Wat Mahathat was once the centre of the Sukhothai kingdom and remains the largest and arguably most impressive ruin within the park.
The complex was once walled in and surrounded by a moat, and the rambling enclosure contains almost 200 chedis, the tallest of which is a lotus-bud chedi at the temple’s centre that was rebuilt by King Lo Thai in the mid-14th century to hold Buddha relics — a hair and a neckbone fragment — that he picked up in Sri Lanka.
The complex shows a range of Lanna, Sri Lankan and Khmer influences, and the two 12-metre-high standing Buddhas on either side of the main chedi are stunning. The tall stone pillars of the wat would have once supported a wooden ceiling.
Note the pilgrims and monks in relief walking in procession clockwise around the monument, just as pilgrims would have done in real life.
All of the Buddha images here are in remarkable condition, and in the early morning, the whole complex is very photogenic, although you might have to be patient to snap a photo free of other tourists and onlookers at this, Sukhothai’s most popular single site.