HomeThailandChiang Mai vs Sukhothai: Where is Better To Celebrate Loy Krathong Festival

Chiang Mai vs Sukhothai: Where is Better To Celebrate Loy Krathong Festival


Loy Krathong - Thailand’s famous lantern festival is held on the full moon day in November each year. This year, Loy Krathong will fall on November 13th, so there is not long left to decide where you should celebrate. Two of the best places in Thailand to observe the local people releasing their lotus-shaped, candle-filled baskets down the river are Chiang Mai and Sukhothai in Northern Thailand. But which city is the best choice for you to visit?

This article will look at both places in detail to help you make the right decision.

loy krathong festival in sukhothai parkLoy Krathong festival celebration in Sukhothai historical park

Quick facts:

  • Chiang Mai might be the better option for you if you are on a tight schedule or you have plans for onward travel as the city has an international and regional airport with far more connecting flights than Sukhothai.
  • In Chiang Mai, you can enjoy the Koy Krathong And Yi Peng Festivals in the same week.
  • Sukhothai would suit those who enjoy a slower pace of life and less other tourists.
  • Loy Krathong originated in Sukhothai, which was the first Thai capital.

What Events and Activities Does Chiang Mai Have for Loy Krathong?

The 2019 Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Sky Lantern Festival are two different festivals that take place from Saturday, the 9th to Tuesday the 12th of November. Loy Krathong as stated above involves floating a krathong down the river, whereas Yi Peng is Thailand’s festival of lights, with thousands of flying lanterns being let off into the night sky across the city.

beautiful krathongs on river during loy krathong festival

Loy Krathong itself is held on Wednesday the 13th, with the Yee Peng Festival staring the day before. In the week leading up to the festivals, lanterns can be seen hanging all around the city but most notably at the famous Thae Pae Gate and Three Kings Monument.

Alongside the floating light ceremonies, there are also parades, fireworks and cultural dancing involving the local Lanna people of Chiang Mai. It’s unclear how much longer the Yi Peng festival will be held as growing protests from airlines over recent years have seen the famous university lantern release being forced to shut down. If you have been thinking of going to observe Yi Peng, now is the time to do it.

With the closing of the university show, the best place to watch the Yi Peng Festival in 2019 is at the Cowboy Army Riding Club(now relocated to Chiang Mai Air Sports Farm) on the 11th and 12th November.

sky lanterns at Yi peng festival in Chiang maiSky lanterns released at Yi peng festival in Chiang Mai

Advantages of Going to Chiang Mai for Lantern Festival:

1. Two Festivals in One

One of the main advantages of heading to Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong is the fact that you can take in two festivals in the same week. Yee Ping festival is unique to Chiang Mai so if you want to observe the amazing lanterns lighting up the night sky, Chiang Mai is the place to go.

2. Easy Transport Options

Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s most visited cities and boasts an international and regional airport, with flights arriving and departing from all over Thailand and the surrounding countries. This makes it a lot easier to get to Chiang Mai than Sukhothai, as you don’t have to connect in Bangkok. If you are on a tight schedule or you plan to fly to another country after Loy Krathong, this is something to consider.

On top of the numerous flight options, you can also travel up to Chiang Mai from Bangkok on the new sleeper train. This is a perfect option for anyone who prefers not to fly. Rooms on the sleeper train include wifi, plug sockets, a washbasin, bench seats that convert into beds, a mirror and a 14 inch personal LCD touch screen displaying the route and satellite information in English.

3. More Things To Do at Chiang Mai than Sukhothai

Chiang Mai is Thailand’s 4th biggest but 2nd most visited city. This means that it is well primed for tourism. If you are planning to spend a few extra days after or before Loy Krathong/Yi Peng, Chiang Mai could be the better option for you.

Chiang mai temple during festival

Here is a list of things you can combine your Loy Krathong trip within Chiang Mai.

Disadvantages of Choosing Chiang Mai over Sukhothai

1. It Can Get Busy

With Chiang Mai being such an important Thai city for tourism, it can get very busy, especially at rush hour around the main moat. There are a lot of tourists in Chiang Mai, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your preference. If you don’t like crowds or are looking for a more relaxing vacation, Sukhothai may be the better option.

2. You Have To Travel To Make The Most of It

Chiang Mai is a large province and a lot of the activities are located outside of the city, sometimes 1-2 hours drive from the main gate. This means that if you want to make the most of your time there, you will have to travel by car or van. We feel that the amazing things you will see will justify the traveling but it’s something to bare in mind if you have limited time and prefer everything to be in one place.

  • Cost: Start from 143$ for cowboy army riding club entrance fee for the event;(pick-up and transportation included);
  • Note: Tickets of several event spots in Chiang Mai are selling out rapidly since Thai official institutions only issues a limited number of them every year;
  • Event ticket availability: We have a limited number of tickets available at the Cowboy Army Riding Club. Contact us for up to date availability and secure VIP ticket for the best view!

What Events and Activities Does Sukhothai Have for Lantern Festival?

Loy Krathong in Sukhothai commences in the early evening after the sun goes down, leaving the daytime free for visitors to explore the incredibly beautiful Sukhothai Historical Park. You can take a tram tour around the park but in our opinion, the best way to explore the area is to hire a bicycle for the day and take a quiet ride around the ancient ruins and surrounding countryside.

This year in Sukhothai, for Loy Krathong, there will be a ‘Light and Sound or also called Sukhothai Candle festival’ performance every night from the 2nd to the 11th of November at the stunning Mahathat Temple Courtyard. Over 300 professional actors will come together to create a magical experience in the heart of the ancient city.

release krathongs on river during lantern festival in Thailand

On top of the Light and Sound festival, visitors will be able to enjoy numerous parades, a floating procession of large krathongs from 17 Northern provinces, a Krathong design contest, the Miss Noppamas Beauty Contest, a Sukhothai arts and cultural performance, traditional fireworks, a night bazaar and many more activities as well as the main floating of the krathongs at the stunning Wat Sa Si Pond.

Many hotels in Old Sukhothai provide bicycles for guests, or alternatively, you can hire one from just outside the entrance to the Historical Park. If you are in the Sukhothai for at least a few days, make sure to the trip out to the quieter, but equally beautiful, Si Satchanalai Historical Park.

Advantages of Going to Sukultai for Lantern Festival:

1. You will be celebrating in the birthplace of Loy Krathong

Although Loy Krathong festival is now celebrated throughout the whole of the country, the ritual originated in Sukhothai city during the ancient Sukothai Kingdom, which was the first capital of Thailand. This makes watching Loy Krathong in Sukhothai a magical experience, where you will feel like you’ve stepped back in time to centuries gone by. Learn more about the legend of Loy Krathong festival or watch the legend story at ;https://www.youtube.com/embed/Eau-IS8gAgo

Origin & legend of Loy Krathong Festival

2. Amazing Scenery

There aren’t many more spectacular sights in Thailand than the old Khmer temples that make up Sukhothai Historic Park. The fact that the park is the backdrop to the Loy Krathong festival makes celebrating here even more incredible. The floating of the krathongs at Wat Sa Si Pond is one of the most beautiful scenes you can observe in the whole of Thailand.

3. Slow Paced Local Life

Sukhothai runs at an altogether slower pace than Chiang Mai. If you want to avoid the crowds and see local Thai village life, there aren't too many better ways to do it than on a leisurely bike ride around Sukhothai’s beautiful countryside.

4. All Attractions and Events are just in one park

The main advantage that Sukhothai has over Chiang Mai is that no matter if you are staying in the old town or ‘new Sukhothai’, they are only 12km away from each other. All the main attractions are centered around these two places, meaning you won’t have to travel more than 20 minutes to reach either one.

Disadvantages of Choosing Sukhothai over Chiang Mai

1. There Isn’t That Much To Do Outside Of The Parks

Apart from the Sukhothai Historical Park, a few markets and local villages, there isn’t as much to see in Sukhothai when compared with Chiang Mai. If you like a quieter vacation, this won’t be a problem but if you like a more modern city with a wider range of activities, you may be better suited to Chiang Mai.

2. No Yi Peng Celebrations in Sukhothai

With Yi Peng festival being exclusive to Chiang Mai, travelers aren’t able to enjoy the flying lantern festival if they choose Sukhothai over Chiang Mai.

3. Less Travel Options

Sukhothai has a lot less flight options per day than Chiang Mai and you will also have to transfer via Bangkok to get to the ancient city. If you are planning a trip to Bangkok, then this won’t bother you but if you want to skip the capital, Chiang Mai is a better option.

4. Not Much Nightlife

Sukhothai isn’t known for its booming nightlife. Aside from a few local bars, there isn’t too much going on when the sun goes down, especially if you are staying in Sukhothai’s old city. There are a few more options in the new city but still far less than in Chiang Mai.

  • Cost: 600/900/1200 baht per ticket depends on your seat type ; (around 20-40$)
  • Event ticket availability: Contact us to get a free quotation of 8-day tour for experience Lantern Festival at both Chiang Mai and Sukhothai or to secure a seat at Sukhothai light show.

So Which City is Best For You To Celebrate in?

Both Chiang Mai and Sukhothai have their advantages, it really just comes down to personal preference. If you like a fast pace with lots to do, go with Chiang Mai. If you would rather a slower, more relaxing holiday with less tourists, you may want to opt for Sukhothai.

Still can’t choose one over the other? You may not need to when you can easily enjoy both cities in the same trip, as well as taking in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok!

Our 8-day Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Sukhothai tour let’s you see the 3 best places for Loy Krathong in Thailand without missing out on the Yi Peng festival:

The Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Festival Tour takes travelers to experience the celebration of two mesmerizing Lantern Festivals. The first stop on the itinerary is the vibrant capital city of Bangkok. After Bangkok, explore Sukhothai, the ancient capital of Siam, then head to Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom.

Temple during Thailand lantern Festival

The highlights of this trip include experiencing a floating lantern release without the crowds in quiet and peaceful Sukhothai and experiencing a thrilling sky lantern release during the Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai. In addition to these memorable experiences, you will also have the opportunity to spend time with local people, eat great food, see picturesque temples, interact with real elephants, and appreciate the spectacular natural scenery of Thailand.

Discover Loy Krathong and Yi Peng with Asia Highlights

Lantern Festival and yee peng festival all in one package in Chiang Mai:
Tickets to Chiang Mai Lantern Festival 2019

8 Day Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Sukhothai best Loy Krathong experience tour:
A Unique Loy Krathong & Yi Peng Festival Tour