Home Thailand Travel Guide Where to Celebrate Loy Krathong: Chiang Mai or Sukhothai

Where to Celebrate Loy Krathong: Chiang Mai or Sukhothai

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.

beautiful temple and lakes during loy krathong festival

Overview:

Both Chiang Mai and Sukhothai are incredible locations to experience Loy Krathong. Check out the information below to decide which one is best for you. If you"d like to experience both, you can arrange a tour to both cities plus Bangkok during the lantern festival to see not only the beauty of Yi Peng but the rich cultural history of Loy Krathong.

thai sky lantern festival ticket

Choose Chiang Mai if:

  1. You are interested in experiencing both Loy Krathong (the floating lantern festival) and Yi Peng (the sky lantern festival) in the same city.
  2. You understand that Loy Krathong is the busiest time of year to visit Chiang Mai and don"t mind the crowds.
  3. You are looking for a place that has plenty of other things to do like visiting elephant sanctuaries, hiking, and nightlife.
  4. You want to experience a mass sky lantern release like those at CAD and Maejo University.

Choose Sukhothai If:

  1. You want a more traditional and cultural Loy Krathong experience with events and performances spanning a week.
  2. You are interested in history and want to see the Loy Krathong celebration in the beautiful ruins of the Kingdom of Sukhothai.
  3. You don"t mind missing the Yi Peng sky lantern festival and only want to see Loy Krathong.
  4. You aren"t as interested in nightlife and are more interested in exploring ancient monuments.

Choose Both if:

  1. You want to travel to more than one city in just a few days.
  2. You want to experience both the rich cultural side of Loy Krathong and the stunning views of Yi Peng in one trip.

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

beautiful krathongs on river during loy krathong festival

The biggest advantage that Chiang Mai has over Sukhothai is that in Chiang Mai, there are two lantern festivals celebrated at the same time: Loy Krathong and Yi Peng.

Loy Krathong and Yi Peng will both take place on October 31st in 2020. Loy Krathong involves releasing a krathong, or floating lantern made from banana leaves, down the river.  Yi Peng is also known as the Sky Lantern Festival where thousands of flying lanterns are released into the night sky.

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. If you want to see the Loy Krathong celebrations, head to the Ping River or Narawat Bridge.

Yi peng sky lantern festival at mae jo

Alongside the floating light ceremonies, there are also parades, fireworks and cultural performances involving the local Lanna people of Chiang Mai.

The best places to watch the Yi Peng Festival in 2020 are at the Chiang Mai Air Sports Farm and Maejo University. This year, the Yi Peng lantern releases will take place on both October 31 and November 1. Learn more about where to celebrate Yi Peng 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. Yi 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 surrounding countries. This makes it a lot easier to get to Chiang Mai than Sukhothai, as you don’t have to connect through 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 in Chiang Mai

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 checking out the local sites, then Chiang Mai is the better option.

Here is a list of things you can also do in Chiang Mai after experiencing Loy Krathong.

Loy Krathong at Asiatique in Bangkok

(1) Spend time with the elephants at the Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary
Chiang Mai is leading the way in elephant welfare with a number of fantastic ethical elephant sanctuaries to visit. For nature lovers, Chiang Mai a must-visit destination.

(2) Attend a Thai Cooking Class
Northern Thailand is known for having some of the best local dishes in the kingdom so what better place to learn to cook the famous Lanna food than in Chiang Mai itself?

(3) Visit the Doi Inthanon, the tallest mountain in Thailand
Doi Inthanon is the tallest mountain in Thailand and is located in the Chom Thong District of Chiang Mai. The mountain grounds contain impressive waterfalls as well as the famous Royal Twin Pagodas. 

(4) More Nightlife Options
For those who enjoy heading out in the evenings, Chiang Mai is by far the better choice. There are various options in the city to keep you entertained from live shows to rooftop bars and nightclubs. There is a little something for everyone in Chiang Mai after dark. Learn more about top things to do in Chiang Mai.

Disadvantages of Choosing Chiang Mai over Sukhothai

1. It Can Get Busy

With Chiang Mai being such an important city for Thailand"s tourism industry, it can get very busy especially at rush hour around the main moat. During the lantern festivals, there are a lot of people in Chiang Mai. If you don’t like crowds or are looking for a more relaxing vacation, Sukhothai may be the better option.

However, if you want to meet other travelers and make new friends, then Chiang Mai is the best spot.

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

Chiang Mai is a large province and a lot of the lantern festival 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 travel but it’s something to bear in mind if you have limited time and prefer everything to be in one place.

  • Cost: Yi Peng mass lantern releases start from 143$ for the CAD Air Sports Farm entrance fee (pick-up, transportation included, dinner, 2 khom loi, and 1 krathong included).
  • Note: Tickets of several event spots in Chiang Mai often sell out rapidly since the Thai government only allows the issue of a limited number of seats every year.
  • Event ticket availability: We have a limited number of tickets available at the CAD Air Sports Farm. Contact us for up to date availability and secure VIP tickets for the best view!

What Events and Activities Does Sukhothai Have for the Lantern Festival?

Loy krathong 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" show also called the "Sukhothai Candle festival’ performance every night for around a week in the stunning Mahathat Temple Courtyard. Over 300 professional actors will come together to create a magical experience in the heart of the ancient city.

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 event of releasing the krathongs at the stunning Wat Sa Si Pond.

Many hotels in Old Sukhothai provide bicycles for guests or 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 take the trip out to the quieter, but equally beautiful, Si Satchanalai Historical Park.

Advantages of Going to Sukhothai 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.

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

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 want 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. Fewer Travel Options

Sukhothai has a lot fewer 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.
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Experience Thailand with Asia Highlights

Asia Highlights welcomes the chance to help you design your perfect trip to Thailand. Whether that includes experiencing Loy Krathong, Yi Peng, another festival, or just some time relaxing on the beach. Check out some of our example itineraries below for inspiration!

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