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Why you’ll love Old Sukhothai in Thailand

Old Sukhothai in Thailand is an important historical site and a beautiful place to visit. The old city dates back to the 13th century when Sukhothai was the seat of power in Thailand and has been recognised by UNESCO for its historical significance. Within the grounds of the Sukhothai Historical Park are the ruins of 26 temples and a royal palace enclosed by a moat and a city wall.

Sukhothai is known as the cradle of Thai culture, art and scholarship and until the 16th century, was the capital of Thailand. But today, the old city ruins are located around 400 kilometres north of Bangkok, the modern-day capital. So, is it worth making the journey to see the ancient ruins?

Is Sukhothai worth visiting?

Yes, absolutely it’s worth the trip to Sukhothai to visit the ancient Thai capital, especially if you have seen and enjoyed visiting the temples of Ayutthaya. I was enchanted by the Sukhothai Historical Park and found stunning photo opportunities around every corner on the beautifully kept grounds.

The Old Sukhothai ruins are steeped in history and are a very appealing place to visit with fewer tourists than in other parts of Thailand. I highly recommend spending a couple of days exploring the area. Sukhothai is the perfect addition to a 3 week Thailand Itinerary.

Old Sukhothai is located around 12 kilometres outside the new city and I would suggest passing through New Sukhothai and staying close to the Historical Park where there are lots of accommodation options and facilities for visitors.

Why was Sukhothai abandoned?

In the mid15th century, Sukhothai was conquered by the Kingdom of Ayutthaya and the city was abandoned in the years that followed. No longer the seat of power in Thailand, Sukhothai lost its importance as a centre of worship, politics, art and trade. Ayutthaya became the county’s capital and Sukhothai’s influence dwindled.

sunset at Old Sukhothai in Thailand
Sukhothai in Thailand

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What to do in Sukhothai Thailand?

The main attraction at Sukhothai in Thailand is the Sukhothai Historical Park. Exploring the ruins of the palace and temples within the Park is at the top of the list of things to do. And there are more temples to see in the local area outside the old city walls.

As you stroll through the Historical Park you’ll see several different styles of architecture. Some of the temples have a central prang similar to the Khmer temples, others a Ceylonese bell-shaped chedi or Sukhothai’s own style the lotus-bud chedi symbolising the Buddha and his enlightened mind and presence.

There are several ponds and moats within the park filled with water lilies. They are very photogenic with their enchanting flowers and floating leaves.

Wat Mahathat

Perhaps the most impressive temple in Old Sukhothai is Wat Mahathat at the centre of the Historical Park. Wat Mahathat was the spiritual centre of Thailand when Old Sukhothai was the country’s capital. The temple now consists of a giant Buddha seated on a platform. The columns surrounding the platform are collapsing but the Buddha is still beautifully preserved.

The temple is at its best at sunset when you can watch the sun slip towards the horizon behind the silhouette of the Buddha statue at its centre. On a raised platform in a corner of the park is a statue of the much-revered King of Thailand. The statue is surrounded by a paved area and a pretty garden with brightly coloured flowering plants.

Buddha Statue Wat Sri Chum Sukhothai Thailand
Wat Sri Chum, Sukhothai, Thailand

Wat Sri Chum & Wat Saphan Hin

Outside the old city walls, are the stunning ruins of Wat Sri Chum and Wat Saphan Hin. Wat Sri Chum is a tiny temple that houses a 15-metre-tall statue of the Buddha. The ceiling of the temple has collapsed and the huge Buddha is now exposed to the elements.

At Wat Saphan Hin, there’s a large standing Buddha that’s 12 metres tall. A path of slate stonework leads to the temple on top of the hill in Old Sukhothai. This impressive Buddha is also exposed to the weather as most of the structure around it has collapsed.

The Buddha’s footprint, Sukhothai, Thailand
The Buddha’s Footprint, Sukhothai, Thailand

The Buddha’s Footprint

In the early morning, I walked into town and was rewarded with a magical sunrise at the Buddha’s Footprint temple outside the Sukhothai Historical Park. At night and in the early morning, the Buddha’s Footprint is filled with lanterns illuminating the temple. The sun rises behind the temple’s stupa and the beautiful sky colours are reflected in the lake that surrounds the temple.

Nearby is the entrance to the Historical park and I wandered happily for hours through the beautifully maintained gardens. The best time to visit is in the early morning or late afternoon as the weather is usually very hot in the middle of the day. The sun sets behind Wat Mahathat and it’s at its most photogenic in the late afternoon.

Getting Around Old Sukhothai

The grounds of the Sukhothai Historical Park are beautiful but huge so wear your walking shoes. Hiring a bicycle or an electric buggy to get around is a good idea. The ruins are divided into 5 zones and there is a separate admission fee for each zone.

Plan to spend a couple of days enjoying the atmosphere of the ruins so that you’re not rushed, especially if you hire a bicycle to get around. The temples outside the city walls are a few kilometres away so if you want to see everything in a day a motorbike or a tuk-tuk is a better option.

The Sukhothai Historical Park opens at 6:30 am & closes at 7:30 pm (9 pm on Saturdays) so you can visit at sunrise and sunset. Get there early & beat the heat & enjoy the peace of the beautiful gardens!

Walking Buddha, Old Sukhothai, Thailand

What to wear?

Within the Sukhothai Historical Park are the ruins of many ancient temples and modest dress is a requirement for entry. You’ll need to wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders when you visit. Like all temples in Thailand and Southeast Asia, it is expected that visitors will respect the local culture and the traditions of the sacred places and dress appropriately.

Where to stay in Old Sukhothai

I recommend staying in Old Sukhothai near the Historical Park. There are lots of accommodation options and you can visit the ruins at sunrise and sunset and take advantage of the best light and the coolest part of the day. But Some people choose to stay in cheaper accommodation in New Sukhothai or in Phitsanulok near the train station.

Mid-Range: I stayed at the Scent of Sukhothai Resort and really enjoyed my bungalow overlooking the pretty garden. I loved cooling off in the pool after a busy day of sightseeing. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk into town to the Historical Park but bike hire is available at the resort and there’s a restaurant nearby.

Luxury: For a more luxurious stay try the Legenda Sukhothai Hotel. It gets excellent reviews for its lush grounds and wonderful saltwater swimming pool.

How to get to Old Sukhothai in Thailand

Bus from Bangkok to Old Sukhothai

Sukhothai Thani or New Sukhothai is just over 400 km north of Bangkok. It takes around 8 hours in a comfortable air-conditioned coach. New Sukhothai is around 12 km away from the Sukhothai Historical Park. Most buses will take you to the bus station in New Sukhothai but some buses run to Old Sukhothai. From the bus station, you can catch a tuk-tuk or a Songthaew (local pickup truck) to Old Sukhothai.

Buses and trains in Thailand can be booked online with 12Go Asia

If you’re travelling by bus or train to or from Bangkok consider stopping off at Ayutthaya on the way to soak up some more Thai history.

Or head north towards Chang Mai and Laos.

old Sukhothai, Thailand
Old Sukhothai, Thailand
Bus from Myanmar to Old Sukhothai

I travelled overland to Sukhothai from Myanmar crossing the land border to Thailand at Myawaddy / Maesot. I left Hpa-An early in a shared taxi and it took 2-3 hours to reach Myawaddy. I walked across the border to Maesot in Thailand where I picked up a motorcycle taxi to the bus station. From there I took a cramped minibus to Old Sukhothai (5 hours)


The nearest station to Sukhothai is Phitsanulok. To get there take the Bangkok – Chang Mai train from Hua Lamphong railway station in Bangkok. Trains leave 7 times daily. Phitsanulok is 59km away from Sukhothai, an hour by bus. From the New Sukhothai bus station, ride in a tuk-tuk or a Songthaew to Old Sukhothai.


Bangkok Airways operates 2 flights a day to Sukhothai from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Visiting the Sukhothai Historical Park was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I highly recommend adding it to your Thailand itinerary.

Sunrise at Old Sukhothai, Thailand
Sunrise at Old Sukhothai, Thailand

Travel essentials

#1. A Travel Guide for Thailand is sure to come in handy when you plan you’re trip to Sukhothai in Thailand. I rarely travel without a trusted Lonely Planet Guide.

#2. Travel Insurance is essential for any overseas trip. I use Travel Insurance that covers me for overseas medical, lost baggage, and other expenses and I can concentrate on enjoying my trip without worrying about something going wrong.

Final thoughts

I absolutely loved visiting Old Sukhothai as a solo traveller in Thailand! I found the historical site fascinating and the grounds are really lovely. I think a visit to Old Sukhothai makes a fantastic addition to any Thailand itinerary and provides a glimpse into the fascinating history of Thailand.

TIP: April in Thailand is uncomfortably hot and the rainy season falls from May to October. If you want to travel at this time, why not consider visiting Bali instead? May to October is the best time of year for Bali. Find out more about Bali vs Thailand and how these popular Southeast Asian destinations compare.

You might also enjoy

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The Best 3 Weeks in Thailand Itinerary

Is Phuket or Phi Phi Island Better?

A Guide to Successful Solo Travelling to Thailand

How to Spend 3 Days or More in Bangkok

Mandalay to Bangkok in 4 weeks: My Ultimate Myanmar Itinerary

Is Lempuyang Temple worth visiting in Bali?

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20 Amazing Temples in Myanmar

Why Angkor Wat in Cambodia is So Special

Beautiful Vietnam in 3 weeks from Top to Toe

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  1. I enjoyed this article & loved the beautiful pictures!

  2. Old Sukhothai looks like a beautiful place to explore, with all those temples.

  3. I have never heard of this place. It sounds stunning. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow I’d never heard of Sukhothai but now I’ve added it to my bucket list for when I can hopefully get to Thailand one day!

  5. Vanessa Shields says:

    What a beautiful place! It looks very peaceful and relaxing too. I’d love to see the giant Buddha and walk among those lit up lanterns! I’ve only been to the islands of Thailand so next time I need to explore more!

  6. Old Sukhothai looks like a beautiful place! The Buddha’s Footprint looks absolutely magical! I’d love to visit one day! Thanks for the great guide!

  7. Oh I love Thailand and I love Sukhothai, such a great UNESCO heritage city with an abundance of history. I’d go back in a heartbeat and spend much longer there!

  8. I visited Thailand for the first time in 2019 – and absolutely LOVED it, but I still have so much more to explore. I had actually never heard of Old Sukhothai, so I really appreciate your blog post. I’ll be adding it to my list now ?. Xx Sara

  9. The beauty, architecture, and history of Old Sukhothai is incredible! I have not yet ventured to Thailand but hope to in the future. Writing this down on my list of things to see now!

  10. I hope to visit Thailand once the rain season is over and this looks like a place that I have to see – saved it! Thank you for sharing!

  11. This looks amazing! I love that image of sunset through the spire, all reflected in the water! I’d love to visit this town someday. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Such an important UNESCO site for Southeast Asia! Siam during the Sukhotai and Ayutthaya periods was such an influential kingdom back in the day, it’s sphere of influence extended far down to the northern states in present-day Malaysia.

  13. Valentina says:

    I love this article. I really have to visit Thailand one day and I am going to follow all your advice.

  14. Rachel Day says:

    Love this. We visited here 20 years ago. Just brought back lots of memories. I hope to return with my kids in a few years.

  15. Thailand is a stunning country and I hope to go back one day. When I do, I will make sure to visit Old Sukhothai. Gorgeous!

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