The full moon of the Thadingyut month is when Buddhists believe the Buddha descended back to earth after three months of preaching in the spiritual realm above. While the rest of Myanmar celebrates it by lighting the Buddha's way home, the town of Kyaukse near Mandalay commemorates it a little differently: with a Elephant Dance Festival, populated not by real elephants, but by pairs of dancers in gigantic elephant costumes.

Hmm... What is it? What makes it so special? and how to join the festival? You will have all the answers below.

What is Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival?

Kyaukse elephant dance festival is an annual major traditional dance festival in Myanmar. It is held is on the day before full moon day of the Burmese lunar month of Thadingyut and the full moon day in Kyaukse, near Mandalay. The festival has been celebrated every year since Bagan period and also grown in popularity among the growing number of foreign tourists visiting Myanmar. 

The colourful competition sees teams and individuals wearing elephant costumes perform various traditional dances.

Similar to Chinese’s dragon dance, the Kyaukse elephant dance is run by two men dancing inside the colorful paper and bamboo-decorated elephant structure, trying to match the dance beat and the drum rhythm. The dance pays homage to the Shwe Tha Lyaung pagoda by circling 3 times at the foot of the pagoda’s slope. This tradition aims to increase and strengthen the people’s unity. The magnificent elephants take a few months to create. People come together to play their part in preparing this piece of art.

These spectacular creations take months to prepare, constructed from a bamboo frame covered in colourful cloth, paper, and foil. The costumes are further decorated in glitter, gold foil, satin, ribbons, and glass gems to create a true work of art.

The festival lasts all day and includes both a parade and a dance competition. The day starts with a parade around the marketplace, with the elephants circling the market three times so that everyone can get a good look at the beautiful artwork. The competition begins in the morning and is judged by prominent local officials. The elephants are judged on various details including the precision and harmony of the dancing, the teamwork of the dancers, the construction of the elephant, and the music and singing involved.

Check the below Youtube video for more idea of What is Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival.

The origin of Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival

King Anawratha of Pagan obtained several Buddhist relics on a trip to China. Upon his return to Pagan, he decided to build a pagoda to house the precious relics. He strapped the replica of the Buddha's teeth to the back of his white elephant Sinma Yintha and told the elephant to choose a suitable spot for the new pagoda. When the elephant stopped in the two hills, named Thar Lyaung and Kha Yway, the monarch ordered the construction of pagodas on each summit and enshrined the relic at Shwe Thar Lyaung Pagoda. To honor the royal elephants a festival is held every year at the foot of Thar Lyaung mountain.

Elephant symbol and the culture of Myanmar

Myanmar’s culture is mainly influenced by not only Buddhism and the Mon people, but also their neighboring countries as mentioned above. Like many countries in Asia, Myanmar also adopted the elephant as one of their symbols. They believe that the White elephants are a symbol of power, prosperity, and peace.

When is Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival?

On the Gregorian Calendar, the Dancing Elephants Festival takes place on the following dates:

Year Date Day
2020 October 31 Saturday
2021 October 20 Wednesday
2022 October 9 Sunday
2023 October 29 Sunday

Where is Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival?

That said, the festival is organized in Kyaukse, 50km south of the famous Mandalay. Check the map below for your reference.

How to Celebrate Kyaukse Elepahant Dance Festival?

Since the days of King Anawratha, Kyaukse city upon Shwe Thar Lyaung hill has celebrated the elephant dance festival. Traditionally locals don a colourfully decorated, life-size elephant costume, welcoming the end of Thadingyut with a unique array of dance and acrobats. The festival is held every year on the day before full moon day of Thadingut with a total of 29 elephants gracing the stage – 17 traditional, six sequined, and six baby elephants, according to the committee. 

A huge elephant figure is made from bamboo and paper. The competition teams from various wards of Kyaukse. Men take their places inside the figure and dance around the town to the accompanied by drums, oboe, cymbals, brass gongs and bamboo clappers. The elephant dancers circles three times at the foot of the hill to pay homage to the Shwe Tha Lyaung Pagoda and then compete in front of a panel of judges. It is a dance that requires precise rhythm and timing in order for the elephant dancers to maintain unity inside the elephant figure. People from far and near come to visit Kyaukse and watch the elephant dance. 

Awards are given out to each distinct elephant group, for those that show the most convincing and traditional portrayal of the elephant dance. Winners get to take home a sum of cash prizes for their deft performances and hours of training. First-place winners of the traditional elephant contest receive K1 million; second place, K800,000; and third K600,000. Prizes are given out for the sequined and baby elephant competition as well, with financial support from the committee. 

On the full moon day, thousands of pilgrims carry small paper elephants 900 feet (275 metres) uphill to the pagoda on top of the Tha Lyaung hill. At the top, they walk around the pagoda three times clockwise and present their donations.

Keeping the tradition alive

Nowadays, the new generation of elephant dancers keep this tradition alive by holding a competition in the morning. The Kyaukse elephant dance festival is now a full-day event where people can watch the original tradition as well as enjoy the parade and the dance competition.

Such wonderful traditions preserve the culture of a country. By knowing the culture of a country, it becomes easier to transmit a message from the language spoken. When we talk about translations and the secrets of good quality in our blog, we often refer to the cultural knowledge a translator must-have Living in the country and seeing their traditions first-hand helps to comprehend what is hiding under the layers of words in a text. It is easier to grasp a meaning and to transmit a message.

24-hour response

My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!


Thanaka or  thanakha is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark. It is a distinctive feature of the culture of Myanmar, seen commonly applied to the face and sometimes the arms of women and girls, and is used to a lesser extent also by men and boys. The use of thanaka has also spread to neighboring countries including Thailand.

Within this article, we will learn everything about Thanaka and the benefits of its powder in making a secret beauty ingredient of Burmese women.


Burmese Longyi, along with the country’s longtime history, art, and heritage sites has contributed to the richness of the local culture that will grasp your attention whenever you find yourself in strolling around the streets of Myanmar. With just a piece of fabric grasping on the lower part of the body through time, the longyi has made it become an incredible pattern of Myanmar traditional costume for both men and women. In this article, we are going to find out the secret of Myanmar quintessence through Longyi, about why it has been worn for centuries by the Burmese people.


Kachin Manaw Festival is an annual traditional dance festival celebrated by Kachin people. Mostly held at Myitkyina, Kachin State also known as Manaw Land in Myanmar and also celebrated by Kachin people around the world. Manaw is the largest festival in Myitkyina, held at the beginning of January. Manaw Festival is the most significant event for Kachin People. Tribes of Kachin gather together in Manaw ground and dance around the erected Manaw poles. The Manau dance is performed at Manau festivals, which originated as part of the ‘Nat’ or spirit worship of the past.


If your idea of fun involves a blurry riot of colour and explosions, look no further than the Taunngyi Fire Balloon Festival, which takes place in the culturally diverse capital of Shan State over several days every November. This celebration is held around the Full Moon of Tazaungmon, a Myanmar national holiday that marks the end of rainy season and is also known as the Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights.

Traditionally, it is a festival to pay homage to the Sulamani Pagoda by sending up decorated hot air balloons, and lately it also became as a Hot Air Balloon Competition Festival and the festival is divided into two parts; daytime competition and nighttime competition. In the daytime, hot air balloons are sent up with the shapes of various animals and mythical creatures, and hot air balloons with firework & fire-cracker (known as Nya Mee Gyi) and lot of lanterns are hanging in the hot air balloons (known as Seinnaban) are sent up in the nighttime.


All year round, visitors to Myanmar can experience the country’s warm and rich culture. However, one particularly special and unique time to visit is during the Naga New Year Festival, which will be held in Lahe around mid-January every year.

This special time allows visitors the chance to experience the traditions and customs of Myanmar’s Naga people. For the Naga, Lahe (New Year) is a significant time when people share their wishes and hopes for the future, and families are reunited.

It is a time of great celebration; where lively dances are performed in traditional dress, to the beat and sounds of traditional instruments.

Few tourists are lucky enough to share in the joy and festivities of the Naga New Year, but those who do are richly rewarded with an incredible cultural experience.

Overall, for those who seek genuine cultural exchange and the opportunity to take some truly stunning photographs, the Naga New Year is an amazing and unique festival to attend.


The Thadingyut Festival, also known as the Lighting Festival of Myanmar, is held on the full moon day of the Burmese lunar month of Thadingyut. As a custom, it is held at the end of the Buddhist sabbath (Vassa) and is the second most popular festival in Myanmar after Thingyan Festival (New Year Water Festival). Thadingyut festival is the celebration to welcome the Buddha’s descent from the heaven after he preached the Abhidhamma to his mother, Maya, who was reborn in the heaven.

Thadingyut is also one of the most magnificent lantern festival in Asia


We believe you have the right to arm yourselves with as much information as possible before making any decision.

Check below the detailed information for our different destinations, our plans by travel theme or time frame to learn more before moving forward...

places to visit in Myanmar
bee-white Yangon

bee-white Bagan

bee-white Mandalay

Inle Lake
bee-white Inle Lake

Mergui Archipelago
bee-white Mergui Archipelago

Ngapali Beach
bee-white Ngapali Beach

bee-white Must-see

Check out all the must-see places and things to do & see

Luxury Holiday
bee-white Luxury Holiday

Unique experience combined with top-notch services

Wellness & Leisure
bee-white Wellness & Leisure

Easy excursion combined with week-long beach break

Family Vacation
bee-white Family Vacation

The combination of fun and educational activities

bee-white Unseen

Reveal off-the-beatentrack routes, least explored destinations, and unknown tribe groups

Trek & Hike
bee-white Trek & Hike

Explore the least visited destinations and unknown experience on foot

Cycling & Biking
bee-white Cycling & Biking

Explore every corners of the destination on two wheels

Honeymoon Vacation
bee-white Honeymoon Vacation

Easy excursions combined with unique experience making the long-lasting romantic memories

bee-white Cruise

The combination of some must-see experience and the cruise tour along the mighty rivers

white-icon About 1 week
yellow-icon About 1 week
white-icon About 2 weeks
yellow-icon About 2 weeks
white-icon About 3 weeks
yellow-icon About 3 weeks
white-icon About 4 weeks
yellow-icon About 4 weeks
Already got a plan? REQUEST A FREE QUOTE

Either are you wondering about best time to visit, visa policy, or how to get the cheapest flight, we have your back!
WHAT MORE? Choose the country you plan to visit, then search for your nationality below to see our special travel tips & advice for your country. CONTACT US if you cannot find yours.

Best Time to Visit
bee-white Best Time to Visit
Tourist Visa Policy
bee-white Tourist Visa Policy
Budget & Currency
bee-white Budget & Currency
Getting Flight There
bee-white Getting Flight There
Getting Around
bee-white Getting Around
Internet & Phone
bee-white Internet & Phone
Packing List
bee-white Packing List
Buying & Bargaining
bee-white Buying & Bargaining
Tipping Customs
bee-white Tipping Customs
Safety & Precautions
bee-white Safety & Precautions
Local Etiquette
bee-white Local Etiquette
Travel Insurance
bee-white Travel Insurance
bee-white Vaccinations
Useful addresses
bee-white Useful addresses
bee-white Vietnam
A land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling.
bee-white Thailand
Friendly and food-obsessed, hedonistic and historic, cultured and curious, Thailand tempts visitors with a smile as golden as the country's glittering temples and tropical beaches.
bee-white Cambodia
There's a magic about this charming yet confounding kingdom that casts a spell on visitors. In Cambodia, ancient and modern worlds collide to create an authentic adventure.
bee-white Laos
Vivid nature, voluptuous landscapes and a vibrant culture collide with a painful past and optimistic future to make Laos an enigmatic experience for the adventurous.
back top