Perhaps the best and most popular day trip from Bangkok, Ayutthaya is definitely among the top places to visit in Thailand. Once one of the richest and most famous cities in the unknown, faraway East, this ancient Siamese Kingdom attracts thousands of travellers every year, keen on discovering the best temples to visit in Ayutthaya.
However, and though the city’s proximity to the insanely popular Thai capital of Bangkok is undoubtedly a tremendous asset, it also means most visitors only end up spending 1 day here. As such, it is important to plan ahead and know beforehand what you’re up against, as the city’s excruciating heat and large distances can make your mission of visiting the temples of Ayutthaya a difficult and pretty uncomfortable one.
If you need help crafting your itinerary and picking out the best temples in Ayutthaya, then keep reading and discover how to make the most of your visit!
HOW TO GET TO AYUTTHAYA FROM BANGKOK
Only 80km separate Bangkok from Ayutthaya and it’s fairly easy to find ways to commute between the two cities. Although hopping on a bus or taking the train are the most popular solutions, you may also take a cab or join a private tour if you have money to spare or fancy a more comfortable alternative. In our case, we switched-on our early riser mode and took a morning bus after a long walk to the station.
BUS FROM BANGKOK TO AYUTTHAYA
There are currently 2 bus stations in Bangkok where you can find local companies running the distance between the cities: the Makkasan Bus Station (12Go Transport AYU) and the Mochit New Van Terminal (Win 91). Although none of them are located near the historic centre, both have metro or skytrain stations nearby, though the Mochit Terminal is a bit trickier to find. Regardless of the company you choose, the trip between Bangkok and Ayutthaya will take about 2h with ticket prices ranging between 4€ and 7€.
We bought our tickets in advance with 12GoAsia, so you might want to consider this option if you’d also prefer to take care of things before arriving in Bangkok.
TRAIN FROM BANGKOK TO AYUTTHAYA
If you want to do things as low-cost as possible, then nothing will come cheaper than taking the train (except for walking of course!). In fact, with tickets for lower classes available for as little as 15 bahts (around 0,44€), it’s impossible to find yourself a better deal!
Trains heading to Ayutthaya leave from Hua Lamphong, Bangkok’s main railway station, with the average journey taking anywhere between 75 and 120 minutes, depending on the train you board. Needless to say, tickets are a bit more expensive on quicker trains.
Although it is apparently possible to book train tickets online with the State Railway of Thailand, the company’s website is extremely laggy and unstable, which is why we don’t recommend using it. You’ll be better off checking the train schedules online and buying the tickets directly at the station.
AYUTTHAYA DAY TRIP FROM BANGKOK PRIVATE TOURS
Finally, if you want to pass on the hassle of booking bus or train tickets, there are many companies that will be happy to arrange your private transportation and guide you through the best temples to visit in Ayutthaya:
- From Bangkok: Ayutthaya Day Tour by Bus & Boat
- Ancient Ayutthaya Day Trip with Private Driver from Bangkok
MOVING AROUND IN AYUTTHAYA
There’s really no way around it. No matter how fit you think you are, there is no way a mere mortal can walk between all the different Ayutthaya temples! The distances between the ancient sights are huge, the temples have plenty to see and explore and – to top it all off – the heat can honestly feel close to unbearable at times. That being said, and before you can even decide which temples to visit in Ayutthaya, it is important to know how to move around in the city.
HIRING A TUK TUK DRIVER
This is the most common solution. In fact, as soon as you set foot in Ayutthaya you’ll be approached by dozens of tuk-tuk drivers offering their services… it may not be the warmest welcome you’ve ever witnessed but at least you’ll be helping local families! Plus, it’s not like there’s a better or more convenient alternative anyway!
For this specific itinerary, keep in mind you will need the tuk-tuk driver to accompany you for about 4 to 6h (depending on how thoroughly you want to explore the sites), so we recommend that you pre-establish an hourly rate. The fair price should average around 200 to 250฿ (baht)/hour, so don’t be afraid to haggle upon the driver’s first offer. Haggling is a way of life in Southeast Asia, so you are expected to play the game!
If the guy does a really good job, feel free to tip him. You might even end up paying what he had initially asked for, but no hard feelings – 5€ can make a difference in many Thai people’s lives.
RENTING A BIKE
The other option might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s getting more and more popular with visitors. If you arrive in Ayutthaya by train, you’ll notice lots of shops around the railway station offering bike rentals for the day. The main roads leading to the most famous temples in Ayutthaya are actually in pretty decent condition, and the traffic here is not as hectic as in other neighbouring cities. However, expect the scorching temperatures to definitely put up a challenge!
On the other hand, you can rent a bike for as little as 50฿/hour (and up to 100), which means this is most certainly the cheapest way to temple-hop around Ayutthaya.
THE 6 BEST TEMPLES TO VISIT IN AYUTTHAYA
Although there are dozens of sites scattered around the city, one must always consider time constraints when planning for a visit. We ended up seeing 6 different temples around Ayutthaya, in a particularly busy day trip from Bangkok which lasted about 4 hours (plus bus trips). Trust us – you’ll be begging for a bed and an AC after you’re finished!
Keep in mind each temple has its own admission fee and that you must buy the tickets directly at the booth before entering the compound. That being said, the prices charged are mostly symbolic (50 baht or 1,50€ tops) so don’t worry about having your bank broken because of these!
As a final (yet very important) note, expect tuk-tuk drivers to try to push one of the pre-established temple routes on you. These routes do not cover all of the sites included in this post, so make sure to print out a map of the Ayutthaya temples you want to visit and show it to your driver. He won’t probably be too happy as he’ll need to drive longer distances, so don’t forget to lay this out on the table before negotiating the hourly rate.
WAT YAI CHAI MONGKOL
One thing’s for sure, if you ever googled anything about Ayutthaya, chances are that you’ve probably come across images of this iconic local temple. Personally, it was one of my absolute favourites! I couldn’t help but falling for the picture-perfect Buddha statues partially covered with yellow drapes, or for the imposing staircase leading to the massive building as the introspective sounds of gongs echoed through the silent crowds. It is quite absorbing, and definitely one of the best temples to visit in Ayutthaya!
Entrance Fee: 20 ฿
Yeah, good luck trying to pronounce that! Translated as “the Temple of long reign and glorious era” (I kind of prefer the Thai name now…), it remains one of the biggest and most imposing temples of Ayutthaya, standing magnificently by the shores of the quiet Chao Phraya river. The cool thing about this temple is how massive and spread out it is compared to its counterparts, allowing you to roam freely through the countless stupas and statues, climb staircases and take in the views of the riverfront.
Entrance Fee: 50 ฿
WAT LOKAYA SUTHA
Although not much remains of this ancient site, its giant reclined statue of the Buddah is clearly the highlight, and the reason why so many people visit. Although you’ll find many local communities surrounding the temple and its statue, the atmosphere is one of calmness. As we approached the site, an old lady tried to sell us flowers to offer as a tribute to the statue’s deity. Of course we knew she would pick up the bouquet and sell it to the next tourist as soon as we turned our backs on her, but 0,50€ don’t really make a difference for western visitors such as ourselves. Plus, if Buddah does exist, I couldn’t think of a better tribute than helping someone in need. Even if it’s just a tiny gesture.
Entrance Fee: FREE
Next on our list of the best temples to visit in Ayutthaya, it’s time to introduce you to the most iconic of the lot: the insanely popular Wat Mahathat! Visitors from all around the globe queue up just to take a picture with the famous Buddah head, a piece of a decaying ancient statue that somehow got embedded into the roots of a near-by tree. Nature kept running its course and the tree eventually grew around the carved head, creating this seemingly magical sight that would end up becoming one of the greatest tourist attractions in all of Thailand!
Entrance Fee: 50 ฿
By now, Ayutthaya was getting unbearably hot, and the lack of any shades (or breeze) around Wat Ratchaburana was making it pretty difficult to explore. Still, there’s no denying how magnificent this sacred complex is, built around a huge Khmer-style spire reminiscent of the world-famous Angkor Temples! In fact, you can even climb the staircase leading to the top of the “tower” and enjoy the nice views over the surrounding areas.
Entrance Fee: 50 ฿
WAT PHRA SI SANPHET
Undoubtedly one of the best temples to visit in Ayutthaya, we cap off our list with what was once the holiest place in the entire city, and the site where the old wooden Royal Palace once stood. Famous for its three massive stupas (or Chedis) where the ashes of several former Thai Kings have been kept for centuries, the Wat Phra Si Sanphet holds a special place in Thailand’s collective memory. Unlike museums and palaces in Europe, where everything is well-guarded and kept safe behind locked doors and glass cases, this is a place where you are truly free to touch and feel all the history around you.
Entrance Fee: 50 ฿
TIPS FOR VISITING THE TEMPLES OF AYUTTHAYA – THINGS TO KNOW
1.Plan ahead which temples to visit in Ayutthaya. One day will not be enough to see all of the city ancient sites, so do some research in order to find out exactly what you want to see and do.
2. Ayutthaya Temples Dress Code. Although the policy isn’t particularly strict, these are still Buddhist temples, which means legs and shoulders must be covered.
3. Don’t forget your sunscreen. Haven’t I mentioned how hot Ayutthaya is? Unless you want to end up looking like a lobster, this one should not be skipped!
4. Interact with the locals. People all across Southeast Asia tend to be particularly welcoming and hospitable, so the citizens of Ayutthaya are no exception! In fact, we came across a school field trip when visiting Wat Phra Si Sanphet and ended up chatting and taking selfies with pretty much all the students!
5. Don’t be the idiot who rides elephants. Yeah, unfortunately you’ll find this type of tourist too when visiting Ayutthaya. Although this is a common practice all over Asia, remember it’s up to us (tourists/visitors) not to feed this business. No demand will eventually lead to no supply.
Overall, Ayutthaya will stand as one of our favourite places in Thailand. Its temples are just mind-boggling and oddly not too crowded, often making you feel like you have the whole place to yourself. In fact, we liked it so much that I would dare picking Ayutthaya over the Angkor Temples in Siem Reap! Roaming through the most famous temples in Ayutthaya will make you feel like Indiana freakin’ Jones – which is why I can’t recommend it enough!
How about you? Do you agree these are the best temples to visit in Ayutthaya? Or are there any other alternatives worth checking? Let us know on the comments below!