Sukhothai: land of the jaw-dropping photo op!
If you’re stuck in a dreary office finding your gaze drifting out of the window and looking forward to all the colourful, vivid photos you’ll be able to take when you next go on holiday, Thailand offers the perfect combination of stunning sights and bright colours wherever you turn. One place in particular which never fails to offer up a powerful landscape to snap away at is Sukhothai. If jaw-dropping photo opportunities are one of the main incentives when you plan a holiday, the ancient capital of the Thai empire is for you.
Founded in 1238 by King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, who also created the Thai alphabet, Sukhothai was the capital of the Thai Empire for an estimated 140 years around the time of the 13th century, and its splendour lives on in the spectacular ruins of its great temples.
The name of the place itself means “dawn of happiness” in Sanskrit, and the wealth of beautiful sights on offer is certainly a cause for joy for all the tourists who visit. The historic town was in fact designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991 in recognition of the quantity of treasures to be found here.
There are up to 45km of ruins in the classic Thai style to explore, the vistas set to the backdrop of peaceful hills. The iconic sight at Sukhothai is the lotus-bud chedi with conical spire, of which there is a vast selection here in the park. The entire area is exceptionally well-maintained and it is a pleasure to take your time exploring all four corners.
One of the best ways to do so is on a bicycle, which you can rent right alongside the main entrance. There is a big area to explore in the park and pedalling your way through is a great way to take as much of it in as possible. There is also a guided tour by electric tram which will take you through all the most picturesque photo opportunities to be found in the park.
On the subject of photo ops, one that is not to be missed is the sunrise: if you can, head to the park for daybreak to see the Buddhas illuminated by the orange glow of the morning sun.
The town of Old Sukhothai itself has few hotels, so many bed down instead in New Sukhothai or the nearby town of Phitsanulok, which has multiple hotels and places to eat and is easily accessible on the rail line between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. If you can, plan your visit around November to February when the weather is a bit cooler and more manageable.
Despite how popular the area is amongst tourists who come to Thailand, the size of the area covered by interesting architectural history is so expansive that you can still enjoy great parts of it to yourself. This ancient capital is also conveniently reachable via an express train from the current Thai capital, Bangkok. For dazzling photos unspoilt by tourists wandering into shot, Sukhothai national park is perfect!