The iconic Buddha head in the Banyon tree, temples, ruins and more. This guide gives recommendations on the top four temples to see on a day out exploring in Ayutthaya Historic Park.
Getting There: located in central Ayutthaya it’s easy to walk to this historic park or to hire a bicycle for ฿50 to get between all the temples quickly.
Costs: admission fees range from free to ฿50.
Suggested Time: start early and aim to get to Wat Mahathat by 8am when the crowds are thinner and you’ll be able to get decent photos with no one standing in the shot.
The Historic Park – Wat Mahathat is a great way to start off a day of exploring in Ayutthaya. Wat Mahathat translates to ‘Temple of the Great Relic’ and is mainly in ruins after the Burmese ransacked the city in 1767. The main site that people come to see within this park is the Buddha head ensconced in a Banyon tree. It’s believed that thieves stole the head of the Buddha and to escape detection hid it in the base of the tree, over many years the tree’s roots have grown around the head creating a living cast.
You can easily spend an hour or two wandering around the ruins of the temple and imagining this city as it once was in its grandeur. The base of the temple, which is all that really remains, gives a good impression of just how big this temple once was. It would have been an incredible site when it stood in all its glory.
Wat Ratchabarana is another royal temple commissioned by Chao Sam Phaya in the late 13th Century. When you walk in you’ll see a huge assembly hall which leads to an enormous prang. Passing through the assembly hall you’ll reach the domineering prang surrounded on each 4 corners with bell shaped stupas, the central prang can be climbed to explore the views across the city and the inside of the temple.
Once inside the temple I felt a little bit like Tomb Raider, as the only person in the temple I wasn’t entirely sure I should be there. Not to worry you are allowed into the temple where you can descend a large set of steep stairs into the center. Here you’ll find wall paintings dating back to the 15th Century and despite the temple being looted in the mid 20th Century the paintings are still remarkably intact. The paintings reflect images from the Buddha’s life and were commissioned by the King in honor of his two brothers who killed each other in an elephant dual on the site upon which it was built.
Wat Phra Ram is the third place I’d recommend you check out in Ayutthaya Historical Park. It is not the most popular temple which makes it all the more reason to visit. The leafy grounds are tranquil and the temple itself is impressive. You’ll find a central prang, surrounded by a vast ruins with hundreds of Buddha statues in various states of deterioration. The views from the top of the temple are lovely and you’ll only need 30 minutes to an hour to explore the site.
I’d recommend that the final stop of the day be Wat Phra Si Sanphat. This temple is known for its 3 iconic Chedis that are extremely photo worthy in the late afternoon light. These 3 Chedis house the remains of King Borommatrailokanat and his two sons and are the highlight of the final temple of the day.
There are many other temples within this historical park, I picked my favorite four to share with you as it took me most of a day to explore all of these. If you’re on a day trip from Bangkok then these are the 4 you’ll want to hit but if you have a few days in Ayutthaya it’s well worth exploring some of the smaller temples and definitely check out our post on temples outside of the historic park.