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Thailand Festival of Lights: An Insider’s Guide

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Thailand Festival of Lights: An Insider's Guide

Lirene CilliersBy Lirene Cilliers   Posted 9th Apr 2024

Picture this: a cool November night, the full moon shines brightly, and thousands of glowing lanterns slowly ascend into the night sky. This spectacle isn’t whipped up from a fantasy novel; it’s the annual magical celebration of Thailand's Festival of Lights.
When folks mention the Thai Festivals of Lights or the Thailand Lantern Festival, they're actually referring to two different celebrations: Yi Peng and Loy Krathong (or Yee Peng and Loi Krathong, tomato, to-mah-to).  

These two separate, yet interconnected, festivals light up Thailand, especially the city of Chiang Mai, into a beacon visible from space (okay, maybe not space, but you get the idea-it’s spectacular!).

Yi Peng vs. Loy Krathong 

Yi Peng: Imagine looking up and seeing the night sky come alive with thousands of glowing orbs gently rising into infinity. That's Yi Peng for you, which means "second full moon," a sky lantern festival that literally lifts your spirits on... you guessed it, the second full moon. 

Loy Krathong: Now, lower your gaze to the waters, where thousands of floating lotus-shaped baskets, adorned with candles and flowers, create a riveting path of light across rivers and lakes.
Welcome to Loy Krathong, which literally means "float a water lantern," a festival that turns water bodies into flickering fields of dreams. 

When and where is the Thailand Festival of Lights?

Loy Krathong (Festival of Lights) Dates: 

  • November 16, 2024  
  • November 6, 2025  
  • November 25, 2026 

Where to celebrate Loy Krathong: This festival doesn't play favorites; it's a nationwide celebration. From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the serene shores of Krabi, Loy Krathong brings a unified spirit of celebration across Thailand. 

Yi Peng (Thailand’s Lantern Festival) Dates: 

  • November 15 - 16, 2024  
  • November 5 - 6, 2025  
  • November 24 - 25, 2026 

Where to celebrate Yi Peng: Yi Peng, on the other hand, is the pride of Northern Thailand, with its most spectacular celebrations unfolding in the historic city of Chiang Mai. This is where the heart of Yi Peng beats the strongest, giving you the classic postcard scenes of dreamy lantern-lit skies. 
Chiang Mai uniquely hosts both festivals simultaneously, offering the magical experience of seeing both sky lanterns and water krathongs on the same days. 
The Festival of Lights in Chiang Mai usually starts at sunset, around 7:00 p.m. However, festivities and preparations begin earlier in the day 
Explore more, and have energy to spare on our eBike adventure across Chiang Mai's stunning vistas and Northern Thailand's hidden corners. 

Why is the festival of lights celebrated?

Yi Peng and Loy Krathong are ancient festivals that are deeply rooted in Thai culture, reflecting the local beliefs and the community’s way of life for centuries.  

Yi Peng is specific to Northern Thailand, particularly Chiang Mai, and is believed to have originated from Lanna (Northern Thai) traditions. It is a time to make merit and release bad luck.  

Loy Krathong is thought to have Hindu origins and is widely celebrated across Thailand; it’s a festival for people to thank the water goddess for the water provided throughout the year, as well as to apologize for polluting waterways. 

Traditions and customs 

During Yi Peng, the key activity is the release of lanterns (khom loi) into the night sky, believed to dispel misfortunes and bad luck as they ascend. The lanterns are made of rice paper, and their release is often accompanied by prayers and wishes for the future. 

Loy Krathong involves crafting 'krathongs'—small, floating baskets usually made from banana leaves—which are decorated with flowers, candles, and incense sticks. These are then set adrift on rivers or ponds as offerings to the Water Goddess, symbolizing the letting go of anger, grudges, and defilements, allowing for a fresh start. 
Both festivals are also marked by parades, live music, street food, traditional dance performances, and fireworks, creating a lively, festive atmosphere you will surely remember.  

Making The Best of Your Trip to Chiang Mai, and experience Loy Krathong and Yi Peng with the Chiang Mai & North Thailand E-Bike Tour 

There's no better way to explore Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand and experience the Loy Krathong/Yi Peng festivals than with our exclusive 7-day Chiang Mai & North Thailand E-Bike Tour. Take in the region's unique beauty, from the landmarks of Chiang Rai to the bustling city of Chiang Mai, with our e-bike tour that offers a balanced blend of cultural exploration, adventure, and unspoiled landscapes. 

The journey takes you through incredible scenery, including rural mountainous landscapes, rich verdant forests, and stunning national parks. The use of e-bikes provides flexibility and convenience, allowing you to take on the diverse terrain of Northern Thailand comfortably. The pedal-assist feature adds extra power when you want to glide through the breathtaking views and can be tuned down when you're seeking a rewarding challenge. 

Here's a glimpse of what you can expect: 

  • Bike tour northern Thailand's postcard rural landscapes 
  • Explore highlights of Chiang Rai, from white temples to active night markets 
  • Cycle lush forests and national parks to Chiang Mai city 
  • Savor the tastes of Northern Thailand on a city food tour 
  • Hike iconic Doi Suthep in the early morning, avoiding the tourist crowds 
  • Enjoy impressive Buddhist landmarks and breathtaking views by bike 

On this tour, you don't just travel; you explore, you experience, and you embolden your love for adventure. Check out what's included in the Chiang Mai & North Thailand E-Bike Tour. 

The best places to experience the Festival of Lights and Thailand Lantern Festival: 

Chiang Mai

The best place to witness the magical dance of both water and sky lanterns. The area around the Narawat Bridge becomes a canvas of twinkling lights, with the sky and waterways lit by myriad lanterns. The opening ceremony dazzles in the Three Kings Plaza, adorned with hanging lanterns, setting a festive mood that's hard to beat. For those eager to see water and sky lanterns side by side, the plaza in front of Tha Phae Gate offers an unforgettable sight right at the entrance to the old city.  
Keep in mind that there will be crowds in popular locations and the city center, so it’s often easier and faster to get around by foot.  

Our Northern Thailand and Chiang Mai eBike Tour is your ticket to discovering local secrets and scenic spots, while experiencing the Festival of Lights like a local. 


Dive into the heart of tradition in Sukhothai, believed to be where Loy Kratong first originated. The celebrations here are a treat for the senses, with lighted candles, an awe-inspiring nightly fireworks display, folk dancing, and stunning light & sound shows at the Sukhothai Historical Park in front of Wat Mahathat. The park becomes a sea of warmth and light, with ponds and canals brimming with water lanterns, echoing with the laughter and joy of people gathered to enjoy the festivities together. 


In the historical city of Ayutthaya, the Loy Kratong festivities center around the King Naresuan the Great memorial monument in the Ayutthaya Historical Park. The best views are from the banks and canals encompassing the island city, where you can watch a mesmerizing throng of water lanterns set adrift, each carrying wishes and hopes for good luck. 


Bangkok, the vibrant capital, offers a different Loy Kratong vibe with a mix of events throughout the city. The Chao Phraya River and numerous canals become a luminous spectacle, ablaze with floating lanterns. For those wanting to pair the festival's beauty with picturesque views of Bangkok's skyline, spots like the Asiatic Market or Lhong 1919—an old steamship depot—provide perfect backdrops under the glow of the full moon. 

A Note to Travelers:  

While this light festival is a mesmerizing spectacle, we're now more aware than ever of our impact on the natural world. These celebrations touch every element—air, earth, and water—and our love for the festival shouldn't be at their expense. That's why, during Yi Peng and Loy Krathong, we encourage you to be mindful and make eco-friendly choices. 

You should only use biodegradable lanterns and krathongs, these are readily available so there is no reason not to make an eco-friendly choice. Those with enough time who wish to take their effort a step further can consider joining a local community event, where the used lanterns are collected and disposed of responsibly. Furthermore, it's essential to respect the natural habitats of local wildlife. Releasing sky lanterns in designated areas reduces the risk of causing unintentional fires and ensures the safety of bird populations.

Planning Tips for an Unforgettable Journey 

The enchantment of Thailand's Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festivals draws visitors from every corner of the world, making early booking a necessity to ensure your spot amidst the festivities. Recognizing the popularity and the sheer magnetic pull of these events, especially in the vibrant heart of Chiang Mai, planning well in advance becomes pivotal. 

With our range of cycle tours in Thailand, you step beyond just the allure of lanterns and lotus flowers; we immerse you in the deeper rhythm of Thailand, revealing its secrets beyond the festivals. We handle all the arrangements, allowing you to simply hop on a bike or eBike and embark on an exploration that promises more sights, more experiences, and more unforgettable memories.  

From the intricate preparations to navigating the best vantage points, we've got it all covered, ensuring your focus remains on the adventure ahead. 

Drop us a line, and we'll see you at the starting line of your Thailand cycling adventure. 

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