- Introduction to Ayutthaya
- Overview of Ayutthaya
- History of Ayutthaya
- The significance of Ayutthaya as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Getting to Ayutthaya
- Traveling by bus
- Traveling by train
- Traveling by car
- Traveling by boat
- Attractions in Ayutthaya
- Visit the Ayutthaya Historical Park
- Tour of the Ayutthaya temples
- Boat tour around Ayutthaya Island
- Visit to the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace & Royal Kraal
- Gastronomy in Ayutthaya
- Traditional Thai Cuisine
- Street food in Ayutthaya
- Fine dining options
- Seafood in Ayutthaya
- Accommodation in Ayutthaya
- Budget accommodation options
- Mid-range accommodation options
- Luxury accommodation options
- Unique or traditional accommodation options
- Tips and Recommendations when in Ayutthaya
- Best time to visit Ayutthaya
- Cultural norms and etiquettes to follow
- Local transportation in Ayutthaya
- Safety protocols for tourists
- Suggested Itineraries for Ayutthaya
- One-day itinerary
- Two-day itinerary
- Three-day and longer itineraries
- Recommended tours and packages in Ayutthaya
Introduction to Ayutthaya
Overview of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya, located north of Bangkok, encapsulates Thailand's rich history and culture. As a former capital of Thailand, it's home to archaeological ruins, ornate temples, and Buddha statues, indicative of its splendid past. The city was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, making it essential for history buffs and culture seekers. Amidst the historical landmarks, Ayutthaya also comprises marketplaces and restaurants providing a taste of local flavors. One might say Ayutthaya is a place where the past breathes life into the present. It promises an authentic Thai experience dipped in heritage and enchanting traditions.
History of Ayutthaya
Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya or the "City of Temples," was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. This flourishing city became one of the world's largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a center of global diplomacy and commerce. However, in 1767, the city was besieged and decimated by the Burmese, leading to its eventual decline. The ruins of this once magnificent city now form the Ayutthaya Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site bursting with archeological wonders and captivating stories of its majestic past.
The significance of Ayutthaya as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Ayutthaya holds immense global significance for its exceptional historical value, reflected in its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city, founded in 1350, was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom and thrived as a global center of diplomacy and commerce for over 400 years. Visitors are drawn to Ayutthaya's historical park, filled with preserved ruins showcasing the splendor of the city's past. The site is a testament to the kingdom's advanced political, religious, and social systems. UNESCO recognition has encouraged preservation efforts, ensuring Ayutthaya's profound historical legacy continues to inspire future generations.
Getting to Ayutthaya
Traveling by bus
Buses to Ayutthaya leave regularly from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit). The journey takes up to two hours and the fare is minimal, making this an economical choice. Always check the departure times as they can fluctuate depending on the time of year. Tickets can be purchased directly at the terminal. However, to avoid language misunderstandings or getting on the wrong bus, buy tickets from reliable tour companies. Most importantly, remember that traffic in Thailand can be unpredictable so allow extra time when planning your trip. Once in Ayutthaya, local tuk-tuks or motorbike taxis can shuttle you to your destination.
Traveling by train
Trains to Ayutthaya depart frequently from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Train Station. The ride typically takes about 1.5-2 hours, depending on the type of service selected. Second and third class seats are available, with tickets costing under 100 Baht. Trains offer a scenic, cozy route, and you'll disembark at Ayutthaya Railway Station located in the city center. Do buy tickets in advance during peak tourist season. A tour to Ayutthaya Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is offered by most hotels once you arrive.
Traveling by car
Traveling to Ayutthaya by car is a convenient option. The city is located about 80 kilometers north of Bangkok, and the journey typically takes around 1 to 1.5 hours depending on traffic. You can easily hire a taxi or private car. If you prefer more adventure, consider renting a car and driving yourself. Take the route via Highway 1 and 32 for a smooth trip. Please ensure your driver is familiar with Ayutthaya's traffic rules, and remember that Thai people drive on the left. Also, consider reserving parking space at your hotel in advance.
Traveling by boat
Traveling to Ayutahaya by boat provides an engaging way to appreciate Thailand's stunning landscapes. You can take a regular passenger boat from multiple points in Bangkok, such as the central pier. The journey typically takes around 2 hours, though can vary depending on weather conditions. Boat services generally operate from morning until late evening, but schedules should be confirmed. Alternatively, you can hire a private longtail boat for a more exclusive trip. Either way, don't forget to bring your camera for capturing Ayutthaya's scenic river approach.
Attractions in Ayutthaya
Visit the Ayutthaya Historical Park
The Ayutthaya Historical Park, considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit. Sprawled across the island of Ayutthaya, it's home to glorious ancient ruins that echo the city’s imperial past, exhibiting Thai craftsmanship of bygone centuries. The ruins of palaces, Buddhist temples, statues and other structures reveal a sophisticated society that thrived from the 14th to 18th centuries. Rent a bicycle or hire a tuk-tuk to explore, immerse yourself in the rich history and capture evocative photographs. Remember to dress modestly as the park is considered a sacred site. Come early or late in the day to avoid the crowds.
Tour of the Ayutthaya temples
Explore Ayutthaya's historic temples with various tours available. The city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is renowned for its ruined temples, offering a glimpse into Thailand's rich Buddhist heritage. Wat Chaiwatthanaram and Wat Mahathat are must-visits. Start early to avoid the crowd. Biking is a popular mode of transport, where you'll ride along the historical park dotted with ruins. Opt for a guided tour to delve into the city's history. The river cruise shows you another perspective of Ayutthaya, winding past temples and village life. Ensure it includes a sunset view over Ayutthaya's silhouette, an unforgettable sight.
Boat tour around Ayutthaya Island
Step away from the crowded streets and embark on a boat tour around Ayutthaya Island. Explore archaeological sites, traditional markets, and rural life scenes that this historical city has to offer from a unique vantage point. The serene waters offer a peaceful escape from city hustle and provide a different perspective to Ayutthaya's stunning ruins scattered across the island. Don't forget to catch the sunset against the ancient cityscape – an unforgettable and picturesque end of the day.
Visit to the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace & Royal Kraal
Explore Thailand's rich heritage at the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace & Royal Kraal. Here, you can observe noble elephants within palace grounds, offering an authentic glimpse into how these majestic creatures were trained for ceremonial and war purposes. The royal kraal, once a playground for kings, offers a unique peek into ancient Thai culture. Visitors can appreciate the skill and care involved in elephant handling. Don't miss the opportunity to feed them or participate in a river bathing ritual. This captivating encounter with history and wildlife is a must-visit when in Ayutthaya.
Gastronomy in Ayutthaya
Traditional Thai Cuisine
In Ayutthaya, traditional Thai cuisine offers savory blends of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. Common ingredients include jasmine rice, coconut milk, fresh herbs, seafood, and meats. Try local staples like Pad Thai, Tom Yum, and Green Curry. Fruit plays a significant role in desserts; try mango with sticky rice, and refreshing coconut sorbet being favorites. Local street food booths are perfect pit stops to sample a variety of dishes. Embrace the gastronomic journey at riverside restaurants, where you can enjoy delicacies coupled with a historic view. Ayutthaya's traditional cuisine is a delight worth exploring.
Street food in Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya is a haven for street food enthusiasts. Known for an eclectic mix of sweet, salty, and spicy delicacies, the town's side streets teem with food stalls offering tantalizing dishes. Visitors must try roti sai mai (cotton candy wrapped in thin pancakes), and guay teow rhua (boat noodles). Another specialty is freshwater shrimp cooked in spicy, tangy flavors. If you have a sweet tooth, opt for Khanom Mo Kaeng, a sweet Thai custard dessert. Coupled with the historical backdrop of Ayutthaya, the street food experience in this ancient city is indeed memorable.
Fine dining options
Ayutthaya is home to several fine dining options that are certain to satiate even the most sophisticated palate. Salapao Ko Uan and Summer House are two notable establishments infamous for their delicate fusion of traditional Thai and contemporary cuisine, promoting a unique gastronomic experience. The former, Salapao Ko Uan, is a riverside restaurant that offers a serene dining atmosphere with a view, while Summer House boasts its bespoke ambiance and is often frequented by discerning connoisseurs. The comprehensive menus offer local specialties and international favorites prepared by accomplished chefs to higher standards ensuring a memorable gastronomic journey.
Seafood in Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya, being surrounded by rivers, provides a bounty of fresh seafood, prepared in a traditional Thai manner. Key dishes feature prawns, crabs, clams, and a variety of fish, often draped in tantalizingly spicy sauces with signature Thai herbs. Unique specialties include Pla Pao (grilled fish with lemongrass), Hoi Tod (crispy oyster pancake), and Tom Yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup). Street vendors and riverside restaurants serve these delights, combining exquisite flavors with captivating views. Indulging in Ayutthaya’s seafood is not just a culinary journey, but it’s also a culture immersion that shouldn’t be missed during the visit to this historical city.
Accommodation in Ayutthaya
Budget accommodation options
Ayutthaya offers plenty of budget accommodation options catering to backpackers and frugal travelers. Affordable guesthouses and small hotels peppered across the city allow visitors to enjoy a comfortable stay without breaking the bank. The local joints, such as Ayothaya Riverside House and Tony's Place Beds & Breakfast, offer minimalistic yet clean rooms. They often provide services like free wi-fi and bike rentals. Staying in dormitory-style hostels, such as Goodmorning by Tamarind and Sunny Hostel Ayutthaya, is another wallet-friendly option that fosters a vibrant community atmosphere among travelers.
Mid-range accommodation options
Ayutthaya offers a number of mid-range accommodations that provide comfort and convenience without breaking the bank. The likes of Krungsri River Hotel and Baan Thai House boast stunning river views and traditional Thai architecture, offering a truly immersive experience. These hotels usually feature amenities like pools, spas, and onsite restaurants serving delectable Thai cuisine. For more intimate accommodation, consider a stay at the Sala Ayutthaya, a boutique hotel that features serene riverfront views. Regardless of where you choose to stay, Ayutthaya's rich history and culture is never far away.
Luxury accommodation options
Ayutthaya offers a few luxury accommodation options for travelers seeking a lavish stay. Sala Ayutthaya is an upscale boutique hotel featuring elegant rooms, fine-dining restaurant, pool and panoramic views of the historical Phutthaisawan Temple. Alternatively, Iudia on the River Hotel provides a blend of comfort and luxury with its distinctively decorated suites overlooking the scenic Chao Phraya River. It is ideal for a tranquil getaway. Both establishments offer excellent services to ensure a memorable stay.
Unique or traditional accommodation options
Immerse fully in the rich Thai tradition by staying at Baan Luang Harn. The traditional teakwood house offers a unique homestay experience with warm Thai hospitality. Its proximity to historical sites will deeply satisfy lovers of history and culture. Another unique option is the Ayutthaya Boat and Travel, a houseboat accommodation on the Chao Phraya River. Experience the life on the river away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Waking up to stunning water vistas is truly a unique experience. Whether it’s quaint charm or distinctive setting, Ayutthaya's traditional and unique stays strive to make your visit unforgettable.
Tips and Recommendations when in Ayutthaya
Best time to visit Ayutthaya
The ideal time to visit Ayutthaya is during the cool months from November to February. During this time, the weather is pleasant with average temperatures between 20-25°C, making it perfect to explore the outdoor attractions. However, if you want to avoid the tourist rush, opt for the months of March to October. Despite the heat and rains, you can enjoy a quieter visit to the historical sites. Keep in mind that some travel might be disrupted during the peak rainy months of September and October.
Cultural norms and etiquettes to follow
In Ayutthaya, respect for elders and monks is a significant part of Thai culture. Dress conservatively when visiting temples and always remove your shoes before entering. Avoid touching people on the head or pointing with your foot as it's considered disrespectful. Don't display public affection and be mindful of maintaining a polite demeanor. Also, always use your right hand when exchanging money or objects as the left hand is considered impure. Remember to lower your body slightly when walking between two people, this gesture signifies respect and is appreciated by the locals.
Local transportation in Ayutthaya
Getting around Ayutthaya can be quite exciting! Rent a bicycle for an authentic experience and eco-friendly option. A myriad of bike rentals around the city offer hourly or daily rates. If pedaling isn't your cup of tea, try the local tuk tuks or hire a songthaew. These are affordable and allow you to explore the city at your own pace. Remember to agree on a price before your journey to avoid haggling later. For travel between islands, use the local ferry service. It's quick, cheap and offers stunning river views. Happy Exploring!
Safety protocols for tourists
In Ayutthaya, the safety of tourists is generally not a concern. However, it is recommended to be cautious of pickpockets, especially in crowded markets and tourist hotspots. Also, keep a copy of your passport and other travel documents in a safe place. Respect the local customs and rules, especially when visiting temples and historic sites. Dress conservatively, removing your shoes before entering religious grounds. Avoid touching or climbing on the ancient ruins to prevent damage. Lastly, always stay hydrated, apply sunblock, and have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies. Be wary of local fauna, particularly monkeys, as they can be unpredictable.
Suggested Itineraries for Ayutthaya
Commence your day at the Ayutthaya Historical Park, which boasts of the UNESCO World Heritage ruins. You’ll explore Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, and Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the three key temples. In the afternoon, relish some local Thai delicacies and head towards Wat Chaiwatthanaram. End the day at Ayutthaya Floating Market for unique local shopping and food experience. Remember, Ayutthaya's heat can be brutal; stay hydrated and carry a hat or an umbrella.
Start your two-day tour at the Ayutthaya Historical Park, home to temples and statues displaying the city's rich history. Explore Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Mahathat. Enjoy a scenic boat ride along the old royal highway in the evening. On your second day, visit Bang Pa-In for its luxurious royal summer palace. Finish your Ayutthaya adventure at Wat Chaiwatthanaram with a memorable sunset, rounding off a perfect cultural journey through Thailand's ancient capital. Energize the evening with feasting on riverside seafood.
Three-day and longer itineraries
Explore Ayutthaya's UNESCO heritage sites in the first two days, from Wat Ratchaburana's ancient ruins to Ayutthaya Historical Park's iconic Buddha head in tree roots. Be sure to visit Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Phra Mahathat too. On day three, you might wish to venture out to the Ayothaya Floating Market, bustling with vendors and traditional Thai food. If time allows, wrap up your Ayutthaya experience with a sunset river cruise. Longer stays can also include excursions to nearby provinces like Suphanburi or Lopburi.
Recommended tours and packages in Ayutthaya
Opt for a full-day Ayutthaya Historical Park tour which provides guided exploration to UNESCO World Heritage sites, like Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Chaiwatthanaram. These guided tours often include convenient transportation from Bangkok and a traditional Thai lunch. River and canal cruises offer another angle to explore Ayutthaya, including visits to local markets, temples and the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace. For a luxurious experience, book a private tour package that includes cultural shows, Bangkok transfers and expert guides.
Have a good trip!