This is your complete Sukhothai travel guide!
If you are wondering how to visit Sukhothai on a day trip from Phitsanulok, if it’s worth visiting Sukhothai and what is there to do and see, this post is for you. Here you will find everything you need to know, how to get there, the cost and other tips, to make your Sukhothai trip amazing!
Please note: The best way to visit Sukhothai is on a day trip from Phitsanulok. In this post, I will focus on this way of visiting Sukhothai but if you are planning to visit Sukhothai from Bangkok and stay for the night you will find everything you need to know in this article. So read on and enjoy!
Sukhothai was like nothing else I’ve ever seen. I have visited several historical parks and ancient ruined cities, but nothing has impressed me like Sukhothai.
This place is just magical.
Sukhothai Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves the remains of the ancient capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The beauty of the ruins, the statues, temples, lakes and bodhi trees and the mysterious atmosphere of the park will transport you back in time and for a few hours, you will forget about the outside world.
Table of Contents
The History of Sukhothai (In 'few' Words)
The city of Sukhothai was founded in the 13th century and became the capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom, which was one of the earliest and most significant of the Thai kingdoms. The Sukhothai Kingdom is credited with laying the foundations of Thai culture, art and architecture.
Although at the time Thailand had not yet been founded as a country, many consider Sukhothai to be Thailand’s first capital.
Sukhothai’s golden age is often associated with King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, who ruled from 1279 to 1298. Under his reign, the kingdom expanded and thrived, becoming a powerful and prosperous state.
King Ramkhamhaeng is also credited with the invention of the Thai alphabet, which is still in use today. His rule is often seen as a period of great cultural and social development as well as diplomatic expansion.
After the decline of the Sukhothai Kingdom, the Ayutthaya Kingdom rose to great importance and established its capital in Ayutthaya, which was eventually destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. The capital was then moved to Thonburi and later to Bangkok, where it remains today.
Is Sukhothai worth Visitng
If you are visiting the northern part of Thailand and travelling from Bangkok towards Chiang Mai, Sukhothai is very much worth visiting, and I would say it is a must!
Sukhothai Historic Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and stands as an important symbol of Thai history and culture, but above all it is a magnificent historical park to explore! It is probably one of the most beautiful historical sights in Thailand and definitely worth visiting!
Also given Sukhithai is located much further away from Bangkok then Ayutthaya, it is much less crowded and even during the peak hours much more pleasant to roam around.
Can you visit Sukhothai on a day trip?
The only feasible way to visit Sukhothai on a day trip is from the city of Phitsanulok. If you want to visit Sukhothai from Bangkok, Ayutthaya or Chiang Mai, it would have to have to involve an overnight stay as the train journey is just too long.
I suggest visiting Phitsanulok for a few days as it is a great, authentic and very underrated destination in Thailand and take a day trip from Phitsanulok to Sukhothai, which can be done even in half a day if you leave early in the morning.
Thit way you will see 2 awesome destinations in this part of Thailand.
Of course, you can also choose to actually stay in Sukhothai overnight and travel onwards from there the following day which could also be a great idea.
Where to stay in Sukhothai
There isn’t a whole lot of accommodation available in Sukhothai but if you just a a bed for a one-night stay, you will find what you need and within your budget.
But if you follow my advice and decide to stay in Phitsanulok then you have to stay at Karma Home Hostel!
How to get to Sukhothai from Phitsanulok (there and back)
To get from Phitasulok to Sukhothai, you must first go to the Bus Station Terminal 1. It’s a 30- to 40-minute walk from the city centre, but I recommend booking a tuk-tuk or a Grab as you will want to leave quite early.
At Phtsanulok Bus Terminal 1, you can catch a shared minivan which will take you to Sukhothai city centre. The New Town of Sukhothai.
They run from 7:00 AM to 6:10 PM.
This journey takes a little over one hour and costs 50 Baht. The minivan driver charged us an additional 40 Baht to get to the Historical Park after stopping at Sukhothai bus station so the whole one way journey came to a total of 90 Baht.
In case the minivan driver doesn’t go to Sukhothai Historical Park (unlikely but could happen) don’t worry. You can also take a local Songtaew (shared local track) for 40Baht. You will find them at the Sukhothai bus station or in the new town (if that is where you are staying).
On my return, I checked if this was a fair price and it was indeed. A one-way minivan journey from Phitsanulok to Sukhothai costs 90Baht.
Now, the return from Sukhothai Historical Park might be a bit tricky. The van going back to Phitsanulok should stop in front of the bike rental shop (just opposite the main park entrance). This is where we rented our bikes from so the lady allowed us to sit there and wait for the bus.
There are no real set times for the bus so you will have to just wait. On the day of my travel, the lady who owned the bike shop gave a call to the driver (we didn’t ask, she just did it for us) and was informed that the van was full.
So the only way we could return was by taking a Grab to Sukhothai bus station (130Baht) and then a minivan back to Phitsanulok for which we had to wait for around an hour.
Luckily I was going with a friend I met in a hostel in Phitsanulok so we could split the taxi charge, but you need to be aware that this could happen.
In the hindsight we could definitely look for the songthaew back to the town but as it was 2 of us the Grab didn’t seem too expensive.
So the overall travel cost of a day trip to Sukhothai from Phitsanulok was 205 Baht including half of the taxi fare. If I was on my own it would be 270 Baht ($7,60)
We left at 7 a.m. and returned around 4 p.m.
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Things to do in Sukhothai / Sukhothai Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit Sukhothai Historical Park
The best time to visit Sukhothai Historical Park is early in the morning. Arrive as early as you can to beat the crowds and avoid the heat.
If you are travelling from Phitsanulok I recommend you take the first 7 am bus.
Sukhothai Historical Park is also amazing to visit before the sunset but you will have to be aware that you will definitely not be there on your own.
How to get around Sukhothai
First things first – you will need to rent a bicycle.
I mean, you don’t have to, but it’s highly recommended and it’s how everyone explores the park. Sukhothai Historical Park is huge and the ride through is so enjoyable!
The total area of the park covers more than 70 square kilometres. It includes 3 main paid zones – the central zone, the West zone and the North zone. If you want to see it all, you will want to rent a bike.
There are also admission-free South and East zones, but there is not much to see there really.
If you think it’s too hot to ride a bike you couldn’t be more wrong!
The park is flat and it was lovely riding around and feeling the breeze in my hair (how poetic).
The bike rental is only 30Baht for a day. There is no reason not to.
As you get out of the minivan, across the street you will see a lady offering bike rental. She might even come up to you. She is nice, the price is fair and you will come back to her shop to wait for the return bus.
Sukhothai Historical Park is open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm, so you can choose whether you want to visit for the sunset or the sunrise. Or both! There are also a few scattered free areas where you will find a few smaller temple ruins and stupas.
Sukhothai Historical Park Entrance Fees
The minimum you will have to pay is 100 Baht for the entrance to the central zone of the park. This is where the majority of the temples, statues and Sukhothai attractions are located.
There are also two other zones in the park and to see each you will have to pay an additional 100 Baht, so it could all add up. But if you want to see just the central zone, it is still worth it!
If you rent the bicycle you will have to add 10 Baht to each entrance fee for the bike.
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What to see in Sukhothai Historical Park
King Ramkhamhaeng Monument
Near the entrance, you will find a King Ramkhamhaeng Monument. It is worth stopping here as King Ramkhamhaeng the Great is a very important historical figure and is remembered as a wise and capable ruler who played a crucial role in establishing the foundation of the Thai nation.
His reign is considered a golden age for the Sukhothai Kingdom, marked by stability, prosperity, and cultural flourishing
Wat Maha That – this is the most important and largest ruin complex in the park.
The name “Wat Mahathat” translates to “the temple of the Great Relic.”
It was built during the reign of King Si Inthrathit (around the 13th century) and was the main and most significant temple in the Sukhothai Kingdom. It is known for its large central stupa, which was surrounded by smaller stupas and several chapels and viharas. The layout of the complex reflects the traditional Thai architectural style of the time.
One of the most iconic features of Wat Mahathat is the large Buddha image situated in the central stupa. The Buddha image is in the posture of subduing Mara, which is a common depiction in Thai Buddhist art. The ruins of the complex offer insights into the architectural and artistic styles of the Sukhothai period.
Wat Si Sawai
It’s a Khmer-style temple and it is one of the oldest and most significant Khmer-influenced structures in the region.
The temple features three prangs, which are characteristic tower-like structures typically found in Khmer architecture. The prangs are constructed of laterite and sandstone and are reminiscent of the architectural style of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
The temple’s layout and design indicate its likely original use as a Hindu temple, although it was later converted into a Buddhist temple during the Sukhothai period. This transformation reflects the gradual transition from Hinduism to Buddhism in the region during that time.
Wat Sa Si
Particularly notable for its seated Buddha image. The main Buddha statue sits gracefully inside the viharn surrounded by a serene pond, adding a touch of tranquillity to the atmosphere.
Wat Traphang Ngoen
This is a beautiful and very tranquil part of the park. You will find a Silver Lake here and a bridge path leading to a smaller temple but beautifully located. It consists of a chedi and a Buddha statue sitting in front. Don’t miss this part of the park!
You can easily spend 2 to 3 hours riding around the central zone. I was so impressed by some parts of the park that I went back to see it again.
If you don’t want to pay to see the other 2 zones, visiting Sukhothai is still worth it just for the central zone!
But in case you want to see it all here is what you will find in the remaining zones of Sukhothai Historical Park:
In the Northern zone, you will find two main temples: Wat Si Chum and Wat Pha Phai Luang.
The main highlight of Wat Si Chum is the Phra Achana, an enormous seated Buddha image enshrined within the main hall. Phra Achana is one of the largest Buddha images in Sukhothai, measuring approximately 15 meters in height. It is a truly beautiful temple!
Wat Phra Phai Luang is another sight in the northern zone yet this one isn’t very well preserved.
Of the three Khmer-style towers from the 12th century, only one remains, and this is one of only 3 temples in the entire complex that show influences from Angkor and LopBuri. Especially after visiting Wat Si Chum, this sight may be a little disappointing, but it is thought that this may have been the centre of Sukhothai when it was built in the 12th century.
I only recommend visiting the western zone if you have plenty of time to spare as the sights are pretty spread out and it might take you a while to see them all. Many of them can’t be reached by bike so you will have to hike a bit.
Here you will find:
Wat Saphan Hin is the most notable sight of the western zone in Sukhothai Historical Park.
The temple offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape as it is located on top of the hill and the ascent to Wat Saphan Hin involves climbing around 200 m of stone stairs. You will find a 12-meter-tall standing Buddha and a large stupa situated on a raised platform, showcasing classic Sukhothai-style architecture.
Other sights worth stopping at include Khao Phra Bat Noi, Wat Chang Lom, Wat Chetuphon and Wat Chedi Si Hong with the base of bell-shaped chedi richly decorated with intricate and unique stucco sculptures.
Visiting Sukhothai from Bangkok
If you would rather visit Sukhothai from Bangkok I very much suggest staying in Sukhothai for the night.
It takes around 8 hours to get to Sukhothai from Bangkok so you could either see Sukhothai Historical Park for the sunset on the same day or sunrise the next day in the morning. You can also take the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok.
This is why I recommend visiting Sukhothai on a day trip from Phitsanulok.
There are busses from Sukhothai to both Phitsanulok and Chiang Mai.
Given it is a bit of a journey If you want to take a day trip from Bangkok you could consider booking an organised trip to Ayutthaya instead like this Ayutthaya Historical Park Full Day Tour.
What you need to know before visiting Sukhothai Historical Park
Right outside of Sukhothai Park, you will find plenty of restaurants as well as 7-Eleven.
Get plenty of water! It will be hot and sticky!
I packed a shirt in case I needed one for visiting a temple yet as most of the sights are located outside there didn’t seem to be a need for it. Yet take one just in case!
Consider taking a raincoat or a poncho, especially if you are visiting during the rainy season. Umbrella wouldn’t be practical given you will be riding a bike.
In case you don’t want to ride a bike you can also rent a tuk-tuk or opt for a guided tour in an electric car.
Pack an insect repellent. Mosquitoes in places like this can be vicious!
Enjoy Sukhothai and let me know if you loved it as much as I did!
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My favourite Travel Resources
- For most of my accommodation, I use Bookings.com and Hostel World. With both booking platforms, you will often get free cancellations and access to tons of reviews. Read them! You will also get the most extensive selection of all types of accommodation. I hardly ever look elsewhere. If you are travelling in Asia – Agoda is definitely worth checking out!
- Make sure you download Google Maps and, for each new destination, download an offline map of your location and surrounding area. This way, even without the internet or Wi-Fi, you will be able to get to navigate around the town.
Moovit is also an excellent and very underrated travel and journey-planning app. It works great in many countries and will show you all possible routes by public transport, including the timetables.
123Go — Great for tickets for trains, buses, ferries and charters in Southeast Asia! The best way to buy your ticket for the overnight Bangkok train! Rome2rio – Another great journey-planning app. If your way of travel is mainly public transport – you will use this app for sure!
The travel insurance I use is Heymondo, and their plan suits me perfectly. They have clear policies with no deductibles, the price is excellent for what they offer and the price doesn’t go up when you are over 30 years old. They have a dedicated, easy-to-use app and free assistance calls.
I can get a cover for a month or three months and I know I can travel with peace of mind and get the best product for my money. And it also covers COVID-19.
- I carry two debit cards with me. Given I don’t have a permanent country of residence, Revolut and Wise work fantastically. In case one gets frozen, stolen or simply lost, I have a backup. The great thing about both cards is that you can freeze them straight from your phone and transfer money between them in case you need to. You will also get a great exchange rate and create separate foreign currency accounts.
- I booked most of my tours via either Get Your Guide or Viator. You can also book locally, but I advise you to ask around and follow the local recommendations.
For more travel tips and recourses, visit Pati’s Travel Tips page!