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Why you’ll love Old Sukhothai in Thailand

Old Sukhothai is a very beautiful place to visit, steeped in history with stunning photo opportunities around every corner. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Old Sukhothai in Thailand dates back to the 13th century and until the 16th century, it was the capital of the country. Sukhothai means ”dawn of happiness” and the grounds of the Historical Park are absolutely beautiful. The moat and city wall encloses the impressive ruins of 26 temples and a royal palace. 

sunset at Sukhothai Thailand
Wat Mahathat, Old Sukhothai, Thailand

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Old Sukhothai in Thailand

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 were 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

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.

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.

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

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

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

Train

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 Sukothai bus station, ride in a tuk-tuk or a Songthaew to Old Sukhothai.

Air

Bangkok Airways operate 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
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 and recommend World Nomads so I can travel with peace of mind knowing I’m covered if something were to go wrong.

Final thoughts

I absolutely loved visiting Old Sukhothai! 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.

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17 thoughts on “Why you’ll love Old Sukhothai in Thailand”

  1. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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