A major tourist destination in the Lower North, Phitsanulok is situated on the banks of the Nan River some 377 kilometres from Bangkok. Most of the terrain is flatland, with mountain ranges running to the east, where waterfalls and national parks offer opportunities for nature treks.

Historically, Phitsanulok has been a major community since the time of the Khmers, and enjoyed great prosperity during the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods. During 1463-1487 it was practically another royal capital, as King Borom Trailokanat of Ayutthaya resided permanently in the province.

:: Attractions

Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat , the province's most important temple, was built on the banks of the Nan River in the mid-14th century. Also called Wat Yai, the temple complex originally housed a Sukhothai lotus bud chedi that was later replaced by the tall Ayutthayan prang that is seen today. The wiharn houses the famous Phra Buddha Chinnarat , one of the most highly revered Buddha images in all of Thailand, second only to the Emerald Buddha. Made of gilded bronze and dating back from the 14th century, the serene figure is a supreme example of late Sukhothai art, regarded as the Kingdom's most beautiful Buddha image that has served as the model for many other Buddha images. It was cast in the attitude of subduing evil.

Across the road, a linking compound connects Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Nang Phaya , both believed to date back to the city's founding days. While Wat Ratchaburana features faded, 19th century murals depicting scenes form the Thai Ramakien folklore inside its bot (prayer hall). Wat Nang Phaya is known for the special "Phra Nang Phaya" votive tablets with the form of a 3-headed nagas decorated on their eaves.

Sergeant Major Thawee's Folk Museum is well known for its collection of rural folk arts and crafts, including wooden and bamboo animal traps, farming tools, and basketry. Across the street is the Buddha Foundry where daily demonstrations of bronze Buddha images forging can be seen.

A common sight associated with Phitsanulok is the long stretch of river rafts lining both banks of the Nan River in the municipality area. Though some of the rafts have been converted into restaurants and pubs, many are still inhabited by local residents.

Slightly outside of town is the Khmer-style Wat Chulamani , built in 1464 by King Borommatrailokanat on the site of the original town. In 1465, the king, along with 2,348 followers, was ordained as a monk here. As the province's oldest historical site, the corncob-shaped prang (tower) is well known and studied by students of archaeology and history. Of a highly individual style and pattern, it boasts extremely ornate and elaborate plaster design of immense interest and value found nowhere else in the Kingdom.

The expanse of open meadows ('thung') interspersed with forest in Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, offers great hiking and bird watching. Highlights include the beautiful Kaeng Sopha Falls, the Poi Falls, and the smaller Kaeng Song rapids.

The Chat Trakan National Park features a picturesque seven-tiered waterfall, the source of the Kwae Noi River, which unites with the Nan River in the provincial capital.

Spreading across parts of Phitsanulok, Phetchabun and Loei provinces, the terrain of scenically beautiful Phu Hin Rongkla National Park consists largely of large areas of rocky plateaus in various forms, such as bumpy plateaus to plateaus crisscrossed with deep crevices and cracks. Highlights include an unusual open-air museum with exhibits of the Communist camp based here in the 1960s and 70s. After many years of bombing and raids, the communist stronghold fell to the Thai government in 1982 and was opened as a national park 2 years later. The highest peak, Phu Man Khao, rises to a height of 1,620 m.

Planted in Wat Klang since the founding days of Nakhon Thai District over 700 years ago, the gigantic, mature Chumpa Kao Nakhon Thai tree has a girth of 3 m and is 9-10 m tall.

A year-round blanket of mist covers the highly elevated Phu Soi Dao National Park , whose main attractions includes spectacular waterfalls and fields of colorful wildflowers.