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The former capital city of the Siam Kingdom, Ayutthaya once reigned as the largest city in the world during the 17th century.
Founded in 1351, it was a vast and booming empire built on canals and navigated by a 140km web of waterways. An important trading port, it attracted wealthy foreign traders from all over the world.
Filled with grand palaces and majestic temples for Thai royalty, Ayutthaya retained its power for just over four centuries. In 1767, the Burmese invaded and ransacked the city, taking its riches along with thousands of prisoners back to Burma (Myanmar).
The city was abandoned and a new capital was formed in Bangkok, just 80km to the south of Ayutthaya.
Today, this once glorious city is filled with crumbling ruins curled up in the roots of jujube trees and intricate brick temples standing stubbornly in the peaceful, grassy fields.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, these archaeological treasures are now well-preserved, and it remains a living city and a place of worship. You'll see Buddha statues draped in saffron robes, monks offering blessings, and temples adorned in lotus flowers.
Walk among the atmospheric ruins and begin to imagine the city in its heyday grandeur, dripping with gilded temples and golden statues.
Take a guided tour to see the most impressive ruins including Wat Mahathat and Wat Phra Sri Sanphet.
Wat Mahathat is a complex of pagodas and Buddhist statues, and is most famously known for the large Buddha head entwined in the thick roots of a jujube tree.
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is the largest temple in Ayutthaya and part of a former royal Grand Palace. The temple features three huge chedis in a row, which are the symbol of Ayutthaya.
Visit Wat Phananchoengworawihan to see the oldest Buddha statue in Ayutthaya. This giant gilded statue stands at a massive 19 metres and is 700 years old.
You can also see a large reclining Buddha in Wat Buddhaisawan. The temple lies on the banks of the Chao Phraya river and is still in use as a place of worship.
After a day of exploring the ancient sites, take to the night markets to sample some local food or relax by the ancient trees and temples strewn around Rama Public Park.
One of the best ways to take in the brilliant sunset is with a tranquil cruise down the rivers of Ayutthaya.
The cooler, drier months of November to February are the best time to visit Ayutthaya. November and February are ideal for avoiding the large holiday crowds which arrive in December and January, however it is still peak season. March to June are sunny, dry months but also the hottest. As the temples of Ayutthaya require you to dress modestly, covering arms and legs, some visitors may prefer to avoid these sweltering months. The rainy season falls from July to October, and the heavy downpours may restrict sightseeing around the temples. The rains peak in September and begin to ease in October.
Visitors in December will get to see the Glorious of Ayutthaya Fair, an 10 day festival celebrating the historical significance of this ancient capital, with an opening ceremony to honour the founding King U-Thong. You can also see exhibitions, traditional markets, cultural performances and a spectacular Sound and Light Show at Wat Mahathat.
Located just 80km north of Bangkok, Ayutthaya is the perfect stopover before heading to the northern jungles of Thailand. Our suggested Thailand Heritage & Hill Tribes itinerary takes you on a day tour around the ancient sites, and you'll spend a night in this charming riverside city before moving on to the ruins of Sukhothai further north. We can customise any of our luxury Thailand holidays to feature a stop in this unique destination.
Set at the confluence of three great rivers, Ayutthaya features some gorgeous riverside accommodation options. At Wayfairer, we work with Sala Ayutthaya, a sleek, intimate hotel with views of the the river and the Wat Phutthaisawan. The hotel has a pool, art gallery and restaurant and bar by the river. Kantary Hotel Ayutthaya is another elegant luxury property with excellent amenities including a pool, sauna and limousine service.