Once a capital of the Siamese Kingdom, the city of Ayutthaya is now a rambling, expansive archaeological site reachable from Bangkok.
Its ancient city encloses temples, monasteries, and royal buildings from the 14th-18th centuries, when it acted as the Kingdom's second capital after Sukhothai. At one point, the capital was powerful enough to be an international centre for diplomacy and trade, and sent emissaries to regions as far-flung as the French Court at Versailles. Foreign influences can still be seen in its art and architecture, which makes it one of the most popular destinations in central Thailand. Visitors to the city come now as day-trippers or weekenders from Bangkok, spending as little as a day to as long as a week exploring its ruins.
Ayutthaya is an island at the confluence of three rivers, with most of its sites inside the island itself - making it very easy to get around.
Most travellers opt to rent bicycles, as the distances between sites are short enough to bike to, though you can also hire a tuktuk to act as driver and guide.
Plan your day:
Get your historical bearings at the Chantharakasem National Museum first, then head to Wat Rachaburana, Wat Chaiwattanarm, and Wat Phra Mahathat (with its iconic Buddha head entwined in tree roots, as seen above) for some of the most impressive temples.
If you're feeling adventurous, there are some further-flung sites on the northern side of the city, but you'll either need a tuktuk or an extra day to get to them.