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.
Located in Trashiyangtse, the easternmost part of Bhutan, the Chorten kora is one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan; built in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Loday in honor of his uncle Jungshu Pesan; history also has it that it was also built to subdue the demon that lived, where the Chorten stands today. It has close resemblances with the Boudhnath Stupa in Nepal when it comes to design and architecture and many say that it is a replica. Village legend also has it, that a young girl from Tawang believed to be a “Khando” (Dakini) agreed to be buried alive inside the chorten, for this very reason a ritual called “Dakpa Kora is ordered every year, which is witnessed by 1000 of people from Bhutan and neighboring areas like Arunachal Pradesh in India. Dakpa Kora is held on 28th February and Drukpa Kora (circumambulation by the Bhutanese) is held on 15th March every year (Recommend to confirm regional listing for dates). Trashiyangtse is accessible after a two-hour drive from Trashigang and from the capital, Thimphu a break-up journey is recommended with overnight halts in Trongsa and Mongar. One of the biggest congregations which eastern Bhutan witnesses each year, the Chorten Kora festival brings in the colorful aspect of Bhutan which is manifested via the rich colorful textile and brocades worn by the locals, the mask dances and off course the triumphant atmosphere of the festival.
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.
The Domkar festival commemorates the birth anniversary of Bhutan’s patron saint Guru Rinpoche. It is popular for its Black Hat dance, the three Ging, and Drametse performance. The festival takes place in the quaint village of Chummy, very popular for its weaving and textile culture.
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)
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 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.
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.