Ayutthaya is Thailand’s former capital and is filled with historical temples, ruins and Buddha statues. It is situated only a couple of hours north of Bangkok, which is why it’s become such a regular fixture among tourists. But where to start?! We visited Ayutthaya for several days and know exactly which temples you can’t miss. Join us on our tour past Ayutthaya’s top 7 highlights!

Ayutthaya: a short history

More than 400 years ago, Ayutthaya was the center of the rich and powerful kingdom of Siam, Thailand’s previous name. That all ended with the Burmese invasion of 1767, during which the capital was ransacked and destroyed. Right before it fell, general Taksin fled the city with his troops. He would eventually manage to retake central Thailand in 1770. After the death of the king, Taksin crowned himself as king and in 1768 founded a new capital: the small fishing village of Thon Buri, which would later become Bangkok.

Right, let’s start our countdown of the top 7 temples of Ayutthaya!

Wat Phra Si Sanphet in Ayutthaya

1. Wat Chai Watthanaram: the most beautiful temple complex

Wat Chai Watthanaram is considered one of Ayutthaya’s most beautiful temple complexes. And it’s easy to see why! The enormous complex is situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and is surrounded by a beautiful grassy field, used by children to play on.

We happened to visit the temples on a Sunday, so the children were off from school. The stone walls served as goals in their game of football and often the ball would end up inside the temple walls, until a friendly tourist picked it up kicked it back onto the “pitch”.

By the way, playing football here would have been completely impossible no more than 40 years ago. At that time, these temples were still overgrown with jungle vegetation and nobody thought it was worth the effort. Now it’s one of Ayutthya’s main tourist attractions.

Entrance fee: 50 Thai Baht.

Wat Chai Watthanaram in AyutthayaWat Chai Watthanaram in AyutthayaWat Chai Watthanaram in Ayutthaya

2. Wat Phra Mahathat: Buddha head in tree roots

The Wat Phra Mahathat is famous mostly because of the fascinating Buddha head, trapped among the roots of a bohdi tree. Nobody knows exactly how it ended up there. It is thought that the head was left by the Burmese and that the tree grew over it in subsequent years.

Another theory is that a thief meant to hide the Buddha head. In early 1900, a part of the temple complex crumbled, which attracted a lot of fortune hunters who saw it as an ideal opportunity to acquire some valuable items. Only the thief never bothered to come back for the head. Perhaps he wasn’t able to carry it over the enormous temple walls. Until this day the tree stands guard. It’s a wonderful sight and definitely worth a look!

Entrance fee: 50 Thai Baht.

Buddha's Head in Tree Roots at Wat Phra Mahathat in Ayutthaya

3. Wat Phra Si Sanphet: the three chedis

This Buddhist temple was one of Ayutthaya’s most important ones. It was a royal temple and even housed a private tribunal. In 1500, a huge bronze Buddha statue, measuring 16 meters in height, was erected here. Unfortunately, it’s now completely gone. However, there is a sign indicating where the enormous statue once stood.

The three massive chedis, however, are still standing tall. You are allowed to climb parts of them so you can have a better view of the temple complex. Try and look for the shade as much as possible or visit in the morning or late afternoon, as it can get pretty warm. Luckily, outside of the temple walls, you can buy a bottle of water for no more than 10 Thai Baht.

Entrance fee: 50 Thai Baht.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet in AyutthayaWat Phra Si Sanphet in Ayutthaya

4. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon: lively and relaxed

This temple complex feels a lot livelier than any of the ones mentioned above. Whilst the smell of incense in the air becomes more pronounced by the minute, you can see hundreds of Buddha statues that are still intact, monks walking around in orange garments and many of the locals wrapped up in prayer.

The real eye-catcher however is a 7 meter long reclining Buddha. If you manage to make a coin stick to the Buddha’s feet, prosperity and happiness will be yours. You can also climb the chedi, which will provide you a great of view of the entire area.

Entrance fee: 20 Thai Baht.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon in AyutthayaWat Yai Chai Mongkhon in AyutthayaWat Yai Chai Mongkhon in Ayutthaya

5. Wat Lokayasutharam: gigantic reclining Buddha

The best thing this temple has to offer is truly unmissable! A reclining Buddha that’s 37 meters wide and 8 meters high welcomes you at Wat Lokayasutharam’s entrance. His enormous head rests on a lotus flower and points east.

In between all the tourist buses – they arrive later in the morning – you can see some locals praying and laying flowers. Behind the Buddha statue are more ruins still, but we didn’t think they were worth a visit.

Entrance fee: free

Wat Lokoyasutharam in AyutthayaWat Lokoyasutharam in Ayutthaya

6. Wat Phanan Choeng: 19 meter high Buddha statue

This huge Buddha statue, besides being popular among tourists, is particularly popular among the locals. When you enter, you’ll notice the dozens (perhaps even hundreds) of slippers and shoes lying around. The atmosphere is friendly; there is space to pray and to meditate.

Lots of people are seated on the floor with feet underneath them. This is because it’s not allowed to point your feet in the direction of a Buddha statue: it’s literally the worst thing you can do! Walk around the immense statue and look around. Enjoy the peace and the silence, despite the fact that it can get quite busy.

Entrance fee: 20 Thai Baht.

Wat Phanan Choeng in Ayutthaya

7. Million Toy Museum

The Million Toy Museum is definitely not a temple, but a nice change of pace. This blue building consists of two floors and, as you probably guessed by the name, there are a lot of toys. Try and find the toys that you grew up with. You can find literally everything! The souvenir shop also sells lots of nice things.

This is definitely a great recommendation for anyone traveling with children, though to be fair, after about half an hour, we’d seen enough. But for 50 Thai Baht a person it’s definitely worth a visit!

Entrance fee: 50 Thai Baht

Million Toy Museum in Ayutthaya

Getting to Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya lies 80 kilometers north of Bangkok and can be reached very easily. We traveled from Bangkok train station (Hua Lamphong) to Ayutthaya for less than 20 Thai Baht per person. The local train took about two hours. We highly recommend it! There are also lots of buses that leave from the northern bus station (Mo Chit). A bus ticket will cost you about 50 Thai Baht. Minivans leave from all over the city and will cost you between 50 to 100 Thai Baht.

Transport in Ayutthaya

The temples are scattered all over town, but still easily accessible by motorbike, bike, tuk tuk or taxi. A guided tour by tuk tuk (including the driver) is about 200 Thai Baht an hour.

Best Hotels Ayutthaya

Niwas Ayutthaya - $

With spotless rooms equipped with air conditioning, this is probably the best budget accommodation in Ayutthaya. Pay a little bit more and get your own great garden bungalows. The location is amazing as well: walking distance from all of the most important temples.

iuDia on the River - $$$

A cute boutique hotel in the heart of Ayutthaya, you’ll be staying amongst temples that are hundreds of years old and are lit up night, making for a wonderful sight. The service is great, the rooms are authentic and the location is ideal.

What are your favorite sights or temples in Ayutthaya?

Sander

Author Sander

Former elementary school teacher, storyteller, sports enthusiast, and adventurer. Love to do the "impossible", which is usually the exact opposite of what’s expected.

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