Sky lantern festivals are one of the most magical things on earth. So if you are looking for magic, you should go to a sky lantern festival. Disney dreams will come true. We can’t get enough of them, so after experiencing Yi Peng in Chiang Mai Thailand, we travel to Taiwan to experience the magic of the Pingxi Lantern Festival. This Taiwan lantern festival is one of the most spectacular happenings in Taiwan. As it’s a big happening, you would think there’s a lot of information available online. Unfortunately, the resources of the Taiwan Tourism Board were limited and the blog posts we found, didn’t provide us with the right transportation-information. Therefore, we end up in the wrong town. We will not let that happen to you, so here’s everything you need to know about the Pingi Sky Lantern Festival!
IN THIS ARTICLE
Why should you go to Pingxi Lantern Festival?
Taiwan Lantern Festival vs Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival
Lantern Festival Pingxi
How to get to Shifen and the Pingxi Lantern Festival?
Pingxi Lantern Festival 2020
How to join Pingxi Lantern Festival 2020?
What you need to know about the sky lanterns
What else to do in Shifen
Where to stay during the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival 2020?
Why Should You Go to Pingxi Lantern Festival?
Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival takes place once a year, usually in February or March, during the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. As this date varies yearly, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is held on a different date every year. This sky lantern festival has been named one of the 15 Festivals To Attend Before You Die and one of the Best Winter Trips. So, it’s a must-see! At night, thousands of lanterns float up into the night sky, and with them, so do many dreams and wishes for the new year. The lanterns are released in group releases, but it’s also possible to let your own lantern up in the sky. And it’s truly like a dream come true.
FUN FACT: The sky lanterns were historically used as military signs. In de mid 19th century the little mountain villages were often under attack by bandits. The lanterns weres used by the people living in the villages to let others know they were safe. These days it’s a local celebration, the lanterns are being released to let your wishes float into the sky. Hopefully, your ancestors will make those wishes come true!
Taiwan Lantern Festival vs Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival
Taiwan Lantern Festival is different from the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, though it happens at the same time of the year. While the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is all about the lanterns in the sky, the Taiwan Lantern Festival is about lanterns on the ground. The festival shows beautiful lanterns featuring Taiwaenes icons, Chinese Zodiac signs and so much more. There are often multiple areas with different subjects. The whole festival all together is huge! The location of the Taiwan Lantern Festival changes every year. In 2020, it will take place in the Southern city Taichung (which is an amazing city to visit). The Taiwan Lantern Festival usually takes place over a couple of weeks, while the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is only 1 night. For more information about the Taiwan Lantern Festival, make sure to head to the website of the Tourism Board of Taiwan, they organize the festival.
Lantern Festival Pingxi
So where to go for the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival? Here’s where it gets tricky and where we went wrong. Pingxi Lantern Festival takes place in the Pingxi district, in New Taipei City. Pingxi is a district, but there’s also a town called Pingxi within the district. The whole district has multiple small towns, all along the same train line. Lantern releases are held in the towns Jingtong, Pingxi and Shifen. The biggest lantern releases are NOT held in Pingxi Old Town – so don’t try to go there as we did.
The biggest event is in Shifen, where they set up the main stage at a parking area and is transformed into the Shifen Sky Lantern Square. It’s located close to the Shifen waterfall, and only a short 15 minute walk from Shifen Station. It’s very confusing the name of the festival is Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, while the mass release is in Shifen.
How’s Taiwan for LGBT travelers? Read our article about LGBT Taiwan!
Once you arrive in Shifen, you’ll pass Shifen Old Street on your way to the square of the main event, where people are releasing their lanterns on the train tracks throughout the entire year. It’s a good spot to buy your lantern and grab some food. A lantern costs between 150-250 TWD (approx. $4,90 – $8,10 /€4.20 -€7.10 at the time of writing this article). The festival itself is completely free!
How to Get to Shifen and Pingxi Lantern Festival?
There are multiple ways to get to Shifen and the Pingxi Lantern Festival. If you want to go by public transportation, there are two options: by train or bus. On the day of the festival, there are shuttle buses that travel back and forth between Taipei Zoo and Shifen all day. For 50 TWD ($1,60/€1,40) you buy a round ticket at the Taipei Zoo. You won’t be charged on the way back.
We decide to take the train to Shifen, as it’s cheaper and easier from where we are located in Taipei. We depart from Taipei main station to Ruifang and transfer to the train in the direction of Pingxi. The total costs are around 70 TWD ($2.30 /€2).
On the way back we take the shuttle bus to Taipei Zoo, as trains only run until about 10 PM (find the schedule we saw here and find more information on the Taiwanese railway website). NOTE: buses and trains are really crowded during the Pingxi Lantern Festival, especially on the way back. One way to reduce waiting is to queue for the bus in the non-seat queue, which means you’ll stand on the bus and you’ll be home way faster. Everything in Taiwan is organized very well, so is this event!
Another way to reach Shifen is by taxi. This is the most expensive way and normally also the fastest. Though, as the Pingxi Lantern Festival gets really crowded, there might be traffic jams. It’s best to come early!
Pingxi Lantern Festival 2020
In 2020, the sky lantern festival will take place on the 8th of February. That’s the night the mass releases will take place. The festival usually takes place in March or February, celebrating the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. On the day of the festival: arrive early! You definitely want to be on time. If you want a good spot to set up your tripod, arrive before noon (the earlier the better). If you just want to see the lantern releases and don’t need to save the best photo spot, make sure to be on the Shifen square around 4 PM. The festival attracts 80.000 people yearly. If the square is full you are not able to go in anymore.
There are eight rounds of sky lantern releases. The first round will start around 6/6.30 PM, the last round around 9.30 PM. Every hour there are three releases. Every release, the colors of the lanterns change, each color has it’s meaning: prosperity (red), love (pink), idealism (purple), wealth (orange), luck in school (yellow), health (white), personal and professional growth (green) and wish fulfillment (blue). Not everyone stays to see all rounds, so it’s easier to walk around the later it gets and it’s fairly easy to get pictures from all angles! You definitely want to see the round of releases, as this is the most magical part of the festival.
How to Join the Pingxi Lantern Festival 2020?
The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is totally FREE! If you want to take part in a group lantern release you need to sign up (early, be there around 10 AM or earlier). It’s free to participate in the group lantern release and registration opens at 10 AM near the entrance of the main stage. You’ll get a lantern too! It’s not possible to release your own lantern at the main square, though you are allowed to release them elsewhere in Shifen. Many people release their lantern on Shifen Old Street, this is possible all year round. There are many shops selling lanterns, in different colors and different shapes. Make sure to write your hopes and wishes on the lantern before releasing it into the sky.
Want to experience more magic? Travel to Thailand for the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival!
What You Need to Know About the Sky Lanterns
Sky lanterns are magical, though they can be bad for the environment. But in Taiwan, they try to do everything they can to make the lanterns less harmful to the environment. The lanterns are made of rice paper and have a bamboo frame, therefore most of the lantern is biodegradable. There are fire trucks on standby and there’s a post-festival clean-up team. During the rest of the year, there’s a recycling program to clean the mountains.
Always be responsible and try to release just one or two lanterns.
Not everywhere in Taiwan people are allowed to release lanterns, it’s only allowed in the Pingxi District. As the villages are surrounded by high mountains, the lanterns won’t go too far.
Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it
What Else to Do in Shifen
Besides releasing sky lanterns, there’s much more to do in and around Shifen! Make your way to Shifen early and explore.
Houtong Cat Village
Houtong is a small village located on the same line as Shifen. The village is famous for its cats. Everything is cat-themed in Houtong and you will find many stray cats in the town.
Besides the Pingxi Sky Lantern, Shifen is famous for its waterfall. People also call the waterfall Little Niagara of Taiwan. Shifen waterfall is 20 meters high (65 FT) and 40 meters wide (131 FT). It’s a beautiful waterfall and well worth the visit. From Shifen Old Street it’s about a 25-minute walk to reach the waterfall. The walk itself is beautiful too, as you pass two bridges and you are surrounded by water and green.
Shifen Old Street
You can’t miss Shifen Old Street when you visit Shifen. The street has everything you need, from cute cafes to street art, to souvenir shops that also sell lanterns and so much more.
Where to Stay During the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival 2020?
It’s difficult to find accommodation in the small towns of the Pingxi District. Therefore it might be best to sleep in Taipei and travel from and to Shifen. If you want to stay closer to Shifen, Jiufen and Ruifang might be better options. Below we will provide some recommendations on where to stay:
- Traveler’s Lodge in Shifen: this homestay is located super close to Shifen Old Street, therefore it is the perfect spot to stay at when you go to the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival.
- Mountain Sea Bay B&B in Jiufen: something amazing about the town Jiufen is, is that’s it’s located on a hill. Therefore you have a beautiful view from most places in the town. Mountain Sea Bay B&B is a homestay with super friendly owners and with amazing views!
- W Tapei: W Taipei is an amazing hotel. We always love staying at W hotels and this one is extra special. If you are lucky you have views on 101 Taipei from your room!
- Star Hostel Taipei Main Station: this hostel is located at a great location, close to the Taipei main station. It’s a great place to stay as the design of the hostel is beautiful, and it’s a clean and comfortable hostel.
Enjoy this magical lantern festival!. If you have any questions and/or additions, feel free to reach out. If you liked this article don’t forget to share!
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