The ancient capital remains are in the famous and spectacular park. This is by far the most famous attraction around, with the impressive remains of the first capital of Siam, which was most glorious some 700 years ago until the kingdom of Ayutthaya took its place in 1438.
A visit to Sukhothai Historical Park is like a fascinating walk back in time, and I find it more enjoyable and interesting than day-touring in the tourist-packed Ayutthaya for example. The place is kept by the Thai Ministry of Culture; it is well nurtured and easy to travel and explore in various ways.
You can scroll down to the bottom of the article and watch a video I took in the Historical Park
If you’ve read my introduction on Sukhothai, you already know that the city was established around 1230, serving as the capital of the first independent Kingdom of Siam, ruling over a large part of today’s Thailand.
While Thai history began earlier, the kingdom of Sukhothai laid the foundation for Thai culture, hosting the creation of Thai art, architecture, and language and setting the basis for political, administrative, and religious foundations to come.
Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located some 12 km away from the new city of Sukhothai, covering a wide territory and consisting of some 200 sites divided between different areas of the park. The unique place is administered by the Fine Arts department of the Thai Ministry of culture.
This review will give you a general impression of the park, its main attractions, and the means to travel and explore it.
The park covers a wide area of some 70 square kilometers and includes 5 different areas – the main area is surrounded by a wall (the old city); it’s the most interesting area, surrounded by 4 other areas.
The old city is a square of 2 km on 1.5 km, surrounded by a wall and water canal. This wonderfully kept area features dozens of historical structures, lakes, trees, and lawns.
The main structure is the impressive Wat Mahatat, right by the entrance; it was the biggest most impressive temple in Sukhothai kingdom, and it attracts many tourists.
In the main area (surrounded by a wall), you’ll find dozens of more temples including Wat Sa Si on an island in a small lake, next to a monument for king Ramkamhaeng, one of the prominent kings of the time. He created the Thai alphabet which is used to date, and laid the political, religious, and royal foundations.
Outside of the main part – one of the most beautiful, interesting attractions is Wat Si Chum in the northern part outside the wall. Here you’ll find the huge figure of Buddha sitting – Phra Achana – 15 meters tall and 11 meters high.
Please notice: every area requires separate admission fees ( at this time, some 100 baht per person ).
Moving around the park
The huge size of the historical park means that you’ll need a vehicle of some sort to explore it.
You can explore the main area by riding a bicycle, taking a tuktuk or a cute electric vehicle as you can see in the picture. You can rent a bicycle at the store by the entrance, and an electric vehicle in the park offices.
There’s also a tram traveling through the park, that you can join for 50 baht – getting on and off in several points along the route.
Special Events in the Park
Every Saturday night in the season features a colorful food market with music and various shows. The park also features special events, so you should check the happening schedule prior to your arrival. One of the holidays that is most fun to celebrate in Sukhothai is Loy Kratong. Just book your room in the area enough time in advance, as it’s hard to find available accommodations during the holiday.
Conclusion: the historical park offers a spectacular, exciting experience that takes visitors back in time, so they can explore the magical past of the kingdom of Siam. The beauty of the place and comfortable means of moving around makes the visit enjoyable even for kids and adults who aren’t interested in history.
The comparison between Sukhothai Historical Park and Ayutthaya sites is practically inevitable as both convey Thai legacy and culture. In my personal opinion, Sukhothai Park is more pleasant and enjoyable, easy to travel, and of course – it’s less toured and less crowded than the Ayutthaya area – which is visited daily by dozens of busses packed with tourists on their day trips from Bangkok.