Sukhothai is one of the most important places in Thai history. As the first capital of the Kingdom of Siam beginning 800 years ago, it has important ruins and archeological sites. The ancient capital is a Unesco Heritage Site and is well worth visiting, even for those who don't ordinarily love temples and history.
Things to do in Sukhothai
Sukhothai Historical Park 1 to 2 day itinerary
Ride a bicycle through ancient ruins on a plain of tamarind and mango trees
Sukhothai weekend night market amid the ruins
An excellent market set amid the ruins of Sukhothai Historical Park
Visiting Ramkhamhaeng National Museum in Sukhothai
A nice museum with some beautiful artifacts, but the curation leaves something to be desired
Sukhothai is a province in the lower North of Thailand. The 13th Century Kingdom of Sukhothai is considered to be the first Kingdom of Siam, and the ruins of the ancient capital are the biggest draw for visitors to Sukhothai today. Seeing these ruins set on a flat plain covered in mango and tamarind trees is a great experience and we really recommend it to any travelers who have the time.
Unless you’re a young backpacker just here to party, we recommend seeing either Sukhothai or the later Kingdom of Ayutthaya in Ayutthaya Province to get a sense of Thai history. If you don’t have time during your visit, this can definitely be skipped – it’s not quite the equivalent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but it really is a nice place to visit so make the time if you can.
Sukhothai is located an hour west of the main north-south train line in Phitsanulok, and an hour east of the main north-south highway in Tak. Sukhothai Province is about two thirds of the way to Chiang Mai when traveling from Bangkok.
By bus – Buses to Sukhothai leave regularly from Chiang Mai going south, and from Mochit Northern Bus Terminal in Bangkok. From Bangkok, the journey takes six to seven hours. From the bus station in Sukhothai, you can take a shared songthaew (truck with two rows of benches in the back) toward accommodation in the old city or take a private taxi or tuk-tuk. There is also decent accommodation next to the bus station.
By plane – Bangkok Airways flies direct from Bangkok Suvarnhabumi (BKK) to Sukhothai. You can usually find a cheaper option by flying to Phitsanulok first. From Bangkok Don Meuang (DMK) Air Asia and Nok Air offer a fly and ride option that includes a minibus direct to Sukhothai from the airport, and back again if you go the other way. This is very convenient as the bus waits for the flight even if it’s late. Thai Lion Air also flies to Phitsanulok but currently does not offer transfer service.
By train –
Trains from Bangkok and Chiang Mai stop in Phitsanulok. From there you can take a tuk-tuk to the bus station and then a bus one hour to Sukhothai.
Where to stay
We find our accommodation on Booking.com by first searching for the town or province and our dates, we then filter out any rooms with a score lower than 7 or 8 (depending on availability) as well as any rooms out of our budget. After this, we open the map and hover over all of the pins in the rough location we already decided we want to stay in. Hovering over the pins gives us the price for x nights plus the review score. We click on each pin to open those hotels in a new tab, review them and book our favorite.
Sukhothai is divided between the old city and the new. Most tourists visiting for the historical ruins won’t have much reason to visit the new city. There’s nothing too special about it and it’s similar to most small to mid-sized Northern Thai cities. Still visiting places like this can be quite fun and open you up to experiences most other tourists miss.
By bicycle – if you stay near the old city, you can get pretty much everywhere you need to go by bicycle which you can rent at almost any hotel and guesthouse.
By tuk-tuk – Tuk-tuks are easy to find and can get you around anywhere you need to go. Make sure to always agree on a price before you get in.
By shared songthaew – There is a shared songthaew that makes regular trips between the old city and the bus station from morning until evening.
By motorbike – It’s easy to find motorbikes for rent at hotels in Sukhothai. There aren’t any hills in the city, but we still only recommend you ride if you have a bit of experience.
What to do
Sukhothai Historical Park – This is definitely the main attraction here and it’s absolutely worth seeing. The park is divided into five zones and a museum, and each of these has its own separate admission fee of 100 baht (150 for the museum). For most people, we recommend seeing two of the zones. Read more in our Sukhothai recommended itinerary.
Ramkhamhaeng National Park – A nice national park not far out of the city with camping, some trekking, and waterfalls in the rainy season.
Si Satchanalai Historical Park – This is another ancient city from the Sukhothai period and it’s nearly as big and impressive as the Sukhothai Historical Park but with way fewer visitors.
What to eat
Sukhothai is most famous for Sukhothai noodles. We had a pretty damn good bowl at Jae Hair Sukhothai Noodle.
Fitness & gym
B Fitness in the new city is a decent gym with good day rates. They open at 3pm every day.
From Sukhothai, most travelers continue north to Chiang Mai, or south to Bangkok, but the city is fairly centrally located and you can get buses to any nearby provinces from here. Nature lovers can head west into the wilds of Tak Province.