Thailand’s first capital, Sukhothai, is a Unesco World Heritage site located in the lower north of the country. The ruins of more than 200 temples dot the landscape of this former kingdom, which flourished from the 13th to the 15th century. But Sukhothai is much more than just an archaeological site.
The charming old city of Sukhothai, with its tree-lined streets and quaint shops and cafes, has a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere that is a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. So if you are looking for the best things to do in Sukhothai, here is a list of the 20 attractions and activities.
Things To Do In Sukhothai
1. Stroll Around The Old City
The old city of Sukhothai is a great place just to wander around and explore. It’s relatively small, so you won’t get lost, and there are plenty of things to see and do.
One of the best things to do is rent a bike and cycle around the old city. This is a great way to get some exercise, and it’s also a lot of fun. You can take many different routes, but one option is to cycle around the periphery of the old city, which takes you to different temple sites. This will take you past some of the top attractions in Sukhothai, and it’s a great way to see the city.
If you’re not into cycling, then you can also walk around the old city. This is a great option if you want to take things at a slower pace and really soak up the atmosphere.
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2. Visit Wat Mahathat
One of the most popular things to do in Sukhothai is visiting Wat Mahathat, the main temple in the old city. The temple was built in the 14th century and is one of Thailand’s most important religious sites.
This temple complex covers an area of about four hectares, and it’s located in the center of the ancient city. It’s believed that it’s at this temple where the Budhaa relics were enshrined. The temple’s main feature is the large stupa (chedi) in the center, crowned by the tip of a lotus bud. Around it are 180 smaller stupas of different sizes.
Take your time to explore the different buildings and statues within the temple complex, as there’s a lot to see. The temple is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm, and admission is 100 Baht (about $3).
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3. Visit Wat Traphang Ngoen
Another temple that you’ll find in the central zone is Wat Traphang Ngoen. Also known as the “Monastery of the Silver Pond,” this small temple was once the venue for scholastic debates about Buddhism. It was built in the 14th century, making it one of the earliest temples in Sukhothai.
This temple is famous because of its beautiful chedi with a large buddha image in a Subduing Mara position. Mara is an evil demon in Buddhist mythology who tried to tempt Buddha away from his path to enlightenment. The ruins of the ordination hall are also on a separate island that is part of the same complex. However, it’s not possible to access the island, but you can get a good view of it from the main temple.
The best time to visit the temple is both at sunrise and sunset because the light casts a beautiful glow over the temple. This makes it one of the top attractions in Sukhothai for photographers and those who love to take beautiful pictures.
4. See Khmer Architecture at Wat Si Sawai
Wat Si Sawai is a must-see temple in Sukhothai because it’s quite different from all the others. This temple was originally built as a Hindu shrine in the Khmer style, with three prangs (towers) that are arranged in a U-shape. It’s believed to be the oldest temple in Sukhothai and was built in the 13th century before the Sukhothai Kingdom came into existence.
However, the temple was later converted into a Buddhist site in the 14th century, and a number of Buddhist images were added. Even though it’s been converted, various Hindu statues and Chinese porcelains have been excavated here and are now on display in the National Museum. So make sure you visit the museum to get an idea of what you’re looking at.
A visit to this temple is one of the best things to do in Sukhothai because it differs from all the others. It’s located southwest of Wat Mahathat and is easy to spot because of its three tall prangs.
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5. Admire the 15 Meters High Buddha Image at Wat Si Chum
Wat Sri Chum is famous for its enormous seated Buddha image that faces east, towards the rising sun. The image is 15 meters high, making it one of the largest in Thailand. It’s so big that its head actually protrudes from the temple building.
The body of the Buddha is in the meditation pose, and his right hand points down to earth while his left hand rests on his lap. The Buddha is so huge that you don’t need to go inside to see it. You can just view it from the outside. But once you’re inside, you can get a closer look and appreciate the scale of this huge image.
6. Wat Phra Pai Luang
Let’s now move on to explore Wat Phra Pai Luang, which is one of the oldest temples in Sukhothai. The temple is located in the northern zone of the old city and is believed to have been built at the end of the 12th century.
And as you can imagine, being one of the first temples in Sukhothai, Wat Phra Pai Luang has seen its share of changes and renovations over the centuries. Even though it has been renovated, the temple still has a very old and traditional feel to it. You can admire its beautiful stucco that adorns the outside walls, the steps leading up to the chedi, and the four remaining columns from wiharn.
Not many people visit this temple, which makes it a great place to get away from the crowds and enjoy its beauty in peace. So be sure to add it high on your list of things to see in Sukhothai when you visit.
7. Admire Wat Sorasak
It’s hard to miss Wat Sorasak as you walk around the old city because it’s one of the unique temples in Sukhothai. It’s located north of the center of the old city and was built in 1412, just when the Sukhothai Kingdom was beginning to decline.
The main feature of Wat Sorasak are the 24 well-curved elephant forequarters that surround the base of the main chedi. The chedi is in the Sri Lankan style and is quite small compared to some of the others in Sukhothai.
But what makes Wat Sorasak popular is the fact that it’s one of the few stupas that still has its elephants intact. I visited several stupas that originally had elephant statues, but most of them had been damaged over the years.
The environment around Wat Sorasak is very peaceful, and it’s a nice place to take a break from all the temple hopping. There are tall trees that provide shade where you can sit and relax.
8. Walk Around The Ruins At Si Satchanalai National Park
If you want to get away from the crowds at Sukhothai Historical Park, you should head to Si Satchanalai National Park, located about 1.5 hours from Sukhothai.
This national park is home to the ruins of the ancient city of Si Satchanalai, which was also an important center of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The ruins are spread out over an area of 45-square-meters, and they’re a lot less crowded than their counterpart in Sukhothai.
The most impressive ruins at this park is the Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, which is one of the biggest temples here. The temple is in a state of ruins, but you can still see its thick rock wall, a pillared pavilion, and a corn-cobbed-shaped prang. This park has more ruins, so you could easily spend a few hours exploring.
Si Satchanalai National Park is one of the Sukhothai attractions that tourists often overlook. So if you have the time, I recommend that you visit.
Admission to the park is 200 Baht (about $6) for foreign visitors.
9. Stroll Around Wat Sa Si
Wat Sa Si is a beautiful temple on an island in the middle of a lake. To reach it, you must walk across a narrow bridge connecting the island to the mainland.
The temple was built at the end of the 14th century and was used as an ordination hall for monks. Today, the monks still use part of it, and you can see them going about their daily activities. The main attraction here is the large Buddha statue that sits at the end of the rows of stone columns.
Every year on the 12th lunar month (November), there is a festival held at Wat Sa Si called Loy Kratong. The highlight of the festival is when the lake is filled with candlelit floats called kratongs. This makes for a very beautiful and atmospheric evening. Therefore, it’s definitely worth attending if you’re in the area at that time of year. After all, attending this event is one of the cool things to do in Sukhothai.
10. Learn About the History of Sukhothai at the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum
The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum is located in Sukhothai National park, and it’s dedicated to the history of the Sukhothai Kingdom. It houses many interesting artifacts excavated from the different temple sites within the park, thus giving you a greater understanding of the history and culture of Sukhothai.
The museum is spread over two floors and covers the history of the Sukhothai Kingdom from its beginnings in the 13th century right through to its decline and the eventual fall of the kingdom in the 15th century.
You can see displays of ceramic items, bronze Buddhas, stone carvings, and some interesting items used in daily life, such as pottery and utensils. The museum also has a garden filled with many large antique structures and stucco sculptures.
This national museum is one of the most important places to visit in Sukhothai if you want to understand the Sukhothai Kingdom. Admission for foreign visitors is 150 Baht (about $4).
11. Visit Wat Phra Bat Noi
Wat Phra Bat Noi is an interesting temple that is always missed by visitors. The temple is located over a forested hill on the southern side of the park. The temple was used as a meditation retreat by the monks. And that’s why it is located in a quiet and natural environment.
Although the statues that were found here are long gone, the temple ruins are still interesting to explore. The main chedi has four sides which are decorated with Hindu motifs. There’s not much else to see here, but it’s a nice temple to explore if you’re looking for something different.
12. Go On A Thai Cooking Course
It’s not just the temples that make Sukhothai a popular destination. The city is also well known for its food. And what better way to experience local food than to take a Thai cooking course?
There are several cooking schools in Sukhothai where you can learn how to cook some local dishes. The courses usually last for half a day, and you’ll get to cook 3 or 4 different dishes. And the best part is that you get to eat what you cook and take the recipes home with you.
I took a cooking course at the NAA Cooking School and really enjoyed it. The food was delicious, and I now have a new appreciation for Thai cuisine. Our chef was very friendly, and she made the whole experience fun.
Therefore, if you love food, taking a Thai cooking course should be on your list of the best things to do in Sukhothai. It’s a great activity to do with family or friends.
13. Saturday Night Market
Want to experience the real Thailand? Then you need to visit a night market to see how locals shop and eat. It’s also a great place to find souvenirs that are unique to the Sukhothai region.
The Saturday Night Market is the biggest and best in town, and it runs along the city center of New Sukhothai. You’ll find all sorts of things here, from delicious Thai food to handicrafts, clothes, and souvenirs. Most of the stalls are set up along the main street, but there are also some on the side streets.
Walking around, you’ll see locals and tourists alike browsing the stalls and bargaining for a good price. Although it can be a bit chaotic, it’s all part of the fun, and it’s a great way to experience the city. And before you leave, make sure you try some of the street food. There are all sorts of Thai dishes on offer, as well as grilled meats, Isaan food, and seafood.
The market is open every Saturday from 5 pm to 11 pm.
14. Help Rescued Animals at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary
As you are aware, Thailand has a bit of an issue with animal cruelty, particularly when it comes to elephants. Many elephants are kept in captivity and used for tourist activities such as riding and painting.
But some places are working to change this, and one of them is Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES). This sanctuary is located in a 540 acres reserve and is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about elephants and what’s being done to help them.
At BLES, you can learn about the elephants and see how they are being cared for. You can also help out with the feeding and bathing of the elephants. This is a great way to spend a day if you love animals and want to do something to help them.
And being one of the top places to visit in Sukhothai, BLES also offers some fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.
15. Explore Ramkhamhaeng National Park
Are you active and want to explore more of Sukhothai’s natural beauty? Then add Ramkhamhaeng National Park to your list of things to do in Sukhothai.
The park stretches over 341 square kilometers and is filled with mountains, forests, and streams. It’s a great place for hiking, and there are a number of different trails that you can follow. However, the most popular trail is the one leading to the park’s viewpoint.
The viewpoint is located 1,200 meters above sea level. And from here, you’ll have sweeping views over the Sukhothai Valley. The trail leading to the viewpoint is around 4 kilometers long. This is a challenging hike, but it’s definitely worth the effort as the views from the top are simply stunning.
Note that most of the hikers prefer camping overnight at the viewpoint. But, if you don’t fancy camping, then it’s possible to hike up and down in one day. Just make sure to start early so that you can enjoy your hike before making your way back down.
16. Enjoy The Culinary Delights Of Sukhothai
If you’re a foodie, you’ll love the culinary delights in Sukhothai. The city is famous for its Sukhothai noodles, a type of thin rice noodle served in a light broth with chicken, pork, or beef.
The noodles are usually topped with fried garlic, spring onions, and cilantro, and they come with a side of chili flakes and lime. You can find this delicious dish all over Sukhothai, but one of the best places to try it is Ta Puy Noodle Restaurant, which is located in Ban Kluai.
Another popular dish in Sukhothai is khao soi, a type of curry noodle served with chicken or beef. The soup is made with coconut milk and is usually quite spicy. You can find khao soi all over Thailand, but it tastes particularly good in Sukhothai.
There are many other delicious things to eat in Sukhothai, so make sure you try as many different dishes as you can. After all, part of the fun of traveling is trying new things and expanding your culinary horizons.
17. Get a Thai Massage
Ask any traveler what the best things to do in Thailand are, and I’m sure that getting a Thai massage will be on their list. So, if you want to experience a traditional Thai massage, Sukhothai is the place to do it.
The traditional Thai massage is quite different from the Western-style massage that you may be used to. It’s more of a full-body treatment where the therapist will stretch your muscles using their hands, elbows, knees, and feet.
You’ll usually be given loose-fitting clothing to wear during the massage and lying on a mat on the floor. Don’t worry if you’re not used to this. The therapist will make sure you’re comfortable.
A traditional Thai massage usually lasts for 1-2 hours and starts at around 500 Baht ($13). You can find Thai massage places all over Sukhothai.
18. Pamper Yourself at Legendha Sukhothai Historical Park Resort
It’s not always about temples when you travel. Sometimes, you just need to pamper yourself. So if you’re in Sukhothai and need some R&R (rest and relaxation), head to the Legendha Sukhothai Historical Park Resort.
This resort is just a short distance from the Sukhothai Historical Park, and it’s the perfect place to stay if you want to be close to all the action. The resort is landscaped in the Thai Village Concept, and it’s beautifully designed with an abundance of flowers, plants, and trees.
The resort offers a wide range of activities and facilities to enjoy, such as a swimming pool, a spa, and a tour desk. They also have a restaurant serving Thai and international cuisine. The rooms at the resort are spacious and comfortable, and they have all the modern amenities you need.
19. Enjoy The Local Nightlife
After a day of exploring the sights of Sukhothai, why not enjoy the local nightlife? There are a number of bars and nightclubs where you can relax with a drink, listen to music, and watch the world go by.
For foreign tourists, the best area to head is Chopper Bar, located on the main street that runs through the city. It’s a popular spot for tourists and gets busy most nights of the week. Another bar that’s worth checking out is Bar 64000, which is located near Chopper Bar. There are also a number of nightclubs in Sukhothai that you can visit and enjoy the music and dancing.
20. Mingle With Locals at Wat Traphang Thong Market
Want to experience a slice of local life in Sukhothai? Wat TraPhang Thong Market is the place to go. This market is located on the eastern exit of Wat Traphang Thong temple, and it’s the perfect place to stock up on supplies for your temple-hopping adventures.
You’ll find everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to souvenirs and snacks here. There are also a few street food vendors, so it’s a great place to grab a bite.
The market is open every day, and it’s a great place to mingle with the locals and get a feel for Sukhothai life. The sellers are usually quite friendly, and you can bargain for a better price on most things.
Sukhothai is a city full of history and culture, with many things to see and do. Therefore, it’s the perfect destination for those who love to learn about new cultures and explore ancient ruins. I hope this guide of the 20 best things to do in Sukhothai has given you some ideas and inspiration for your trip.