This ancient province has a lot going for it as far as visitors are concerned, with plenty to keep you fascinated and interested
Phitsanoluk City has had a long and sometimes violent history, and was an important regional center of the Angkor Empire in the 11th century. Much later it was the capital city of Siam for about 25 years.
It’s also the birthplace of famed King Naresuan, who freed the country from Burmese domination in the 16th century.
Natural beauty and a lot of wildlife can be found in the five National Parks that spread across perfect Phitsanulok -- several of them virtually unknown outside the province.
1. Phitsanulok City
This ancient city has quite a few beautiful historic temples spanning a long time line, as well as other sights well worth a look.
Unfortunately a big fire in the 1950s destroyed most of the town’s ancient wooden buildings, and damaged many others. However, there is still a great deal to capture your attention.
Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat
The most important temple in the city is also known as Wat Yai (“Big Temple”) for simplicity.
It was built in 1357 by King Lithai of Sukhothai and contains the Buddha image known as Phra Buddha Chinnarat (see photo at the top of this page).
This is one of the most revered Buddha figures in Thailand and is also the official symbol of Phitsanulok Province.
Of course the temple has seen renovations and changes over the years. One of the most striking and most beautiful was the addition of mother-of-pearl doors which were installed in 1756.
There is also an interesting museum in the temple grounds displaying historical Buddhist artifacts.
The temple is next to the Naresuan Bridge over the Nan River.
Another ancient temple is Wat Ratchaburana which was constructed during Phitsanoluk’s brief time as the capital of Siam.
The oldest remaining part is an impressive chedi, while the nearby shrine has some very beautiful frescoes and elegant red columns.
Another notable modern temple which is worth seeing, although still under construction (but nearing completion), is Wat Chan Tawan Ook.
There are numerous other lovely old (and more modern) temples in the city which are fairly easy to find too.
It’s said that Phitsanulok is the only place in the country where living on a houseboat is legal.
Whether that’s really the case we’re not sure, but it’s certainly been a long tradition here which proudly continues in a strong local community along the Nan River.
Phitsanoluk Riverside Park houses a display with some interesting information on the history and lifestyles of the boat dwellers.
Ja Thawee Folk Museum
A quirky but fascinating collection of domestic, industrial, and agricultural artifacts from around the province, which ably shows the local way of life over the last century or so.
Some items, such as the wooden palm oil squeezers, are unique. This museum is well worth an hour or two of your time, plus the instagram ops are endless.
The items on display were collected over many years by local sergeant-major (Ja) Tawee, and are displayed in five traditional Thai-style buildings, set in some beautiful gardens.
Very close by is the Buranathai Buddha Image Foundry, where you can see large Buddha images being cast, polished, and finished.
Rather bizarrely, the foundry has a Thai Bird Garden where you can see many species of indigenous Thai birds, including several endangered species.
2. Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park
We reviewed this stunning national park (which covers three provinces including Phitsanulok) at here. Please do take a look -- it’s worth it!
3. Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
This national park extends for over 1200sq km, and covers both Phitsanulok and Petchabun provinces.
Unusually, quite a large part consists of low lying African-style savannah, with the remaining area forested with more hills. A few waterfalls that drop through the jungle are worth a look (see Kaeng Sopha below), as is the Dao Daeng Cave which has a subterranean river running through it.
You would have to clamber over rocks at the entrance to get in, where you’ll find a large chamber and a subterranean river which runs for 1.4km.
The cave interior is stunning with numerous stalagmites and stalactites. However, it’s only safe to enter during the dry season.
Before you trek here (there’s no public transport) be aware that Thai citizens pay only 40 baht to enter the park; you will be expected to fork out 500 baht!
It’s at km80 on Highway 12 -- Phitsanulok-Lomsak Road.
4. Kaeng Chet Khwae National Park
One of Thailand’s smallest national park covers about 261sq km, with steep valleys, rugged mountains, rocky terrain and several waterfalls.
It was formed to give better protection to four National Forest Parks which sit within its boundaries.
It spreads over four districts within Phitsaulok province, Wat Bot, Chat Trakan, Nakhon Thai, and Wang Thong.
Apart from other attractions, there are two impressive waterfalls in the Khao-krayang Forest section of the park.
One has nine levels and the other had seven. They are about 500m apart so it would be easy to see both.
Outside the local area, this is a little known park so you’re likely to have much of it to yourself.
5. Namtok Chat Trakan National Park
This is another relatively small (548sq km), but impressive park which was created to protect several water sources for the region, including that of the Khwae Noi River.
Most of the park is forested mountains with an abundance of flora and fauna.
It is named for the seven-level Chat Trakan falls found in the park. Another notable attraction is the Kradanleg Cliff about 3km from the park’s ranger station, where as yet unexplained ancient inscriptions can be seen in the rock face.
The park entrance is about 145km from Phitsanulok City in Chat Trakan district.
6. Phu Soi Dao National Park
This 340sq km park lies in both Phitsanulok and Uttradit provinces, and is named for the 2,120m high Phu Soi Dao which sits right on the border with Laos.
A waterfall (Namtok Phu Soi Dao) that runs down from the mountain is one of the park’s biggest attractions, along with several high altitude plateaus that offer wonderful vistas across the jungle.
Among the flora and fauna that live on the mountainside are a few varieties of pitcher plants; carnivorous plants that consume insects.
Access to the park is also in Chat Trakan district.
7. Namtok Kaeng Sopha
Kaeng Sopha waterfall in Thung Salaeng Luang National Park is the largest in the province and drops through two tiers.
During the monsoon season the falls are especially impressive, and are a popular outing for locals.
On Highway 12 at km71 turn right and follow the road for 2km. Watch for the signs.
Phitsanulok is surprisingly easy to get to for a province that doesn’t get many foreign visitors. It’s on the main rail line from Bangkok to Chiangmai, there are several regular daily bus services, and perhaps best of all, you can fly from Bangkok’s Don Muang airport with Nok Air, Thai Air Asia, or Thai Lion Air.
We hope you’ll take the chance to visit Phitsanulok after being inspired by our little review. You will find plenty more to do there too!
Make sure you have travel insurance while visiting Thailand’s wonders. Medical care is world class but worldly expensive!