Almost midway between the cities of Chiang Mai and Bangkok lies the mysterious ancient city of Sukhothai.
Considered by some to be the root of Thai art, culture, and politics, Sukhothai was once a magnificent metropolis and the heart of the Kingdom.
Contemporary Sukhothai comprises the glorious ruins of the old capital — now a UNESCO world heritage site — the peaceful contemporary city surrounds, and nearby tourist attractions and historical sites.
A visit to Sukhothai should be on any traveller’s bucket list.
Read on to find out more about this fascinating part of Thailand and discover all the wonders of Sukhothai’s multiple must-see destinations…
- 1 Sukhothai Weather
- 2 How to get to Sukhothai
- 3 Things to do in Sukhothai
- 4 Sukhothai Hotels
Want to know when is the best time of year to visit Sukhothai?
Most tourists prefer to avoid the rainy season that Sukhothai’s tropical climate experiences, when heavy storms and showers feature frequently from May to October.
A popular time to visit is from November to the beginning of February, when there is very little rainfall and temperatures are pleasant, ranging between 20°C and 30°C.
In February things start to really heat up, with April being the hottest, most humid month and seeing highs of over 35°C.
How to get to Sukhothai
With Sukhothai being almost equidistant between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, there are good transportation links from each location.
Here’s the lowdown on how best to get to Sukhothai from these two major cities…
Around 270 miles separate Bangkok and Sukhothai, and getting there can take a full day’s travel.
As Sukhothai has its own airport, the quickest way to make the journey is by plane, with average flight times lasting around an hour and 20 minutes.
On arrival at Sukhothai airport there are numerous taxis and buses ready to take you to your final destination of the city centre.
From Bangkok airport, Bangkok Airways offers flights 3 times daily for around 2000 THB.
Alternatively, there are a choice of budget airlines, such as NokAir, operating routes out of Don Mueang airport, although these routes terminate at nearby Phitsanulok airport from where it is necessary to take a shuttle bus to Sukhothai to continue your journey, with an additional travel time of about an hour.
Likewise, if you prefer to travel from Bangkok to Sukhothai by train, you will also arrive at Phitsanulok, as Sukhothai has no rail station.
Both daytime and overnight trains make this 7-hour journey several times a day, with ticket prices starting at 800 THB.
Making the journey by bus is by far the cheapest option, with bus tickets costing between 350 and 500 THB, but travelling this way is also slower, with a total journey time of anywhere between 7 and 10 hours depending on the type of bus you take.
Travelling by bus does have the advantage of bringing you all the way into the bus station at New Sukhothai, and certain bus companies offer services directly to Sukhothai’s Historical Park.
If you’ve got the cash, hiring a taxi to take you directly and comfortably to your desired destination can be a good choice — particularly if you are travelling in a group and can split the cost.
Be sure to negotiate a fixed price with your driver before setting off.
Or, of course, you could always make the drive yourself…
From Chiang Mai
When travelling between Chiang Mai and Sukhothai, the best bet is to make the journey by bus, which takes around 6 hours.
2nd class buses cost between 200 and 250 THB, and depart almost hourly from Chiang Mai’s bus station throughout the day, with a night bus service departing at 6 pm.
The day buses are air conditioned but don’t have toilets on board, so several stops are made along the route for passengers’ convenience.
There is also a VIP night bus service with all mod cons for the slightly more expensive price of 375 THB.
Pretty much the only other option for making the trip is to hire a taxi or minibus to cover the 180 or so miles separating the two.
Things to do in Sukhothai
Sukhothai Historical Park
By far the main attraction and the reason why the majority of people come to Sukhothai, is the Sukhothai Historical Park.
This vast complex of ruins and historical sites was created in the mid 13th century, and covers an area of almost 30 square miles.
The city was at the height of its power for over 100 years, with the predominant reigning monarch of the period being King Ramkamhaeng, who is credited with making huge advances in the evolution of Siamese art and culture, and who is thought to have created the Thai alphabet, as well as developing major trade relations.
The park is divided into 5 different areas with individual entrances, each of which contain enchanting and resplendent temples, sculptures, monuments and more, in a wonderfully picturesque setting amongst gardens and streams.
At the centre of the park is atmospheric Wat Mahathat, a now ruinous temple that was once the spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom.
A popular way to explore Thailand’s original capital city is by hiring a bike, as it gives you the freedom to explore the extensive and fascinating site at your own pace, and to stop and take photos whenever you want to.
Wat Si Sawai
Located in the central zone of the Sukhothai Historical Park, Wat Si Sawai is a jewel of Khmer architecture originally built in honour of the Hindu gods.
Surrounded by a scenic moat the temple is one of the oldest on the site, and features 3 towers or prangs — one of which reaches 15 metres in height — representing the Hindu trinity, embellished with intricate stucco carvings of mythological beasts, Buddha images, and temple guardians.
Wat Si Chum
The largest and most unique Buddha image can be found at Wat Si Chum in the the northern part of Sukhothai Historical Park.
The 15 metre high seated Buddha is enshrined within high stone walls, and visible from outside via a V-shaped slit in the surrounding walls.
Inside, the Buddha image occupies all the space, and is also known as Phra Poot Dai — or ‘the speaking Buddha’ — due to the tales that surround this mysterious statue, including that of King Naresuan who ordered his most prominent soldier to make a rousing speech to his troops whilst standing directly in front of the Buddha image, giving the impression that the Buddha was the power behind the crucial address.
Wat Sa Si
Wat Sa Si — the temple of the four ponds — dates from the late 14th century, and is one of the most attractive sites at Sukhothai Historical Park.
This mystical temple sits afloat on a tiny island surrounded by lotus ponds, and features an impressive bell shaped Sri Lankan style Buddhist chedi watched over by a serene white stucco Buddha image.
Nearby are the vestiges of a viharn, or assembly hall, and an ordination hall.
Ramkhamhaeng National Museum
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Named after Sukhothai’s most famous king, the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum features a reconstruction of the inscription that is believed to be the oldest example of the Thai written language, along with an intriguing collection of historical artefacts and antique art found amongst the surrounding ruins which clearly depict the development of art, architecture, beliefs and way of life during the Sukhothai era.
Yom River Cruise
Snaking gracefully through the region of Sukhothai, the Yom River offers a unique opportunity to take a leisurely cruise in a traditional longtail boat for an unusual perspective of the area.
Sunset and sunrise cruises are particularly popular, allowing visitors to appreciate the beautiful and peaceful vistas at their best.
Sukhothai Night Market
For a taste of something different away from Sukhothai’s fantastic historical sites, indulge in a little local gastronomy at the Sukhothai Night Market.
It may be small, but there’s an awesome atmosphere and plenty of tantalising street food to whet the appetite.
Held every Saturday night after sunset, the market also doubles up as a public open air dance floor and live music venue.
Si Satchanalai Historical Park
Also declared a UNESCO world heritage site, Si Satchanalai Historical Park is a much quieter historical attraction, situated in a tranquil riverside setting among rolling fields and hills.
While it may be smaller than its famous nearby counterpart, Si Satchanalai offers a wealth of ancient monasteries, temples, beautiful sculptures, and an interesting insight into age old glazed Sangkhalok pottery production with the remains of Sukhothai era kilns still in evidence.
Hat Siao Textile Village
Not far from Si Satchanalai Historical Park, Hat Siao Textile Village is a centre of weaving renowned for its handwoven designs.
The weavers here are descendants of Thai Phuan who migrated from Laos, and utilise many time honoured techniques that are fascinating to watch, with finished products that are beautiful to behold.
Wat Saphan Hin
Reaching Wat Saphan Hin can be a bit tricky, as it lies on top of a hill with a 200 metre climb, but it is well worth the trouble to see the spectacular 12 meter high standing Buddha image — named Phra Attharot — which rises from the ruins of an ancient assembly hall, as well as the glorious views of the surrounding countryside.
Located just outside the main town on the road to Phitsanulok, the Sangkhalok Museum is totally focused on one of the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai’s most famous and lucrative export — ceramics.
Art and history lovers alike will find plenty to appreciate in the collections of Sangkalok porcelains, rare Buddha statues, and interesting examples of utilitarian pottery.
Ramhamhaeng National Park
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A natural haven spanning 130 square miles of forest covered mountains, waterfalls, thick jungle, rolling rivers, and boasting tremendous views, Ramhamhaeng National Park offers active nature lovers the chance to experience beautiful scenery, go wildlife spotting, and get plenty of fresh air and exercise to boot.
There are challenging hikes to enjoy, and resident flora and fauna include barking deer, black bears, gibbons, and rare bird species.
One of the most breathtaking features is Sai Rung waterfall, which tumbles down the mountainside from a height of 100 metres.
This 4 star boutique hotel is just a short distance away from Sukhothai Historical Park, nestled in a sublime and tranquil landscape overlooking endless rice paddies, and has been built with nostalgic and romantic architecture reflecting the Sukhothai Lanna era.
The eco conscious Sriwilai Sukhothai offers luxury accommodation complete with flat screen satellite television, air-conditioning, and elegant en suite bathrooms, with many rooms featuring private balconies. Individual villas boast spectacular views of temple ruins and lotus ponds.
Guests can unwind in the beautiful infinity pool with exquisite views, equipped with pool bar and bistro, or dine on authentic Sukhothai cuisine in the hotel restaurant.
The sumptuous hotel spa features a varied range of treatments and therapies including body massage, therapeutic healing, body scrubs, body wraps, and facial treatments.
- Close to Sukhothai Historical Park
- Infinity swimming pool
- Spa and wellness centre
Close to the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sukhothai in peaceful tropical surroundings lies the 4 star boutique style Tharaburi Resort where guests can enjoy true Thai hospitality in a wonderful hideaway with just 20 rooms.
Rooms, suites, and dormitories are inspired by other countries around the world, and are richly decorated with warm colours, teak wood furnishings and silk fabrics.
All rooms feature air conditioning, DVD player, large en suite bathrooms with jacuzzi bath or shower, and a balcony or terrace.
Tharaburi Resort also benefits from a large swimming pool with sun terrace, and massage rooms.
A contemporary restaurant surrounded by lush gardens provide an idyllic setting for guests to sample delicious Thai cuisine and drinks at Thara restaurant and bar.
- Located only 2 km from Sukhothai Historical Park
- Swimming pool
- Massage rooms
Ideally located for exploring Sukhothai historical sites, luxurious 5 star boutique resort Sukhothai Treasure Resort & Spa enjoys a privileged position encircled by majestic mountains and rolling rice fields.
Each room is stylishly decorated in neutral tones and is fully air conditioned with balcony or terrace, luxury linens, flat screen satellite television, and en suite bathroom with rain shower.
Guests can swim and relax in the spacious swimming pool with Jacuzzi, work up a sweat in the fitness suite, or experience a soothing Thai massage, aromatherapy treatment, body scrub or facial at the Red Lotus Spa.
The Pink Lotus restaurant serves a buffet breakfast and delectable Thai and international cuisine, and the resort’s Wine Bar offers a large selection of international wines and other tasty beverages.
- Great location
- Swimming pool
- Fitness centre
- Spa and wellness centre
- Wine bar
With its striking design, this attractive teak wood 3 star hotel in Sukhothai New Town brings to mind traditional Thai temples.
Charming, elegantly decorated air conditioned rooms look out over the central outdoor swimming pool, and feature en suite bathrooms with shower, cable television, dressing table and refrigerator.
The Ruean Thai restaurant & Bar offers an exquisite menu of Thai and international dishes in a wonderful setting, as well as cocktails and fine wines.
Guests can benefit from the use of free bicycles to explore the surrounding area, or revitalise body and mind with a professional Thai massage.
- Close to local amenities
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Free bicycle hire
- Massage available on request
Have you been to Sukhothai yet?