10 Unmissable Ayutthaya Temples: An Itinerary You’ll Want to Steal

Ayutthaya was hot. Brutally hot. The sort of heat that rapidly sapped your energy, reducing you to a damp, slowly moving shadow of your usual self.

Even the locals were also wilting. This included Ayutthaya’s notoriously territorial dogs who were too hot to raise a sleepy eyelid, let alone a cautionary growl.

Most people visit Thailand’s ancient capital as a hurried day trip from Bangkok. With the mercury hitting the mid-30s, for this reason alone I was glad that I had decided to stay in Ayutthaya for two nights and see what the city had to offer at a more relaxed pace.

Ayutthaya is a friendly, laid-back city and It’s very easy to put together a DIY tour. And staying overnight allows you to soak up the atmosphere of the city when the day-trippers have got back on their coaches.

You can also see the temples illuminated at night, fit in a massage and visit Ayutthaya’s great night market. To help you make the most of your time exploring Thailand’s ancient roots here’s my tried and tested itinerary that visits the best Ayutthaya temples.

buddha head in overgrown tree roots at one of the ayutthaya temples

Some articles on this website contain affiliate links. This means that I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read the full disclosure here.


The UNESCO World Heritage site of Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s archaeological gems

Awash with Buddhist temples and monasteries, this former Thai capital is rich in historical treasures. Ayutthaya is most famous for being the location of the much-photographed Buddha head entwined in the roots of a banyan tree.

It was founded in 1350 by Ramathibodi, Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese kingdom after Sukhothai. It flourished for over 400 years until it was attacked by the Burmese, who razed it to the ground. The city fell in 1767.

Most of the palaces at Ayutthaya were built with wood and did not survive the fires that devastated the city. But these fires spared its brick and stone temples, with their Sri Lankan and Khmer architectural styles.

bottom half of stone buddha statues strewn with flowers

How Many Days Do You Need in Ayutthaya?

With a little planning, it’s entirely feasible to visit Ayutthaya as a day trip from Bangkok. However, this will be a long and tiring day, made worse by the heat and humidity.

If at all possible, I urge you to spend at least one night there. Not only will you be able to visit Ayutthaya’s temples in a more relaxed fashion, but it will also allow you to take a river cruise and visit one of the night markets.

How I Visited Ayutthaya

As I stayed two nights in Ayutthaya, I could spread my temple-hopping over a day and a half:

DAY ONE TEMPLES (HALF-DAY)

  • Wat Phra Mahathat
  • Wat Ratchaburana

DAY TWO TEMPLES

  • Wat Phra Ram
  • Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bopit
  • Wat Phra Si Sanphet
  • Wat Na Phra Men
  • Wat Tha Ka Rong
  • Wat Phanan Choeng
  • Wat Phuttai Sawan
  • Wat Chai Watthanaram

I travelled by train from Hua Lamphong station, on the northern edge of Bangkok’s Chinatown area. Long distance trains moved to the shiny new station at Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal in 2023.

man walking across platform in train station in bangkok
Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station

Although ticket prices vary according to the type of train, they are very cheap (in 2019, my one-way third-class ticket cost a mere 15 THB). There is no need to book a ticket in advance; just turn up at the station and buy a ticket for the next train at the counter.

If you would like to check the times, here is the train timetable for services between Bangkok and Ayutthaya.  Although Ayutthaya is only 80km or so from the temples of Bangkok, the train journey took 1 hr and 30 minutes.

Ayutthaya is built on an island and the train station sits just across the river from this island.

I jumped in a tuk-tuk from the station. There will be tuk-tuk drivers queuing up for your custom. Expect to haggle.

Visiting Ayutthaya Temples: Essential Information + Map

To help you on your way, here’s a map with the temples included in this Ayutthaya itinerary. Day one temples are indicated in red; day two temples are in purple.

For an interactive map, click here or on the image itself.

atutthaya temple map
Temples of Ayutthaya. Map data @ Google 2023

The major temples in Ayutthaya have a modest entrance fee which you pay at the temple entrance. Active temples are usually free to enter.

If you are visiting several temples, you are better off buying a temple pass. These six main temples of Ayutthaya are included in this pass:

  • Wat Phra Mahathat
  • Wat Ratchaburana
  • Wat Phra Ram
  • Wat Phra Si Sanphet
  • Wat Chai Watthanaram
  • Wat Mayehong

Depending on the source, there will be variations in the spelling of these temples, but you should be able to figure it out.

ayutthaya-temple-pass
Ayutthaya Temple Pass: The Golden Ticket

Four of the six main temples are located on the island:
– Wat Phra Mahathat
– Wat Ratchaburana
– Wat Phra Ram
– Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Chai Watthanaram and Wat Mayehong are off the island. Pick up a free temple map at your hotel or guesthouse or download a map of Ayutthaya Historical Park here.

The temples off the island are best visited by tuk-tuk, boat or bike. Don’t underestimate the distances between temples.

A fun way of visiting the temples is on a guided bike tour.

Ayutthaya 6-hour guided bike tour | CLICK HERE TO BOOK

Ayutthaya 3-hour guided bike tour | CLICK HERE TO BOOK

Dress code for visiting the temples in Ayutthaya

As these are current or former temples, dress respectfully. For women, this means no short shorts or skirts and covering your shoulders.

As you will need to remove your shoes to enter the temples, it makes sense to wear shoes that you can slip on and off easily and bring some wet wipes to clean your feet.

Ayutthaya Itinerary: Day 1 (Afternoon Only)

If you aim to arrive in Ayutthaya by lunchtime, you will have the rest of the day to explore its temples.

My advice is to pick accommodation within easy walking distance of Ayutthaya’s Historical Park, as this is where Ayutthaya’s main temples are located.

Wat Phra Mahathat

Wat Phra Mahathat is the superstar of Ayutthaya’s temples, its overgrown, faded splendour the epitome of the ancient capital’s former grandeur. Built to house the remains of the Buddha, Wat Phra Mahathat is achingly beautiful in a romantic, crumbling way.

head of buddha with ruined temple buildings in background

There are dozens of red brick spires, leaning at precarious angles, vegetation sprouting through the brickwork. Scattered throughout the complex are countless headless Buddhas, seemingly discarded. 

Don’t miss the serene Buddha head cradled in the loving embrace of the roots of a Bodhi tree, reminiscent of Ta Promh in Cambodia.

Wat Ratchaburana

On the opposite side of the road to Wat Phra Mahathat is the towering monastery of Wat Ratchaburana.

This was built in 1424 by King Boromraja II on the ground where his two elder brothers, Ai and Yi, were killed in elephant-back combat. This left the way open for Boromraja to succeed to the throne.

temple spires in ayutthaya thailand

By way of contrast to the red brick of Wat Phra Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana’s white towers soar upwards, their restored stuccowork providing a glimpse of the temple’s former splendour.

Ayutthaya Itinerary: Day 2

MORNING TEMPLE HOPPING

Day two of your Ayutthaya itinerary picks up where you left off the previous evening, continuing your visit to the temples in Ayutthaya’s Historical Park.

I recommend making an early start to see the sights before the heat of the afternoon, and to get a head-start on the day trippers from Bangkok.  

Wat Phra Ram

Built in the late 14th Century on the site of Ramathibodi’s cremation, Wat Phra Ram is slightly underwhelming. However, there are occasional glimpses of its past grandeur through the remaining stuccowork on the prang (temple spire).

Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bopit

Cross over the road from Wat Phra Ram to visit Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bopit.

This modern complex was built in 1956 to house one of Thailand’s largest Buddhas with assistance from the Burmese to atone for flattening Ayutthaya two hundred years earlier. Standing a proud 12.45 m high, this bronze Buddha with its flashing mother-of-pearl eyes is encircled by smaller Buddhas lightly cased in gold leaf, which flutters and sparkles in the breeze.

golden buddha

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Adjacent to Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bopit is Wat Phra Si Sanphet, which was built in 1448 as a private chapel.

The site is well-preserved and the three grey chedis, constructed to house the ashes of kings, are an iconic image of Ayutthaya.

series of temple spires in ayutthaya thailand

From Wat Phra Si Sanphet, take a tuk-tuk to visit the next two temples. After a bit of haggling, this cost me 300 baht with waiting time and a return trip back to my guesthouse.


Wat Na Phra Men

Used by the Burmese as their main base during their siege of Ayutthaya, Wat Na Phra Men is the only temple that survived the devastation of 1767. However, because of frequent refurbishment, it looks disappointingly new.

Wat Tha Ka Rong

Now for something completely different: Buddha goes to Las Vegas!

This temple is a complete contrast to the graceful Ayutthaya temples of the previous day. I half expected to see slot machines around the next corner.

glitzy shrine in temple in ayutthaya

Wat Tha Ka Rong’s sprawling complex features motion-activated skeletons and mannequins greeting you with a wai and asking for a donation.

animatronic statue of skeleton in suit at ayutthaya temple
animatronic statue of woman at ayutthaya temple

It was now lunchtime and very hot! I took advantage of access to the swimming pool at the sister guesthouse and treated myself to a Thai massage. Suitably chilled, I was now ready to continue temple hopping.


AFTERNOON BOAT TOUR

A late-afternoon boat trip is a perfect way to visit Ayutthaya’s riverside temples in a relaxed way. You also get to see more of the city and benefit from a cooling breeze. Just avoid sitting towards the rear of the boat unless you have ear defenders!

Arranged through my guesthouse, this two-hour boat trip cost 220 baht which included a tuk-tuk transfer from my guesthouse but excluded temple admission fees and return transfer.  

Wat Phanan Choeng

Built in 1324, Wat Phanan Choeng predates the founding of Ayutthaya and is famed for its 18-meter-high golden Buddha, Thailand’s largest ancient image. Legend has it that tears flowed from its eyes when Ayutthaya was ravaged by the Burmese.

golden buddha statue

Don’t leave Wat Phanan Choeng before checking out the beautiful murals adorning the walls of the two smaller chambers in front of the main one housing the Buddha image.

Wat Phuttai Sawan

Built in 1353, this monastery was built alongside the royal residence and was one of the first temples built in Ayutthaya.

reclining buddha seen through window of ruined temple in ayutthaya thailand

Wat Chai Watthanaram

Wat Chai Watthanaram was built in 1640 by King Pra-Sat Thong as a memorial to his mother. Considered one of Thailand’s most significant monuments, is magnificently restored and a must-see on any Ayutthaya itinerary.

A 35-meter central prang is flanked by four smaller prangs, which are in turn surrounded by eight merus, structures used as crematoria. Look out for remnants of the paintings that decorated the interior walls of the merus. Fragments of the Buddha statues that graced these merus can also still be seen.

headless buddhas lining passageway in temple in ayutthaya

Watching the sunset behind Wat Chai Watthanaram was a fitting end to my Ayutthaya itinerary.

ayutthaya temple spires at sunset

Organised Day Tours to Ayutthaya

Although it’s relatively straightforward to visit Ayutthaya’s temples independently from Bangkok, if you are short on time or just prefer to have someone do the organising for you, several tour companies operate day excursions.

When I’m away, my platform of choice to book day tours is GetYourGuide as it usually has a wide choice and has generous cancellation terms (usually free to cancel within 24 hours of your scheduled excursion).

Here are a few highly-rated tours that should fit the bill.

Ayutthaya full-day trip from Bangkok with cruise and lunch

Travel to Ayutthaya from Bangkok by air-conditioned van or bus and benefit from the services of a guide. All entrance fees, lunch and a river cruise are included in this very affordable excursion.

>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

Ayutthaya full-day trip from Bangkok with lunch

This option is cheaper still but does not include a river cruise.

>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

Ayutthaya & Ayothaya floating market day trip

Combine a visit to Ayutthaya’s temples with the Ayothaya floating market. Includes a long-tail boat ride.

>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

large headless stone buddha at dusk

Where to Stay in Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is not exactly a destination for flashpackers. You won’t find much in the way of top-end hotels or fine dining.

But that doesn’t matter. I stayed in one of my favourite places in many years of travelling and dined out well at the night market. 

I stayed at the Prom Tong Mansion which was exceptional. It has an excellent location – a ten-minute walk from the main night market – and Jeeda, who runs the guesthouse on behalf of her family, could not do enough for me. When I was leaving, she sent me on my way with a small souvenir and some Oreos for the journey.

>>> FIND OUT MORE

Here are a few other places to stay in Ayutthaya that I have found to suit other tastes:

Q Zone Boutique House

This air-conditioned hotel is close to the temples at Ayutthaya Historical Park and has garnered great reviews. There’s an on-site restaurant and free bikes are available.

>>> CHECK RATES & BOOK

Pan Din Boutique

Another highly rated budget option close less than a mile from Ayutthaya Historical Park

>>> CHECK RATES & BOOK

>>> None of these places take your fancy? Find other great accommodation choices in Ayutthaya.

weathered stone buddha head against an old wall

Solo Travel in Thailand

Thailand is easily one of the best solo destinations in Asia. And it’s no surprise that surveys of solo travellers report that it is one of the favourite countries in the world to travel alone, especially for those travelling alone for the first time.

It is very budget-friendly. Transport is cheap and there is plenty of accommodation to suit all budgets, from a thriving hostel scene and guesthouses like this one to high-end hotels (take a peek at the Santhiya Koh Yao Ya Resort).

With its well-trodden tourist path and excellent infrastructure, there should be no difficulty in meeting fellow travellers and getting around. 


Ready to visit Ayutthaya’s temples?

Ayutthaya is a superb addition to your Thailand itinerary.

Its UNESCO-listed temples provide a window into the glories of the country’s former capital and the town itself is friendly and relaxed. Furthermore, it’s an easy journey from Bangkok.

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.