Must-See Festivals in Thailand

Known for its pristine tropical beaches, ancient ruins, ornate temples and incredible architecture, Thailand offers something to see and do at every turn. The vibrant culture and picturesque landscape provide a perfect backdrop to the country’s many world-renowned festivals.

Thailand’s Floating Lantern Festival

One festival sure to top many travelers’ bucket lists is Chiang Mai’s annual light festival celebrating Yee Peng and Loy Krathong. This spellbinding event occurs each year on the full moon of the 12th lunar month, when participants join in vibrant, costumed parades playing music and dancing. Let the kids take part in the pageantry and lantern-making contests by day and enjoy incredible firework displays. Guests indulge in heaping banquets of local fare while watching monks perform traditional chants during ceremonial performances. Festival-goers gather to release khom loy, or lit lanterns, into the night sky. The sacred tradition of the floating lights symbolizes new beginnings, longevity and releasing personal demons.

Participants also release krathong, small floating boats made from banana stalks, into bodies of water. Each vessel is decorated with incense, flowers, candles and personal offerings before floating into the river — mimicking the illuminated night sky. The Buddhist tradition encourages spiritual cleansing while honoring Buddha and the Hindu water goddess, Phra Mae Khongkha.

Chiang Mai 34th Flower Festival

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Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Enjoy the magnificent colors and intricate botanical displays of the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, held each year in February and showcasing floral floats parading through the streets, accompanied by music, dancing and cultural displays. Visitors can check out various street markets and flower designs decorating the city.

Thailand’s vibrant culture and stunning landscape allow for an amazing lineup of events and celebrations. With several occurring every month, visitors will find an exciting festival to attend nearly any time of year.

Thailand Monkey Party

© Manit Larpluechai | Dreamstime

Lopburi Monkey Festival

During the last weekend in November, the city of Lopburi hosts one of the most unique festivals in the world, the Lopburi Monkey Festival. This one-of-a-kind event brings visitors from all over the world to the Phra Prang Sam Yot (monkey temple), where the monkeys live amid the overgrown ruins of Khmer.

Showing respect and gratitude to the monkeys, believed to be descendants of the heroic monkey army of Hanuman, participants set up a lavish buffet banquet known as the monkey tea party. The tea party is set with great portions of fruits, eggs, cucumbers and various treats for the monkeys to enjoy — all donated by locals honoring the monkeys and hoping for personal good fortune.

Since the festival’s beginning in 1989, participants gather at the temple to play music and dance with the monkeys, say a few words of respect and invite the monkeys to dig into the feast — as the monkeys happily accommodate.