If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, don’t miss the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya and the spectacular Ayutthaya temples. It’s easy to do an Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok or spend a few nights to get the full experience. Read on to find out how to do it and what to see when you get there.
- Don’t Miss These Ayutthaya Temples
- The Best Way to See Ayutthaya
- What To Wear and How To Behave in Ayutthaya
- How Much Does It Cost To Visit The Ayutthaya Temples?
- Tired Of Temples? Other Great Things To Do in Ayutthaya
- What to Avoid in Ayutthaya
- Taking the Train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya
- Where to stay in Ayutthaya
- Ayutthaya Day Tours You Might Like
Just 70 km from the heart of Bangkok lies the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya (or to give it its proper name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya). Ayutthaya is famed for its incredible collection of ancient temple ruins and is absolutely a must-see when you visit Thailand.
The city was founded in 1351 by King U Thong (also know as King Ramathibodi I). In the 16th century, foreign traders described Ayutthaya as one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East and compared the city in size and wealth to Paris.
It remained the seat of the Kingdom of Siam until 1767 when the city was destroyed by the Burmese army.
The ruins of the old city and the Ayutthaya temples are preserved in the Ayutthaya Historical Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Wandering around the site and admiring the countless stupas (conical towers called chedi in Thai), statues of Buddha, and gigantic monasteries, gives you an idea of the city’s past glory days — and offers endless opportunities for amazing photos of your visit.
Though we’ve been to many incredible temples — like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Prambanan Temple in Indonesia, Karnak in Egypt, and Stonehenge — both Jane and I loved the proliferation of Buddha statues we found here.
Fun fact: Ayutthaya was named after the Indian holy city of Ayodhya, which was the birthplace and seat of Rama, an important Hindu god (an avatar of Lord Vishnu). Since 1782, Thai kings have all been known as King Rama. The current king is Rama X.
Read on for our guide to…
Visiting The Ayutthaya Temples
We recommend that the first thing you do in Ayutthaya is to head to the Tourist Office and pick up a free map of the site. They also have an exhibit detailing the history of the city if that’s your sort of thing.
Here are the temples we recommend you find on that tourist map!
Don’t Miss These Ayutthaya Temples
Buddha Head in a Tree at Wat Phra Mahathat
This is the most Instagrammed spot in the entire complex. Wat Mahathat houses a famous banyan tree where an overgrown Buddha head lives in its tangled trunk. Wat Mahathat is worth spending some time in, so make sure you don’t snap a quick picture of the Buddha and leave. You’ll be missing out on one the site’s most impressive temples.
The Chedi at Wat Phra Si Sanphet
This is the biggest temple in Ayutthaya. The first palace built at Ayutthaya — the Grand Palace of Ayutthaya — was located where the ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanphet sit today. It is now best known for the three chedi which house the remains of King Borommatrailokanat, King Borommarachathirat III, and King Ramathibodi II.
Wat Phra Ram
The monastery at Wat Phra Ram was constructed on the cremation site of the first Ayutthayan monarch, King Ramathibodi I (r. 1351-1369), hence its name. It has a majestic prang (or tall tower) that would have once been covered in ornate carvings.
Don’t miss the grand hall at Wat Ratchaburana. This temple was built by King Boromratchathirat II after both his brothers died on this site, killing each other during a fight to see who would claim the throne. From the great hall you have a spectacular view of the prang that was the centrepiece of the temple compound.
The prang has undergone restoration and you can see Garuda (the Hindu Eagle God) swooping down from it. Four chedi surround the main prang. The prang’s crypt is accessible by steep stairs and is home to once glorious, now faded, frescoes.
This impressive temple has a 35m–high central prang (Prang Prathan) which symbolises the centre of the world. It is surrounded by four smaller prang representing the four continents. It is (often) possible to climb the steep stairs to the top of the prang for a stunning view across the city and seemingly endless Ayutthaya temples.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram sits on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river, not on the island that makes up the UNESCO site of ancient Ayutthaya. Nonetheless it is one of Ayutthaya’s most stunning and best known temples.
Wat Phutthai Sawan
If you’ve been researching your trip to Ayutthaya, you’ve likely come across pictures of a large reclining Buddha. One of those Buddhas lives here at Wat Putthai Sawan, a temple on the banks of the Chao Phraya river that is still in use.
(Make sure you follow our guide on how to dress properly below if you’re visiting this active temple.)
The temple has a large courtyard and a seemingly endless collection of Buddha statues. Because this is a working temple it is in fantastic condition — it’s your chance to see a prang still decorated as the others at the Ayutthaya temples would have been once upon a time.
The thing is, there isn’t just one reclining Buddha at the Ayutthaya temples. They’re a bit like Pokemon. You gotta catch them all!
Check out the giant reclining Buddhas at Wat Phutthai Sawan, Wat Lokayasutharam, and Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon.
This is an active monastery just outside the official Ayutthaya Historical Park. Wat Thammikarat has been restored several times, however many of the architectural structures remain as ruins, including a large bell-shaped chedi with an octagonal base.
We’re including this temple because it is included on the 6-temple entrance ticket (see the How Much Does it Cost section below), but really it isn’t the most exciting of the Ayutthaya temples.
It was originally built in 1438, during the reign of King Borommarachathirat II, who was also responsible for the construction of Wat Ratchaburana.
It has a chedi and and ordination hall where novice monks were ordained. The chedi’s platform was once supported by 80 elephant statues, the remnants of which are still there.
Fun fact (OK, this is actually a SadFact): Have you ever wondered why Buddha heads are a thing? Wandering the Ayutthaya temples drives home the story behind why we put Buddha heads in our yoga studios and gardens.
The ancient statues of Buddha were too big and heavy for pillagers to carry away, so they lopped off the heads and sold them to private collectors and museums around the world. Here at Ayutthaya you will see almost endless rows of headless Buddha statues.
The Best Way to See Ayutthaya
One of the best ways the best way to get around Ayutthaya is on a bicycle.
All the hotels we recommend below will sort you out with a bicycle for either a small fee or no extra charge. Definitely take advantage of this as it can be quite hot during the day, and making your breeze to cool off as you move between the Ayutthaya temples will ensue you can see a few extra temples during your visit.
If you like bikes, check out the Grasshopper Adventures bicycle Ayutthaya day tour from Bangkok.
What To Wear and How To Behave in Ayutthaya
Although the Ayutthaya temples are ruins, they are still Buddhist temples (and some are still working temples) so you need to dress appropriately. Yes, you’ll see lots of tourists who do not dress appropriately, but you don’t have to be one of them!
Read our simple tips to visit the temples without offending anyone (while feeling superior to the improperly dressed tourists).
Cover your arms and legs. Bring a thin long-sleeved shirt, or light jacket, that you can put on before going into an active temple. At the temple ruins, the rules are a bit less strict and we ended up just wearing our regular cycling gear.
The easiest way to cover your legs is to bring a sarong and wear it whenever you are on temple property. It’s always hot in Thailand, so you’ll probably be cooler with a sarong than wearing long pants all day.
Don’t point at people or at Buddha. Pointing is considered rude in Thailand. Instead, you can gesture with your whole hand with your fingers together.
Hide your soles. You must remove your shoes before entering a working temple but be sure that you don’t show the soles of your feet in the temple (or anywhere). This is considered very rude in Thai culture.
Respect the Buddha statues. Of course, you should never climb on or sit next to a Buddha statue, nor should your rowdy gang of kids. Technically, you should never turn your back on the Buddha (kind of like the queen) but you may have trouble following this one in Ayutthaya, where there are thousands of Buddha statues.
How Much Does It Cost To Visit The Ayutthaya Temples?
There is a small fee to visit most of the temples in Ayutthaya and you pay at the temple entrance. The exception to this rule is active temples, such as Wat Buddhaisawan, which are free to visit.
The popular temples cost 50 Baht (~$1.60 USD) and the less-often-visited ones cost 20 Baht.
You can also purchase a pass (220 Baht / ~$7 USD) that gives you access to the six most famous temples:
- Chai Watthanaram
- Wat Phra Si Sanphet
- Wat Phra Mahathat
- Wat Ratchaburana
- Wat Phra Ram
- Wat Maheyong
The pass can be bought at the entrance and is worth purchasing if you plan on visiting at least five. If you’re only going to visit four or fewer, buying individual tickets is a better deal.
Tired Of Temples? Other Great Things To Do in Ayutthaya
Chao Phrom Market
An outdoor and mostly covered market, Chao Phrom is on the edge of the island that makes up ancient Ayutthaya. If you haven’t been to a Thai market, definitely go and pick up some snacks, see how locals shop, and take some pictures (always ask if you’re taking pictures of people).
Million Toys Museum
The name kind of says it all! Krirk Yoonpan’s Million Toys Museum has, if not a million, a shed load (or museum load) of toys. One man’s passion for toys is your chance to feel like a kid again. Wander around and check out the tin robots, antique dolls, and life-size Japanese superheroes.
The Million Toys Museum is closed on Mondays and open 9am–4pm every other day, except public holidays and official holidays. It is located on the edge of ancient Ayutthaya city. Tickets cost 50 Baht for adults and 20 Baht for children.
Bang Lan Night Market
Street food vendors line the street at this Ayutthaya night market. You can sit with the locals and enjoy delicious, freshly prepared, and super inexpensive food. We highly recommend this if you’re staying in Ayutthaya for the night. Don’t get there too late though as it tends to shut down around 9pm.
The Floating Market
Khlong Sra Bua Floating Market is really touristy and you can probably skip it. If you’re spending time in South East Asia you’ll have other opportunities to visit much more authentic floating markets. But lots of people seem to enjoy it, so if it sounds interesting to you, check it out.
What to Avoid in Ayutthaya
Do not ride an elephant. Ever. It’s that simple. These majestic creatures are not on Earth for our entertainment. Have you heard of The Crush (phajaan in Thai)? This is the horrific torture elephants must go through to become docile enough to be used in tourist settings.
When we visited Ayutthaya last, we saw tourists sitting on platforms propped on the back of elephants. This is the ABSOLUTE worst way you can ride an elephant as it causes their spines to be permanently damaged. If you MUST ride an elephant (and there is no situation in which this would be the case) it is only acceptable to sit on the elephant’s neck. Now you know, so no excuses.
Do not visit the Elephantstay (also known as the Royal Elephant Kraal and Village). It’s just animal cruelty disguised as traditional entertainment.
Taking the Train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya
The Ayutthaya Temples are just 70 km from Bangkok and it’s easy to take the train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya for a day trip.
Head to Bangkok Hua Lamphong Railway Station, the main railway station in Bangkok, and from there you can catch one of the regular trains to Ayutthaya. The journey time ranges from 80 minutes to 120 minutes or more depending on the train you take (this being Southeast Asia you need to get used to things taking longer than you’re told they will).
You have a few options for trains and there are at least two trains each hour heading from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. You can choose between Special Express, Express, and Rapid trains throughout the day, plus the regular trains (which take a little longer but cost a lot less).
Ticket cost: Second-class seats with A/C cost 245-345 Baht (~7 USD), while third class is just 15-20 Baht (~0.70 USD). In third class, the windows generally open and you can enjoy the breeze on the relatively short journey to Ayutthaya.
No reservation is necessary if you are planning to take the regular train. You can just turn up at the train station, buy a ticket and hop on.
A reservation is necessary on the express trains, but these only sold on the day of travel at the station or online at Thai Railway Tickets a maximum of one day ahead.
The Ayutthaya railway station is not on the island of ancient Ayutthaya. It is just across the river and a short ferry ride away. Walk across the main road from the station and down the small street to the river. Ferry boats run every few minutes and cost 5 Baht.
Pro travel tip: If you’re headed north to Chiang Mai (definitely worth a visit if you have time) you can stop off in Ayutthaya on the way, as trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai stop at Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya even has a left luggage office on the platform signed “Cloak Room” where you can store your luggage for 10 Baht while you explore the temples.
Where to stay in Ayutthaya
If you’d like to take it more slowly than a day trip from Bangkok allows, you can easily find a hotel in Ayutthaya that suits your budget. Staying overnight gives you the opportunity to get some photos at the magic hours of sunrise and sunset, as well as the chance to join the locals for dinner at the night market.
Rating 8.7, $28 double room, breakfast included
This is where we stayed when we visited Ayutthaya — and we loved it. Family run, authentic wooden Thai houses, and right in the middle of the ancient city, we are sure you’ll love it here! They have hammocks, sun loungers, and even a spot where you can practice yoga! Bicycle rental fee is only 50 Baht (~$1.60 USD) per bike per day.
Rating 9.2, $35 bungalow, breakfast included
This is another super cute family-owned guest house. The cabins here are so adorable and include a private veranda. The property sits on a lake where you can sit and watch the wildlife as you recover from your day exploring the temples. The staff are friendly and helpful and the breakfast is reportedly amazing. They will also arrange bicycles for you for a small daily rental fee.
Rating 9.2, $66 garden view villa, breakfast included
Baan Thai House offers a relaxing hideaway just outside the ancient city. Their Thai-style villas feature balconies with garden or lake views and there is a spa on the property where you ca arrange a massage to work out your sore muscles after wandering around the temples. An outdoor pool is available to take a relaxing swim in.
While it is located outside the ancient city, it is just 100 m from the floating market, and they provide free use of bicycles so you can easily ride the short distance to the temples. If you’re tired at the end of your day and can’t muster the energy to head out for dinner in the evening, they have a restaurant serving a range of local and Western dishes.
Ayutthaya Day Tours You Might Like
Bike Historic Ayutthaya with Grasshopper Adventures
This one-day tour from Bangkok helps you explore Ayutthaya by bike. This easy ride on flat terrain will take you to the most impressive of the Ayutthaya temples and also let you explore the further flung temples and sights of Ayutthaya. The best way to see Ayutthaya for active people!
Ayutthaya Day Tour with Sunset Boat Ride
For those who want something a little more laid back, this day tour from Bangkok will let you see the ancient ruins from the comfort of a boat. You’ll also get to visit Ayutthaya floating market, Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, and more.
We hope our guide to Ayutthaya temples is useful when planning your day trip from Bangkok. Or maybe we’ve convinced you to stay a few days to really get the most of this ancient city! Either way, here’s to an amazing time at Ayutthaya.
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J
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