Ayutthaya – the former capital of what became Thailand – is one of the most popular day trips from Bangkok. I initially wanted to catch a train and visit it by myself. I changed my mind at the last minute and joined a day tour. My experience should help you choose the best Ayutthaya day trip itinerary and the best tour.
Responsible Travel Tip: Some tours in Ayutthaya offer to ride an elephant. It’s obvious that their place isn’t among the cars and tuk-tuks, but the situation is worse than that. Elephants used for rides are not well-treated. They have been abused to be turned into submission. This isn’t a practice that should be encouraged for tourism. Read this for more information.
Things to know before your day trip to Ayutthaya
There is almost no information about the sites in Ayutthaya.
I bet most Europeans, Australians and Americans had never heard of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya before planning their Bangkok itinerary. Many just end up there because it’s listed as one of the best day trips from the Thai capital and a great place to visit in Thailand. Well, that’s at least my story.
And if you go to Ayutthaya by yourself without a guided tour, don’t expect to learn a lot more about it. Hence, I highly recommend reading about it beforehand, so you better understand what you’re looking at. You may even want to bring notes about the different ruins and temples. Your experience will be a lot more interesting.
I’ll quickly summarise the history of Ayutthaya for you.
Ayutthaya was founded in 1350, on an island between three rivers. For more than 400 years, it was the capital of the Siamese kingdom – now called Thailand but also called Ayutthaya kingdom at that time. In the 17th century, it was one of the world’s largest cities.
The Burmese army (Burma is now known as Myanmar) destroyed the city of Ayutthaya in the 18th century which ended the four-century-old Siamese kingdom. But the Burmese military couldn’t stay because of the Chinese invasion. The Siamese Kingdom was restored, with the city of Ayutthaya in ruins. They moved the capital to Bangkok – still along the Chao Phraya river.
Each building you visit when wandering around the ruins of Ayutthaya has its own story.
If you don’t have time to prepare your Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok, join a tour.
Visiting Ayutthaya by yourself isn’t straightforward. If you’re going there for just a day trip, you will need to select in advance what you want to see.
Don’t expect to walk around the ruins from one building to another. There are many ruins and temples in the area – a lot more than I imagined. So you don’t want to spend too much time going from one to another when you’re just there for the day. Plus, you’ll already be walking a lot while visiting the ruins.
I initially planned to go to Ayutthaya by myself by train from Hua Lamphong (Bangkok train station). Once in Ayutthaya, I had planned to hire a tuk-tuk for the day. Hiring bikes is also an option if you’re brave enough to cycle in the heat. I had all the info I needed to make this trip happen. But I felt unwell the night before. So I went for an easier and more comfortable option where I wouldn’t have to think or make any efforts. It seemed wiser to travel with aircon and English speaking people. At the last minute, I booked a day trip from Bangkok to visit Ayutthaya, and they picked me up a few hours later, in the early morning, in front of my hotel.
I usually prefer to do things my way and not follow a schedule when I’m travelling. Luckily, the format wasn’t too bad: the guide would give us an introduction about the site and then we all had time by ourselves to discover it at our own pace. I just regretted the number of people and the guide’s poor communication skills.
After the itinerary, I’ll share some tips to choose the best Ayutthaya day tour.
An Ayutthaya day trip itinerary
It’s not possible to see all the places in Ayutthaya during a one-day visit. But I found one day was enough as it’s quite tiring and a bit repetitive. However, it is a headache to pick the best places to visit.
With the tour, we stayed about 50-minutes at each of these places:
1. Wat Phukhao Thong
The area was under renovations, but the high white chedi was finished and open for visitors. I felt that the renovations and the perfect white make the building look brand new and remove the ancient charms. The views from up there were quite good. Plan this one early in the day to avoid the heat as you climb up. It’s quite far away from the other ruins, so I wouldn’t have picked it for my itinerary.
2. Wat Lokaya Sutha
The 37-metre long and 8-meter high reclining Buddha is impressive. There are ruins of a monastery’s floors, walls and pillars behind it.
3. Wat Worachettharam
The tour didn’t stop there. But I noticed Wat Worachettharam from the car as we were driving to Wat Lokaya Sutha. It wasn’t far to walk to, so I managed to squeeze it in. I loved contemplating the beautiful seated Buddha in front of a bell-shaped chedi all by myself.
4. Wat Phra Mahathat
I only knew it for the Buddha’s head in the banyan tree (which is a funny sight but I don’t get all the fuss around it). The beauty of the ruins surprised me. Of all the places I visited during my Ayutthaya day trip, Wat Phra Mahathat was my favourite.
5. Wat Phra Si Sanphet
It’s the largest temple in Ayutthaya, and the three chedis are impressive.
6. Wat Mongkhon Bophit
Wat Mongkhon Bophit is at the same place as Wat Phra Si Sanphet. There’s a large Buddha image in this temple.
7. Bang Pa-In Royal Palace (Summer Palace)
This stop wasn’t in Ayutthaya. I would have prefered to add one more site in Ayutthaya than this Palace. It’s a relaxing place to visit, but I found its historical and architectural interests limited compared to Ayutthaya. I didn’t connect with the place. Not much was happening.
The palace was initially constructed in 1632. But most of the buildings remaining were built at the end of the 19th century.
I had on my list other places that my Ayutthaya tour didn’t include.
Unfortunately, as I booked a tour at the very last minute, I didn’t find one to match my dream itinerary and didn’t visit:
- Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon | I couldn’t believe the tour wouldn’t stop at this one as it looks to me like one of the must-sees when in Ayutthaya. It was the first one on my list after seeing images of its beautiful reclining Buddha, its large chedi, and its row of Buddha images.
- Wat Chaiwatthanaram | I was told many prangs and statues are still intact there. But if I could have visited it, I may have opted for a boat tour as the photos taken from the river look stunning. But I love looking at the details too, so I’m sure I’d have walked there just after. At least, I’ve kept something exciting to do if I ever go back to Ayutthaya.
- Wat Ratchaburana | From Wat Phra Mahathat, I could see the beautiful prang (tower) in the distance. Some statues there are remarkably well-preserved, and I’d have been interested in seeing them.
- Sunset boat tour | This one may not have been possible if I had organised my own day tour from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. I am unsure at what time the last train leaves, but I wouldn’t have taken any risks to get stuck for the night. I didn’t find a day trip tour from Bangkok that included a sunset boat tour. Maybe it’s a sign that staying overnight in Ayutthaya* is worth it!
The best tour to Ayutthaya
The best tour to Ayutthaya is the one that will meet your needs and expectations.
That’s a bit of an obvious statement, but that’s my way of saying that there is not one best Ayutthaya tour. It depends on what your priorities are. If you have the budget, the best tour is a private one that you can tailor to your needs.
If you’re travelling on a budget, please learn from my experience.
I’ve listed below a list of questions to ask yourself (or the tour operator) to compare and find the best tour for you. When you know what you’re looking for, you can find a myriad of tours to Ayutthaya on these platforms (list non-exhaustive):
- TakeMeTour* | I booked another tour from Bangkok* through them (not to Ayutthaya) and had a wonderful time. I highly recommend booking through this platform: they advocate for ethical and sustainable tourism. Most tours are limited to your group only, which is a fantastic way to discover a destination. Unfortunately, because I was doing a very last-minute booking, I couldn’t use this platform for my Ayutthaya tour.
- Viator* | I booked my Ayutthaya tour* with them and it didn’t meet my expectations (three times more people than indicated, guide with poor skills, contact details provided were in Hong Kong). Viator has many other tours to Ayutthaya* on offer and as they took my feedback seriously, I’d use them again if needed. But, avoid this particular tour, unless you need one at the last minute. It was the only one I found that I could book late on the night before.
- GetYourGuide* | I haven’t used their services so I cannot comment but they have a good offer.
- Klook* | They are very active in Bangkok but I haven’t heard a lot about the quality of their tours so I cannot comment.
There are many ways to visit Ayutthaya, and that’s why I advise considering transport before even the itinerary and the size of the group.
It takes about two hours to go from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. The vehicle in which you’ll be driven from Bangkok to Ayutthaya is the first thing to consider.
Joining your guide in his or her private car is the most comfortable way to travel to Ayutthaya (but not the most sustainable). If you’re in a small bus, try not to sit at the back if you tend to have a sore back. The road isn’t too bad, but you’d still feel it.
Some tours offer to go back to Bangkok by boat on the Chao Phraya river. I love the idea as that’s how the river was used in the past and probably very scenic. However, it means spending less time in Ayutthaya.
I haven’t seen tours that offer to go from Ayutthaya to Bangkok by train, but note that only first-class tickets will have air-con.
Once in Ayutthaya, there are many options to visit the different sites:
- By tuk-tuk
- By bike
- By mini-bus
- By coach
- By car
- By foot
As far as I know, there isn’t one better than the other, it’s just a different experience.
But for a day trip, walking isn’t the best choice as your time is limited. And I didn’t see any tour offering this option.
If you’re opting for a tour because you don’t want to bother selecting the sites you want to visit, then the itinerary criteria won’t be important to you. But note the tours don’t all go to the same places.
Hopefully, my itinerary was enough to help you choose the spots you want to visit in Ayutthaya. I really regretted not seeing Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon and Wat Chaiwatthanaram. And I ended up bored at Bang Pa-In Royal Palace – which isn’t even in Ayutthaya.
You may also consider the option to do a river cruise. You may even go all the way back to Bangkok by boat (this tour offers the option* – and it has excellent reviews).
Here’s a small selection of interesting Ayutthaya day trip itineraries with a tour:
- Looking at the itinerary and review, this tour on Viator* covered most places I wanted to visit.
- And this other tour on Viator* also includes exciting experiences with food.
- I also liked that this tour* offered to stay in Ayutthaya for the sunset.
Size of the group
I don’t like big groups. I find it hard to connect with the guide (and sometimes just hear him or her), ask questions and even take great photos. And we always waste time waiting for somebody. That’s why my experience with TakeMeTour* on another day trip from Bangkok was so perfect for me.
Cheaper tours tend to have larger groups, so that’s something to keep in mind. If the information on the booking page isn’t available, you may want to confirm the number of participants in advance. We were almost 40 on the tour I joined through! (despite the description saying we’d be max. 15 –sight-).
Knowledge of the guide
Reading the comments is the best way to check the guide’s skills. That’s why I like and recommend TakeMeTour* as they connect you directly to a specific guide – not a tour operator. With the reviews, it’s easy to rate the guide’s skills. My guide via TakeMeTour* was fluent in English, easy to understand and happy to answer questions.
I had a different experience in Ayutthaya (booked through Viator*) as the guide had an extreme accent hard to understand, was repeating the same information many times in a very unlogical way, and would never stop for questions. We all felt like being in primary school, waiting for the bell to ring so we could run away. It wasn’t really a disappointment as I read a few complaints about it in the feedback before booking. Again, it was my only option that day to visit Ayutthaya. And I don’t regret seizing the opportunity. It was a lovely day trip away from Bangkok.
Have you visited Ayutthaya? Did you book a tour or went by yourself? What are your favourite places there? Share your recommendations in the comments below!
Places to see on an Ayutthaya Day Trip
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