Bhutan Festival Experience
In the crisp mountain air, hundreds of local Bhutanese people come together to celebrate their country, their religion, and their unique culture. Their elaborate clothing is the same as has been worn by generations before them, a bloom of colourful brocade and patterned weave. Their smiles are infectious. The energy of the event buzzes with the joy that is ever-present in the Dragon Kingdom.
Bhutan has almost 200 festivals (or tshechus) each year. These range from small local events in a single village to great celebrations in the major monasteries of Paro and Thimpu. Attending a festival in Bhutan is an experience like no other. You’ll have the opportunity to mingle with friendly local people and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of ancient Bhutanese culture.
Below are some of our favourite Bhutanese festivals. They can be used as the basis of a tour or added to another itinerary. Contact us for more information about other festivals in Bhutan, and to incorporate a visit to one of these special events into your Bhutan vacation.
spring festival highlights, february, march & April
Where: Punakha Dzong
When: 5th to 7th March 2020
What: A unique festival that recreates in dramatic fashion a historic battle between the Bhutanese and Tibetan armies that took place in the 17th century. Bhutan was victorious, marking the beginning of a new age of peace and stability for the country.
When: 4th to 8th April 2020
What: Monks and laypeople perform mesmerising symbolic dances in one of Bhutan's biggest annual festivals. Lasting for five days in the spring, the Paro Tsechu is a joy-filled celebration in the town and a highlight of the year in Bhutan.
Goes best with: Any itinerary in Bhutan
When: 4th to 8th May 2020
What: Known for its famous dancing, this colourful festival is held on Ura’s hilltop monastery. A key component of the 3-day proceedings is an ancient Buddhist statue of passed on from the generation to generation.
Where: Chumey, Bumthang
When: 3rd to 5th May 2020
What: For a very intimate, local experience of Bhutanese festivals, the best place to go is the countryside. Chumey is a tiny village off the beaten track in Bumthang, where you can be immersed in the Bhutanese lifestyle and traditions without the crowds.
Autumn Festival Highlights, September & October
Where: Wangdue Phodrang
When: 24th to 26th September 2020
What: The vibrant colours and sounds of the Tsechu brighten the usually quiet town of Wangdue Phodrang for three days in autumn. See the giant thangka, a sacred Buddhist image, that's only shown once a year at this time.
When: 26th to 28th September 2020
What: The Bhutanese capital's biggest festival is a Buddhist extravaganza attended by thousands of people from the neighbouring districts. Monks and laypeople perform sacred religious dances, dressed in elaborate costumes and masks to represent deities from Buddhist lore.
Goes best with: Any tour in Bhutan
Where: Choekor, Bumthang
When: 29th Sept to 2nd October 2020
What: This colourful village festival can only be reached by foot. Masked dancers perform in the grounds of an ancient monastery founded in 1470. The highlight is the fire blessing (Mewang) ceremony where locals leap over flames to purify themselves.
When: 28th to 1st October 2020
What: The streets fill with colourful prayer flags during this 3-day festival and sacred masked dances are held in the large courtyard of Gangtey Goenpa monastery overlooking the fertile Phobjikha valley.
Royal Highland Festival
When: Late October
What: In the remote mountains of northwestern Bhutan, the Laya highland people showcase their unique culture and celebrate the highland lifestyle for two wonderful days. Only accessible by foot, this festival is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see people living the way they have for centuries.
Goes best with: Laya Ghasa Trek, tailor-made tour to Punakha
Where: Jakar Dzong, Bumthang
When: 23rd to 27th October 2020
What: Bumthang, in eastern Bhutan, is the cultural heartland of the country. Jakar Monastery's annual festival is a highlight in the area, a riot of colour and music for three days that enlivens the crowd in the otherwise quiet forested valleys of Bumthang.