Wiang Kum Kam in Chiang Mai

Wiang Kum Kam is an archaeological treasure 12 kilometres from akyra Manor Chiang Mai. This ancient site, submerged in history, was once the capital of the mighty Lanna Kingdom. Founded in the 13th century by King Mangrai, Wiang Kum Kam served as a strategic and cultural epicentre before the establishment of Chiang Mai took precedence.

The city was forgotten for centuries, buried under flood sediments until its rediscovery in the 1980s, which sparked a renewed interest in its historical and archaeological significance. Today, Wiang Kum Kam is celebrated as a cornerstone of Northern Thailand’s heritage and crucial to understanding the region's ancient urban and religious developments. As excavations and research continue, each layer of soil and sediment peeled back offers a clearer glimpse into the sophisticated civilisation that once thrived here, providing invaluable insights into the past that resonate well beyond the local context.


 Wiang Kum Kam - akyra Manor Chiang Mai


Wiang Kum Kam

Wiang Kum Kam's establishment as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom under King Mangrai in the late 13th century marked a significant period in the history of Northern Thailand. Selected for its strategic location near the Ping River, the site was initially chosen to serve as a robust administrative and military base, facilitating control and communication throughout the kingdom. The city was meticulously planned and constructed, showcasing the Lanna civilisation's architectural ingenuity and cultural richness.

Despite its early promise, Wiang Kum Kam faced significant challenges, eventually abandoning it. Chief among these was its vulnerability to flooding. The city was built on a floodplain, and over time, the Ping River's erratic flooding proved disastrous. By the 16th century, persistent severe flooding had submerged the city under mud and silt, rendering it uninhabitable and forgotten until its rediscovery hundreds of years later.

The rediscovery of Wiang Kum Kam in the 1980s was pivotal for archaeologists and historians alike. This event rekindled interest in the site and initiated a series of comprehensive excavation and restoration efforts to uncover and preserve its buried structures. These efforts have been instrumental in piecing together the historical narrative of the Lanna Kingdom, providing deeper insights into its cultural practices, governance, and daily life.

The archaeological work at Wiang Kum Kam has revealed the physical remnants of the past and highlighted the challenges of preserving such a historically rich site against natural and human-induced threats. The ongoing restoration projects have focused on stabilising the existing structures, implementing flood mitigation strategies, and ensuring that future generations can study and appreciate Wiang Kum Kam. Through these endeavours, the site contributes to our understanding of Southeast Asian history and heritage, reminding us of the dynamic interplay between nature and human civilisation.


Exploring Wiang Kum Kam

Wiang Kum Kam offers a fascinating glimpse into the past with its ancient ruins, each telling a story of religious devotion, cultural exchange, and architectural innovation. Visitors and scholars alike can explore numerous archaeological sites, including well-preserved Buddhist temples, majestic stupas, and revealing stone inscriptions that document the life and times of the Lanna Kingdom.


Archaeological Sites:

  • The temples at Wiang Kum Kam are notable for their intricate stonework and religious frescoes. Wat Chedi Liam, one of the most iconic structures, features a stepped pyramid design typical of the period, surrounded by sculpted elephants that seem to guard the site. Other temples, like Wat Kan Thom, house detailed Buddha statues and remnants of original mural paintings, providing insights into the spiritual and artistic practices of the time.
  • The stupas, dome-shaped monuments, were used to house relics. These structures, such as the one found at Wat That Khao, are significant for their architectural design and materials, including bricks and stucco. Their construction techniques reflect a blend of local craftsmanship and South Asian influences characteristic of the region's religious architecture.
  • The inscriptions discovered at Wiang Kum Kam are invaluable to historians. These inscriptions, often in ancient scripts, record royal decrees, religious texts, and everyday transactions, offering a direct link to the past and a literal foundation for understanding historical events and societal norms.

The architectural styles at Wiang Kum Kam beautifully illustrate the evolution of regional design. Significant influences from the Haripunchai period preceded the full emergence of the Lanna style. The Haripunchai style is evident in the early use of red bricks and fine stucco work. At the same time, the Lanna influence brought more intricate wood carvings and expansive layouts, reflecting a synthesis of local traditions with broader Tai cultural elements.

The ongoing archaeological efforts at Wiang Kum Kam are critical in piecing together the historical jigsaw of the Lanna Kingdom. Each excavation season provides more pieces of the historical puzzle, from uncovering new structures buried under the earth to restoring damaged artefacts that illuminate the daily lives of its ancient inhabitants. This work supports historical scholarship and enhances the site for educational purposes, helping to maintain Wiang Kum Kam as a vibrant centre of cultural heritage.


Visitor Information

Visiting Wiang Kum Kam provides a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the rich history of the Lanna Kingdom. To make the most of your visit, here's some practical information about how to get there, when to go, and what to expect.


Getting to Wiang Kum Kam:

Wiang Kum Kam is approximately 12 kilometres south of Chiang Mai city centre, near the akyra Manor Chiang Mai.

By Car:

The easiest way to reach Wiang Kum Kam is by car or taxi, which takes about 20 minutes from central Chiang Mai. You can hire a taxi or a private car through various apps or from hotel services.

By Public Transport:

Local songthaews (red trucks) also travel to Wiang Kum Kam. You can catch a songthaew from major points in Chiang Mai, such as the Night Bazaar or Tha Phae Gate. Be sure to agree on the fare in advance.

By Bicycle:

For those who enjoy cycling, renting a bicycle and riding to the site can be a pleasant journey, allowing you to see more of the local scenery.


Best Times to Visit:

The best time to visit Wiang Kum Kam is during the cooler months from November to February when the weather is more comfortable for exploring outdoors. The site opens daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and visiting early in the morning or later in the afternoon can help avoid the heat of the midday sun.


Guided Tours and Ticket Prices:


A nominal fee contributes to the preservation of Wiang Kum Kam. Tickets can be purchased at the main entrance.

Guided Tours:

Guided tours are available and highly recommended. These tours provide deeper insights into the history and significance of each structure. Tours can be booked on arrival or in advance through travel agencies in Chiang Mai.


Visitor Amenities:

Facilities at Wiang Kum Kam include a visitor centre, restrooms, and a small café with refreshments.

Electric carts are available to rent for those interested in a more immersive experience, which can be a convenient way to navigate the larger site, especially for those with limited mobility.

Making the Most of Your Visit:

Plan Ahead:

Review a site map and plan your route to cover all major attractions.

Comfortable Clothing:

Comfortable walking shoes and light clothing. Don’t forget sun protection such as hats and sunscreen.


Bring a camera to capture the ancient ruins and beautiful landscapes. Respect any signs that prohibit photography in sacred areas.

Educational Programmes:

Look out for special educational programmes and workshops at the visitor centre. These can enrich your understanding of the site’s history and cultural background.

Must See:

Visit Wat Chedi Liam, Wat Kan Thom, and the site where the original stone inscriptions were found. Each offers a unique window into the past.



Preservation of Wiang Kum Kam

Preserving Wiang Kum Kam presents unique challenges, notably its vulnerability to flooding, which initially led to the city's abandonment centuries ago.

The primary threat to Wiang Kum Kam is its location on the floodplain of the Ping River. Historical records and archaeological evidence suggest that seasonal floods were common, often catastrophic, leading to the site's initial abandonment. These flooding events risk the stability of ancient structures and the long-term preservation of underground artefacts.

Efforts to protect and preserve Wiang Kum Kam have been multifaceted, involving both local authorities and international organisations:

Flood Mitigation:

One of the primary strategies has been implementing flood mitigation measures. This includes the construction of raised embankments along the river's edge, improved drainage systems to divert floodwaters, and ongoing monitoring of water levels during the rainy season.

Restoration Projects:

Restoration work is routinely done on the most vulnerable structures. Techniques adapted to the site's specific needs involve reinforcing decayed architectural elements with traditional materials and methods to maintain historical authenticity.

Archaeological Safeguards:

Archaeologists at Wiang Kum Kam use advanced preservation techniques to protect unearthed artefacts from environmental exposure. This includes immediate onsite conservation measures and, when necessary, relocating artefacts to controlled environments where they can be studied and preserved.

Community Involvement and Education:

Engaging the local community through educational programmes helps raise awareness about the site's importance and encourages local support for preservation efforts. This includes involving local schools in archaeological activities and hosting community events.

The future of archaeological exploration at Wiang Kum Kam is promising, with vast areas still unexcavated and potential discoveries lying beneath the surface. As technology advances, so too do the techniques used in archaeology, allowing for more precise and less intrusive exploration methods.

Technological Advancements:

Ground-penetrating radar and other non-invasive technologies are expected to play a significant role in future excavations, helping to identify and map underground structures without requiring extensive digging.

Interdisciplinary Research:

Collaborations between historians, archaeologists, and scientists from various disciplines can provide new insights into the social, economic, and environmental aspects of ancient Lanna life. Such research could provide a more comprehensive understanding of how ancient societies adapted to their environments.

Cultural Tourism:

Continued interest in cultural tourism offers an opportunity to fund and promote ongoing research and conservation efforts. By attracting visitors interested in the history and culture of Northern Thailand, Wiang Kum Kam can secure the necessary resources to sustain its preservation projects.



Q: What is the best way to explore Wiang Kum Kam?

The best way to explore Wiang Kum Kam is by guided tour, which provides detailed historical context and insights you might miss when visiting alone. For those who prefer self-guided tours, renting an electric cart or bicycle at the entrance is an excellent way to navigate the site. Maps are available at the visitor centre to help plan your route to cover all major attractions efficiently.

Q: What are some of the most significant artefacts found at Wiang Kum Kam?

Significant artefacts at Wiang Kum Kam include ancient Buddha statues, intricately carved stone inscriptions, and pottery shards. The stone inscriptions are particularly valuable as they offer direct insights into the laws, religious practices, and daily life of the Lanna Kingdom. These artefacts help paint a vivid picture of the past, showcasing the artistic and cultural sophistication of the Lanna people.

Q: Can you recommend any further reading on Lanna history?

For those interested in delving deeper into Lanna history, several comprehensive resources are available:

  • Michael Freeman's "The Kingdom of Lanna: Its Culture, History, and Art" explores Lanna's cultural heritage.
  • "Lanna: Thailand's Northern Kingdom" by Andrew Forbes provides a broader historical context and insights into the region's development.
  • Academic journals and publications, often available through university libraries or online academic databases, also offer scholarly articles on aspects of Lanna history and archaeology.

Q: Are there any restrictions on photography at the site?

Photography is generally allowed throughout Wiang Kum Kam. Still, visitors are advised to respect any signs or instructions, particularly around sensitive or sacred areas where photography might be restricted to preserve the site's sanctity.

Q: What are Wiang Kum Kam's opening hours?

Wiang Kum Kam is open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. It is recommended that you visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the heat of the midday sun.

Is Wiang Kum Kam suitable for visitors with mobility issues? Yes, Wiang Kum Kam is accessible to visitors with mobility issues. Electric carts are available for rent, making it easier to explore the extensive grounds without extensive walking.

Q: What facilities are available at Wiang Kum Kam?

Visitor facilities at Wiang Kum Kam include a visitor centre with educational displays, restrooms, and a small café offering refreshments. Parking is available on-site, and visitors can rest in several shaded areas.



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22/2 Nimmana Haeminda Road Soi 9,

Su Thep, Muang Chiang Mai District,

Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand


T : +66 (0) 5 321 6219

E : ea.akmc@theakyra.com  

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