The Lantern Festival (2024 date: February 24) is my favorite of Taiwan’s many festivals. The annual festival includes a variety of activities in every city and county in the country, some of which last for several weeks.
The hottest activities associated with the festival include:
- Pingxi Lantern Festival: In 2024, the Pingxi mass sky lantern releases will be on Feb. 17 and Feb. 24
- Taiwan Lantern Festival (national event): In 2024, this will be hosted by Tainan city from Feb. 3 to March 10, with a 22-meter dragon lantern for the year of the dragon!
- Taipei Lantern Festival and other cities: I’ll cover the exact dates for all of the regional events below. Expect lots of dragon lanterns this year!
- Other Lantern Festival events like Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, Bombing of Master Handan, Bombing the Dragon, Bombing of Tudi Gong, and Baiming Festival.
In this article, I’ll introduce each of the above festivals, their dates and locations in 2024, and how best to enjoy them.
When Is the Lantern Festival in Taiwan?
The date of the Lantern Festival is tied to the Lunar Calendar. It takes place on the 15th day of the 1st month of the Lunar Calendar (in other words, the 15th day of the Lunar New Year).
However, most Lantern Festivals in Taiwan takes place for several days or weeks. The Pingxi Lantern Festival takes place on the two Saturdays closest to the date. The national event and regional lantern displays take place for several weeks, but the dates are different in every city.
Small events like Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, Bombing of Master Handan, Bombing the Dragon, Bombing of Tudi Gong, and Baiming Festival only take place for one day on the actual Lantern Festival.
Fun fact: Locals celebrate Lantern Festival by eating yuanxiao (元宵), a kind of tangyuan, or little gooey sticky rice balls stuffed with black sesame or peanut sauce and served in a sweetened hot water. This is why the Mandarin name of the holiday is yuanxiao jie (元宵節).
Pingxi Lantern Festival
When people hear “lantern festival in Taiwan”, the image that first comes to mind is of dozens of illuminated lanterns floating up to sky in unison. That would be the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival.
Pingxi is a district of New Taipei City. Travelers usually access it by riding the Pingxi Line, an 11-stop railway line which was first built by the Japanese to access coal mining towns in the area.
Today those towns are mostly tourist attractions, including Shifen Old Street (where visitors set off sky lanterns on the train tracks every day of the year and walk to Shifen Waterfall), Houtong Cat Village, and Ruifang (the main city on the line, with connections to Taipei and Jiufen Old Street).
The tradition of setting off sky lanterns (天燈 or tiandeng) goes back to Fujian province in China, where most of Taiwanese’ ancestors came from. In the mid-1800s, villagers in Pingxi sometimes did it to inform others that an area was free of bandits.
Later, people started writing their wishes to the gods on the lanterns before sending them up, a tradition which tourists continue today.
For the Pingxi Lantern Festival, 100-150 lanterns are released at the same time. This is done in 20-minute intervals (9 releases in total per night) from 6 to 9 PM, for a total of 900 lanterns (first night) and 1350 lanterns (second night).
Because space is limited in these tiny villages, and the event has become so popular (and crowded!), it is now spread over two different days, usually the two Saturdays closest to Lantern Festival.
Each of these two days is at a different location in Pingxi area. In recent years, Shifen and Pingxi villages usually host the events, but not on the train tracks where tourists usually set off sky lanterns throughout the year.
Rather, the events are held in a large square, school grounds, or parking lot near those villages.
Note: Many environmental groups have spoken out against sky lanterns. The lanterns eventually fall back to the ground, getting stuck in trees, releasing toxins, or even starting fires. Find out how to buy eco-friendly lanterns in my Shifen guide.
2024 Event Info
Here’s everything you need to know for attending or participating in the 2024 Pingxi Lantern Festival. You can also find more info on the official event website.
Dates and Locations
Day 1: February 17 at Pingxi Junior High School (平溪國民中學, see location), about 15 minutes’ walk from Pingxi station. Releases will be every 20 minutes from 6 to 9 PM, with 100 sky lanterns per release, for a total of 900 sky lanterns.
Day 2: February 24 at Shifen Sky Lantern Square (十分瀑布停車場, see location), which normally serves as the parking lot for Shifen Waterfall, about 20 minutes’ walk from Shifen station. Releases will be every 20 minutes from 6 to 9 PM, with 150 sky lanterns per release, for a total of 1350 sky lanterns.
There are three main options for getting to Pingxi Lantern Festival: by train, by bus, or driving.
By train, take a local train from Taipei to Ruifang (45 minutes, swipe EasyCard). At Ruifang, change to Platform 3 and catch the Pingxi line to Shifen or Pingxi. Make sure to swipe out when you arrive. If you go this way, expect the trains and stations to be absolutely packed, with extra waiting time to get on a train.
Going by bus is a better option, with the following route choices:
- Bus 795 from this stop at Muzha MRT (one stop before Taipei Zoo and Maokong Gondola)
- Lantern Festival shuttle buses from this stop at Taipei Zoo (I recommend this option)
- Bus 846 from this stop in front of Ruifang train station
- Take the lesser-known shuttle bus from Keelung train station to the event. It has much shorter lines that the buses from Muzha or Ruifang. Keelung is a 45-minute train ride from Taipei.
The normal bus riding time from Muzha/Taipei Zoo to Pingxi area is 1 hour and 15 minutes. From Ruifang to Pingxi area it is about 1 hour.
Buses will be running to the event from around 9 AM to 7 PM, and back from the event from around 9:40 AM to 11 PM.
When you arrive at the event, because the crowds are so huge, you’ll have to walk up to 20 minutes from the bus stop to the event venue. Unless you come hours before the event starts, you won’t be able to get very close to the actual spot where they release the lanterns, because it will be surrounded by thick crowds of thousands of people.
The final option is to drive to the event. However, I don’t recommend driving because the small highways to these villages will be very crowded and closed after a certain point (including for scooters). Any paid parking lots will be packed and far away from the event venue, so you may have to take a shuttle or walk very far from the parking lot the event.
How to Participate
The Pingxi Lantern Festival is free to attend and watch. Casual visitors can also buy a sky lantern and release it whenever you want around the train tracks at Pingxi or Shifen station, like on any day of the year. However, you need to be more careful than usual because the Old Streets will be very crowded all day and especially in the evening.
However, to participate in one of the Sky Lantern Mass Releases, you’ll need to show up early in the day and register. They’ll start handing out tickets at the lantern release venue at 10:30 AM – you’ll want to be there and in line before that time to have any chance of getting a ticket.
The tickets are free and they will provide the lantern. One lantern can be shared among 2 to 4 people. If you manage to score a ticket, then you can explore the area for the day and make sure to be back at that spot before the time marked on your ticket (keep in mind there will be major crowds when you come back in the evening!
I don’t suggest you go too far away from Pingxi region while you wait – for example, I wouldn’t go as far as Jiufen Old Street, because it could be very hard to come back on time due to the masses of people trying to get to Pingxi/Shifen.
Some visitors report when they arrived around the start of the event, they couldn’t get anywhere near the sky lantern release spot due to the thick crowds. The closest they could get is 100 to 200 meters away from it.
Staying Near the Event
Many people have the idea of doing sightseeing in the general region before going to the Pingxi Lantern Festival. So places like Jiufen Old Street, Houtong Cat Village, and the whole Pingxi train line will be much busier than usual all day.
It may also be harder to get rooms in Jiufen or Ruifang around the festival. See my recommended guesthouses in Jiufen here.
Taiwan Lantern Festival National Event
Every year, one city in Taiwan hosts a national Lantern Festival event. This event usually features displays of beautiful lanterns in a few different locations in that city.
At the main venue, there will usually be a stage with talks, concerts, and fireworks or light and drone displays at night. There is also usually one especially massive lantern (I’m talking like several stories tall) shaped like that year’s zodiac animal.
This event is usually crowded, but not quite as bad as the Pingxi Lantern Festival because there’s more space and its spread over several weeks. Note that there are no sky lanterns at the national event – those are illegal everywhere in Taiwan except for Pingxi.
Personally, I went to this event once and it wasn’t my favorite, mainly due to the constant noise from the stage. You can see similar displays of lanterns (without the noise) in every city in Taiwan (see next section below). But the huge lantern of the zodiac animal is pretty cool!
2024 Event Info
Here’s everything you need to know for attending the Taiwan Lantern Festival National event in 2024.
Dates and Location
The 2024 National Taiwan Lantern Festival event will be hosted by Tainan city.
Because 2024 is the 400-year anniversary of the Dutch first arriving in Taiwan at Tainan, or the “birth” of Tainan (you could call it a “Tainan-niversary!), it is said that this year’s Lantern Festival will be extra special. The Lantern Festival will the first of several events organized by the city this year.
Also, because it is the year of the dragon, this year’s theme will be “dazzling dragon” (龍耀).
There is an official website for the event, but as I type this on February 1, the English version still says “Coming Soon” (good job leaving that to the absolute last minute as always, Taiwan Tourism).
This year’s event will take place at two different venues. Festivities in Anping district (a historic island connected to the city) will take place from February 3 to March 10 (except for Feb 9, which is Lunar NYE). The lights will be on from 5 to 10 PM every evening.
Additional festivities will take place at Tainan High Speed Rail Station from February 24 to March 10, from 5 to 10 PM each evening. The exact locations will be ICC Tainan Square and Shalun Green Energy Demonstration site.
Here is a list of daily events at both locations.
To get to Anping, take a regular (TRC) train from any city in Taiwan to Tainan station then bus 2, 14, 19, 77, or 99 (about 45 minutes) to Anping. If you ride the HSR to Tainan, then take a local train from Shalun station (connected to the HSR station) to Tainan station in the city center first.
To get to the Tainan HSR venue, simply ride the HSR from any city in Taiwan to Tainan HSR station. See my guide to buying HSR tickets for more info. The two venues are a 5-10 minute walk south of the station.
Beware of trying to do any kind of traveling during Lunar New Year holiday (Feb 9 to 14). All trains will be sold out and/or packed.
Staying Near the Event
There are more accommodations in the Tainan city center. I recommend Hotel Cozzi (see on Booking / Agoda) for families, Huzi Room (see on Booking / Agoda) for a friendly guesthouse near the train station, or U.I.J Hostel (see on Booking / Agoda) for a budget stay.
There are no accommodations around the HSR station event. It’s better to stay in the Tainan city center.
Taipei Lantern Festival and Other Cities
Taipei and every major city in Taiwan host their own lantern festival every year. These events usually involved a collection of beautiful lanterns on display somewhere in the city.
These are like a smaller version of the national event, and minus the noisy stage and concerts. Therefore, I highly recommend them!
Most of these take place for several weeks or up to a month, often starting well before the actual Lantern Festival or going for weeks after it. To make matters more complicated, the dates are different in every city and the venues may be the same or change every year.
2024 Event Info for Each City
Here are the dates and locations for every major lantern display in Taiwan in 2024.
- Taipei Lantern Festival 2024: This year, Taipei’s lantern festival will be held in Ximending, including Red House, Zhonghua Road, and Beimen (North Gate). The dates are February 2 to March 3 (5 to 10 PM every evening), but most of the lights will only go up from Feb. 17 to Mar. 3. See my Taipei guide.
- New Taipei City Lantern Festival 2024: Feb. 16 to Mar. 12 in New Metropolitan Park (新北大都會公園) in Sanchong district (access: Sanchong station on the Taipei MRT). See my New Taipei City guide.
- Taoyuan Lantern Festival 2024: Feb. 21 to Mar. 3 at Nanchang Forest Sports Park (南昌森林運動公園) and Hutoushan Innovation Park (虎頭山創新園區). See my Taoyuan guide.
- Hsinchu Lantern Festival 2024: Hsinchu Dongxingzhen Light Arts Festival runs from Dec. 15 2023 to February 25, 2024 at Dongxingzhen Park (東興圳公園). See my Hsinchu guide.
- Taichung Lantern Festival 2024: Feb. 16 to Feb 25 at Taichung Central Park in Xitun District (中央公園), not to be confused with Taichung Park in the Taichung city center. See my Taichung guide.
- Tainan Lantern Festival 2024: This year the big national event will take place in Tainan (see last section above). Normally, Tainan hosts several smaller events: Yuejing Harbor Lantern Show (台南市鹽水區月津港), Puji Temple Light Display (台南四聯境普濟殿), lanterns at the Tainan Fire Museum (原臺南合同廳舍), and lanterns at Huxingshan Park Light Display (虎形山公園). Each of those smaller events should still be taking place this year. Tainan also has the Yanshui Fireworks Festival (see below).
- Kaohsiung Lantern Festival 2024: The Fengshan Festival of Light will take place at Dadong Park (大東濕地公園) from Dec 23, 2023 to Feb. 28, 2024 . Also, a giant yellow rubber duck will appear in the Love River from Jan. 27 to Feb. 25. The duck, made by a Dutch artist, first appeared in Kaohsiung harbor 10 years ago. Foguangshan Monastery in Kaohsiung will host the Festival of Lights and Peace from Feb. 10 to Mar. 9.
- Taitung Lantern Festival 2024: Dec. 11 to Feb. 25 at Railway Art Village (鐵道藝術村). Taitung also has the Bombing of Master Dan event on the same night as the Lantern Festival.
- Hualien Lantern Festival 2024: Feb. 3 to Mar. 4 at Nanbin Seaside Park (太平洋公園).
- Yilan Lantern Festival 2024: Jan. 14 to Feb. 25 at Dongshan Riverside Park and Dongshan Station (宜蘭冬山舊河道/冬山車站廣場)
Other Lantern Festival Events in Taiwan
There are several smaller folk festivals in Taiwan which also happen to fall on the same day as the Lantern Festival.
Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, Tainan
Often considered the most dangerous festival in the world, Yanshui Beehive Fireworks festival involves tens of thousands of bottle rockets being shot directly at the participants. They are shot out from large racks or beehive-shaped structures on the street.
The event takes place in Yanshui district of Tainan city on the same night as the Lantern Festival
Why exactly do they do this? Well, it goes back to a cholera epidemic in the late 1800s. To drive out the evil spirits causing the disease, locals paraded a statue around while setting off firecrackers and bottle rockets at it. Over time, brave locals even started purposely getting hit by the rockets, too, and an annual tradition was born.
My father and I participated in this event several years ago. Yes, it was crazy, and yes, there were injuries. Read all about it in my Yanshui Fireworks Festival guide!
Bombing of Master Handan, Taitung
Over in Taitung, another wild event takes place on the same day, called Bombing of Master Handan (台東炸寒單). In this case, firecrackers are thrown at one (live, human, half naked) volunteer who is paraded around town. Participants and passersby may also be struck by firecrackers.
The volunteer represents Master Handan, the god of money. By bombing him, the locals hope to have a prosperous year.
Find more info about the event here.
Bombing the Dragon, Miaoli
As if that weren’t enough, there’s yet another “bombing” event in Taiwan on the same day as the lantern Festival. This one is called Bombing the Dragon” (火旁龍) and it is organized by Hakka people in Miaoli.
This ritual has origins in China and the Hakka people brought it over to Taiwan. It’s associated with the dragon dance normally performed at Lunar New Year. Except with a fun twist – locals toss firecrackers at it (and the guys carrying it) to kill the evil spirits of the past and welcome in the new year.
Bombing of Tudi Gong, Taipei
Even Taipei has its own bombing event on the same day ads Lantern Festival, called Shezi Island Night Lane Tudi Gong (社子島夜弄土地公). Despite being in the capital, this one is actually the least known because it is smaller (but no less noisy!) and takes place in a remote corner of the city, Shezi Island (社子島).
For this one, local factory owners set up long strings of thousands of firecrackers. These explode as a statue of Tudi Gong, the Earth God, is paraded over them, again to ask for wealth in the year to come.
Baiming Festival, Matsu Islands
Last but not least, the Matsu Islands (which are near the coast of China) host a Lunar New Year event called Baiming (擺暝) on the same night as the Lantern Festival.
Baiming is a word in the Hokkien language referring to temple carnivals/procession. For this one, the locals will parade deities to the various villages and temples around the island, to ward off evil spirits, ask for protection, and so on. The festival lasts for several days and culminates on Lantern Festival.
It’s similar to the many temple fairs which can be seen around Taiwan on gods’ birthdays and other events tied to the lunar calendar.
Like most of Taiwan’s offshore islands, Matsu Islands aren’t ideal to visit in winter, so very few foreign visitors make it to this one. It’s better to visit Matsu islands in spring and early summer so you can experience the Blue Matsu Tears (blue phosphorescence in the sea).
More Lantern Festival Pictures
Here are more images I’ve shot at past Lantern Festivals.