Loy Krathong Festival, known as Thailand’s Festival of Lights, is an annual traditional Siamese festival celebrated by Thais to pay respect to the Goddess of Water and the Buddha. It is not a public holiday but is celebrated nationwide when people gather around lakes, rivers, and canals to release krathongs (lotus-shaped rafts decorated with banana leaves, flowers, and candles).
Find out everything you need to know about Loy Krathong Festival (sometimes written as Loi Krathong) in Thailand including when it will take place this year, why people celebrate Loy Krathong, and how to celebrate it.
Quick Facts about Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand
- Official name: Loy Krathong or Loi Krathong, meaning ‘to float a basket’
- Alternative name: The Thai Festival of Lights, Thailand Lantern Festival
- Date: the 12th full moon of the Thai lunar calendar (usually in November in the Western calendar)
- 2021 date: Friday, November 19
- 2022 date: Tuesday, November 8
- Observed by: Thailand, Laos (as Boun That Luang), northern Malaysia, Shan in Myanmar (as Tazaungdaing festival), Sri Lanka (as Il Poya)
- Significance: Thank the Goddess of Water and pay respect to the Buddha, celebrate the end of the rainy season
- Celebrations: Make krathongs (lotus-shaped baskets) and float them on rivers or lakes, traditional Thai dance shows, performances, beauty competitions, and parades, etc.
- History: about 800 years
- Days: 3 days in most places in Thailand, 5 days in Sukhothai
- Best places to observe: Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Sukhothai, Phuket
- Greeting: Happy Loy Krathong!
- Related to: Yi Peng Floating Lantern Festival
A Thai woman is releasing a krathong.
What Is Loy Krathong Festival?
Loy Krathong Festival, which originated in the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom around 800 years ago, is one of the biggest festivals in Thailand. The word loy in Thai means ‘to float’ and krathong translates to ‘basket or boat’, so the meaning of Loy Krathong is ‘float a basket’.
A krathong is a small lotus-shaped boat traditionally made from banana leaves and decorated with flowers. In the center of the Krathong, there are traditionally 3 sticks of incense and a lit candle, and other things like hair and coins.
On the evening of the festival, Thai people gather around rivers, lakes, and canals to release lotus-shaped baskets or krathongs as a way to give thanks to the goddess of water (called Pra Mae Khongkha) and ask for forgiveness for using too much water or contaminating it. Nowadays, it is also a way to get rid of negativity gathered during the previous year and welcome good fortune in the coming year.
The festival of Loy Krathong is celebrated across Thailand as well as other countries in Southasian such as Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia.
The lanterns used on Loy Krathong Festival
When Is Loy Krathong Festival Celebrated?
Loy Krathong Festival is celebrated on the evening of the 12th full moon of the Thai lunar calendar. It usually falls in the month of November, according to the Western calendar. Therefore, the Loy Kratong date is not fixed. It changes every year depending on the full moon.
In 2021, it will take place on the evening of 19th November. Find out how Loy Krathong date is determined and how long the Loy Krathong festival lasts.
A girl is releasing a krathong onto the river.
Where to Celebrate Loy Krathong Festival?
Of all the celebrations of the Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand, certain cities hold celebrations on a much larger scale. The best places to go to experience the Loy Krathong Festival are Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Bangkok, and Phuket.
1. Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai: Experience Yi Peng Festival at the same time
Swarms of sky lanterns flying into the night’s sky
Chiang Mai is the best place to go for a Loy Krathong Festival experience. Besides having Loy Krathong celebrations, the city also holds another magnificent festival called Yi Peng Festival (Thailand Sky Lantern Festival) on the same day.
With the floating lanterns of Loy Krathong on the river and the flying lanterns of Yi Peng dotting the night sky, Chiang Mai becomes a breathtaking scene that looks like something out of a fairytale.
When are the festivals in 2021?
Loy Krathong and Yee Peng will take place in Chiang Mai over the dates of 19th – 20th November 2021.
What are the best things to see and do during Yee Peng or Loy Krathong?
At the moment, plans for Loy Krathong 2021 in Chiang Mai have yet to be announced. Typically, the government will make official announcements in October or early November. Please check back here near then! According to the previous schedule, you can:
- 1. Visit a temple such as Wat Phan Tao and Wat Lok Moli.
- 2. See a parade: Normally there is an annual parade. It was canceled in 2020 due to Covid health concerns.
- 3. Enjoy a performance: More than 500 dancers will present an incredible dance at the Three King’s Monument.
- 4. Light your own sky lantern (khom loi) and send a krathong down the river.
- 5. Enjoy colorful lanterns show around the city moat and gates.
Where are the best places to celebrate Loy Krathong and Yi Peng in Chiang Mai?
- 1. The Banks of the Ping River: The best spots to watch the celebrations are Nawarat Bridge and the Iron Bridge.
- 2. Tha Phae Gate: The Loy Krathong parade starts from there, the opening ceremony of the festival takes place there, and the beauty contest is also held there.
- 3. Three Kings Monument: It is the place where the opening ceremony of The Lighting Candle Tray and the performance of Lanna Traditional Dance take place.
- 4. Wat Phan Tao: It is one of the best temples to visit. The temple will be lit with colorful lanterns and candles. Monks will also be worshiping Buddha and paying respects through chanting.
Where are the best places to stay in Chiang Mai during Loy Krathong?
- 1. The best places to stay would be anywhere close to Narawat Bridge or the river near the old city. This way, nearly everything is within walking distance!
- 2. The next best area to stay in would be the old city itself which is where the most beautifully decorated temples are located.
See the top 4 places in Chiang Mai to celebrate Loy Krathong.
2. Loy Krathong Festival in Bangkok
Bangkok is also a great place to celebrate Loy Krathong. There are usually many festival venues and activities across the city. The celebrations in 2021 in Bangkok are to be confirmed.
Loy Krathong Festival along the Chao Phraya River
Based on 2020, there were activities at 10 piers along the Chap Phraya river. The top 5 venues to go to are Asiatique, Yodpiman Riverwalk, Tha Maharaj, Tha Long 1919, and Suksiam at ICONSIAM. There is a free shuttle boat between all the venues.
If you want to participate in the activities in Bangkok, the best area to stay is around the Bangkok Old Town as you will be in a short distance from the pier.
Loy Krathong Festival at Asiatique
The main Loy Krathong celebration in Bangkok is usually held at Asiatique, the riverfront night market. There are many activities including the retelling of the Loy Krathong story via music and dance, a launch site for your krathongs, an illuminated float procession, and a firework display. Get there early as the queue to take the shuttle boat to Asiatique is often very long.
Loy Krathong Festival at Parks and Temples
The many ponds and other waterways in the city’s public parks usually become the focal point for friends, lovers, and families to launch their krathong. Some of the most popular parks to celebrate include Lumpini Park, Benjasiri, Benjakitti Park.
You can visit the famous temples decorated with lanterns and lights, such as Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Rakhang, Wat Kalaya, and Wat Prayoon.
Loy Krathong Festival at Hotels
Riverside hotels such as Anantara Riverside Bangkok, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel, Shangri La Hotel Bangkok are popular. They often have Loy Krathong events combined with a special dinner and fireworks.
Learn more about the best places to go for Loy Krathong in Bangkok.
3. Sukhothai: the Birthplace of Loy Krathong
The celebration of Loy Krathong in Sukhothai park
Sukhothai is the birthplace of the Loy Krathong Festival and is one of the best places to experience this joyful festival. The festival in Sukhothai is celebrated for five days. Most festival events are held in the Sukhothai Historical Park.
In addition to the floating lanterns, in Sukhothai, you can experience a beauty contest, parades, folk music performances, and the gorgeous Sukhothai light and sound show. See more information about Loy Krathong in Sukhothai.
4. Phuket: Combine Loy Krathong with Beach Relaxation
Phuket is a great place to go for travelers who want to experience the beauty of the Loy Krathong Festival while avoiding the typical festival crowd. In Phuket, Loy Krathong is a much more laid-back event.
The festival is celebrated on all waterways and beaches including Patong Beach and Nai Harn Beach. If you are looking for a more local experience, you can head to Kata Beach, Karon Beach, Saphan Hin Park, or Suan Luang Park in Phuket Town. This is where most of the local Thai people gather to release their krathongs and celebrate.
Learn more about how to celebrate Loy Krathong in Phuket.
Frequently Asked Questions about Loy Krathong Festival
1. What is the meaning of Loy Krathong?
Loi Krathong or Loy Krathong literally meaning “to float a basket”. The word loy in Thai means ‘to float’ and krathong translates to ‘basket or boat’.
2. What is the characteristic of Loy Krathong?
The main feature of the Loy Krathong Festival is releasing beautiful lotus-shaped rafts to the waters to pay respects to the goddess of water.
3. Why celebrate the Loy Krathong Festival?
It is celebrated to thank the Goddess of Water for a year’s worth of her abundant supply and ask for an apology for polluting the waters, and also pay respect to the Buddha.
4. What things are put in the krathong?
A krathong is a small lotus-shaped boat traditionally made from banana leaves and decorated with flowers. In the center of the Krathong, there are traditionally 3 sticks of incense and a lit candle. Some people also put some interesting things inside their krathongs. Strands of hair, nail clippings, or even bits of old clothes are often put into krathongs to get rid of the negative energy from the past. Coins are added to krathongs to honor ancestors or to bring prosperity and as a way of making merit. See more information about Krathong.
5. How long does Loy Krathong Festival last?
In Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and many other places in Thailand, the festival lasts three days. In Sukhothai, the celebration lasts for five days.
6. What is the difference between Loy Krathong Festival and Yi Peng Festival?
The major difference is that during Loy Krathong, raft-like lanterns (called Krathong) made from banana leaves are released to float on rivers and lakes whereas during Yi Peng bamboo paper lanterns (called Khom Loi) are released into the sky.
Loy Krathong is celebrated all across Thailand while Yi Peng is celebrated mainly in northern Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai.
Thai women wearing traditional Thai style dresses during the Loy Krathong Festival
Experience Loy Krathong Festival with Asia Highlights
If you would like to experience the Loy Krathong Festival, please feel free to contact us at Asia Highlights. From the moment you arrive, we will have everything prepared for you including your transportation, hotels, meals, and festival ceremony entrance tickets. We can customize your festival experience to suit your pace, taste, and schedule.