person releasing a illuminated lantern into the dark sky full of several other lanterns during Yi Peng festival / one of many festivals in Chiang Mai

8 Famous Festivals in Chiang Mai to Attend

The ancient city of Chiang Mai is regarded by many Thais as the traditional capital city of Thailand. Because of the city’s rich history, celebrating festivals in Chiang Mai is the ideal place!

Regarding tradition and Thai culture when celebrating festivals, it’s hard to argue that any place in Thailand does it better than Chiang Mai.

This is exactly the reason many locals come to Chiang Mai from all over the country, and tourists fly in to experience festivals in Chiang Mai rather than elsewhere in Thailand!

Depending on when you plan to visit Chiang Mai and for how long, you should be able to experience one festival in Chiang Mai, which is listed below.

If you can, I highly recommend you try your best to plan a visit to Chiang Mai around one of the festivals.

Not only will you have a great time enjoying the festivities in the ancient city, but it’s also the best way to experience Thai culture!

Yi Peng (Lantern Festival)

dark sky full illuminated lanterns during the Lantern Festival at Doi Saket

The Lantern Festival is a special and significant two days for those practicing Buddhism and an exciting, fun, and spiritual experience for all, regardless of your personal beliefs. Celebrations usually commence in late November, but there’s no set date; it’s different each year.

Thais celebrate the festival in the form of a spiritual offering, where paper lanterns are released into the dark sky.

These lanterns symbolize enlightenment and represent a way for individuals to express their seek of blessings and devotion.

Yi Peng, also known as the Lantern Festival, is very popular amongst tourists; the visuals of the festival are spectacular to experience! The festival is mostly celebrated in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai being the most popular place!

Releasing a lantern into the sky symbolizes letting go of negative elements in one’s life, such as bad luck or misfortune, and making way for wishes of good fortune, happiness, and future prosperity.

Songkran Festival

many locals spraying one another with water toys during Songkran festival in Thailand

The Songkran Festival is a traditional Thai New Year celebration that holds deep cultural and religious significance among locals. This annual festival is celebrated all over Thailand and is known for its lively water fights and street parties.

Songkran, which translates to “astrological passage” in Sanskrit, marks the transition from the old year to the new year in the Thai lunar calendar.

Songkran takes place from April 13th to 15th, although festivities can extend for longer periods in certain regions of Thailand.

Water plays a primary role in the Songkran Festival, symbolizing purification and renewal. During Songkran, people engage in friendly water fights by splashing water on each other using water guns, buckets of water, or even elephants equipped with giant water cannons.

Chiang Mai is one of the largest cities in Thailand, and with its hot temperatures in April, Songkran is a fun and amazing way to cool off as many locals/tourists take part in the festivities.

Poy Sang Lang Festival

The Poy Sang Long Festival is a fun and traditional celebration that takes place in the northern region of Thailand, particularly among the Shan community. Poy Sang Festival takes place from March 20th to about mid-April.

In Thai, Poy Sang Long translates to “ordaining the beloved sons,” which is a rite of passage ceremony where young boys are initiated into monkhood. The festival is typically held over three days, showcasing the rich traditions and customs of the Shan people.

During the Poy Sang Long Festival, young boys between the ages of seven and fourteen are selected to participate in this sacred ritual. It is a time when they undergo a series of preparations before their ordination.

The highlight of the three-day festival is when these young boys are dressed in elaborate costumes resembling princes. You’ll spot many young boys in colorful garments and intricate headdresses paraded through the streets, accompanied by music and dance performances.

Flower Festival

a beautiful vibrant lotus flower in the pond during flower festival in Chiang Mai

The Flower Festival is a vibrant and colorful celebration in Chiang Mai that showcases the diversity and beauty of flowers. This annual event brings together nature lovers, flower enthusiasts, and gardeners worldwide to celebrate the blooming season.

Honoring the beauty of flowers and recognizing the seasonal time of year is the primary focus of the Flower Festival in Chiang Mai. The festival usually takes place in February, and celebrations happen at Nong Buak Haad Public Park, Nawarat Bridge, and Tha Pha Gate.

During the Flower Festival, you can expect to see stunning displays of flowers in various shapes, sizes, and colors throughout Chiang Mai. From intricate floral arrangements to breathtaking garden landscapes, every corner is adorned with the natural beauty of flowers.

In addition to the visual spectacle, the Flower Festival also offers a range of activities for locals and tourists to enjoy. Activities include flower arranging workshops, gardening seminars, live music performances, art exhibitions inspired by flowers, and floral parades.

The Flower Festival in Chiang Mai provides a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in nature’s splendor while learning more about different types of flowers and their significance.

Visakha Bucha Day

small Buddha statue having water poured on it

Visakha Bucha Day holds great significance in the Buddhist calendar as one of the most significant religious observances. The festival is also known as Vesak or Buddha Purnima and is celebrated during the full moon day of the sixth lunar month.

This significant day commemorates three significant events in the life of Lord Buddha – his birth, enlightenment, and passing away.

During Visakha Bucha Day, Buddhists worldwide engage in various merit-making activities to honor and pay their respect to Lord Buddha.

Activities include visiting temples and making offerings such as candles, flowers, and incense. Many also participate in meditation sessions and emphasize the teachings of compassion, mindfulness, and non-violence.

The observance of Visakha Bucha Day serves as a reminder for Buddhists to reflect upon their spiritual journey and strive toward enlightenment. It’s a time for introspection and self-improvement through acts of kindness and generosity.

Bo Sang Umbrella Festival

several illuminated umbrellas in the sky during the Umbrella Festival in Chiang Mai

The Bo Sang Umbrella Festival is a vibrant and culturally significant festival that takes place in Bo Sang, a tiny village located just outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The annual event, which takes place on the third week of January every year, celebrates the artistry of umbrella making, which has been a tradition in the Bo Sang for centuries.

During the festival, visitors are treated to a visual feast of colorful umbrellas adorning the streets and hanging from shop fronts. These umbrellas are meticulously handcrafted by skilled artisans, only using traditional techniques passed down through many generations.

In addition to admiring the beautiful umbrellas all over the town, visitors can also participate in various activities/events held throughout the festival. These include umbrella painting workshops and cultural performances such as traditional dances and music.

Whether you’d like to experience Thai culture or simply seek an unforgettable experience during your visit to Chiang Mai, attending the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival is sure to leave you with lasting memories and a deeper appreciation for umbrella craftsmanship.

Khao Phansaa

Another festival popular in Chiang Mai is Khao Phansaa, also known as Buddhist Lent or the Rains Retreat—a significant annual observance in Theravada Buddhism.

Khao Phansaa marks the start of a three-month period during which Buddhist monks and nuns retreat to their temples to refocus on spiritual practice and intensive meditation.

It typically begins on the first day of the waning moon in the eighth lunar month, which usually falls in July or August.

During Khao Phansaa, Buddhist monks and nuns follow strict rules known as Vinaya. Rules include refraining from traveling long distances, avoiding entertainment or indulging in worldly pleasures, and dedicating themselves to meditation and studying Buddhism.

The origins of celebrating Khao Phansaa can be traced back to ancient times when Buddha himself established the tradition.

Makha Bucha Day

candles being lit during Mukha Bucha Day, a Buddhist traditional festival

Makha Bucha Day is a very important Buddhist holiday celebrated in many Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. The holiday falls on the full moon day of the third lunar month and commemorates a significant event in the history of Buddhism.

During Makha Bucha Day, Buddhists gather at temples to participate in different religious activities. These activities include meditation, listening to sermons by monks, and making merit, which involves offering food and other necessities to monks.

The holiday marks the occasion when 1,250 enlightened disciples spontaneously gathered to listen to a sermon given by Lord Buddha. Makha Bucha Day event highlights the importance of mindfulness and unity.

Makha Bucha Day is considered a public holiday in many countries where Buddhism is practiced. It serves as a time for reflection, spiritual renewal, and reinforcing one’s commitment to leading a virtuous life according to Buddhist principles.

Famous Festivals in Chiang Mai – Final Thoughts

There you have it; those are the best festivals in Chiang Mai to come experience and participate in.

All of these festivals are excellent times to experience Thai culture, enjoy the lively holiday atmosphere in Chiang Mai, and create lasting memories for yourself.

If you’re planning a trip to Chiang Mai, it’s a great idea to consider visiting when one of the many festivals in Chiang Mai is happening!

No matter the festival you choose to come attend, remember to be mindful of the locals and other Buddhists as they attend these festivals in a religious manner. All tourists and visitors are welcome to all festivals in Chiang Mai.

several locals and tourists releasing lanterns into the sky at Doi Saket for the Yi Peng
Doi Saket for Yi Peng (Lantern Festival)

Is the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival worth it?

The Lantern Festival, also known as Yi Peng, is a must-experience event. Visuals of many illuminated lanterns along the dark sky are something you’ll always remember experiencing in person!

What is Loy Krathong festival all about?

Loy Krathong is a festival in which respect is paid to water spirits. The definition of ‘krathong‘ in Thai means a basket or small vessel, and ‘loy‘ translates to float.

By far, the Songkran festival is the most popular festival throughout Thailand. The lively, fun water festival happens from April 13th to 15th yearly.

What is the most famous walking street in Chiang Mai?

The Tha Phae Gate walking street is the most recognized street in Chiang Mai. It begins at the famous Tha Pha Gate landmark on the eastern side of the Old City.

On Sundays is when it’s most visited due to its extensive large night market that takes place at 5:00 PM.

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