These 4 must-see festivals in Thailand celebrate its deep culture, heritage, and forward-thinking.
In all, Thailand celebrates 16 public holidays each year; however, in this list, you will learn why you must see these in particular to believe them!
Songkran (Thai New Year)
What is Songkran?
Songkran is otherwise known as Thai New Year. In the western world, January 1st is recognized as New Year’s Day, but things are slightly different in Thailand. Thailand recognizes the traditional Thai Buddhist calendar. Therefore Songkran is celebrated on a date you may not be used to begin the year.
When is Songkran Celebrated in Thailand?
Thai New Year actually falls on April 15th. However, the Songkran festival begins on April 13th and runs to the 15th (sometimes even a little longer).
Songkran is the World’s Biggest Water Fight
Enjoy water fights? Thailand celebrates Songkran (Thai New Year) by holding what can only be described as a national water fight. Sometimes known as the Water Festival, Thai New Year is well worth experiencing.
The gentle act of pouring water over friends and family during the warm season years ago has since evolved into three or more days of crazy H2O-induced fun! Expect buckets of water, water pistols, water balloons, and hoses… They use it all. It’s a great time for tourism as Songkran makes for incredible photos or videos if you’re keen on sharing the moment with the world – It’s Thai New Year, after all!
What Location is Best for Songkran?
Phuket is the best location for Songkran. Here on Thailand’s largest island, expect lots of water, sun, and HUGE parties at Patong Beach.
Phuket is a great place for Thai New Year as you’ve got direct access to amazing beaches and a community that’s up for a good time. In particular, anywhere around Bangla Road in Patong Beach or over in Phuket Old Town will be great places to celebrate the Songkran festival.
Thailand Festival Tip: Consider booking well in advance, as Phuket can be extremely busy during Songkran.
If you can’t make it to Phuket, don’t fret! Aside from Phuket, Bangkok and Chiangmai are considered the best places to celebrate Songkran festivities.
Although everyone is having a great time during Songkran and inevitably, you’ll get wet, it’s considered disrespectful to intentionally squirt people in the eyes and be considerate of older adults, children, and monks.
Yee Peng (Yi Peng)
What is Yee Peng in Thailand?
Yee Peng is a cultural festival that takes place predominantly in northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is the premier destination for Yee Peng. Sometimes referred to as the Thailand lantern festival, Yee Peng is known for its thousands of released floating lanterns illuminating the night sky. Aside from floating lanterns, temples, houses, and public streets are decorated with assorted crafted colorful lanterns that are unlike anywhere else!
Yee Peng dates back to around 800 years ago and is used to celebrate the end of the wet season and the beginning of the cooler dry season.
When is Yee Peng Celebrated in Thailand?
Yee Peng pays respect to the full moon cycle in the 12th month of the Thai Buddhist lunar cycle. Usually, this falls in November. As a result, it’s common to see many events and festivities begin in the days leading up to the Yee Peng lantern festival and the days following.
Why is Yee Peng worth Experiencing?
Just ask one of the hundreds of thousands of travelers to Chiang Mai each year. They’ll agree that Yee Peng is well worth experiencing. You’ll get to see ancient Lanna culture in full swing for what can be a week of celebrations. The Yee Peng lantern festival is a photographer’s dream. Expect thousands upon thousands of floatable lanterns being released into the night sky. This is a truly memorable festival experience!
What Location is Best for Yee Peng?
Chiang Mai is the best location for Yee Peng as it’s a festival primarily celebrated in northern Thailand. You can find many places around the city worth visiting to celebrate Yee Peng. If you stay near the city, you won’t need to travel far to enjoy Yee Peng.
Major landmarks around the city also worth visiting for Yee Peng include Pratu Tha Phae Gate, Three Kings Monument, and the Narawat Bridge. All of these locations are free to visit. In addition, during Yee Peng, many festivals of lights and lanterns happen a few days before the full moon.
Loy Krathong, also known as the Thai festival of lights, is another famous Thai festival. Fortunately for tourists, it’s celebrated simultaneously with Yee Peng. So you could experience these two exciting cultural festivals in Chiang Mai, for example, in the same place.
Loy Krathong festival is said to have originated in Sukhothai, Central Thailand, and dates back some 800 years. This famous festival draws curious travelers to experience the famous act of floating small lantern-like objects (krathongs) with burning candles down a river or a lake. It’s like the Yee Peng lantern festival but on water. It’s a festival that pays respect to the Goddess of water – a time to say thank you and a way to pray for the future.
Where is the Best Place to Experience Loy Krathong?
Loy Krathong is famous all over Thailand, but Bangkok would be hard to beat if you had to choose just one place to experience it. Each year Bangkok puts on a dazzling display to celebrate Loy Krathong, and you can expect many thousands of lanterns (krathongs) floating down the Chao Phraya River. It resembles a dazzling highway of candles in the dark of night.
Tip: you’ll want to show up to see the Loy Krathong celebrations by dusk as often they will get lit as soon as the sun starts to go down. And make sure to bring a camera.
Because of its Chao Phraya River crossing and centralized location, The Krung Thep Bridge is my recommended place for Loy Krathong in Bangkok. During this time, the city will also be full of celebrations throughout the different areas and zones, so expect plenty of fireworks, music, and traditional dances. Being centralized in this mega-city during an event like Loy Krathong helps maximize your experience.
Thailand Pride Month
Pride festivals highlight acknowledgments, unity, and progression between members of the LGBTQIA+ community and other members of the wider society. Pride Month in Thailand is front and center of that effort, as this is often a showcase of education, fun, and solidarity.
When is Pride celebrated in Thailand?
In June each year, many countries around the world celebrate Pride Month. Therefore, you can expect Pride festivals and events during Pride month in June. Still, Thailand is now also working to establish an annual Thailand Pride Festival in November, having had its inaugural event take place in 2022.
Why is Thailand Pride Worth Experiencing?
For many years now, Pride Month the world over has seen more and more people participate in the celebrations. Thailand has long been a top gay travel and retirement destination, and Pride Month is the busiest time of year.
Thailand has a recognized “third gender” in society, and thanks to national acceptance of this fact, Pride Month and (looking forward) Thailand Pride Festival feel right at home in The Land of Smiles.
You’ll be familiar with the rainbow flags and colorful outfits but expect so much more with Pride in Thailand! Cultural performances, taste-bud-hypnotizing food, and great people are all there for a great time. Adding to that, the incredible scenery and weather… worth every penny.
Where is the Best Location for Pride Month in Thailand?
The best location to experience Pride month in Thailand is Bangkok.
Since Bangkok is the largest city in Thailand and consistently ranked as the #1 most popular travel city, you can expect a massive turnout at Pride month festivals in Bangkok. In addition, Bangkok is a very LGBTQ+-friendly city.
It’s Time to Celebrate!
Thailand has various festivals throughout the year that, like a magnet, attracts travelers worldwide. They’re great for getting those epic travel photos! If you’ve never been to Thailand, first check out our article: Thailand Travel Travel for First Timers.