Yi Peng Lanterns Festival in Chiang Mai

Tips for Yi Peng & Loi Krathong Festivals in Chiang Mai

This is the type of festival that makes a trip to the other side of the world worth it! Very hyped up but, in my opinion, totally living to the hype, Yee Peng & Loi Kratong present a Chiang Mai even more exciting than in the rest of the year.


Difference between Yi Peng and Loi Krathong

Although often mixed up, specially by tourists, Yi (or Yee) Peng and Loi Krathong are two different festivals.

Loi Krathong (which roughly translates into “to float a basket”) is a Buddhist festival and its date varies according to the Thai lunar calendar. On this day, Thai people build krathongs (little floating altars with flowers and candles) that they let go with the river flow, to symbolically pay respect to Lord Buddha. This is also a way of “cleaning” the sins of the previous year and move on with a clear slate, by letting your problems and worries get washed away.

Loi Krathong coincides with the date of Yee Peng, a different festival from the Lanna tradition of Northern Thailand. This is the reason why in Chiang Mai (the former capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom) both are celebrated on the same days and so often mistaken.

During Yee Peng, crowds of devotees and visitors release thousands and thousands of lanterns into the sky, also as an offering to Lord Buddha. When this happens simultaneously, the visual effect is as stunning as this:


Tips for Yi Peng in Chiang Mai

Unless you can Google in Thai language, you won’t be able to find a lot of info regarding the Yi Peng festivities in Chiang Mai, commonly referred to as “The Festival of Lights” or “Lantern Festival” by foreigners.

The release of lanterns happens all over the city as soon as the night comes down on the Yee Peng date and even on the days around it. But there are areas where everyone concentrates on the main day, to release the lanterns simultaneously.



Mae Jo University in the outskirts of  Chiang Mai (about 15 minutes by car/bike, without traffic) hosts 2 different Yee Peng festivals: a commercial one aimed at international tourists and “the real deal”, where locals and visitors mingle. Tickets for the international version of Yee Peng cost around USD100 and it tends to sell out with a lot of time in advance. This year, it will happen in the beginning of November.

On this article, we focus on the real Yee Peng, which we attended in 2013. Free, with incredible vibes and those rare opportunities to hang out a little with Thai families in the friendliest of atmospheres… against a mesmerizing lit up background!



In 2014, Yi Peng happens on the 25th of October.


Things you should know about Yee Peng in Chiang Mai:

- Book your accommodation in Chiang Mai with as much time in advance as possible. Everything fills up and prices go bananas!

- You should arrive to the Lanna Duthanka Buddhist Center in Mae Jo University early to get a good spot. Although the praying ceremony and lanterns release will only happen in the evening, the place gets incredibly crowded. 4pm onwards would be a good time.

- If you indeed arrive early, there will be a lot of waiting time under the sun. Bring some sun block, food and drinks. You wouldn’t want to move from the spot you came so early to guarantee!

Crowds waiting for the Yee Peng evening to start

Crowds waiting for the Yee Peng evening to start


- Traffic around the area is absolutely crazy. Even on a small bike, we were stuck on traffic on the way out. Avoid bringing your car. There is shared public transportation available. If not, mopeds are still preferred (you can hire them in town, for the equivalent of USD5/USD7 a day).

- There are songthaews (covered pick up trucks used as shared taxis) departing from Warorot Market in Chiang Mai to the event. To find your way back, make sure you agree with the driver on a spot and time to be picked up.

- There are lanterns being sold before the entrance to the venue. Those are indeed cheaper than inside, but you will not be able to carry them inside with you. For the sake of security standards, the organizers sell their own lanterns inside the venue. Those will only be white in color (made with rice paper) and with natural materials. We didn’t know this… so we had actually bought some lanterns outside. We then decided to hide them amongst the bushes and they were still there by the time we came out… YAY, more fun for the next days!!

Everybody likes posing with their lanterns before the release

Everybody likes posing with their lanterns before the release

A&Z celebrating Yee Peng

A&Z celebrating Yee Peng


- At Mae Jo, lanterns usually cost 100 Baht, that is the equivalent to USD3.

- Keep in mind that this is a religious event. Be quiet during the prayers prior to the lanterns release (they last for about one hour) and dress appropriately too. There is a team of people checking out your clothes by the entrance, so skip shorts and uncovered shoulders. Traditionally, people dress in white color. During the bilingual ceremony, you’ll be asked to meditate on your good actions from the past year. So I hope you have a lot of material…

Buddhist monks chant before the Yi Peng lanterns release

Buddhist monks chant before the Yi Peng lanterns release

A space dedicated to Lord Buddha

A space dedicated to Lord Buddha


- You don’t have to have a lantern per person. One per couple or group of friends works well. They are really big and not that easy to lit up, so you need more than 2 hands to do the job. Be ready… as everyone is meant to release the lanterns simultaneously (although some people don’t…)!

A group of friends with traditional Lanna clothes prepare to release their lanterns into the sky

A group of friends with traditional Lanna clothes prepare to release their lanterns into the sky


- Don’t forget to write down your messages and wishes on the lantern before you launch it… it is supposed to bring you good luck!

People write their messages and wishes on their lanterns

People write their messages and wishes on their lanterns


- The place will look absolutely photogenic. But take your time to release the lantern and soak the beautiful atmosphere in. There will be subsequent lanterns being released and you will have plenty of photo opportunities without having to miss out on living the moment – after all, that’s what you are here for!!

Getting ready to release the Yee Peng lanterns

Getting ready to release the Yee Peng lanterns

Simultaneous release of the Yee Peng lanters... STUNNING!

Simultaneous release of the Yee Peng lanters… STUNNING!


- If you don’t like crowds, skip Mae Jo and head to Chiang Mai’s city center. Lanterns keep on being released over there as well by many people and, in the distance, you can see how the sky lights up as the lanterns at Mae Jo university get released (seen best from the Nawarat Bridge above the Ping River).

- In town, a basic lantern will cost the equivalent to a USD1 or less. But you can get a little more creative and buy lanterns with funny shapes too. I chose Doraemon, because I figured a cosmic cat would know how to fly high into the sky as no Angry Bird could ever do!

Doraemon looks like he's scared of flying!!

Doraemon looks like he's scared of flying!!


- Avoid lanterns with firecrackers (or firecrackers all together). They are really not fun and safe in the middle of such big crowds.


Post Yee Peng atmosphere at Mae Jo University

Post Yee Peng atmosphere at Mae Jo University


So what about Loi Krathong?

The main day for Loi Krathong is on the day after Yee Peng. There are activities happening all over town, at all times of the day: parades, exhibitions, lantern contests and religious events.

Beautiful krathongs for sale

Beautiful krathongs for sale


But at night, Loi Krathong fills Chiang Mai with a wonderful atmosphere once again, as families get close to the river to allow their krathongs to float away… Although traditionally built with banana leafs, some krathongs are being sold with styrofoam these days. Considering they’ll end up somewhere in the river, these should be avoided 100%. Build or buy krathongs with bio-degradable materials only.

Loi Krathong night in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong night in Chiang Mai


In good Thai fashion, the serene krathongs release (which does not happen simultaneously, unlike the lanterns on Yee Peng) is taken to the next level with music, games, foods and drinks. There’s a happening party atmosphere all over town. But if you prefer a more peaceful scene, head to any wat (temple) where special lights make the buildings look even prettier.

Crowds celebrating Loi Krathong by the riverside in Chiang Mai

Crowds celebrating Loi Krathong by the riverside in Chiang Mai

Fun and games during Loi Krathong

Fun and games during Loi Krathong

Girls get dressed with traditional Lanna clothing during the festivities in Chiang Mai

Girls get dressed with traditional Lanna clothing during the festivities in Chiang Mai


More info about the 2014 edition of Yee Peng festival can be found here.


This is one of the most beautiful festivals we have ever attended.

We hope you make it to Chiang Mai for Yee Peng and Loi Krathong one day too!

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  • Very interesting festivities. And I love to try flying those lanterns with a large crowd. Looks like it’s such a magical activity, very overwhelming to see thousands of lanterns flying above the night sky.

  • Perfect perfect perfect! Thank you!! I will definitely do this one year – hopefully next year – and this guide is perfectly timed! Thank you guys :)

  • Fabiana Says

    What a fun festival! I am doing my best to be able to make it there nedt year.

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  • Frank Says

    Nice post guys because people get confused. We just went to the Loy Krathong here in Hua Hin a few weeks ago and was interesting seeing the floats and costumes:
    But what we’d really love to see is Yi Peng. Your photos look great and I remember seeing it on that great video of yours:) Maybe next year!
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Zara Says

      Thanks Frank! Yes, we were also confused in the beginning, because both festivals get so mixed up (at least in articles in English).

      Glad to see you’re getting into travel videos too. Welcome to the club! ;)

  • Casey Says

    Thanks for the great tips! We will be in Chiang Mai for the festivals this year. You mentioned that we should get tickets in advance. I know the organizer doesn’t have anything published yet, but when do you suggest I look out and purchase the tickets?

  • Dee Says

    Absolutely love this! I’m planning to attend the Yi Peng festival this year but I’m still unsure with the dates. Same as Casey, How soon should I prepare and book for the festival when the dates aren’t out yet?

    I can feel the excitement already. I hope that it won’t get banned this year cause I’ve read that there was an issue about it. Looking forward to hear from you!

    • Zara Says

      Hi Dee,
      I suggest you keep on checking their facebook page (linked above int he article) to understand when the exact dates are and, more importantly, when they start selling tickets. I hope they don’t cancel it this year and you get to enjoy the stunning Yee Peng Festival! :)

  • Fernanda Says

    Hi! I just loved your description. I’m planning to be there this year, but I´m not sure about the date of the free event. Where can I check it, please? All I see in the websites is about the International Lanna (25th Nov).

    • Zara Says

      Hi Fernanda,
      I know the date varies a little each year, but unfortunately I do not know the exact date of the free event. I suggest you check the above FB page regularly, or keep track of other bloggers’ pages… bloggers based in Thailand tend to announce the date when they know it (usually not that much in advance, though). Good luck!

  • Laise Kami Says

    I absolutely LOVED your website. and Im really sorry about your experience in Brazil… and unfortunately I wouldnt recommend for any of my foreign friends… :(

    I’m planning to go to Chiang Mai (Thailand) to see the lantern release in MaeJo… but i’m getting really confused about having an official information about dates, places, names, etc…

    The Yi Peng and the Yeepeng Lanna International (this one on MaeJo’s university right?) happens one the same date?

    Do you guys bought tickets before going to Thailand, in a website or agency?

    Thanks for your time, and I will travel “with” you both for now on!
    Regards :)

    • Zara Says

      Hi Laise,

      I know… the Yee Peng details can be quite confusing!
      We didn’t buy anything in advanced. We just showed up on the day itself and it all worked out fine. I believe that, in advanced, you can only buy tickets for the touristic version of Yee Peng, not the “real” local one – the one featured on our article here.

      Hope it works for you. Have a great time.. Yee Peng is BEAUTIFUL!! :)

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  • DaveDH Says

    Thanks for the information!
    I will keep an eye on this page.
    I hope the exact date will arrive soon and that the event won’t be cancelled.

  • Roberta Says

    Thanks so much for this post, it is SO helpful!!! We are attending this year and we cannot wait, I’m so thrilled to see this festival.
    Do you have any tips regarding the best spot to stay at? Is it better a hotel by the river? any areas I should check?
    Thanks so much for any tips.

    • Zara Says

      Hi Roberta,
      Loi Krathong will be happening in the city centre, by the water. You can easily access it from any central location. But Yi Peng happens at the university, a short drive from the centre.. so, it doesn’t really matter where you stay, as long as you get to go to both places. You can easily rent a moped or use public transportation. Getting around is easy, you’ll see! :)

  • Alan Erick Arcaya Saenz Says

    Hi guys, thanks for the tips.
    I have just a question, where can I buy the tickets for the lantern festivals? I know that they are around 100 USD, but I can buy then in advance or I have to wait to arrive to Chiang Mai. Is there a public event too ?

    Thanks a lot.

    • Zara Says

      Yes, there is a public event which is free – this is the one described in this article. About the tickets for the “tourist Yee Peng”, the one I believe you’re mentioning, I am not sure how you can buy them in advanced, but I believe you can. I thought those were sold via travel agents. Maybe it’s a good idea to get in touch with some in Chiang Mai to ask.
      Good luck!

    • Luong Says

      You can buy ticket here :)

      This is website online ticket sales.

  • Amanda Says

    Hi, really helpfull and interesting article. But, I would like to know. If I don´t buy the Ticket for the Mae Joe, could I in in the Mae Jose University to see the Laterns?
    I would like to go by my own and for free. But I´m not sure If I have to buy the tickets to go there

    • Zara Says

      Hi Amanda,
      You do need to buy tickets to attend the event. At the most you’d be able to see the lanterns up in the sky from outside the university.. somewhere around the area. But to be in the exact place where the lanterns are released, you need to pay for admission.

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