Ayutthaya was called one of the most beautiful Asian cities before it was ultimately destroyed by neighboring Burma. Nowadays, we can only guess how it might have looked. Dozens of broken temples and Buddha statues may give us a clue. Ayutthaya has retained its magic for centuries and, despite the unfavorable historical events, remained a mysteriously breath-taking place to this day. Set out with us to the former royal city and read our Ayutthaya Travel Guide about a very interesting place you definitely shouldn’t miss on your way to Thailand.
Thailand was in the past, namely until 1939, known as Siam. Ayutthaya was the capital of the Siam between 1350 and 1767. The city flourished and became a cultural center and main business network not only in Asia but also around the world. Merchants who sailed from Europe spoke of Ayutthaya as the most beautiful city they had ever seen. Ayutthaya was a royal city surrounded by several rivers, full of golden temples and Buddha statues, full of fairy-tale riches. By 1700, it was the largest city in the world with a total population of 1 million. After repeated attacks by neighboring Burma, Ayutthaya finally fell in 1767 and it was destroyed. The capital was then moved to Bangkok, which lies approximately 85 kilometers from Ayutthaya.
Today we can only imagine how the beautiful Ayutthaya once looked. The ruins and remnants of the temples, Buddha statues and river canals can give us a slight idea. Even after so many years and after the successful attack of the Burmese, this city still retains its unmistakable atmosphere. In 1991, the city’s historic park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’ll go to Thailand, don’t skip visiting Ayutthaya. Thailand offers plenty of places that are truly worth visiting. The best photos from Thailand can be found in this Photo Travel Guide.
How to get to Ayutthaya
The city lies north of Bangkok, about 85 kilometers away. Countless travel agencies organize a guided day trip to Ayutthaya from Bangkok. However if you’d like to, you can also set out on your own tour. You can take a train or go by minibus. The journey takes about 1.5 hours – it’s very close.
How travel around Ayutthaya
The city center isn’t that big, so you can travel by a tuk-tuk or just walk. Perhaps the best option is to rent a bike and set out on your own. The streets are straight and the distances between the temples aren’t so great, so the bike ride is an ideal way to spend a beautiful day in the city.
What you can do in Ayutthaya
The city center is full with ruins of temples and other interesting sights. You will probably need more than one day if you want to see everything, but you can plan a walk through the most interesting attractions. Here is a brief list of the most interesting places you shouldn’t miss.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet – the former Royal Palace
The Royal Palace once used to be the most beautiful building in Ayutthaya. It’s hard to guess how the palace looked in the days of its greatest glory, but tourists can admire it even today. The building is dominated by three enormous stupas containing the remains of kings. A large statue of Buddha used to stand on the right side, covered in 250 kg of gold. Unfortunately, nothing remains.
Wat Ratchaburana – Temple built on the site of a committed fratricide
The temple was built at the beginning of the 15th century. It was built on the site, where two brothers fought against each other on elephants for power and both died. At the beginning of the 20th century, the crypt of the temple was plundered and many valuable precious things were lost. Fortunately, the thieves have been caught and many of the priceless items were returned.
Thai floating market
One of the best floating markets we have seen in Thailand is located in Ayutthaya. The human-built canal is full of wooden houses standing above water on tall poles. In addition to purchasing Thai delicacies, you can also feed the fish, watch a local theatre play, have your face painted and lots of other activities.
Wat Lokaya Sutharam – Statue of the lying Buddha
An interesting attraction is the giant statue of the lying Buddha. It’s over 42 meters long and lies completely under the open skies. After Burmese attack, only the remnants of the temple were left, so the local people dress the statue in orange fabrics. An altar where visitors can leave their gifts is located next to the statue.
Wat Mahathat – temple of the Monks
This temple is located in the center of Ayutthaya and it was the residence of the supreme leader of the Thai monks. It was a royal monastery where the king conducted all the important ceremonies. Perhaps the most photographed object is Buddha’s stone head overgrown by roots of tropical trees. Under all assumptions, the head was separated from the hull of one of the many Buddha sculptures and was quickly overgrown. Interestingly, you mustn’t approach the head standing. One’s head can never be higher than Buddha’s can, so you can only approach the statue crouching.
Local Elephant Village
If you decide to visit Ayutthaya, you’ll probably also be able to meet elephants. They carry tourists on their backs so they can admire the beautiful temples directly from the height of 3 meters. Only several decades ago, elephants usually worked on construction sites or in agriculture. Since the law has restricted logging and machines started to replace elephants, these animals lost their jobs. Every elephant has to earn its wage – elephant consumes over 250 kg of food in one day. So the elephants began to devote themselves to tourism. Visitors can also visit the local elephant village in Ayutthaya, where the trained elephants show their circus tricks and can even paint pictures. The tourist shop located not far away actually sells pictures made by them. We are of the opinion that these animals belong to the wild so we don’t support such attractions. If you would still like to meet the elephants, we recommend visiting the organization – Elephants World
This is the first time I am hearing about Ayutthaya and it seems like an astonishing place, Eva. I will have to add it to my bucket list after reading your post. Is a day trip there enough to see all the highlights?
Hi Agness, thank you for your comment, I am happy to show other people amazing places in our world. About your question of course it depends how much time do have for travel, but I think one day should be enough for this trip 🙂
Ayutthaya city is one of the best city in the world. I heard this name many time but I can not go here. I love Elephants. They are very cute. There have many place travailing I should I was go there in my next trip. Can you told me some about how many problem face to traveling in there.
Hi Sonya, thanks for your comment. The Ayutthaya is really one of the most beautiful cities – I can confirm, the atmosphere itself is amazing. I would like to tell you about some issues, but we didn’t have any 🙂 The Thailand is very peaceful and easy country to travel and the city Ayutthaya is the same. Highly recommended !
Riding on the back of an elephant is actually animal abuse.
The backs aren’t build to carry anything. If you want to ride an elephant look for a company that offers rides on the neck. But better yet, don’t ride them at all.
Dear Marion, I am happy for you comment about the elephants. I hope you read all the article that you know, we do not support such a treatment of the animals. But it is great to read your link, that people can understand the reason why this is not good thing for these animals.
My husband and I keep dreaming about going to Cambodia someday so every time I come across a post like this I’m thinking: ‘This is it! This time I’m going!’ I’d love to see Angkor Watt and now I’ll add Ayutthaya to my list. I knew nothing about this city till now. Thanks for sharing this post on #TheWeeklyPostcard
Hi Anda, I am happy we can motivat toher travellers to travel to the new destination and how them the beautiful places. I must say the Ayutthaya is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. And the awesome thing is, that it is possible to visit the Angkor Watt and Ayutthaya in one trip 🙂
After seeing your post, I am kicking myself for not going last time I was in Thailand. It looks like such a great place to explore and I didn’t realize you could get there so quickly from Bangkok. Adding to my list, for next Thailand trip. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.
Hi Anisa, if I would kick myself for all places I could see and I didn´t, for whatever reason, I would do it all the time 😀 But I am glad this article could be good inspiration for you in next journey
This was incredibly fascinating to read! The history is so tragic and it’s a shame that Ayutthaya fell into ruins, but it’s great that the people still go there to pray! I wonder if one day it will ever been renovated (as much as it could be) to it’s former state. Pinned for later!! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!
Thank you for your post. I think ithe whole city has amazing atmphosphere because it is a city of the ruins. It makes this place so romantic 🙂 So many cities were destryoed in the war and we can be happy, e can still admire at least the ruins.
I visited Ayutthaya as a day trip from Bangkok years ago but I think your way of doing it would have been better. I enjoyed visiting the temples there, especially at the former Royal palace. Great guide! #theweeklypostcard
Thanks David for nice comment, I must say I like more Ayutthaya than Bangkok itself. Maybe the reason is there is less tourists, it is not so overcrowded and it has amazing atmosphere. Of course, if you have more time to stay in one place, you will always enjoy more.
I haven’t heard of Ayutthaya before, this whole war story with Burma is so sad! I’ve been to Thailand only for 3 days and haven’t seen much! Won’t miss Ayutthaya next time – you’ve put together such a great guide! Thanks for sharing #theweeklypostcard
Thank you Anna fro you comment. I think there are more tourists coming to this historical place, so it will be more known. For you next trip I highly recommend Ayutthaya, it is really amazing place. 🙂