Yee Peng Lantern Festival In Chiang Mai – Complete Guide With Tips

How often is it that there is something on your “to do wish list” that you don’t even know where or when it takes place, but you know you need to be there?

Well, the Yee Peng (Thai: ยี่เป็ง, coinciding also with Loy Krathong), or sometimes just referred to as The Lantern Festival that takes place every year in Chiang Mai was that “thing we had to experience.”

I knew I wanted to be a part of this one day after seeing the photos. Hundreds of lanterns floating up into the dark night sky.

If you’re in Chiang Mai during Yee Peng and Loy Krathong, we’ve got all the info and traveler tips you will need to help you make the best of attending the Lantern Festival Specs of light creating the most enchanting and mesmerizing scene before slowly getting taken in by the darkness.

This was the dream festival to attend for us!

Although it was initially cancelled this year (for the first time ever and for the first year we were able to actually attend), we had the good fortune to experience it, nevertheless.

Yee Peng Festival Dates For 2018

Each year the Yee Peng Festival occurs on different dates. It is dependent on the full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar.

Yee Peng is the full moon of the second month, as it would fall on the calendar of the ancient Lanna Kingdon.

The dates of the festival this year fall between November 21 and 24, 2018. With Loy Krothong starting on Friday, the 23rd.

Chiang Mai Lantern Festival - Yee Peng Guide

Whichever date the full moon falls on, the celebrations are started a day before and go on a day after as well.

The year that we attended, the full moon fell on November 15th, so festivities in the Old City and Tha Phae gate started on the 14th and lanterns were also released well into the night of November 16th.

Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai , Thailand - Yee Peng Guide

We were on the lookout for the official dates starting from the beginning of the month. It was uncertain if the event would even be allowed.

It was announced as being cancelled completely and then it was reinstated.

We are unsure of how far in advance the dates were announced in previous years or how well organized the details and flow of information was.

For us, it proved to be a bit difficult to figure out initially. It was more about asking around with different locals, checking websites like, and just going with the flow.

Where The Festival Takes Place

The two main options for tourists and travelers are attending the Mae Jo University private event or the public event that takes place.

The event that is open to the public, and also enjoyed by locals, is spread out over areas from Tha Phae gate eastward and up to the Mae Ping River.

Our favorite two spots are the entrance to the Old city at Tha Phae Gate and the Nawarat Bridge.

The Nawarat Bridge is closed to traffic and a very good open area for lots of people to gather and fly their lanterns. This is also a wonderful observation point.

Visitors can just watch as others light their lanterns, make a wish, and let them go up into the air.

The sky fills up with hundreds of lanterns between 8 in the evening and 10pm, but it can continue well into the night.

Yee Peng and Loy Krathong Festival at Wat in Chiang Mai, Thailand

What Happens During The Festival

Chiang Mai is the heart of the most elaborate celebrations of Loy Krathong and Yee Peng.

It makes sense since this area is the ancient capital of the former Lanna Kingdon from which these festivals originate.

Lights can be seen floating on the waters, hanging from trees and buildings, as well as flying high into the sky (khom loi – Thai: โคมลอย).

Thai lantern festival chiang mai

Considering that this year’s activities for the floating lanterns festival were much more “toned down,” there were quite a lot of people that participated on all three days.

The opening ceremonies at Tha Phae Gate happen to coincide with Sunday Night Market.

Since the Walking Street starts at this location, the crowds were almost unbearable, but everyone seemed well-behaved and orderly.

The private event that takes place at the Mae Jo University was held on the second day. This is a paid event to which guests should purchase tickets for well in advance.

From what we heard, this event is expensive (about $100 USD per person) but it includes food.

The simultaneous release of lanterns is also another unique characteristic that draws so many to this event.

It’s perfect for photographers!

We attended the festivities of the third day. The road starting from Tha Phae Gate and leading to Nawarat Bridge was completely closed off to all vehicles.

Several food vendors and shops were open on this road as well as vendors selling hand made  krathongs (made from banana tree trunk and banana leaves held together with pins, and decorated with flower, incense,  and candles).

These are what people send down the river in what is referred to by foreigners as the floating lanterns festival of Thailand.

The tourists along with locals were all lined up along the sidewalks as a parade of floats dedicate to King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed for all to pay their respects and remembrance.

There were also children and youngsters playing instruments as part of this parade.

Thai Loy Krathong flower float

Once the parade was finished, everyone made their way to the bridge and the lantern floating and flying began.

The floating and flying lanterns cost about 40 THB ($1 USD), so people were buying several and releasing them throughout the night.

It seemed a bit chaotic at times because some were inexperienced with the timing and release of the lanterns. Below are some tips and suggestions we have from our experience.

parade float at Loy Krathong/Yee Peng in Chiang Mai, Thailand

After our lantern release into the sky, we also made sure to partake in releasing a floating Krathong down the Ping River.

It was beautiful watching others’ pray and make a wish as they sent negativity and all that is bad along down the river.

If it’s your first time traveling to Chiang Mai, here are some things you should know before your visit.

How To Fly A Lantern

The flying lanterns (those shown in photos of this festival) are called Khom loi.

They are usually made from a thin fabric, such as rice paper, stretched over wire frame, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached.

When the fuel cell is lit the small fire causes hot air to get trapped inside the lantern. This creates enough lift for the khom loi to float up into the sky.

It’s important to make sure the time is right for the release.

Follow these simple steps to make sure you have a successful flying lantern:

  1. Purchase a large lantern (the small ones are actually a bit harder to deal with)
  2. Stretch your lanterns paper out carefully. Make sure to open all the folds and that there are no closed areas so that the hot air has a place to get trapped.
  3. Stand in a spot where the flight path will be clear of trees and power lines. Try not to stand too close to other people. Create an open circle around yourself if possible.
  4. Try to get another person to hold the lantern as upright and open as possible while you light the fuel cell.
  5. Once the entire fuel cell is burning, hold the lantern by it’s wire edge. It will take 2-3 minutes.
  6. You will notice a bit of smoke from the fuel cell, this is usually a signal that it might be ready to fly.
  7. Release the lantern slightly by allowing it to go up between your thumb and index finger. If this flight seems strong, you can make your wish and let go full!
lantern lighting - Yee Peng Festival - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Watch this video (under 2 minutes) to see how it’s done!

A side note: There may be some controversy on participating in this festival, mainly due to the litter that it causes. Some may feel that the floating lanterns in the river are a better way to partake in with this kind of activity.

The floating lanterns are made mostly of flowers and plant material so there is less of a harm to the environment when compared to the paper and wire lanterns.

The material from the lantern that is released into the sky can potentially end up in the sea and cause harmful damage to the wildlife. (it is a bit unsafe for people as well if the happen to fall down on them!).

So, please keep these things in mind when deciding what to do for yourself.

I know that I will no longer float them into the air unless an alternative type of lantern was offered that would not cause any environmental harm.

If you are in the northern part of Thailand, be sure to take a couple of days and visit Chiang Rai. There are some fantastic things to do and see there that you don’t want to miss!

Looking for accommodations? Here’s a good place to find them!

Thailand Travel Guide For Adventure and fun
Yee Peng Lantern Festival In Chiang Mai – Complete Guide With Tips
18 responses
  1. Katie Featherstone Avatar
    Katie Featherstone

    I’ve always wanted to be there to see this. It must look amazing!Thanks for the advise.

    1. Taiss Nowrouzi Avatar
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      I recommend being in Chiang Mai during this time. It is pretty fantastic!

  2. Wanderlust Vegans Avatar
    Wanderlust Vegans

    What a cool looking festival! I love lanterns they are so romantic. I love your video of the send off of the lanterns into the sky. What an amazing thing to be apart of.

    1. Taiss Nowrouzi Avatar
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      It was very exciting to be able to join in the festivities!

  3. Paula - Gone with the Wine Avatar
    Paula – Gone with the Wine

    Wow! This is so cool! I would love to experience something like this . I think that this is a beautiful tradition and it’s great that they let also tourists participate. I hope to visit Thailand soon.

    1. Taiss Nowrouzi Avatar
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      Thailand is great in general, but Chiang Mai has a special charm to it and this festival really brings that out!

  4. Kellyn Avatar

    This seemed like such a beautiful experience. Thanks for sharing. I’ve always wanted to participate in this.

    1. Taiss Nowrouzi Avatar
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      it really is great! I think we will be there again this year to do it all over!

  5. Lena from fouronaworldtrip Avatar
    Lena from fouronaworldtrip

    oh thats great… we are planning to visit Chiang Mai when doing our world trip and my son just told me a few days ago that he would love to release a lantern :) I am saving this for later to know everything about when we’re there! Thanks for putting it together

    1. Taiss Nowrouzi Avatar
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      awesome to hear that! Hope you guys get a chance to release one this year!

  6. Jeany Avatar

    Lanternfestivals always fascinated me! This looks so adventerous and beautiful! How did you find out when that festival will take place before you went there? Did you look it up somewhere or did you visit just at the right time? 1Dollar per lantern sound pretty cheap! I would like to attend next time :)

    1. Taiss Nowrouzi Avatar
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      I had heard about it before and done some research and this was the first time we were in Chiang Mai during the time it takes place so I was thrilled I could attend. I had missed it by a couple of months the previous year so it was a treat!

  7. Swati & Sam Avatar
    Swati & Sam

    We were in Thailand in 2013 during this festival. We saw people flying these lanterns on the beaches of Krabi. It does look beautiful. Really nice video as well.

    1. Taiss Nowrouzi Avatar
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      Oh that’s awesome! I think it would be great on the beach! Thank you!

  8. dennisallacross Avatar

    So, this is about to happen again soon, right? I have to go to Thailand!
    Actually, I visited a similar festival in Taiwan this year, the “Pingxi Lantern Festival”, which takes place in February during the Chinese Lantern Festival. There, it was also difficult to get the necessary information together beforehand. But it was so beautiful and well worth it! Could you also write some good wishes on the lantern before sending it to the sky?

    1. Taiss Nowrouzi Avatar
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      That’s so cool that you experienced something similar in Taiwan! I will have to note that and try to catch it sometime. I forgot that you can write something on the lantern before sending it off. I got so excited last time I didn’t do it, so I will this time. It will be in Chiang Mai this weekend!

  9. HappyLuke Thailand Avatar
    HappyLuke Thailand

    The reason why I love the Lantern festival is that it brings so much hope and new beginning to people. If you release a lantern into the sky or into the river, you can wish to have a bright future or you just simply wish that all your problems and bad luck will go away with it.

    1. Taiss Nowrouzi Avatar
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      What a wonderful reason to love this festival! It’s a joyful time in Thailand for sure!

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Hi! We’re Rob and Taiss. We set off to live a life in as many places as possible. To actually live in locations around the world long enough to get to know the locals, the culture, and the food, not just a taste of it.
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