Wiang Tha Kan is an ancient settlement and archaeological site, about 35 km south of Chiang Mai. It is often confused with Wiang Kum Kam, another archaeological site, close to Chiang Mai. Wiang Tha Kan is often misspelt as Wiang Tha Kan. In and around the current village there are 22 archaeological sites, mostly ruins of temples. The settlement was rectangular, 500 by 700 meters in size. There were double earthen walls and a moat, parts of which are still visible. Some of the temple ruins are within this area; some of them are outside. It is located in a beautiful area, not far from the Ping River.

Ruined temple ancient ruins in North Thailand
Wat Gu Mai Dang at Wiang Thakan

The History of Wiang Tha Kan

It is not easy to find information about the history of this archaeological site. The settlement dates back to the period of the Mon Kingdom Hariphunchai (ca.750-1282). King Mangrai, the founder of Chiang Mai, conquered Hariphunchai in 1282 and founded Wiang Kum Kam afterwards. Wiang Tha Kan thus predates Wiang Kum Kam. After the demise of the Hariphunchai Kingdom, it became part of the Lanna kingdom until the Burmese conquered Lanna in 1558.

Two ruined chedis Wiang Tha Kan
Wat Klang Wiang at Wiang Tha Kan

King Kawila repopulates Lanna

At the end of the 18th century, Siamese and Lanna forces finally drove the Burmese out of Lanna. Large areas of the Lanna kingdom had suffered enormously under the years of fighting and destruction. Chiang Mai was in ruins. King Kawila was the first king of the revived Lanna kingdom. He convinced people who had fled the area to come back to repopulate areas around Chiang Mai and Lamphun. He conquered parts of northern Shan State in Myanmar and brought back people he captured. A Thai historian called Kawila’s Lanna rebuilding campaign “Put vegetables into baskets put people into towns.” Many of the people who ended up in Wiang Tha Kan were Tai Lue and Tai Yong (Tai Lue people from Muang Yong in Shan State).

Big ruined chedi in forest Wiang Tha Kan
Wat Ton Kork

Archaeological excavations in the 1980s

Thai archaeologists visited the village in 1965 for the first time. In the mid-1980s archaeologists from Chiang Mai University started excavations around Wiang Tha Kan. They found skeletons, terracotta pottery, bronze Buddha images and other ancient artefacts. In the following years restoration on some of the ruins started. While the Fine Arts Department spent a considerable amount of money on the restoration of the ruins of Wiang Kum Kam, little was spent on Wiang Tha Kan. It is just too far away from Chiang Mai, I guess. When you visit this charming ruined city, you will probably not meet any other tourists. Visiting this lovely archaeological site is a very personal and special experience.

Rice fields with mountains in the background

Wiang Tha Kan in 2020

For Chiang Mai, a la Carte the ruins of Wiang Tha Kan are exceptional. We love archaeology and history. If you visit the ruins, it makes sense to visit the nearby wonderful Chiang Mai Doll Making Centre and Museum as well.

The countryside around this archaeological site is very picturesque and beautiful. It is fantastic for cycling. The bicycle ride of the Mae Wang trekking and cycling tour of Green Trails ends at the ruined city. Our favourite ruins are Wat Klang Wiang, Wat Khu Mai Daeng and Wat Ton Kork.

If you are interested in ruined cities, please visit our pages Wiang Kum Kam and Wiang Lo.

This fantastic archaeological site features in this tour: