The Kingdom of Bhutan, witnesses a plethora of events and unique festival, at various times of the year. While there are numerous unique events such as a literary festival, an international marathon, international biking race and more, however, the most important event takes place in the form of Annual Festivals or Tshechus.
The Tshechu are celebrated to commemorate ‘good triumphs over evil' or to depict significant historical events especially surrounding the life of Bhutan's patron saint, Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche). The colorful event draws as much as 3000 people and there is inevitably a great deal of socializing. It is an opportunity for people to relax and forget daily routine, to dress in their finest clothes and jewelry but, more importantly, it is an occasion for prayer and blessings. Bhutan's artistic culture is also at its best during these events, where religious prayers, satire, etc are depicted via the famous mask dances. Almost all the districts have their own Tshechu, however, the most important Tshechu are Punakha festival, Paro Festival, and Thimphu Festival. These events are undeniably the most important events of the year, where Bhutan's colorful and in-depth culture is manifested. Families get together and picnic by the festival grounds.Festivals in Bhutan are held in a solemn atmosphere and while there is much merriment, however, visitors are reminded that it is still a religious festival of great importance to Bhutanese people hence appropriate behavior and a proper dress code is required.
Festivals and events are spread across the year. The list below highlights, plethora of events and activities in the kingdom, around which, a tour to Bhutan can be built. Besides the festivals, the Tourism council of Bhutan also organizes specialized events such as Nomads festival, Matsutake Festival, Jumolhari mountain festival, Tour of the dragon bicycle race and Rhododendron Festival. Scroll through our events lists to find a suitable program.
The Nimalung festival in one of the most popular festivals in Bumthang valley. The three-day event, showcase many religious dances common to this monastery and a giant tapestry of Guru Rinpoche in also displayed in the course of the event. The Nimalung Temple in Chumey village was built in 1935, by Doring Tulku and Dasho Gonpo. The Temple houses a magnificent statue of Guru Rinpoche and old paintings and tapestry’s belonging to him and his disciples.
The Kurje festival is held annual during July. The festival takes place in Kurje Lhakhang, which comprises of three temples. The oldest being built by Lama Minjur Tenpa in 1652, the second temple was built by Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck in 1900 and the third temple was built by queen Mother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck.The Kurje Lhakhang is located in Chokhor valley in Bumthang. The Kurje area remains one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan, as imprints of Bhutan’s patron saint, Guru Rinpoche is said to exist here.
Haa previously was off limits for tourists. Opened in 2002, it is now a thriving touristic destination in Bhutan. The Haa summer festival offers an experience of Bhutanese culture, nomadic lifestyle, Bhutanese cuisine, processing of local brew "Ara", traditional sports like archery, religious performances, dances and songs and most importantly an exhibition on NUBLANG (Scared unique cattle of Haa)
The festival takes places in Ura in Bumthang valley and celebrates the inception of mushroom season, one can also embark on mushroom picking tours and learn about various Bhutanese mushroom recipes at the backdrop of fun and frolic.
Dubbed the “Tour de France of Bhutan”; The Tour of the Dragon is an annual event in Bhutan encompassing some of the best laid Himalayan cycling trails. The race starts in Bumthang, Central Bhutan(2610m), and takes you toThimphu across four mountain passes. The one-day event is one of the most grueling cycling races in the world; however, the breathtaking view and pristine natural surrounding is the icing on the cake.
The race was conceived by His Royal Highness, Prince Jigyel U. Wangchuck- President of Bhutan Olympic Committee who is a leading biking enthusiast and an all round sportsman himself. His Royal Highness led the race with a group of an enthusiast in the year 2010 and was one of the few that completed in record time. The race is held on the first Saturday of every September, right after the monsoons and just when autumn sets in.
The race is not only the most challenging one-day event in the world but also one of the most beautiful when riders can take on pristine natural surrounding including some of the last virgin forests in the world. It is the most scenic race, taking one through high mountain passes that open up views of some of the highest peaks in the world.
The Thimphu Drubchen is one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan. The 3-day festival is the cultural hallmark of Bhutan and dates back to 17th Century. Introduced in 1701 by Kuenga Gyeltshen, the event features the religious dances dedicated to the protecting deity of Bhutan, Palden Lhamo. Popular folklore has it that the goddess Palden Lhamo appeared before Kuenga Gyeltshen and performed the dances whilst he was in meditation. Based on these dances the Drubchen was initiated.
The Wangdue festival is a yearly event, held at Tencholing Army ground. Previously, it used to be held at the majestic Wangdue Dzong; which is currently being reconstructed, since the fire in 2012 razed it to the ground. The festival was introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel post completion of Wangdue Dzong. The 3-day event offers fantastic opportunities for prayers and merrymaking and attracts locals from as far as Thimphu and Gangtey, in addition to Punakha and Wangdue. The event is particularly popular for Raksha Mangcham or the Dance of the Ox.
The Tamzhing Phala Choepa festival is held annually in the beautiful valley of Choekhor, Bumthang. The festival features various religious dances related to famous treasure revealer Terton Pema Lingpa. The Tamzhing monastery dates back to 15th century and follows the Peling Buddhist tradition.
The 3-day Thimphu festival is the biggest of its kind in Bhutan. It is held annually in the courtyard of Tashichodzong, a landmark of great importance housing the ruling political party's office and the office of the King of Bhutan. The festival was introduced by 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867. The event offers a rich insight into numerous religious dances such as Dances of the 21 Black Hats, Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Ground, Dance of the Terrifying Deities; in additional to mask dances performed by lay monks such as Eight Manifestations of Guru and Dance of the Stags.
The Gangtey festival takes place in the picturesque Gangtey valley. Held annually at Gangtey goemba, the 2-day festival features a special blessing ritual for the devotees called Nguedup Langwa (receiving of spiritual wisdom/power). In addition, the festival also comprises of a myriad of colorful mask dances. The Gangtey monastery is one of the oldest and most important seat of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism dating back to 17th century and associated with renowned treasure revealer Terton Pema Lingpa.
The two-day event organized near the base of Mount. Jomolhari celebrates the culture of communities living near the foothills of Jomolhari mountains. This is a community-based event, brought together by people of Soe Yaksa and Soe Yutoed in collaboration with Jigme Dorji National park, Bhutan Foundation, and the Snow leopard conservancy. The festival highlights are snow leopard themed folk songs and dances performed by local communities, a sampling of local delicacies, horse riding, and yak riding. There are also many booths by International organization to educate on conservation. It’s a good opportunity for local communities to promote their culture and build on perception & harmony between the snow leopard and the people.
The Chukha festival takes place in Chukha Dzong. The festival features a wide array of mask dances and other rituals, in additional to cultural programs. The two-day event brings people together from various parts of the district, over days of merriment and prayers. The last day of the festival is marked by the unfurling of Guru Rinpoche silk tapestry.
The Jakar Tshechu is held at a beautiful rural village of Choekhor in Bumthang. An annual event at the Jakar Dzong, a fortress dating back to 17th Century, sits mystically on a hillock overlooking the Choekhor town. The festival brings color to the, otherwise sleepy village, with its colorful and myriad scared mask dances, Buddhist rituals and ceremonies. The 2-day festival concludes with the unfurling of the scared Guru Thongdrel.
The Black-necked Crane Festival is held every year on 11th November in Phobjikha. The festival was initiated by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) in 1998 as part of the community-based sustainable tourism. The festival is now organized and managed by the local community, showcasing cultural programs such as folk and masked dances performed by the local people, crane dance and environmental drama and songs by the school students.
Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival’s venue features two of very impressive modern Bhutanese monuments. Including the works on the powerful mural paintings, the temple took almost four years to build. The temple was built under the personal supervision of Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangcuck, a year after she built the 108 Druk Wangyel Chortens. Druk Wangyel Lhakhang was consecrated in June 2008. Following Bhutanese tradition, the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival is named after its location. The Dochula pass is one of the most spectacular passes in Bhutan and is about 45 minutes’ drive (22km) from the capital city, Thimphu.
The Nomad festival provides a close prevue of the fascinating life of the highlanders, which has virtually remained unchanged for ages. The festival offers an opportunity to engage with proud communities of the upper Himalayas, partake in their traditional food recipes, understand their way of life as demonstrated in the festival in a village setting, or perhaps ride a yak or try their traditional attire. Their dress are very unique and made from Yak wool adorned with colorful motifs of flowers and animals. An annual festival, it takes place in Bumthang, dubbed the spiritual heartland of Bhutan and is approximately eight hours drive from Thimphu.
Bhutan international Marathon is an annual event organized by Bhutan Olympic Committee. The 42 km race takes one through the countryside of Punakha and finishes at historic Punakha Dzong. 100 percent of event profit goes to support Bhutan Youth and Sports program.
The word Gomphu Kora stands for meditation cave (Gomphu) and Circumambulation ( Kora). Located in eastern Bhutan, the monastery is approximately 24km away from Trashigang Town and is undeniably one of the most revered monasteries in Bhutan. The history of Gomphu Kora dates back to 8th Century, mired in myth and mystery, legend has it that evil spirit called Myongkhapa escaped from Tibet when Guru Padmasambhava was preaching the Buddhism in the Himalayas. Myongkhapa followed the course of the current-day Kholongchhu stream and buried himself inside a rock where Gomphu Kora stands today. The Guru followed the spirit, meditated for three days inside the rock cave and finally defeated it. Hence the cave found out of rock face next to the temple was instrumental in giving it the name “meditation cave”
The three-day annual festival takes place in Royal Botanical Park in Lamperi. Which is approximately 30 minutes’ drive from Thimphu, via the Dochula pass. The festival is divided into three sections; Education and sensitization Culture and entertainment and food and beverages, besides other opportunities such as bird watching, Horse riding, and camping. Rhododendron is found at an altitude of 800 - 5200 meters. Close to 46 species has been found in the country, of which 29 species is endemic to the park. The festival is a good opportunity to interact with the local, understand Bhutanese cultures besides education on the rare medical plant.
Trophel Tours & Treks is accredited by Tourism Council of Bhutan (License No: 1030972) and member of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and Global Sustainable Tourism Council.