I Travel for the Stars

Visiting Ayutthaya, an Important Thai UNESCO World Heritage Site

Last updated on February 25, 2024

Having once been the capital of southern Thailand, Ayutthaya today makes a popular day trip from Bangkok. Even though there are many ways to get to Ayutthaya, including bus and train, I opted to take an organised day tour so I’d have transportation and a tour guide. It was a nice time but the park was also a bit different from what I had expected.


A Brief History of Ayutthaya

After a smallpox outbreak in the first capital of Lopburi (another historic site to visit), Ayutthaya became the capital of Siam (southern Thailand) in the 14th century. You can also see it referred to as the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which lasted from 1350-1767. It was a very large and important city, serving as capital for over 400 years. It was a huge center for trade, religion, and of course was home to the Siamese royal family and the government.

The kingdom was invaded by the Burmese in 1767 and was destroyed. You’ll see today that many of the Buddha heads are cut off from the bodies, as that’s where treasures were usually stored and the Burmese were trying to get the treasure. Most of the gold and other precious goods were stolen. The capital moved to Thonburi (now part of Bangkok) and Ayutthaya sadly became a place of ruin – but not forgotten.

Today, the Historic City of Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a popular tourist destination.

Visiting Ayutthaya Today

My expectation was that the Ayutthaya Historical Park was a big archaeological park, like Pompeii or Machu Picchu, that you paid to and got to go around. This wasn’t the case. It’s actually a bunch of smaller archaeological parks that are spread out widely, with modern roads and buildings built in the blank spaces between. You can see just how large the city was in its heyday. Note that ech park has its own entry fees.

I’m glad I opted to do an organised tour because I didn’t know this until we set foot in Ayutthaya, so I would’ve visited one park and left thinking that was all to see. As I mentioned, the parks are quite spread out and can take 5-10 minutes to drive from one to the next. It was nice to have an air-conditioned vehicle to duck into between stops, and to have a tour guide to tell us precisely what we were looking at.

OK, so now: what is there to see in Ayutthaya?

Ayutthaya Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Ayutthaya

Our first stop was at Wat Tai Chai Mang Kon. This temple is famous for its very tall chedi and was constructed around the founding of Ayutthaya in 1350.

Even though a lot is in ruin, there’s a lot of reconstructed sculpture here and it makes a short but lovely visit. You can even climb to the top of the pagoda and drop three coins into a well inside the temple (don’t worry, it’s easy to find). If you can drop all three coins in the bucket, you’ll have good luck!

Ayutthaya Ayutthaya

Even though the Burmese confiscated a lot of gold goods in the 18th century, the original gold gilt Buddhas are still inside of Wat Tai Chai Mang Kon. You can see them around the well.

Wat Tai Chai Mang Kon was definitely a highlight of the day, and I highly recommend putting it as a stop on your trip.

Ayutthaya Ayutthaya


Our next temple of the day was Wat Mahathat. I mentioned before that the Burmese chopped the heads off the Buddhas. One head rolled near a tree, and miraculously, the tree grew around the head but without obstructing the face. It’s a very popular photo stop, but make sure you sit down below the Buddha head to show respect instead of standing up when you take a picture.

Ayutthaya Ayutthaya


Wat Mahathat was probably built in the 14th century as well. It’s very much in ruin and became even more damaged in an earthquake during the 20th century, I believe. However, many of the towers still standing give a glimpse to Ayutthaya’s architectural splendor. It’s a ghost, but there are still a few things to see, and it’s definitely one of the more iconic stops in the ancient city.

Ayutthaya Ayutthaya


Next on our itinerary was Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, which was definitely more interesting in terms of detail. What you see today dates a bit later, to the 15th century, and was originally the temple of the royal palace complex.

You’ll notice three large chedis that were built at different times, to commemorate the deaths of different kings. These are the real highlight of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and you can see some of the stone detail that’s carved into the stone. That was what I particularly liked about this place – that you could see more of what the architectural decoration looked like.


If you’re in Ayutthaya then I definitely recommend putting Wat Phra Sri Sanphet as a stop on your list because even though it’s small, it’s one of the most interesting parks to see.

Ayutthaya Ayutthaya


The best was saved for last on our itinerary: Wat Chaiwatthanaram. This is a much, much newer temple that dates to the 17th century and it was supposed to mimic Angkor Wat in modern day Cambodia. Much of it is preserved, so you can see the chedis and their beautiful carved ornamentation. It probably doesn’t look the same as it did several hundred years ago but is intact enough to really appreciate its splendor.

Ayutthaya Ayutthaya


This is also an area that rents out Chut Thai, or traditional Thai dress, if you want to dress up to look around the wat.

Even though it’s sad that Ayutthaya is in ruin, as it must’ve been quite a flashy place in its heyday, it still makes an interesting trip and overall is a very important place in Thai history.

Things I Didn’t See in Ayutthaya (That You Can)

For much of our tour, we were told that the artefacts that remained after the Burmese invasion could be found in the “Ayutthaya Museum” (which I believe might have referred to the Chankasem National Museum). Unfortunately, a visit to the museum wasn’t a part of our tour, but I would’ve liked to stop in and see what their collection is like.

As I mentioned, Ayutthaya is made up of several archaeological parks that used to make up one big city. We visited four of the most prominent ones, but there are several others that are probably worthy of a visit, as well.


There are about 60 in total. There’s a beautiful map here on Virtual Historic Park that pinpoints all the different sites.

I joined an organised tour, which was fine for getting a taste of Ayutthaya and its history. But if you want a more thorough visit, then I definitely recommend planning your own day trip or even spending the night. You can easily get to Ayutthaya by train or bus from Bangkok. As I mentioned, the sites are very spread out – even though they look close on a map – so you can spend several minutes driving from one site to another. If you’re not renting a car or motorbike, you can easily find tuk tuks and taxis to take you around.

If you prefer an organised tour, you can see what’s available on Viator and GetYourGuide. Otherwise you can see train and bus schedules on 12Go Asia.

Ayutthaya was a very interesting day, and it was fascinating to see such an important part of Thailand’s history. It makes a wonderful day trip (or multi-day trip), and however you plan to visit, I hope you have an absolutely wonderful time.

Pin This for Later

Ayutthaya Ayutthaya

Book an Organised Tour

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. These are at no additional cost to you but I receive a commission if you make a purchase through the link, and the commission helps me run my blog. Thanks for your support!

Tags: ,

Sharing is Caring

Want to support me?

Buy me a CoffeeBuy me a Coffee

Leave a Reply


Sign up for my Postcards!

For every trip I send a "postcard" straight to your inbox! Join my newsletter list for updates every few months.

© I Travel for the Stars, 2018-2024
Website design by I Travel for the Stars. Logo design by Ellen Hafer.
Disclaimer | Privacy Policy