If the name Sukhothai rings a bell, it’s probably due to Sukhothai Historical Park, the main reason why most people visit the small city in northern Thailand.
While most people only stay here for a day or two on the way up north to Chiang Mai, you can easily spend up to 3 days exploring the grounds of the Historical Park. That’s before even thinking about what else there is to do in Sukhothai.
Although the Historical Park is the main attraction, Sukhothai is also a chance to escape from the busy backpacker trail. You can venture into expansive national parks, explore the city by bike or just soak up the city’s culture.
Sukhothai literally translates to dawn of happiness, need we say more?
To make the most of your time in the city of happiness, we’ve put together some of our favourite things to do in Sukhothai.
Don’t have time to read the whole article? Here’s some of our favourite tours of Sukhothai:
Here’s a quick run-down on the history of Sukhothai. This ancient city, now frozen in time within the Historical Park, was once the capital of Northern Thailand in the 13th and 14th century. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it now covers 70km² of grounds that house around 200 temples.
Sukhothai Historical Park
The park comprises of 5 different sections, with the central part, which is the most popular, located within the city walls.
To cover the distance, you could walk, or even better hire a bicycle for just 30 baht a day! You can find the bicycle rental shop just outside the main entrance gates.
Like most good things in life, they don’t come for free. Entrance into each of the sections costs 100 baht, plus an extra 10 baht if you’re on a bike. If you’re on a budget, you might want to prioritise certain areas.
To help you to do that, here’s some of our favourite temples that you need to see:
Wat Mahathat (central zone)
You’ll see Wat Mahatat on almost every list of temples to visit in Sukhothai and that’s for good reason.
The temple itself is impressive, spectacular and breathtaking. Words don’t really do it justice, but cast against the mountainous backdrop, you can’t help but be in awe.
You’ll be able to spot this temple by the iconic seated Buddha, two 9 metre tall standing Buddhas surrounded by a number of stupas and chedis.
Wat Sa Si (central zone)
If you had to visualise what peace and tranquility looked like, Wat Sa Si would be pretty close. Surrounded by ponds and lush greenery, you’ll have to enter this temple via a small footbridge, as if transporting you to a new world.
You could easily spend the whole day soaking up the peacefulness that exudes from the Buddha that takes pride of place.
Wat Si Chum (north zone)
As you approach Wat Si Chum, you’ll see the face of a Buddha peering through the gaps in the outer walls.
Inside you’ll find the largest Buddha image, named Phra Achana, in Sukhothai. It’s 15 meters tall and 11 meters wide, so pretty big!
Consider a guided tour to get the most value out of your visit to the park
Sukhothai Historical Park is steeped in history, which often gets untold if you’re not accompanied by a guide. To really appreciate the ancient city you can embark on a 7-hour bike tour, which is a great way to see the Historical Park if you only have one day to explore.
If you’d rather DIY, you can check the itinerary and do the route yourself! This way you will only pay for the park entrances and the bike rental, but remember that you’ll miss the stories and history from the guide, which often makes the tour so memorable.
Whilst you’re not likely to spend hours walking around Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, it does add another layer of detail to what you will have seen in the Historical Park.
As you wander through the museum you’ll come across artifacts that were discovered by archaeologists from around Sukhothai. This includes objects like statues, jewellery, weapons and ceramics.
The museum opens at 9am and closes quite early at 4pm and entry costs 150 baht for tourists.
#3 Take on a challenging hike at Ramkhamhaeng National Park
Situated about 45 minutes southeast of Sukhothai’s new city you’ll find Ramkhamhaeng National Park, filled with thriving plants, wildlife and a couple of waterfalls.
One waterfall that’s worth a visit is Sai Rung, also known as rainbow waterfall due to the way the cascading water reflects the sunlight. The waterfall has 4 levels for you to explore, reaching up to 1,200 meters.
If you’re up for a bit more adventure, why not take on the challenge of hiking to the summit of Khao Luang, 1,200 meters above sea level. The trail up is only 4km, but don’t let this deceive you. The short distance means the hike is very, very steep, with inclines up to 70 degrees!
Up for the adventure? Here are the basics you need to know!
The hike can be done in one day, equating to about an 8-hour round-trip. Alternatively, you can camp near the summit for just 225 baht, which includes a tent. It’s also important to note that the rangers won’t let you begin the hike after 1:30pm, so make sure to set off in the morning.
On your way up, you can make stops to the bat cave or the iconic tree that spawns hundreds of roots above ground. A nice place for a well deserved snack!
Once you reach the top, as well as being treated to spectacular views of Thailand’s countryside, the overwhelming feeling of pride and achievement is almost as good as the view.
Don’t worry though, if you just prefer a leisurely stroll, there’s plenty of other trails to explore within the park.
Entrance to the park is 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for kids. To get to the national park you can hire a songthaew for around 1,000 baht return, or hire your own motorbike.
#4 Take a bike tour to the frequently missed parts of Sukhothai
Riding a bike doesn’t have to just be restricted to when you’re exploring Sukhothai Historical Park, it’s also a great way to see the city and its surrounding areas.
Why not join a Full Day Countryside Tour to discover a part of Sukhothai that’s often missed. The tour takes you on an agricultural experience through green fields and quaint villages, before stopping at the local market and enjoying some lunch.
You’ll also get the opportunity to visit a traditional village where you can learn about the local production of smoked fish and rice whisky as well as other things.
For this 7-hour tour, including lunch and snacks, the price is 990 baht for an adult. Just make sure to select the country side tour instead of the Sukhothai Historic Park tour! (also a great tour, but that’s already been covered in activity #1)
Also known as the ‘city of good people’, this is a much quieter alternative to Sukhothai. You’ll be able to admire the works of art without being disturbed by lots of other tourists, something that’s hard to do nowadays.
It may be quieter, but that by no means suggests that Si Satchanalai isn’t as impressive. This Historical Park still offers a collection of impressive and intricate temples that you’ll want to spend hours looking at.
Again, exploring on a bike adds another element of fun to the adventure, so why not hire a bike? Entrance fee to the park is 100 baht, plus an extra 10 baht if you do decide on using a bike.
#6 Spend your Saturday evening at the night market
As there isn’t much nightlife in Sukhothai, what better place to spend your Saturday night than at the night market?
You’ll find it located on Nikorn Kasem Road, but you’ll probably smell it before you actually see it. The 500m stretch of stalls are crammed with street vendors selling deliciously cheap food. From perfectly barbequed meats, fresh seafood, spicy salads to desserts and smoothies to finish off the meal.
The locals flood to this market every Saturday which pretty much says that you should too!
The market opens at 5pm and closes around 9pm.
#7 Try delicious Sukhothai noodles
You can’t really come to Sukhothai and not try noodles that literally have the name of the place you’re in, in their name too!
You’ll find this dish on most restaurants’ menus and being cooked fresh in front of your eyes at the night market. You really have no excuse not to try some.
The dish can be eaten dry or as a soup and includes elements like noodles, green beans, ground peanuts, pork and various sliced vegetables. All of which are combined in a sauce that is truly a contrast between sweet and savoury.
#8 Sample what nightlife Sukhothai has to offer
Sukhothai is not the place to party. If that’s what you’re after, then Bangkok or Phuket is the answer to your party city.
Although there isn’t much on offer, there are still a few gems where you can spend the night chatting to other travellers and having one too many.
Our top 3 bars to check out are Choppers Bar for cheap cocktails before heading across the road to Bar 64000, or Fong Bear to see where the young locals hang out.
If you want to go out-out, you can follow the locals to Club 64 or In Black, which are a bit further outside of the town.