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Loy Krathong is one of Thailand's largest festivals and involves releasing floating lanterns called krathongs onto lakes and rivers to honor Buddha and the water goddess. This year, Loy Krathong will take place on October 31st, although it normally falls in November.
While the holiday is celebrated all across Thailand, the best places to experience Loy Krathong include Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Sukhothai. Sukhothai is a great place to see the celebrations because this is where the festival actually began around 600 years ago.
In present times, Loy Krathong is celebrated in Sukhothai with a week of activities including parades, a Light and Sound show, competitions, and the traditional release of floating lanterns.
There are plenty of reasons why you should visit Sukhothai during Loy Krathong but if you can't decide whether you want to visit Bangkok, Chiang Mai, or Sukhothai for the celebrations, don't worry too much! It's possible to visit all three during the holiday. Check out this best of Loy Krathong tour for inspiration.
1. You'll get the most authentic Loy Krathong Experience. Here, you can learn about the legends and history of Loy Krathong while watching the incredible Light and Sound Show and enjoy a more local experience by celebrating alongside Thai people instead of with other travelers.
2. Take in the floating lanterns while surrounded by ancient monuments. All the beautiful temples and monuments of the Sukhothai Historical Park once belonged to a great city and together make a beautiful 800-year-old backdrop for the floating lanterns and cultural performances.
3. Sukhothai has smaller crowds. The most famous places to celebrate Loy Krathong are Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Because most travelers will head to these other cities, Sukhothai becomes the best place to celebrate for people who want to avoid the tourist crowds.
Sukhothai literally translates to "Dawn of Happiness" and was once its own independent kingdom as well as the formal capital city of Thailand. Sukhothai was established in the year 1238 and for a long time was a wealthy and thriving region.
According to the stories and legends of Loy Krathong, the festival began sometime around the 14th century with a woman named Nang Noppamas who was one of the consorts of the King of Sukhothai. The story starts with the members of the royal court and residents of the kingdom celebrating the water goddess on the night of the full moon in the 12th lunar month (November).
To impress the king, Noppamas created an intricate floating raft from banana leaves and flowers. She then set a candle and incense stick in the center and placed it on the water to honor Buddha and the water goddess. When the king saw this, he was so impressed by its beauty that he proclaimed the festival would be celebrated in the same way every year after.
Today, the Loy Krathong celebrations include a beauty contest where many women compete to earn the title of ‘Nang Noppamas’ every year.
As the celebrations of Loy Krathong in Sukhothai last around a week, there are numerous events and activities you can attend while there. Below we've listed some of the ones that our travelers love the most.
One of the best things to do when you first arrive in Sukhothai before celebrating Loy Krathong is to spend some time exploring the Sukhothai Historical Park. Our favorite way to explore the historical park is on a bike so you can see more monuments and explore at your own pace.
Every night during the celebrations of Loy Krathong, the Sukhothai Historical Park puts on a Light and Sound Show and a Sukhothai Candle Festival. Both take place in front of the beautiful Mahatha Temple courtyard. During the Light and Sound Show, visitors can watch as over 300 talented actors and dancers perform the history of Sukhothai and Loy Krathong.
The performance is in Thai, but foreigners are given an English audio version. At the end of the show, the night sky is lit up with an impressive firework show that illuminates the beautiful ruins in bursts of light.
We've found that one of the best ways to get involved in the celebrations of Loy Krathong and really put your own touch on the ceremony is to make your own floating lantern. This is a great way to spend time with local Thai people and learn more about the beautiful cultural symbolism of this festival.
Krathongs are typically made from biodegradable materials like banana leaves and are decorated with flowers. During a Krathong-making class, you can learn how to fold the banana leaves to make a beautiful lotus-shaped krathong which you can then release on the water at night and make your wish.
After the Light and Sound Show on the evening of Loy Krathong, you can head to one of the many lakes and ponds inside the Sukhothai Historical Park to release your floating lantern. Local families tend to release their krathongs on the pond in front of the statue of King Ramkhamhaeng, but you can also release krathongs on Wat Sa Si Pond.
Releasing a floating lantern is meant to symbolize releasing all of the negative energy you've gathered over the previous year. Thai people also believe that krathongs honor the Buddha and the water goddess.
An alms-giving ceremony called the "Dawn of Happiness Greeting" begins at sunrise for locals to offer dry food to monks at the Tra Pang Ngoen pond. Visitors are also welcome to bring offerings.
A traditional Thai dance and music show is performed at night inside the Wat Mahachat. This is a great opportunity to enjoy classical Thai drama and have fun watching performers in their traditional costumes and make-up.
This is when the celebrations start to really pick up inside the park with events happening all day. No matter when you visit you will see dances, plays, and martial arts performances. There are also souvenir and food stalls set up at the main entrance of the park that are worth exploring. You can also visit the Night Bazaar, a replica of what a market would have looked like during the time of the Sukhothai Kingdom.
This is the first night of the Light and Sound Show. Head into the Sukhothai Historical Park to enjoy the intricate dances and performances that will tell the story of Loy Krathong and the history of the Sukhothai Kingdom. After the show is over, enjoy the impressive fireworks display.
This is the busiest day of events and normally falls on the actual day of Loy Krathong. This day is full of parades, processions, festival activities, a Light and Sound Show, and a large firework show. This is also the main day for releasing krathongs inside the historical park.
Although Sukhothai is an excellent place to celebrate Loy Krathong (the floating lantern festival), you won't be able to celebrate Yi Peng (the famous sky lantern festival) in this city. In order to celebrate Yi Peng, travelers will have to make their way to Chiang Mai which is one of the only regions where the Sky Lantern Festival is celebrated.
This year, Loy Krathong will take place on October 31st and Yi Peng will be celebrated on October 31 and November 1, so it is possible to see both celebrations in both cities! Learn everything you need to know about celebrating Yi Peng in Chiang Mai.
Our pre-made itineraries can easily accommodate a trip to one, two, or all of these amazing cities. Alternatively, you can let one of our knowledgeable travel advisors take on the planning and help you create your own customized trip. For Loy Krathong. Take a look at some of our most popular lantern festival tours and start dreaming about your trip to amazing Thailand.