Sukhothai: the Kingdom of the Rising Happiness

The first Thai Kingdom

The ancient city of Sukhothai is home to some of the most impressive temple ruins in Thailand. Located 400 km north of Bangkok, Sukhothai was the first capital of the Siam Kingdom. It marked the golden age of Thai civilization, back in the 13th century. Established around the year 1238 by the King Ramkhamhaeng, Sukhothai literally means “the rising happiness”.

sukhothai ruins
The breathtaking ruins of the Kingdom of the Rising Happiness

A UNESCO World Heritage

Likewise Ayutthaya, ancient Sukhothai became a National Historical Park, with numerous sites of historical interest. Its ruins and monuments are particularly remarkable and the province was designated a UNESCO World Heritage.

buddha images in Sukhothai
Hundreds of Buddha images spread in the Sukhothai National Historical Park

Reaching and visiting the Sukhothai National Historical Park

The National Historical Park lies 12km from the center. The best way to reach it from the new part of the city is by tuk-tuk. Once there, you can rent bikes to better explore the ruins (the site covers an area of 70 km). Another possibility is to hire a guide and explore the area by tuk-tuk.

You can rent bikes at the shops opposite to the entrance of the Historical Park. It is also possible to explore the park on foot, but you probably wouldn’t be able to see as much.

tuk-tuk Old Sukhothai
Tuk-tuk with which you can explore Old Sukhothai
tuk-tuk to Old Sukhothai
This is the tuk-tuk I took from New Sukhothai to the National Historical Park

Sukhothai National Historical Park

The park has 5 geographical zones, each of which has its entry fee (100 Baht in 2015). You can get free maps to visit the places at the ticket offices.

The Park includes the remains of 21 historical sites within the old walls. You can find an additional of 70 other sites within a 5km radius. The central zone is the main one and contains 11 temple ruins, amongst lakes, small islands, bridges and moats. It was an amazing experience to bike through the highly preserved temples and fascinating landscapes while imagining the Kings who dwelled there some 800 years ago.

temple in sukhothai
One of the most photogenic places I’ve been!

One of the most spectacular temples is Wat Mahathat, with a large Buddha sitting amongst huge pillars. The temple also has a central chedi flanked by two standing Buddha figures. The north zone is also definitely worth a visit, with remains of temples, buildings and gigantic Buddha images.

Because there are so many different temples in the area, it’s not worth mentioning and recommending each separately. For me, the best way to experience the area is to rent a bike and allow yourself to get lost exploring the seemingly endless extension of gardens, columns, Buddha figures, lakes and towers.

chedi in Sukhothai
One of hundreds of chedis in Old Sukhothai – each one singularly amazing!

New Sukhothai

New Sukhothai is not a particularly interesting town per se, but it’s a pleasant base from which to explore the National Park. With a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, the town offers excellent-value accommodation and good transport links. I stayed in an awesome little guesthouse, in a large private room with bathroom and double bed and breakfast included for U$ 13!

ruins of Sukhothai
Alluring and preserved, the ruins of Sukhothai are a must-see

Getting there and around

You can reach Sukhothai by train and bus. The trip takes around 7 hours from Bangkok and 4 hours from Chiang Mai.

When I arrived from Ayutthaya, I got really angry at the tuk-tuk drivers in the bus station. They were offering rides 5 times more expensive than what they should cost! Be aware, it is always good to know more or less how much a trip would cost, to avoid being so easily fooled! (Unfortunately I don’t have that information anymore, but I had checked on my guide and they were really overcharging).

pilars in sukhothai
A thousand pillars will make you feel small in Sukhothai

Ayutthaya or Sukhothai?

Can’t decide between Ayutthaya and Sukhothai? The same doubt tormented me and in the end decided to visit both in 4 days. If you have the time, I’d definitely recommend doing it, as they are different places. Even though Ayutthaya has a more interesting historical narrative, Sukhothai’s ancient city is better preserved and architecturally more alluring. If you have the time, visit both!

Buddha figure Sukhothai
Giant Buddhas everywhere


During this amazing trip, I had the most revealing insights in my life, and realized what I love doing the most. I wrote a book about finding love, happiness, self-knowledge and empowerment. You can read more about it here:

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