Photo Essay: Yee Peng Floating Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai image

This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

The Chiang Mai regulars rave about the Yee Peng (or Yi Peng) floating lantern festival that takes place each year, and after attending the event last weekend we are now amongst the converts. It was one of the most incredible, beautiful sights we have ever seen.

Yee Peng is an ancient, traditional Lanna festival that takes place in northern Thailand to pay respect to Buddha. Chiang Mai has the biggest celebration.

After arriving hours early to take our place in the field, and waiting eagerly in the hot sun, the ceremony began with Buddhist chanting and meditation led by monks in saffron robes. It was peaceful and beautiful, but I’ll admit that by the end of the hour-long religious ceremony we were restless, having already waited for four hours. Finally we were instructed to light our candles mounted on stands throughout the field. The field was illuminated with the soft glow of thousands of flickering candles.

Waiting to release lanterns at Yee Peng
Candle at Yee Peng

Then it was time to light our paper lanterns or Khom Loy. At 90 cm in diameter they weren’t the easiest things to handle between the two of us (especially as I was taking photos with one hand), and our awkwardness alerted the event staff who came to help us and make sure we didn’t set the whole thing on fire.

Simon lighting lantern at Yee Peng

Once the lanterns are lit you hold them for a few minutes and wait while they fill with hot air and inflate.

Inflated lanterns at Yee Peng

The field fills with huge inflated lanterns, everyone eagerly awaiting the signal to release them.

Inflated lanterns waiting for release at Yee Peng

Then, it’s time. Thousand of lanterns are released at the same moment into the night sky.

Release of lanterns at Yee Peng

Above us, all around us, we are surrounded by glowing, floating lanterns. That one moment is one of the most magical and surreal we have ever experienced.

Yee Peng lantern release

The sky fills with lanterns. As a reader on our Facebook page commented, like luminescent jelly fish in the deep ocean.

Yee Peng floating lanterns, Chiang Mai

They float upwards surprisingly quickly.

Yee Peng festival

The initial release is the most spectacular, but we didn’t want it to end, so were glad that there are a few more lantern releases.

We lit our second lantern.

Us releasing our lantern at Yee Peng

And watched it join the others in the sky.

Second lantern release at Yee Peng

Just when we thought the event couldn’t get any more spectacular, fireworks exploded amongst the lanterns.

Fireworks at Yee Peng, Chiang Mai
Fireworks at Yee Peng

As the lanterns drifted further away into the black sky they looked like orange stars.

Yee Peng lanterns drifting away

Once the final lanterns are released the jubilant mood becomes more serene. Candles flicker and gently illuminate the field while lanterns gleam overhead. A praying family reminds us that this is a religious event, a time to pay respect to Buddha.

Praying family at Yee Peng

How to Attend Yee Peng

If you would like to attend Yee Peng in future years here are some practical details.

The biggest Yee Peng (also written as Yi Peng) festival takes place in Chiang Mai every year around the end of October or November. The exact date depends on the moon cycles which the Lanna calendar is based upon. The floating lantern festival happens at around the same time as the nationwide Loy Krathong Festival which will take place around 10th November in 2011.

Yee Peng happens near the Mae Jo University about 20 km north of Chiang Mai. We drove there on a moped (which you can hire for 150 Baht/$5 a day) but you need to be fairly confident in driving on the highway and in the traffic after the event.

Alternatively you can take a songthaew (covered pick up truck that functions as a shared taxi) from the Warorot Market in Chiang Mai. It is best to arrange for a driver to pick you up afterwards  as it isn’t always possible to find a shared songthaew back.

Entrance to the festival is free. There are plenty of food stalls, and you are only allowed to use lanterns purchased inside the event (100B/$3).

The ceremony starts at 6pm. We arrived around 3pm but this was too early – 4.30pm or 5pm would have been fine.


  1. Attending this is a DREAM of mine. So glad you got to experience it and thanks for the How To. I’ll be in Thailand next fall, hopefully in time for this festival!

    Reply ↓

  2. Don’t want to nitpick, but…

    a moped is a bicycle with a small engine. I’ve never seen a moped in Thailand. Actually, what you rented was a motorbike (if it has a shifter) or a scooter (if it has automatic transmission and a platform for your feet).

    Very much enjoy your blog.

    Regards, Rand D.

    Reply ↓

  3. Hi, this is such an amazing festival! Since I’m studying in Bangkok now, I want to go to this festival so badly. But information on the internet is very vague and confusing though. Some say it’s on the full moon night (28th November this year), some says that the *free* event for locals is hidden and held 1 week before. The only exact date I found was the Yee Peng lanna International, and I’m sure I don’t have $80 nor want to attend this event at all. I really need an exact date.

    I’d be truly happy if you could clarify some of my concerns. From your experience is this held at the full moon day? At the Mae Jo university as well? Will the locals celebrate/release lanterns inside the city too? Thank you very very much!

    Reply ↓

    • Hi An,
      The local lantern release at Mae Jo that we attended took place about a week or so before the paid event last year. This was before the Loy Krathong festival during the full moon when locals do release lanterns in the city and there’s lots going on but it wasn’t the same as the mass release.

      I just found this on the site of the paid event where they say that the free event is on 24th November:
      They say that one is reserved for monks but it’s probably just to get you to pay for the tourist event. I don’t know this for a fact though. Good luck and I hope you make it there!

      Reply ↓

  4. We really want to attend the sky Lantern release this year. Do you know what date in November the FREE event will be on?

    Any help is very much appreciated and I really enjoyed your article / photos!

    Jenna Inns

    Reply ↓

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published. By clicking the Submit button, you give consent for us to store your information for the purposes of displaying your comment and you accept the terms of our Privacy Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.