Photo: Seated Buddhas at a Wat in Ayutthaya.

Things to see and do

Exploring Ayutthaya's outlying temples

Many travellers complain that the ruins of Ayutthaya, while historically important, are not all that remarkable to look at. Those expecting a neatly packaged, easily accessible and awe-inspiring historical park will likely be disappointed. Yet the city does boast a string of often overlooked but outstanding outlying ruins that require some effort to reach. If you settle only for the most central ... Read more about Exploring Ayutthaya's outlying temples .

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!

This tour takes in the best temples Ayutthaya has on offer and a few other sites along the way. It allows plenty of time to explore each site, and the full circuit can be done in a day or split over two half days. Those doing a full day need to set off by around 09:00, but you can also bail out half way if you just want to see the top sites on the island or can't be bothered to get up early. If ... Read more about Ayutthaya temple tour .

Ruins, temples and museums of Ayutthaya

Unlike Sukhothai historical park, the collective sights of Ayutthaya are not neatly situated in a single park that can be easily explored in a single day. Several of the main sites to the northwest of the island -- including Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Ram, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit, Wat Lokkayasuttharam and Chao Sam Phraya National Museum -- are ... Read more about Ruins, temples and museums of Ayutthaya .

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and the Grand Palace
Sri Sanphet Road

In 1448, King Borommatrailokanat ordered that a temple be built here, creating a centrepiece to the vast palace complex. A wiharn was built in 1499 and a year later the Phra Buddha Chai Sri Sanphet, a 16-metre tall Buddha image, was cast and covered in gold. During its heyday, the Grand Palace boasted the Sanphet Prasat Hall, with a five-tiered gold-covered roof, as well as an array of other ... Read more about Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and the Grand Palace .

Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit
Sri Sanphet Road

This large wiharn is built in typical Thai temple style and contains Phra Mongkhon Bophit, one of the most important Buddha images in Thailand and a highlight for Buddhists visiting Ayutthaya. The massive bronze seated Buddha is 12.45 metres high, not including the base, and sits 9.55 metres across at the lap. It marks what was the official cremation ground for the Thai royal family from 1612 ... Read more about Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit .

Wat Mahathat

Construction of this sprawling temple complex is believed to have begun in the 1370s, shortly after the city was founded. Relics of the historical Buddha are thought to have been enshrined in the chief stupa, which collapsed during the reign of King Songtham and was only partially restored before the Burmese attacked in 1767. Before that, Wat Mahathat was the most important temple in ... Read more about Wat Mahathat .

Wat Ratchaburana
Si Sanphet Road

Wat Ratchaburana boasts a spectacular Khmer-style prang, which is the largest stupa in Ayutthaya, and a quirky history as well. In 1424, King Intharacharthirat died and two of his sons met on the site of the wat to contest the throne via an elephant duel. They both died, leading brother number three, Chao Sa Phraya, to take the throne. He ordered the building of the wat on the cremation site ... Read more about Wat Ratchaburana .

Wat Phra Ram
Si Sanphet Road

Though not as striking as the one at Wat Ratchaburana (or Wat Putthaisawan for that matter), Wat Phra Ram has another large Khmer-style prang at its centre. It was built to mark the cremation grounds of King U-Thong in 1369. In the years following its construction the wat was allowed to deteriorate considerably, and though it's undergone many restorations over the years, it now has a somewhat ... Read more about Wat Phra Ram .

Elephant rides around the ruins
Pa Thon Road

Keeping Ayutthaya's pachyderm traditions alive, the elephant kraal is located on Pa Thon Road, around the corner from Wat Phra Ram. A 15-minute ride takes you in a loop past Wat Phra Ram and Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit, but it's quite pricey at 400 baht. If wanting to skip the ride, anyone can view the elephants in their kraal and feed them sugar cane for 20 baht. Note the traditional red ... Read more about Elephant rides around the ruins .

Khun Phaen's Residence
Si Sanphet Road

Located adjacent to the elephant kraal off Pa Thon Road, this traditional Thai wood house was built in 1894 and served as the home of a former governor of Ayutthaya. It's built on the former site of a prison and area where public executions took place long ago. Today the undertakers have been replaced by dogs seeking shade under the house's stilted floors, and curious tourists taking a quick ... Read more about Khun Phaen's Residence .

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!
Rochana Road

The highlights are gold or partially gold utensils, swords, and other objects once treasured by Ayutthaya royalty, which were uncovered in the early 2000s during excavations of Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Mahathat. Other exhibited items are less impressive and are housed in dusty display cases. These include ancient stone Buddha heads, the original wooden front panel of Wat Phra Si Sanphet, and ... Read more about Chao Sam Phraya National Museum .

Wat Lokkayasutharam

The serene, faded white image lies 42 metres long and eight metres high at the head, so large that you might need a panoramic shot to fit it into a single photo. Apart from the reclining Buddha, all you'll find at Wat Lokkayasutharam are a handful of village women who are quite pushy in their attempts to sell flowers and incense to be offered to the image, as well as tiny statuettes for good ... Read more about Wat Lokkayasutharam .

Chedi Phra Sri Suriyothai
U-Thong Rd

The story of Sri Suriyothai, who lost her life in an effort to save his during a battle on elephant back in 1548 has been embellished in the epic Thai blockbuster, Suriyothai, which is still supposedly the most expensive Thai-language movie ever made. The chedi itself is rather average in appearance, but the small riverside park surrounding it is filled with gardens and makes a pleasant stop ... Read more about Chedi Phra Sri Suriyothai .

Chantharakasem National Museum
U-Thong Rd (northeast corner of the island), Ayutthaya
T: (035) 251 586

The palace was originally built in 1577 as the residence of King Naresuan and served as his residence until he ascended the throne, after which it became the palace of the crown prince. Most of the original palace was destroyed by the Burmese but it was rebuilt under King Rama IV's orders in the mid-1800s and finally proclaimed a national musuem in 1936. Three attractive pavilions with white ... Read more about Chantharakasem National Museum .

Wat Na Phra Men
North of the island

It was restored during the reign of King Rama III and today appears as a somewhat typical, if ornate Thai temple. The main attraction here is a large gold seated Buddha and a beautifully carved ceiling. An important and active temple in the lives of Ayutthaya residents, Wat Na Phra Men receives few foreign visitors and is a good place to observe traditional Thai temple customs. If you ... Read more about Wat Na Phra Men .

Wat Choeng Tha
North of the island

This small ruined temple is a short walk or ride west of Wat Na Phra Men, also on the northern bank of the Lopburi river. The main attraction is a Khmer style prang which is simlar to, but smaller than the one at Wat Phra Ram. The temple was thought to have been first constructed in the 1300s and it now has an overgrown feel, although a small active temple on-site and saffron robes wrapped ... Read more about Wat Choeng Tha .

Chedi Phu Khao Thong
Around 4km out of town to the northwest

Many subsequent Ayutthaya kings attempted to give the distinctly Burmese-Mon chedi a more Thai look, and a looming statue of King Naresuan was erected nearby as if to lay definitive claim over the creation of a Burmese king in Ayutthaya. Whatever its background, the soaring chedi is impressive, and you can climb up steep staircases to a series of platforms that encircle the structure. It's ... Read more about Chedi Phu Khao Thong .

Queen Suriyothai Monument
About 6 km northwest of the island

The monument, a statue really, is impressive -- it depicts a fierce looking King Maha Chakkraphat on his war elephant, surrounded by Siamese soldiers, immediately after his queen fell. According to legend, the tragic slaying of the queen was what roused the strength and bravery in the Siamese to repell that particular Burmese invasion. Though not overcrowded thanks to its spacious confines, ... Read more about Queen Suriyothai Monument .

Wat Chaiwatthanaram
South of the island

When King Prasat Thong returned victorious from Cambodia in 1630, he ordered the construction of this stunning Khmer-influenced temple. The site is rivalled only by Wat Ratchaburana and nearby Wat Puthaisawan for the most impressive Khmer-style prang in Ayutthaya. Centred around the large central prang, the complex has four lesser chedis along with 120 stucco seated Buddhas. It's believed ... Read more about Wat Chaiwatthanaram .

St Joseph's Church
South of the island

Head east from Wat Chaiwatthanaram to check out this attractive, ochre coloured Catholic church with a large tower set in quiet surrounds on the south bank of the Chao Phraya. Originally built by Vietnamese immigrants, the church was destroyed during the sacking of Ayutthaya in 1767 and sat in a ruined state for almost 100 years until finally being restored during the reign of King Rama IV. ... Read more about St Joseph's Church .

Wat Putthaisawan
South of the island

It is particularly interesting today as the modern functioning temple at the west of the grounds contrasts with the fully in tact ancient buildings in the centre and crumbling ruins pushed up against the riverbank to the rear. The main attraction is a striking white Khmer-style prang, surrounded by a courtyard with 105 gold-plated seated Buddhas set up in a similar fashion to those at Wat Pho ... Read more about Wat Putthaisawan .

Muslim Quarter

A reflection of the many Persian and Muslim-Indian traders who once made their homes in Ayutthaya, the city is still home for many Thai Muslims. Although small mosques are spread across town, the best place to explore a village that has been home to Muslims for centuries is the community nestled along the southern banks of the river. The hotch potch of houses and mosques interconnected by ... Read more about Muslim Quarter .

Portugese settlement
Southeast of the island

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Ayutthaya way back in the early 1500s. They introduced the Thai kings to firearms, bread and other baked goods, and they gained favour in Ayutthaya by working as mercenaries on the kingdom's endless military pursuits against the Lanna, Burma and Khmer empires, to name a few. All that remains of a once-thriving Portuguese community are a ... Read more about Portugese settlement .

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
East of the island

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon was first established by King U-Thong in the 1300s but was made famous by King Naresuan, who added the giant chedi still seen today to commemorate a major 17th century victory over the Burmese during which the king is said to have singlehandedly speared a Burmese crown prince and squashed the enemy's morale. Surrounded by hundreds of stone, seated Buddhas in pristine ... Read more about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon .

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The image is among the most revered in Thailand and the temple is often full of Thai worshipers, though few foreign tourists make it here. After seeing the glittering gold Buddha, be sure to walk round the side of the temple down to the river where you can feed hundreds of enormous fish. ... Read more about Wat Phanan Choeng .

Elephant Stay at the Elephant Kraal Pavilion
74/1 M.3 Tumbol Suanpik, Ayutthaya
T: (095) 975 5508

Elephants have played an important role in Thai history and culture, so it is fitting that visitors to the Ayutthaya Historical Park have the opportunity to take a short tour of the ruins on the back of one of these noble beasts. The elephants that provide these rides and their mahouts all live at the elephant kraal about four kilometres to the northeast of the island. If a short afternoon ... Read more about Elephant Stay at the Elephant Kraal Pavilion .

Boat tours
Any travel agent in Ayutthaya can arrange.

Practically every travel office and guesthouse in Ayutthaya sells boat tours around the island. These typically cost 200 baht per person, take place late afternoon and make stops at Wat Putthaisawan, Wat Chaiwatthanaram and Wat Phanan Choeng. The boats are typically large and noisy, and you'll most likely be sharing them with other travellers, but this is not a bad option if you want to see ... Read more about Boat tours .

Bang Pa-in Palace
20km south of Ayutthaya

King Rama V liked to holiday here, but as things were becoming downtrodden he had the whole site made-over into what you see today. Bang Pa-in Palace contains a variety of immaculate buildings nestled among manicured gardens, statue-lined bridges, ponds and fountains. Shame about the piped music, which some say adds to the experience. Near the entrance a wooden exhibition hall contains all ... Read more about Bang Pa-in Palace .

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Ayutthaya? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Thailand.

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