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 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 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 Thangbi Mani festival dates back to 13th Century. The 3-day event is organized by local people of Thangbi, Goling and Kharsath, and is one of the most important events in Choekhor valley. It is believed that the festival will bring a bountiful harvest, harmony, and wealth to the community. Besides the religious and cultural significance, one of the most important features of the festival is the Mewang ceremony (Fire blessing). The blessing is performed in an open ground, admits monks performing a purification ceremony, while people jump over the fire to eradicate sins and purify themselves.
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 “Royal Highlander Festival” takes place in Laya, Gasa District. The festival coincides with the annual offering festival of Auley, known for rich traditional epic poem recitation. Besides the numerous highlights, the festival also features one of Bhutan's most challenging races, the " Snowman Run". The race spans 53 km amidst the pristine natural beauty of the trail. The race starts from Gasa Hot Spring 2231 meters and end after 28 km. The Second day of the race is 25 km and ends at Langothang (4000) meters, festival venue.
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 Jambay Lhakhang festival is one of the most fascinating and intriguing festivals in Bhutan. The festival is organized in Jambay Lhakhang, located in a charming Choekhor village. The temple was built by a Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo and dates back to 7th Century. The festival features a unique fire blessing called Mewang, which is performed simultaneously with the famous naked dance. In addition a variety of other noteworthy traditional and mask dances are performed, which are attributed to famous, 15th Century treasure reveler Terton Pema Lingpa.
The Prakhar Festival commemorates the life of Lama Thukse Dawa, one of the sons of Bhutan’s famous 15th-centurytreasure revealer Terton Pema Lingpa. The festival takes place in Prakhar monastery, which is located at Prakhar village in Chummey. The festival in more of a close-knit community affair of Prakhar village and features some of the most spectacular and well-expressed mask dances, which are performed by monks of nearby Nimalung monastery.
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.
Held annually during November or December in Mongar Dzong, the three-day festival attracts visitors from as far as Trashigang and Lhuentse. The festival offers numerous mask dances and is one of the most important events the area has to offer.
The 3-day Pemagatshel Festival is an opportunity for fun, frolic and merry making, amidst prayers and spirituality. The event takes place in Pemagatshel Dzong and brings people from the entire district. Besides the religious mask dance and rituals, the festival also showcase’s local folk dances and songs, such as Ausa, usually sung during the departure of members of the family, cousins, and friends.
The Trashigang festival is the biggest event in eastern Bhutan. The 3-day event takes place in Trashigang Dzong, a 17th-centuryfortress, which currently serves as the district administrative body. The event attracts locals from the entire district including the nomadic tribes Brokpas, who travel all the way from remote Merak and Sakteng village. The event features various mask dances such as Guru Tshengyed Chhams, in addition to the unfurling of the Thongdrol of Neten Chudrug and Guru Tshengyed.
The Tshechus, a unique festival at various times of the year, is 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 Nalakhar Festival is a small, intimate local community level affair. The festival takes place in Nga Lhakhang in Choekhor village. The 3-day event is conducted to bring good harvest, happiness, wealth and wellbeing to the village. Locals from the village and surrounding areas of Bumthang take on the 3-day event of prayers and fun.
The 1-day Jambay Lhakhang Singye Cham takes place in the renowned and revered 17th century Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang. One of the most important features of the festival is the performance of Singye Cham or alternatively the Lion dance. The Cham or the dance is conducted to appease all the sentient beings and considered to wash away sins of people who witness it.
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 3-day Trongsa Festival is held at Trongsa Dzong, a 16th Century fortress, which was once a source of great of power and strategic importance. The event draws locals from the near and far away areas. One of the most important features of the festival is the blessing from sacred Nangtens, which is accessible to the public on the last day of the festival.
The 3-day Lhuentse Tshechu takes place in the majestic Lhuentse Dzong, which sits on a hilltop overlooking the Kyichu river. The 15th Century fortress, is of historic importance, as it was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, besides being the ancestral seat of power of the current Wangchuk Dynasty. Lhuentse also features other important sacred religious site, as the valley is the ancestral home of our Kings. The festival is privy to unique mask dances, rituals, and ceremonies and brings people together from across the valley. One of the notable aspects of the festival is the vibrant attire of Kushithara ( One of the most intricate and expensive women textile woven in Bhutan)
The Nabji Lhakhang festival, takes place in a charming little village, Nabji. A short trek from Reotala ( Located between Trongsa and Zhemgang) leads to Nabji Village. The highlight of the festivals includes the Tercham ( Dance of the treasure) and Mewang ( Fire Dance), in addition to other sacred mask dances related to Terton Pema Lingpa. The Tercham is believed to bless infertile women with a child and performed by naked dancers with a facial mask at night, over a bonfire.
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.
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)
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.