Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Siam, from 1350 until the 1700s. The ruins and temples of the old city now make up the Ayutthaya Historical Park, an archaeological site that includes palaces, Buddhist temples, monasteries, and statues. The park is on an island between 3 rivers. This is a sacred pilgrimage site for local Buddhists, especially during Buddhist holiday festivals. This small unassuming town houses some of the most famous historical temples in all of Thailand and is only about 1 or 2 outside of Bangkok. Ayutthaya used to be the thriving capital of Thailand in 1378 for 400 years. Ayutthaya was named by the king Ramathibodi who made it the capital, naming it after a magic kingdom from Thailand’s national epic called The Ramakien. The kingdom fell to Cambodia in the 1700s, and it ceased to be the capital.
Transportation to Ayutthaya from Bangkok
Mini Bus (vans)
As of 2016, regular big buses no longer go between Ayutthaya and Bangkok. You can still take mini buses (vans) to the city. You can buy a ticket for Ayutthaya at Bangkok’s Morchit (Northern) Bus Terminal. The vans leave every 30 minutes from 06:00 am to 17:00 (5pm) for 60 baht and take around 1.5 hours (longer during rush hour). This is the best budget option to get to the historical park.
The train is the slowest way to get into the city but is another budget option as well. The train takes two hours to get into the city. The train costs between 20-65 baht depending on the class of the ticket. So this could be the cheapest option if you are open to taking a third-class train ticket in Thailand. Lots of trains (around 30) depart daily for Ayutthaya from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Station between 04:20am and 22:25.
This is the most expensive but the fastest way to get there. The app Grab could save you some money potentially, depending on how good you are at bartering with a taxi driver. A taxi would cost 1000 to 1500 baht one way and would take 1 hour and 10 minutes to get into the city. The other issue is being stuck in a smaller city and struggling potentially to get a driver to take you back when you want to go.
We chose to take a rental car. It ended up being a great option. We drove all the way from Pattaya, which made it totally worth it. Our rental only cost us about $60 for two days. If you are comfortable driving in Thailand, this is a great option.
Cost of Ayutthaya :
Ayutthaya is one of the most popular temples in Thailand, especially in the Bangkok area, because most of the park is actually free to visit. This is very rare and super easy on the budget! Especially when compared to places like Siem Reap in Cambodia, which charge you like $30 for a day ticket. Ouch. There is one small entry fee (50 baht) that you pay once to get into the first temple. There are 9 main temples on the historical park grounds and some are free while others require the small entry ticket that costs 50 baht. But once you buy the ticket, you are good to go for all the temples.
Some of the temples that have the entrance fee of 50 Baht ($1.5) are: Wat Phra Si Sanphet (fee: 50 baht), Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit (fee: free), Wat Mahathat (fee: 50 baht), Wat Ratchaburana (fee: 50 baht), Wiharn at Wat Thammikarat (fee: free). The museums on the grounds and palace to get into are 100 baht each.
Ayutthaya Historical Park Hours
The Ayutthaya Historical Park opens its doors to daily from 8: 00 until 18: 00 without interruption, although the sun starts to set around 17: 30. Go straight to whatever temple you want to visit there, is no technical ticket box. If you spend time searching to no avail like we did you will waste time. You pay at the entrance to whatever temple you enter and then use that ticket at the other temples.
When to Visit Ayutthaya
We visited in the heat of July on the weekend of a Buddhist festival. It was not ideal because of the crowds, it was still doable. We dodged most of the crowds by getting to the temple by 8 am. Many of the tourists were there for other festival activities and not to see the main temples.
November-January is the best time to visit Ayutthaya in Thailand since this is the only time of the year when the rainfall is considerably less and the weather is not blazing hot. This place is generally hot and humid all year round including the winter months of December and January. January is the busiest month of all. In January the hotels and other accommodation options are more expensive and booked out in advance. Because of the intense heat, not many people visit in April. This could be a good time to visit if you are willing to brave the heat in exchange for smaller crowds. June to September is very rainy, this is the offseason where it is often hard to tour in the torrential rain.
Ayutthaya Dress Code
Ayutthaya, as a Buddhist temple complex, has restrictions especially for women about the dress code. Your shoulders are to be covered with no tank tops, andyour legs need to be covered at least to your knees. Loose dresses or skirts are the best options because they are strict on skin-tight clothing. A t-shirt and knee skirt is always a safe option. Or if you want to wear a tank top you can put a loose light kimono cover-up over it for going inside the temple. If you dress right it will save you money and time. If you don’t, they will stop you and try to make you buy a scarf or cover up from their stand.
Getting around Ayutthaya Historical Park
You can rent a car like we did. There are free big parking lots, but they fill up fast and you need to come early and be sure to secure your spot in the lots. It is a good idea if you are coming by car to come and park in the parking lot and pay a tuk tuk to take you in between temples. It is too far of a walk to them all but close enough for a tuk tuk.
The park is 15 square kilometers, so it is necessary to rent a bicycle (40 baht per day), hire a tuk-tuk (from 200 baht depending on bartering), or hire a car with driver (from 800 baht for 3 hours, bargain) to be able to see the different temples.
Watch out, tuk-tuk drivers have been known to carry tourists to nearby stores to have them shop and earn a Commission. The car with driver is recommended which costs almost the same as the tuk-tuk (especially if you are not good at bartering), is air-conditioned, doesn’t go to stores, and you can store your belongings as you visit the temples.
Top 4 Ayutthaya Temples to Visit in
There are 6 main temples you can visit in the historical park, but I think there are 4 that are the best! Several are actually replicas or repeats of some famous temples in Bangkok which I note below so that you can skip those if you are already going to Bangkok or have seen those temples previously.
1.Wat Chai Watthanaram:
This is my favorite temple in the whole historical park. This one is a bit outside the main temple area but it is far worth it for the lack of crowds and pictures. This temple contains beautifully restored ruins of a 17th-century royal Buddhist temple in a picturesque, riverside setting. There is the same surrounding passageway all the way around with doorways and tower views that are one of the most famous pictures in all of Ayutthaya. The bricks and sky are gorgeous, and my favorite memory of our visit was this temple. You can also rent Thai formal dress from a few shops across the street if you want to take pictures in formal Thai dress.
2. Wat Maha That:
This temple is the one famous for the sculpture of Buddha head nestled among the branches of the banyan tree, one of the most famous images of Ayutthaya. This is one of the most open complexes with many pagodas to walk around and through. It’s a great temple to vist and explore. The intricate carving work in the tree is a masterpiece.
3. Wat Ratchaburana:
This temple is the monument to the struggle for the throne of the Kingdom of Siam. This temple is one of the most famous pictures you see of Ayutthaya with a large doorway with a huge tower in the background for a great picture.
4. Wat Phra Si Sanphet:
This temple has grand stupas or chedis containing the ashes of several Kings of Siam. It has the largest and most beautiful stupas. You can see them all around the complex to take amazing pictures and explore the ruins. This one was the least populated and known by people. It definitely is one of the best!
Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol:
The typical picture of Ayutthaya, architecture shaped stupas or chedis and hundreds of statues of the Buddha dressed in yellow robes. This one is one of the farther ones from outside the downtown park area. This is one to skip if you are trying to save time and don’t want to go as far out of the main park area.
This temple has a huge sculpture of a Buddha reclining the same as the Wat Pho Reclining Buddha in Bangkok city. This is one to skip in Ayutthaya if you are planning on going to the main one in Bangkok or already have been!
Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit: This is a copy of the Grand Palace in Bangkok which houses an enormous golden sculpture of Buddha, the largest in Thailand. This is another one to skip in Ayutthaya if you have visited the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The palace in Bangkok is much more colorful, gem covered and majestic.
- Get to the Ayutthaya temples early in the morning to avoid the heat and crowds
- Free tourist maps of the historical park can be found here
- Go straight to whatever temple you want to visit because there is no technical ticket box. If you spend time searching to no avail like we did you will waste time. You pay at the entrance to whatever temple you enter and then use that ticket to bring to the other temples. There is no ticket box office.
- Choose ahead of time which are your top 3 or 4 priority temples to visit. There are so many, and it’s overwhelming once you get inside the park. Make a plan in advance.
- The parking is very difficult for the temples! This could be worth parking in one of the free big open parking lots early in the morning and then paying a tuk tuk to take you between the temples. We rented a car and parked in the free parking lots and just got lucky with grabbing a spot and only waiting a few minutes each time. I would highly recommend paying a tuk tuk. The parking is highly limited.
- There are no food stands or restaurants really in the historical park and so you need to make sure to pack snacks and eat a good breakfast beforehand. We were definitely hungry by the time we left. Also, there is not much water access, pack and bring water in advance.
Where to eat
Cheewa café and social bar- This is a cool local bar with an outdoor courtyard, warm ambiance, and live music. Plus they serve tapas.
Baan Kao Nhom– This is a cute local cafe for traditional Thai food, dessert, and drinks. The style is very boho organic and there are some cute souvenirs that are local crafts you can buy. Silp-pa is another local Thai cafe that is similar.
Corner House Western food– If you have been traveling and wanting some a taste of home, this is one of the few western spots in the small city.
T Bar– Coffee shop with lots of sweet treats. The JIM’s Cafe is another nicer more western-like coffee shop that is similar to T Bar as well. They have lots of sweet treats too.
The Station– This is one of the fanciest restaurants in the city located at the train station. It’s a bit of a walk outside the downtown area., but great if you are heading to the train. It’ is one of the nicer restaurants in town and has some western options as well. There are beautiful colorful floor tiles, and the restaurant has a beautiful wood interior with brick and a trendy aesthetic.
The Summer House– This is a trendy really bohemian upscale cafe and restaurant that is along the river about 15 minutes outside the city before you hit Ayutthaya.
The Wine Ayutthaya– This is a very fancy and beautiful restaurant that is along the river outside of the city as well. We tried to go wine tasting here however, unfortunately, it was on a Buddhist holiday and they were not selling alcohol. The building is a glass-walled box on the river with gorgeous wooded stairways and art.
Where to stay
Busaba Ayutthaya Hostel
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This is the coolest and most trendy hostel in the city and in many places in Thailand. This is a newer addition to the city with a modern and artistic take on the old wooden stilt houses of Thailand. The hostel is very art-centered and has a cafe on the same grounds and restaurant that has a very modern minimalistic aesthetic and style.
Price: 1605 BAHT/night ( $52USD ), book here
Niwas Ayutthaya Hotel–
This is a beautiful wooden Thai style homestay that is a great budget option really close to the historical park.
Rooms for as low as $24! For more information and bookings, click here.
Baan Tebpitak Elegant Ayutthaya–
This is a great Thai style wooden homestay with a beautiful outdoor pool terrace area and hang out with flowers and plants. The pool is nice for hanging out on the hot afternoons in this city and after touring the temples. This is where we stayed for our trip to Ayutthaya because unfortunately Busaba Hostel was booked but this was a quiet area not too far and we really took advantage of the great pool!
Price: 1200 THB/night ( $39USD). Book here!
The Park Ayutthaya Resort And Spa–
This is a jungle and teak wood resort feel with lots of greenery in a huge courtyard garden. The rooms are decorated with traditional Thai materials, carvings, and fabrics.
Price: 1347THB/night ( $43 USD ), book here
This is one of the nicer resort-like stays in the city. The rooms are olden wood Thai style huts filled with modern comfort and amenities. They sit on their beautiful grounds with a huge lotus pond and a spa.
Price: 2146 THB/night ($69USD), book here