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Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand

Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand
Wat Mahathat

After visiting the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park, we headed north to Old Sukhothai to continue our exploration of the ancient ruins of the Sukhothai Kingdom. Sukhothai, recognized as Thailand’s first capital, was the capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom from 1238 to 1438.

Located 13 kilometers west of the the modern city of Sukhothai, the Sukhothai Historical Park is 420 kilometers from Bangkok. It takes about 5 hours and 30 minutes to make the drive.

From Kamphaeng Phet, it was a short 1 hour and 15 minute drive.

Sukhothai Historical Park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site “Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns”. The name Sukhothai means “the dawn of happiness”.

With almost 200 ruins spread across 70 square kilometers of land, the park has three main zones: Central Zone, North Zone and West Zone. In addition to the three main zones, there are two lesser visited zones: South Zone and East Zone.

Central Zone

Central Zone is the largest and most popular of the three zones – this is the recommended zone if you only have time to visit one. Central Zone was the only zone that we explored during our visit to Sukhothai Historical Park.

The restored Central Zone is contained within the ancient city walls and has a peaceful, well-manicured park feel. The city walls form a rectangle approximately 2 kilometers by 1.6 kilometers.

The best way to explore the park is by bicycle, which is just what we did! Walking is an option, but it is nice to be able to cover ground quickly. Bikes also provide the opportunity to visit other zones if you have the time and energy.

Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand

The best known temple is Wat Mahathat. It is the largest and most important temple of the Sukhothai Kingdom.

Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand
Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat is the first temple complex you see when entering the historical park through the east entrance. It has a large seated Buddha set amid pillars and a central stupa flanked by two standing Buddha figures.

Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand
Wat Mahathat

The temple’s name translates to “temple of the great relic”. It is estimated that Wat Mahathat was built between 1292 and 1347.

Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand
Buddhist monks at Wat Mahathat

My personal favorite temple in Central Zone is Wat Si Sawai. Built in the late 12th or early 13th century before the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom, it is one of the oldest temples in Sukhothai. It was originally built as a Hindu shrine and it features Khmer architectural influences. Around the 14th century, the temple was converted into a Buddhist temple.

Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand
Wat Si Sawai

While we did not visit any of the other zones on this trip (we opted to hike in Ramkhamhaeng National Park), we did research them and look forward to returning in the future to explore the interesting temples that we missed.

The following information is from our trip-planning research:

North Zone

North Zone is located three kilometers northwest of the Central Zone. The two main sites are Wat Si Chum and Wat Phra Phai Luang.

  • Wat Sri Chum – a massive seated Buddha figure peering through an opening in its enclosure.
  • Wat Phra Phai Luang – the remains of a number of buildings plus a large prang with stucco reliefs.

West Zone

West Zone is a hilly, forested area four kilometers west of the Central Zone that contains over a dozen monuments. The two main sites are Wat Saphan Hin and Wat Phra Bat Noi.

  • Wat Saphan Hin – a small hilltop temple known for its 12 meter tall standing image of the Buddha overlooking ancient Sukhothai.
  • Wat Phra Bat Noi – a small forest temple on top of a hill near Wat Saphan Hin.

South Zone

South Zone is a little visited area south of the Central Zone that contains about a dozen ancient temples in various states of preservation. Wat Chetuphon is the notable temple of the South zone.

  • Wat Chetuphon – four large images of the Buddha in four different postures each facing a different direction.

East Zone

East Zone is located east of the Central Zone along the road to new Sukhothai. The main sites are Wat Chedi Sung and Wat Chang Lom.

  • Wat Chedi Sung – a little visited temple known for its large chedi.
  • Wat Chang Lom – a large temple with sculptures of elephants surrounding its base.

Having a car and not needing to rely on public transportation, we wanted to stay at one of the very nice resorts located just outside Old Sukhothai on Hwy 1272. Unfortunately, they were completely booked during the busy weekend night that we were visiting, so we had to go with Plan B. Plan B was the strip of hotels and hostels catering to foreigners located just outside Central Zone east entrance.

We stayed one night at Old City Guest House (800 THB / 25 USD per night). We were very pleased with the room and the location is excellent for visiting the temples by bicycle. The hotel rents bikes for 30 THB / 1 USD per day.

I do not know that bike theft is an issue, but the owner was very emphatic about showing us how to use the provided locks. At night, the hotel staff moved all of the bikes to another location. To be on the safe side, we used our own cable and lock and were diligent about locking them when we left them unattended.

Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand
The bikes were comfy and great for visiting the park.

There are several restaurants located just outside the hotel driveway, so you will not have to travel far for meals. The menus at the restaurants on the strip are all very similar – almost identical. If you want nicer restaurants, there are options within driving distance.

We enjoyed our very brief stay in Old Sukhothai and look forward to returning to visit the remaining zones. On our next visit, we would like to extend our trip 60 kilometers to the north and visit Si Satchanalai Historical Park, the remaining ancient town included in the UNESCO Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns World Heritage site.

Admission Fees and Information:

Central Zone, North Zone, and West Zone each have a separate entrance fee of 100 THB / 3 USD each, plus 10 THB / 0.3 USD each for bicycles. There is no entry fee for South Zone or East Zone. The fee zones are open from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM.

For more information on the Sukhothai Kingdom, Ramkamhaeng National Museum (150 THB / 4.5 USD each) is located just outside the eastern gate of the Central Zone. On display are artifacts discovered during excavation and restoration work in Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet. The museum is open daily from 9 AM until 4 PM.

Directions:

From Bangkok: Take Highway 32 to Nakhon Sawan. Take Highway 117 to Pitsanulok. Take Highway 12 to Sukhothai Historical Park.

From Kamphaeng Phet: Take Hwy 101, left onto Route 1319, right onto Route 1272

GPS Coordinates:Click to expand

(New) Sukhothai @ 17.011200,99.820527
Old Sukhothai @ 17.018488,99.709127
The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum @ 17.017794,99.707061
Wat Traphang Thong @ 17.017580,99.709098
Old City Guest House @ 17.018578,99.707804

Central Zone
East Gate Entrance @ 17.018640,99.706546
Wat Mahathat @ 17.016950,99.703702
Wat Si Sawai @ 17.013724,99.702460
Wat Sa Si @ 17.019484,99.701334
Wat Traphang Ngoen @ 17.016427,99.699874

North Zone
Wat Si Chum @ 17.026894,99.693154
Wat Phra Phai Luang @ 17.029338,99.699687

West Zone
Wat Saphan Hin @ 17.023191,99.675187
Wat Phra Bat Noi @17.018962,99.671388

South Zone
Wat Chetuphon @ 16.997866,99.706696

East Zone
Wat Chedi Sung @ 17.015819,99.723036
Wat Chang Lom @ 17.020041,99.719400

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You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.

*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.