Ayutthaya - Thailand
For over 300 hundred years the ancient city of Ayutthaya was one of the world’s greatest and most populous cities, a centre of trade, religion and power. Once the heart of the Siamese Kingdom, the cultural and political significance of the city cannot be underestimated. Its strategic location on an island between three rivers, as well as its geographical position between major powers China and India, made it well placed to become Asia’s trading capital. Built around 1350, the city was a plethora of glittering temples and palaces before it was savagely burnt to the ground by Burmese invaders. What remain now are largely the stone buildings which survived the flames, but the site is still nonetheless a breath-taking attraction given that these were the grandest and largest buildings of all. The Ayutthaya historical park at the centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its vast array of iconic stupa temples, coiled pillars which puncture the skyline, as well as a number of impressive gold and stone Buddha statues. The impressive temples and statues ensure the city remains a terrific tribute to the ancient people who built it.
Where is it?
Ayutthaya is located in the south of Thailand, in the valley of the Chao Phraya River. It is only an hour’s drive from Bangkok, making it an easy day trip from the capital of the country.
What is it?
Ayutthaya was the second capital of the ancient Siam kingdom. The city was hugely important to the kingdom given its strategic position, and historical records suggest the population at its peak reached around one million, making it one of the world's largest cities at that time.
Best time to visit?
Thailand is generally very hot and humid, so visiting in the relatively cooler period in November, December and January is advisable.
The incredible Wat Phra Mahathat temple ruins are home to a famous Buddha head, part of an ancient statue which has been engulfed by a Banyan tree. The head just peaks through the entwining roots, creating a truly unforgettable vision.