Thailand’s rich legacy: Exploring its 6 World Heritage Sites


Thailand is awaiting World Heritage Site recognition for its Ancient Town of Si Thep as the Unesco World Heritage Committee convenes in Saudi Arabia. Here is an overview of the six existing World Heritage sites in Thailand.

As of 2023, Thailand boasts six World Heritage sites on the prestigious list. Among them, three are of cultural significance, while three are designated for their natural wonders.

Historic City of Ayutthaya

Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. It was a globally important city, a commercial centre with diplomatic connections in India, China, Japan, as well as in Europe. The exchange of cultural influences resulted in the development of Thai national art, with richly decorated palaces and Buddhist monasteries. 

It was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century and it was never rebuilt. Its remains, characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendour. Ayutthaya is now preserved as an archaeological park.

Thailand’s rich legacy: Exploring its 6 World Heritage Sites

Ban Chiang Archaeological Site

Ban Chiang is considered the most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in Southeast Asia. It marks an important stage in human cultural, social and technological evolution. The site presents the earliest evidence of farming in the region and of the manufacture and use of metals.

Ban Chiang is a large earthen mound that was continuously occupied by a settled agricultural society between about 1500 BCE to 900 BCE. Discovered by archaeologists in 1966, the excavations uncovered large numbers of ceramic artefacts, as well as tools related to bronze-working, animal domestication, and wet rice agriculture.

Thailand’s rich legacy: Exploring its 6 World Heritage Sites

Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns 

Sukhothai was the capital of the first Kingdom of Siam in the 13th and 14th centuries. It has a number of fine monuments, illustrating the beginnings of Thai architecture. The great civilization which evolved in the Kingdom of Sukhothai absorbed numerous influences and ancient local traditions; the rapid assimilation of all these elements forged what is known as the 'Sukhothai style'.

The site comprises three main cities from the Sukhothai Kingdom which are Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet. The three cities shared town planning approaches and water management systems. They were important in the development of the first distinct Siamese architectural style, literature, arts, and religious practices. The remains of the cities are now preserved as archaeological parks.

Thailand’s rich legacy: Exploring its 6 World Heritage Sites

Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex

The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex spans 230 km between Ta Phraya National Park on the Cambodian border in the east, and Khao Yai National Park in the west. The site is home to more than 800 species of fauna, including 112 mammal species, 392 bird species and 200 reptile and amphibian species. It is internationally important for the conservation of globally threatened and 
endangered species. 

The site comprises five protected areas in the Dong Phaya Yen Mountains and Sankamphaeng Range, namely Khao Yai, Thap Lan, Pang Sida and Ta Phraya National Parks, and Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary. 

Image from Wikimedia Commons by Manoonp, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex

The site comprises forests and wildlife reserves in the Tenasserim Hills: Kaeng Krachan, Kui Buri, and Chaloem Phrakiat Thai Prachan national parks, and the Mae Nam Phachi Wildlife Sanctuary. Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex is located along the Thailand side of the Tenasserim mountain range, part of a north-south granite and limestone mountain ridge running down the Malay Peninsula. Located at the crossroads between the Himalayan, Indochina, and Sumatran faunal and floral realms, the property is home to rich biodiversity. It is dominated by semi-evergreen/dry evergreen and moist evergreen forests with some mixed deciduous forest, montane forest, and deciduous dipterocarp forests. A number of endemic and globally endangered plant and wildlife species have been reported in the property, which overlaps with two Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and is noted for its rich diversity of birdlife. 

Thailand’s rich legacy: Exploring its 6 World Heritage Sites

Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries 

Stretching over more than 600,000 ha along the Myanmar border, the sanctuaries, which are relatively intact, contain examples of almost all the forest types of continental Southeast Asia. They are home to a very diverse array of animals, including 77% of the large mammals, 50% of the large birds and 33% of the land vertebrates to be found in this region. The site comprises two wildlife sanctuaries, Thung Yai Naresuan and Huai Kha Khaeng. The forests are largely undisturbed by human influences.