In a nutshell
Sukhothai is a must see if you are going to Thailand. Teeming with history, it has been made a premier UNESCO world heritage destination.
Why go to Sukhothai
This ancient city was the capital back in the 13th century and the name translates as “the dawn of happiness” with the place being very popular with tourists nowadays. Ruins of ancient temples and monasteries are spread out over Old Sukhothai in different zones which are recognized by the UNESCO as the World Heritage Site and are known as Sukhothai Historical Park.
We loved wondering around beautiful Sukhothai historical park, taking in the gorgeous sights, which will certainly impress the historians, architects and travel enthusiast alike.
The Sukhothai Historical Park is certainly the number 1 thing to see but there are also many other things to see and do in the city and beyond. There are a number of activities as well like trekking, cycling, taking cooking course and checking out the markets.
The city has a new part and an old part. The former, New Sukhothai, is larger is the capital of the province. However, both parts have a decent amount of accommodation as well as a number of restaurants and nightlife options, so you won’t be disappointed with whichever one you take.
When to go to Sukhothai
We visited Sukhothai a number of times in different seasons. Most probably, the most comfortable time weather-wise was in December and we advise for you to go between November and February because during this time it’s at its’ coldest. When we say coldest, we were still happily walking around in light garments including summer dresses, t-shirts, shorts and flip flops.
Tip However, if you decide to go around December and January just make sure you book in advance to avoid the soaring prices. Prices do go up during Christmas and New Year period and the possibility of a lot of hotels and guesthouses being fully booked is real.
April and May is the hottest time to visit, but do not be scared off by this fact: our first time in Sukhothai was in May and we did a lot of walking around without suffering too much from the heat.
If you go around September and October time, be sure to pack a light raincoat as there will be a higher chance of rain at that time.
Where to stay in Sukhothai
The excellent thing about Sukhothai is that there is a great range of accommodation available in either part of the city.
New Sukhothai has a lot of competitive places and therefore has seen the prices drop and has been cited as one of the cheapest areas to stay in all of the country.
The Old City has the larger number of luxury and top quality places, so it really depends on what you are looking for in terms of price and quality. Whenever we spoke to other tourists, most people only had good things to say about the places that stayed in which is always a positive.
Where to eat in Sukhothai
Both parts of the city have good eating options from cheap places at the markets and food courts up to brand spanking new restaurants.
One of the speciality dishes that you will find here is kuay tiao sukhothia, which is Sukhothai noodles and it brings together rice noodles, long beans, lime juice and crushed peanuts. You will find this dish all over the place. Another dish to look out for is pat thai sukhothai, which is the local version of the famous Thai specialty.
How to get around in Sukhothai
There are various ways of getting around the city and if you are into cycling then this will certainly be your cheapest option. Bicycles can be rented for THB50-70 a day and there are a good amount of places to pick from though beware the ruins are around 12km from the city.
However, once in your area of choice, be it the Old City or New Sukhothai, you can easily walk around it.
A step up would be to rent a motorbike with many places offering this service and prices start around THB150. If you are visiting during the hottest months, it can be a good idea to rely on this option, though note that you cannot enter the historical zone with your motorbike: you either walk in or rent a bicycle at the gates.
Another cheap option is songthaews, which should cost around THB20-30 from the new part and THB10 from the old to the ruins. There are also tuk-tuks; these ones hang around most popular hotels and guesthouses offering a variety of tours. Expect to pay around THB600 if hiring it for the whole day to tour the ruins.
How to get in and out of Sukhothai
The airport is 30km north of city and Bangkok Airways serve Sukhothai and Bangkok with a couple of flights daily. Flying time is around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Another way is to fly to/from Phitsanulok Airport, which is 65km east of the new city with AirAsia and Nok Air offering daily ‘fly and ride’ tickets and connect up with Don Muang Airport in Bangkok (55 minutes).
From Phitsanulok you can get the bus to Sukhothai and that takes an hour. The bus terminal in Sukhothai is a few km northwest from the new city and it connects up with: Bangkok (7-8 hours, THD250-310), Chiang Mai (6 hrs, THB200-400), Chiang Rai (7-8 hrs, THB250), Kamphaeng Phet (1.5 hrs, THB65), Khon Kaen (6-7 hrs, THB200-350), Mae Sot (3-4 hrs, THB180), Nan (7 hrs, THB180), Phitsanulok (1 hr, THB40), Tak (1.5 hrs, THB50).
There are also private hires available like taxis and van services but these can be expensive and expect to pay around THB1000 to Kamphaeng Phet or Phitsanulok and around THB4000-5000 to Chiang Mai. Renting your own bike could be another option depending on your previous location.
Is Sukhothai safe?
As far as we knew we hadn’t heard of anything that was of concern in terms of safety. Like anywhere, just make sure you keep an eye on belongings, don’t flash any valuable items and avoid walking down dimly-lit roads.