A Travel Guide to the Inspiring Yi Peng Lantern Festival

Yi Peng,Festival in Chiang Mai Thailand

The Yi Peng Festival is an annual celebration held throughout northern Thailand, but many tourists will flock to Chiang Mai to experience the event for themselves. It is also written as “Yee Peng Lantern Festival” or is often referred to as the “Festival of Light.”

The festival is when people release sky lanterns, or “Khom Loi/Khom Fai,” into the night sky. These lanterns are made of thin paper materials like rice paper with a bamboo structure. Within the sky lantern is a candle or fire starter; the heat generated gets trapped in the lantern, which lifts the lantern to the sky.

Below, we’ll go through what the Yi Peng Lantern Festival is and provide some handy advice on how you can enjoy this Thai celebration for yourself.

What is the Yi Peng Floating Lantern Festival?

Sky lanterns in Yi Peng Floating Lantern Festival
tawatchai1990 / Adobe Stock

This Thai lantern festival was originally a way to mark the end of the rainy season and to honor Buddha. Now, people carry on the tradition of filling the sky with mass lantern releases, and it’s become a popular festival in Chiang Mai to draw in tourists.

Many people today believe that in releasing the lanterns, they pay their respects to the Buddha. They believe their actions will bring good luck and happiness to their lives.

It’s believed that if your lantern disappears once the candle goes out, you’ve successfully released bad luck and will be graced with good fortune that year. However, if your lantern crashes with the candle still lit, you’re potentially in for some lousy luck.

Hanging lanterns in Chiang Mai
pomphotothailand / Adobe Stock

When is the Yi Peng Festival?

Lanterns in Yi Peng Festival, Thailand
tawatchai1990 / Adobe Stock

The Yi Peng Lantern Festival is a religious festival and a yearly event held on the evening of the full moon of the twelfth lunar month depicted in the Thai lunar calendar (usually November).

It’s worth getting to Chiang Mai a few days before the festival gets going, as it’s a very popular event, and the crowds will gather. You can buy a lantern in multiple spots around Chiang Mai, but getting there a little early means you have a greater chance of buying one before stock dries up.

See Related: How to Plan a Trip to Thailand and Build an Itinerary

How to Celebrate Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai

Sky filled with lanterns in Yee Peng Festival
stnazkul / Adobe Stock

While the spiritual significance of the festival is celebrated throughout northern Thailand, it’s one of the most popular Chiang Mai events for tourists. So, making your way to Chiang Mai to experience this event is a good move.

Lanterns are released throughout Chiang Mai, but some of the best spots within Chiang Mai city center to visit during the festival to get involved with all the fun include:

  • The Three Kings Monument
  • The Old Town Moat
  • Thapae Gate

But these are just the main top spots; you can enjoy the Yi Peng celebration in your own way across Chiang Mai. Head on over to a rooftop bar if you would rather avoid the crowds and enjoy the free event as an observer rather than release your own lantern.

You could also take your gaze away from the skies and enjoy the decorated temples, of which there are many in Chiang Mai. In fact, Chiang Mai has more than 300 temples for you to visit. So, this is a great way to learn more about the local culture during the day while you wait for the lantern festival at night.

If you’re planning on attending the Yi Peng festival, be sure to follow these travel tips:

  • Find local lantern sellers early. This is a popular event, and you won’t want to travel all the way to Thailand to take part only to find the lanterns are sold out.
  • You could seek out local crafting opportunities to learn how to make your own floating lanterns.
  • Arrive early to get a good spot to view the sky lanterns. If you get to Chiang Mai a few days before the event, consider a city tour of the highlights to scope out your spot for the festival.
  • Bring a blanket or chair, as limited seating is available at some of the more popular spots.
  • Exercise caution in large crowds and keep your belongings close by. Avoid bringing any unnecessary valuables. With that in mind, having a gander over on travelinsurance.com is a smart move to find the best possible cover for you when you travel to such busy events for complete peace of mind.

See Related: Best Floating Lantern Festivals in the World

Lantern Festival Photography Tips

Lanterns in Yi Peng Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand
jaboo_foto / Adobe Stock

The Lantern Festival is a beautiful opportunity to experience Thai Lanna culture. But it’s also an excellent opportunity to capture the mass lantern release event that leaves the sky ablaze with paper lanterns. Here are some tips for capturing the magic of launching lanterns at this event through photography:

  • Get in early to grab the ideal spot free from visual obstructions.
  • Have a reliable camera ready for action or a decent phone camera to take great shots; whatever fits your budget will be perfect!
  • Take a good tripod or image-stabilizing gimble with you for crisp night sky shots.
  • Set your camera to a high ISO setting. While higher ISO creates more grain, a properly exposed image will look better than an underexposed one.
  • Stop down your lens to the smallest aperture – f/2.8 is ideal, but you can make it work with f/5.6 if need be.
  • Experiment with different shutter speeds. It will help you find the setting that gives you the best results.
  • Take advantage of the ambient light. It will add a bit of vibrancy and color to your photos.

See Related: Bizarre Festivals You’ve Got To Try Yourself

Best Places to Stay Near Yi Peng Lantern Festival

Best Luxury Hotel: 137 Pillars House

137 Pillars House room interior
137 Pillars House / Booking.com

The 137 Pillars House is a luxury hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The hotel is a short 5-minute drive from Thapae Gate and a 10-minute drive from the city center.

The hotel offers guests luxurious accommodations with a large outdoor swimming pool, yoga classes, and in-room dining available. The hotel is a great place to stay to see the festival turn the Chiang Mai sky into a sparkling wonderland.

Best Mid-Range Hotel: Adventure Gate Hotel

The Adventure Hotel exterior in Chiang Mai, Thailand
derekke / Tripadvisor

Adventure Gate Hotel is an excellent option for a comfortable and affordable stay. The property features spacious rooms with all necessary amenities, complimentary WiFi, and breakfast.

Best Mid-Range Hotel: Pingviman Hotel

Pingviman Hotel exterior
Pingviman Hotel / Facebook

Pingviman Hotel provides affordable luxury with Thai-style rooms featuring wooden furnishings and facilities such as a business center and fitness suite.

The hotel is primed and ready to help make your trip to Chiang Mai memorable, with a tour desk ready to help plan your excursions. It’s only a short walk to the excellent night markets of Chiang Mai and in a great spot for venturing out to other parts of the city.

Best Budget Hotel: Stay Here Hostel

Double Bedroom in Stay Here Hostel
Stay Here Hostel / Booking.com

Located within Chiang Mai Old Town, the Stay Here Hostel provides guests with a convenient and affordable place to stay while enjoying the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai. With its prime location, you have easy access to the action of the festival, watching as the sky slowly fills with lanterns is accessible from the hotel.

Best Budget Hotel: Sleep Mai Thapae Old City Lifestyle Hotel

Sleep Mai Thapae Chiang Mai Old City Lifestyle Hotel exterior
Sleep Mai Thapae / Booking.com

Sleep Mai Thapae Chiang Mai Old City Lifestyle Hotel – SHA Plus is one of the best places to stay to enjoy the floating lantern festival.

The hotel is within walking distance of the main festivities, and its staff will be happy to help you find the best places to watch the action.

Best Vacation Rental: Ban Pongphan

Chic Hotel Room of the Ban Pongphan
Ban Pongphan / Agoda

Ban Pongphan is a small, family-owned rental apartment complex in the heart of Chiang Mai. It’s a great place to stay if you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful getaway, and the owners are always happy to help you with anything you need. The apartments are simple but comfortable, and the views from the balcony are stunning.

See Related: Budget-Friendly Family Vacations

FAQs

Why is the Yi Peng Lantern Festival celebrated?

The Yi Peng Lantern Festival is deeply rooted in the Buddhist culture as far back as the late 13th Century during the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Its original purpose was to see out the monsoon season and welcome the cool season. It was also a way to honor the Buddha and, in doing so, bring good fortune and luck for the year ahead while releasing negative bad luck from the previous year.

What are the distinguishing features of the Yi Peng Festival?

The Yi Peng Festival is a significant religious event traditionally celebrated throughout northern Thailand, and it has a few distinguishing features.
Most notable are the hundreds of brightly lit lanterns adorn the sky as people wish for good luck in the coming year.

There’s actually another festival celebrated simultaneously, which is also a part of the Festival of Lights, Loy Krathong. However, the major difference is that Loy Krathong is celebrated by releasing floating lanterns into the water to both pay homage and respect to the Goddess of Water and the Buddga simultaneously. During the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, homes and temples also decorate their exterior with colorful lanterns to pay respect to Buddha and let go of negative memories.

Related Resources

Lisa Ward
WRITTEN BY

Lisa Ward

Lisa Ward is a travel writer based in Jersey. She loves hiking and adventure travel and has hiked to Everest Base Camp and Machu Picchu, as well as through Patagonia and up several volcanoes across the world. Lisa cycled down Death Road in Bolivia, went canyoneering in Costa Rica, climbed canopies in Honduras. That school trip to Honduras sparked Lisa’s interest in the underwater world. She has since undergone basic training in biological research concerning marine conservation, most notably that of coral reefs. She is a PADI qualified Rescue Diver with a specialty in underwater photography. So far, she has dived in Jersey, Honduras, Indonesia, and the Great Barrier Reef.

After gaining her law degree and falling into the world of finance, Lisa gained a qualification in digital marketing before deciding to take the leap into writing full time. Lisa is also a trained English Language tutor with a TEFL qualification and specialty qualifications in teaching online and 1-1. Other interests include playing the clarinet, which Lisa played in orchestras from the age of 10 to 19, martial arts (black belt in karate), and quite literally anything outdoors.