The Lantern Festival is one of Taiwan’s tourism highlights and takes place annually during Chinese New Year. It is consistently listed in travel guides as a “must see” for international travelers around the globe. Although there is only a short window of opportunity to take in the festival, and there are guaranteed to be crowds, the night sky illuminated with countless floating lanterns is an enchanting sight that is rarely viewed elsewhere in the world.
The major lantern festival sponsored by the national government is referred to as Taiwan Lantern Festival, and takes place in a different geographical location each year. It therefore requires some advanced trip planning, which may not work into every traveler’s schedule. However, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival (平溪天燈) is held in the same location (Pingxi, just outside Taipei) and on similar lunar calendar dates every year, making trip planning slightly easier. The history of the sky lantern in Pingxi goes back over a hundred years, as it was used as a method for sending one’s wishes up to God (or one’s ancestors in heaven).
The festival however, where thousands of lanterns and personal wishes are released into the sky simultaneously, only began a couple decades ago. The festival’s majestic beauty and convenient access from the Taipei metropolis has seen the event rapidly grow in popularity, and has attracted the attention of major international media outlets. The festival made it onto National Geographic’s 10 Best Winter Trips list. The Discovery Channel has named it the second largest nighttime festival in the world. CNN Travel named it one of the top things to do in 2013, and Fodor’s Travel Guides named it one of the 14 festivals a person must see in their lifetime.
Pinxi is the only place in Taiwan where sky lanterns can be released legally, as it has been deemed a safe location due to its location high in the mountains, its significant annual rainfall, and high humidity level. Festival viewers will be glad to know that it is also one of the places with the lowest amounts of light pollution in Taiwan due to the low population density, which means the lanterns appear all the more beautiful and distinct in the sky.
The lantern festival is held to celebrate the first full moon of Chinese New Year, which is the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar (not to be confused with the western calendar), and is when the main celebrations occur. This is also the last official day of the Chinese New Year period. In previous years, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival events have been held in three slightly different locations within Pingxi over three dates during the new year’s period. However, in 2017, the festival will be concentrated on one day, February 11, 2017.
|11 Feb 2017
|Shifen Sky Lantern Square
No. 136, Nanshanping, Pingxi Dist., New Taipei City
|1200 sky lanterns launched in eight waves (on-site registration starts at 10:00 am and ends when the maximum number of participants is reached )
To participate in the official sky lantern launching, on-site registration will begin at 10 am on the day of the festival (Feb. 11) and will end when all 1200 spots are filled. Even if you are not successful in obtaining an official spot, you are free to release your own lantern after the official launching has finished, or from different areas of Pingxi around the official grounds.
There will be plenty of tents selling lantern kits, so you don’t need to bring anything to the festival grounds.
The lantern kit will include a paper lantern and gold paper soaked in kerosene. One must first write their New Year’s wish on the outside of the lantern (pens provided at the tents selling the lantern kits) and then carry the lantern to the launching site. To prepare for launch, first unfold the paper lantern, attache the kerosene soaked gold paper inside the lantern, then light the four corners of the gold paper. Hold the lantern down on the ground and allow it to fill with hot air. Once the lantern is filled full of hot air, release the lantern and watch your wishes float up towards the heavens.
Getting to Pingxi
The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is located outside Taipei in the mountainous region of Pingxi. As traffic control will be in effect from 9:00 – 24:00 (i.e. no cars allowed into the festival area) it is highly recommended to use public transport.
Take the MRT Wenhu Line (brown line) to Taipei Zoo and then transfer to shuttle buses departing from in front of the zoo. The bus will depart every 5 minutes from 9:00-19:00. The last departure for the return bus is 23:00.
Shuttle Bus Fare:
From Taipei Zoo: NT$50
From Shiding: NT$30
From Pingxi District: NT$10
Return Fare: Free
Shuttle Bus Route and Schedule:
February 11th, 2017 – to Shifen Sky Lantern Square
|Shuttle Bus Route||Bus Stops||Bus Hours||Fare|
|Taipei Zoo － Shifen Nanshan Bridge||Taipei Zoo, Shiding System Interchange to Freeway No. 5, Guniang Temple, Sky Lantern police Station, Pingxi Junior High School, Shifen Nanshan Bridge||Departure||9:00-19:00||Board at Muzha Stop: 50 NT.
Board at stops within Shiding, Rueifang and Keelung Stops: 30 NT.
Board at Pinxi Stop: 15 NT.
|Ruifang Station －Shifen Giping Bridge||Ruifang Station － Shifen Giping Bridge||Departure||9:00-19:00||Board at stops : 30 NT.|
|Keelung Station – Shifen Giping Bridge||Keelung Station, Nuannuan Sports Park, Shifen Giping Bridge||Departure||9:00-19:00||Board at stops : 30 NT.|
※During rush hours, return bus will depart immediately as soon as it is filled to capacity.
※The bus schedule will be subjected to alterations under the influences of traffic and weather conditions