Once one of the world's leading capitals, Ayuthaya's myriad temples and palaces glittered from miles away. Today the dozens of ruins offer a tantalising glimpse into what was once a glorious city. The most famous sites have been partially restored so it is easy to imagine how they must have looked in their prime, while others remain fully functioning temples.
Between 1350 and 1767 Ayuthaya was the capital of Siam. As a major trading port during the time of the trade winds, international merchants visited and were left in awe by the temples and treasure-laden palaces. At one point the empire ruled over an area larger than England and France combined. Ayuthaya had 33 kings who engaged in more than 70 wars during its 417-year period; however, fine diplomatic skills also ensured no Western power ever ruled Siam.
The last of the empire's battles was in 1767, when an invading Burmese army sacked the city, looting most of its treasures. What was left continued to crumble until major restoration work began. In 1991 Ayuthaya's ruins were designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Unesco listing says Ayuthaya's sites 'represent a masterclass of genius', the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Away from the temples, Ayuthaya has a growing number of attractions and markets that focus on locally made produce and handicrafts.
Don't miss...Ayuthaya's elephants
In an extract from Lonely Planet's Discover Thailand guide, Laithongrien (Om) Meepan, the founder/director of Ayuthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Elephant Kraal Village, gives us his don't-miss Ayuthaya list...