Sukhothai is a UNESCO World Heritage City that is rich in temple ruins and historical sites. This city was once the capital of Siam, and the birthplace of Thai language, architecture and art. Because Sukhothai is in a relatively remote area and nearly 427km north of Bangkok, it doesn’t see the highest number of tourists on Thailand travel packages unlike the more popular city of Ayutthaya, which also has a historical park and much closer to Bangkok.
But, the historical sites to be explored in Sukhothai are just as stunning and worth a visit if permitted on the Thailand tour packages. The majority of the major temple ruins are located in the Si Satchanalai Historical Park and Sukhothai Historical Park. In addition to touring the historical sites, the rest of the city is quite rural which makes it possible to witness the rustic lifestyle of the locals.
The 4 sq km site of the Sukhothai Historical Park has over 20 incredible ancient temples, ruins, stupas and other structures to explore. Plus, there is the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, which is a perfect destination to see a wonderful collection of artefacts that relate to the old Sukhothai Kingdom dating back 700 years.
The preferred time to visit Sukhothai on the Holidays to Thailand is virtually year-round except for April when the weather is a little hotter (up to 37.2°C). The average temperate for the rest of the year is in the region of 20° C to 30° C. The coolest temperature can be expected in December when it can vary from 19.3° C to 25.35° C.
How to get there
The easiest travel options to arrive in Sukhothai include taking a bus, train or flight. The train station isn’t that close to town and based in Phitsanuluk which is nearly a further one hour journey by bus.
There is a regular bus service from the Northern Bus Terminal in Bangkok, which takes approx 7 hours to complete. Also, other bus routes include Phitsanulok (about 1 hour) and Chiang Mai (about 4-5 hours).
Regular flights to Sukhothai are possible via Bangkok using Bangkok Airways (travel time about 70 minutes). Also, a regular service arrives at Phitsanulok, which requires the onward journey by bus.
A convenient method to get around once in Sukhothai town is to use the songthiaws (trucks) that make regular trips to the historical park. Also, for the tourists that prefer to self drive, it is possible to hire a motorbike from most of the local guesthouses. It makes sense to hire a bicycle or motorbike for local travel because the most popular sites are spread out across a large area. A further option is the tram service that makes its way to the historical park at regular intervals throughout the day.
Hiring a bicycle costs less than one dollar a day, but make sure to choose one that feels sturdy and new, while a scooter or motorbike for the day is about $4-$6. However, it isn’t possible to ride the motorbike inside the complex of the main park.
Many tourists on the Thailand tour holiday packages combine a visit to Sukhothai with a short stay in Chiang Mai with the option to stop at either location when travelling by train or bus. Sukhothai is basically located midway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai with a journey time in the region of 4-6 hours.
Where to stay
New Sukhothai and Old Sukhothai have a wide range of choices when it comes to low-cost, mid-range and high end accommodation. The two districts can vary with the Old Sukhothai appreciated for the historical park, while the New Sukhothai is great for the more happening riverside city.
A stay at the Lotus Village resort costs in the region of $15-$45 per night and is well appreciated for its quiet, relaxing and peaceful location. The on site bungalows are surrounded by bushy tropical flowers and a lotus pond. The rooms are spacious with soft beds, minibars, fridges and air-con. Plus, most of the rooms are equipped with free Wi-Fi. For the traveller that has a little extra to spend, the lotus bungalows are certain to be well appreciated.
The Foresto Guesthome is a relatively new establishment with plenty of modern-style rooms that are well-kept and spacious with features like swirling Thai art, desks, fridges, TVs, free Wi-Fi and air-con. The rooms are very comfortable with huge red brick awnings, wall-to-ceiling windows and polished concrete floors. The cost per night is about $17.50-$42.50. Plus, this guest house has a large dining/common area, as well as an inviting swimming pool. It is located close to a few traveller-friendly bars and cafes.
A visit to the Ban Thai Guesthouse is great for the traveller in search of the budget rooms and easily found on riverside lane close to the bridge. Most of the rooms cost in the region of $15 per night and include the standard amenities.
Eat and drink
Sukhothai has a worthwhile food scene with the most promising choices found in New Sukhothai. There are plenty of restaurants serving the traditional Thai food in a variety of forms, with most offering the English-based menus. Plus, the city streets have a great street food scene offering delicious and cheap meals that are surprisingly tasty.
The Dream Cafe has a great ambience with its walls decorated in old Thai antiques and serves a great selection of food, including sandwiches, pastas and desserts.
A great place to visit for breakfast is the Coffee Cup, which is located in the Old City and offers the relatively inexpensive food.
The Ran Je Hae is a great destination for noodle dishes and especially for the travellers that want to try kuaytiaw, which is Sukhothai’s famous noodles. This eatery is located close to the Historical Park.
A visit to Sukhothai Suki-Koka is certain to appeal to the travellers interested in Thai-style sukiyaki, but also provides a menu rich in other local dishes.
The Chopper Bar is a popular destination for both travellers and locals and is located in the new city close to the Sukhothai guest house neighbourhood. It has a varied menu with cheap drinks and live music playing at regular intervals.
Sukhothai is a great place to shop for the famous Sangkhalok pottery which has been made in this country dating back to the Sukhothai Era. There are shops throughout town offering art, handicraft, gold, and accessories, and plenty of other souvenirs and gifts. Plus, it is possible to explore the nearby villages and buy the goods that are produced by the locals.
Things to see and do
Sukhothai Heritage City
The Sukhothai Historical Par has over 190 striking historical ruins that are well worth seeing on the Thailand family tour and spaced out across an area of nearly 70 sq km. One of the major ruins is the Wat Mahathat which is regarded as the spiritual centre and located at its epicentre. The tourists taking a slower paced tour of the park are likely to notice a difference in architectural styles with at least three noticed in the historical park grounds. Also, nearby (about 60 km) is Si Satchanalai which is a sister city and well worth a visit to get a full appreciation of the Sukhothai Kingdom.
The preferred time to visit Sukhothai Heritage City is first thing in the morning to not only beat the crowds but also the midday sun. The best time to get the striking photographs is before the sunset hours to help with getting the bright orange sun backdrop for some of the ruins, such as Wat Mahathat. There is likely to be plenty of walking, so wear the comfortable shoes and light clothing, as well as applying sunscreen and drinking water regularly. Touring this historical city is possible by bicycle or motorbike, or use the guided tram tour that includes the most important sites throughout the park.
Most of the major ruins in Sukhothai Historical Park’s western, northern and central zones are easily explored in a single day using a bicycle.
Some of the highlights include:
The spiritual centre of the historical park is Wat Mahathat and one of the most photographed landmarks in the entire park. The architecture is traditional Sukhothai with plenty of features like the lotus-bud principal chedi. The preferred view is from the eastern front that includes the large Buddha in its seated position.
The Wat Phra Pai Luang dates back to the 13th century and has the ability to showcase the best of Lopburi and Khmer architecture. Most of the corn-shaped prangs are in a ruined state. But there are still elaborate stucco decorations to be seen that really highlight the skill of the Sukhothai’s craftsmen.
Other temples in the local area include Wat Sri Sawai, Wat Sri Chum, Wat Chetupon, Wat Trapang Thonglang, Wat Trapang Thonglang, and Wat Saphan Hin. Many of the temples vary in the state of repair and include different architectural influences to get a more unique touring experience.
Ramkamhaeng National Park
For the tourists on the Indochina tour packages tired of exploring the ruins, the Ramkamhaeng National Park is certain to appeal to those interested in nature with its mountaintop campsite, waterfalls, viewpoints and hiking trails.