and driver, picked us up, at our hotel in Bangkok. We did the Bang Pa-In Palace as well. I was not impressed with the Ayutthaya city either. We would go back to the temples again. Mainly because it is picturesque. We were going to do a cruise up the river to do the palace and temples. Research on line said not to do the cruise. I’m glad we did it on our own.
Thank you for the great feedback. One of the things we noticed this time is how many more tourists there were – especially Chinese tour groups. Tourism is definitely changing. And compared to Sukhothai Ayutthaya gets a lot of visitors…
You are very right about the heat. Glad you and your husband enjoyed your visit. We went to the river – I wouldn’t recommend the river cruise either, the geography in that part of Thailand flat and featureless and doing it in a boat I would think slow and boring. A guide and driver is the way to do it.
I’m enjoying your Thai travelogue and the temples you’ve written about now and previously make Thailand a tempting visit. I can’t blame Lisette’s aversion to stray dogs!
Thank you Lucija! I hope you are doing well in Split. Lissette misses it a lot and might actually spend a few weeks there in the Autumn while I visit my mom in Mexico.
Nice images of these wonderful temples. I’m not sure why l thought why l though the Wat Pho temple had the only one reclining buddha in all of Thailand :-). I like dogs, but nope! I’m with Spanky on that one.
Yes, quite a lot of reclining Buddhas all over the place. Buddha liked to relax 🙂
We’ve never actually had an episode with a stray dog, they’re usually fine. It’s usually owned dogs that you have to worry about because they get territorial. But still, meeting a bunch of dogs in the middle of the night not a pleasant experience. I’ll never forget the time we were in Colombia and we saw a pack of about a dozen dogs saunter by going to the beach…
Frank, so many beautiful temples…difficult to pick a favourite. I am planning another trip to Thailand next January, your tips will be very handy indeed. The dogs look very docile, but maybe not so much at night or when they start getting hungry. We don’t have street dogs here in the UK, it always surprises me when you get so many in other countries.
You’re right about the street dogs – Lissette has real issues with it. She’s afraid of dogs and for her it’s a major drawback of South East Asia. They’re all sleepy in the day and always like to hang out around humans at the temples, besides which the Thais feed them (notice that none of them are skinny?). But at night it’s party time and they wander the streets in packs.
Glad to know you’ll be visiting Thailand again. I think Anita at noparticularplacetogo is also coming back around that time. It’s a whole other world than Europe for sure.
I like the roosters. Wonder who won the wager. So it’s dogs in Ayutthaya. In Jerusalem they have cats.
The roosters were weird, there was an army of them. Never seen anything like that.
Yes, in most of the Balkans it’s cats as well (but there are also stray dogs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Romania). It’s not a good thing, they often get hurt in traffic and some can also get aggressive.
I agree with you that the many huge rooster statues on display were a bit strange to look at.
I’ve never seen anything like that either.
Oh, yes, dogs can be cute and yet encounter with mad dogs in public places can be a scary experience.
I don’t think photos give it justice Wendy – there were TONS of those roosters and it seemed strange having worshippers going up to them and praying.
We’ve been in Malaysia a week now and haven’t seen street dogs. But there are tons in Thailand. I wonder why that is??
Oh, really? I am really surprised to hear that you’ve been in Malaysia a week already! I thought you were still in Thailand!
Where about are you in Malaysia now? Hope you have a comfortable journey and a pleasant experience travelling down south.
I wish I could be your tour guide but unfortunately I am not a qualified tour guide.
Thanks Wendy! We’ll be in Ipoh today. I’m running about 2 weeks behind on my posts 🙂
Interesting to know that you will be in Ipoh because my grandma used to bring me there to visit my grand-uncle and his family’s house when I was very young, which was ages ago. I have not been there for a long time. I guess it might be a bit different now.
I took my daughter’s there and we stayed one night which was great as prices were so cheap for a good hotel. Found a good local cafe with awesome green curry for dinner We hired a tuk tuk for the day and were pleased three driver was helpful and took us where we asked, no shops! Great write up guys!
I’ve had good luck with Tuk Tuk drivers as well Jane. I usually go for the older people and in this case we had a nice husband/wife team in their 60s who drove us around for a day and took us to a whole bunch of temples (maybe too many…I think they were trying to stretch it out a bit 🙂 ) It’s the best way to see Ayutthaya.
Glad you enjoyed Ayutthaya.
Great pics and tips! I’ve seen so many wonderful photos of the temples here, it’s good to know that you can do it in a day trip. Always fun exploring the good and the bad through your posts Frank!
Thank you for taking the time to comment Rebecca!