Bhutan Festival Tours
Bhutan Festival Tours. Festivals and Dances go hand in hand in Bhutan. If the festivals are almost always religious then dances are morally intrusive. Attending the festival is said to bestow merits and that is the sole reason why we have so many locals with familt attend the festival. The Tshechu is a religious event celebrated on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). However, the exact month of the Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple. During the festivals monks and laymen perform mask dance over a stretch of three to five days in a temple or a monastery. The festval conclude with the unfurling of a Thongdrel(large scroll painting) of Lord bhudha, Guru Rinpochhe, Zhabdrung and other enlightened beings.
Date: 1st April to 5th April 2023
A popular festival in western Bhutan, the Paro festival is the most-visited festival both by tourists and locals. On the first day, all mask dances are held inside the courtyard of the Dzong. In the subsequent days, the courtyard outside the dzongs hosts the festivals. The festival commemorates the deeds of the great saint Guru Rimpoche which are performed in the form of mask dances. The locals attend the festival to gain merits. The festival ends with a unique unfurling of the Worlds biggest Thankas or thongdrel ceremony. It’s a unique experience, unlike anything you have ever seen before.
Date: 21st September 2023.
With almost 135000 people living in the small capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu is the most crowded city in the country. Thimphu festival is the most popular and one of the biggest festivals in western Bhutan. The actual festival is preceded by rituals and prayers to invoke the gods. Mask dance like Guru Tshengye(eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), Shaw Shachi (Dance of stags), and many more are performed. The Drupchen was instituted sometime between 1705 and 1709 by kuenga Gyaltshen the first reincarnation of Jamphel Dorji the son of Zhabdrung.
Date: 28th Oct to 1st November 2023
Bumthang Jambhay Lhakhang Festival or The naked dance festival is unique and celebrated in the fall of every year. Bumthang is one of the beautiful valleys in central Bhutan. The festival is held at the 7th-century Jambhay temple. Mask dances and bonfires commemorate the establishment of this 7th-century temple. The highlight of this festival is the fire ritual that is held at midnight where crowds gather to witness the ritual. A naked dance is also performed where the dancers only have their masks on.
Date: 26th to 28th February 2023
Punakha is the old capital of Bhutan and the yearly festival of Punakha Domchey happens at the beginning of the year. The festival is very unique as it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with the Tibetan army. This is one of the oldest festivals of the district. the festival depicts how the local Bhutanese militia duped and defeated an invading Tibetan army and forced them to withdraw. This 17th century is also the beginning of the consolidation process as Bhutan as a country and it is historically very important for the Country.
Date 2nd to 6th May 2023
Ura is one of the beautiful valleys in Bumthang. The yearly festival is very important for locals living around the community. A sacred relic is displayed for people to receive blessings from. According to the legend, an old woman sitting outside her house was visited by a lama asking for a glass of water. When she came out with water the lama vanished leaving behind the only sack. Out of curiosity she check the sack and found the statue which is displayed every year at the festival.
Date: 28th July 2023 in Bumthang
Kurjey Tsechu is celebrated in the popular Kurjey Lakhang in Bumthang. People of Jakar and Kurjey villages attend the Tshechu to pay obeisance to Guru Rinpoche who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. It is a one-day festival and the chams/dances include the Guru Tshengye and Shinjay cham performed by the monks of Kurjey Lhakhang.
Date: 1st to 3rd March 2023
The festival of Punakha is celebrated every year before the nomadic people of Laya depart back home. The Punakha Tshechu (or ‘festival’) takes place each February or March inside the incredible Punakha Dzong, the ancient capital of Bhutan. As well as being a really fun and exciting day out for the Bhutanese, the tshechu also provides devout Buddhists with an opportunity for pilgrimage and prayer.
Date: 27th to 29th October 2023
Gangtey festival is very important for people living in Phobjikha. This three-day annual festival is held with the performance of various sacred mask dances that are based on Peling tradition and some unique to Gangtey valley. The festival concludes with ngedup Langwa(receiving of spiritual wisdom)which is a special blessing ritual for the people.
Date: 30th April 2023
The Chorten Kora Festival is one of the most popular festivals in eastern Bhutan. “Kora” means circumambulation. The biggest activity of the festival is circumambulating Chorten Kora. It also attracts people from the neighboring Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It brings out colorful aspects of Bhutanese culture such as mask dance, a rich textile and brocade worn by the locals, and the triumphant atmosphere of the festival itself.
Date: 29th to 31st March 2023
The Gasa Tshechu is the biggest event in the small district of Gasa in northwestern Bhutan. Gasa is home to highlander communities. While many mask dances are performed, the local folk dances performed are very unique and distinct adding to the festive mood of the celebration.
Date: 9th to 11th April 2023
The three days Talo festival is well known for mask dance and atsara performance. An equally popular attraction which has a deep religious and historical significance , is the zhungdra (Bhutanese classical Dance) by the talo dance troupe. The three songs of Mani Sum, which comprisethe zhundra set, are performed as the closing item on each day of the three days of Talo festival. The three songs , Samyi Sala( performed on the first day) Drukpa Dungey (Second Day) and thowachiGangi Tselay on the Final Day are the pride of Talo people.
Masutake Mushroom Festival
Date: 15th to 16th August 2023
Prized by the Government of Japan, this fungi is native to the forest of Ura valley in Bumthang. Visitors learn to identify and harvest the wild matsutake mushroom of Bhutan during the festival. They can hike the valley’s fragrant trails and give in to the thrill of discovering their own private patch of this most coveted mushroom.
Date: 11th November 2022/23
The annual blacknecked crane festival is organized to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered Black-Necked Cranes. The festival includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and mask dances performed by the local people, crane dances and environmental conservation-themed dramas and songs by school children.
Date: 8th to 9th July 2023
The beautiful flower exhibition takes place during the festival.The Haa Summer Festival is a lively and uplifting celebration of traditional living-culture, nomadic lifestyles, unique Bhutanese cuisine, traditional sports and religious performances. It provides unparalleled insight into the lives and traditions of Bhutan’s nomadic herders.
Date: 13th December 2022
The Druk Wangyel Tshechu is a unique festival performed by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or lay people. It is a tribute to the wise leadership of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan. It also celebrates the continuous efforts of the Royal Bhutan Army in protecting the sovereignty and the stability of the country.
Date: 3rd to 5th October 2022
Wangdue Tshechu is a three-day festival of mask and folk dances founded by the 4th Temporal Ruler of Bhutan, Mr. Tenzing Rabgye (1638-1696), to commemorate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava. The festival is held in wangduephodrang Dzong. The festival is Known for dance of the Ox.
Date: 20 to 23rd November 2023.
All Tshechus is followed by Mask dance and music. In Tashigang Tshechu you could see tribal people from Merak and Sakteng in their unique dresses visiting to witness the event.
Date: 8th to 10th December 2022.
This is small rural festival in the village of Nag Lhakhang in Bumthang. This festival is usuallyheld from November 21 to 23. Please reconfirm the dates for 2023.
Date: 30th December to 1st January 2023
Trongsa Tshechu is held insidethe vast Trongsa Dzong and is the oldest tshechu in bhutan. It is beleived that Tshechus in bhutan spread from Trongsa. Most of the mask dance teacher, learned in Trongsa. On the last day of the Tshechu a ginat Thongdrel is unfurled.
Date:8th to 10th October 2022
Tangsibji is a village near Ura valley in Bumthang District. Bumthang is the cultural capital of Bhutan. The festival is held in the small village temple starting in September.
Date: 23rd to 24th October 2023
Royal Highlander Festival is being celebrated to convey the message to the world about climate change. The highlander people from Laya participate in this festival
Date: 14th to 16 April 2023
Bhutan is a country of Flowers. Almost 30 different species of Rhododendrons is discovered in Bhutan. Rhododendron Festival draws hundreds of visitors from all over the region and features the Rhododendron Festival Pageant, the Craft Fair with food and dances.
Date: 14th to 15th October 2023
The beautiful Jomolhari Mountain is held every year on the base camp of Jomolhari mountain. Jomolhari Mountain Festival & Trek combines the Jomolhari Trek with an exquisitely themed two-day event celebrated at the base of Mt. Jomolhari.
Date: 29th to 31st March 2023
Zhemgang is a remote district in the Country but it is the birding paradise of Bhutan. Enjoy the festival with Birds.
Tentative Bhutan Festival Tours Date for 2022/2023
- Mongar Festival: 1st to 3rd December in Mongar Dzong.
- Trashigang Tshechu: 1st to 3rd December in Trashigang Dzong.
- Pemagatshel Tshechu: From 1st to 3rd December 2022 in Pemagatshel Dzong.
- Jambay Lhakhang Singye Cham: From 7th December 2022 at Bumthang.
- Nalakar Tshechu: From 8th to 10th December 2022 in Bumthang.
- Druk wangyel Tshechu: From 13th December 2022 at Dochula Pass.
- Lhuentse Festival: From 30th December to 1st January 2023.
- Trongsa Festival: 30th December to 1st January 2023.
NOTE: 2023 Festival date is released. Let us help you plan your 2023 Festival Tour in Bhutan.
- Punakha Drupchen- From 26th to 28th February 2023 at Punakha.
- Punakha Tshechu: From 1st to 3rd March 2023 at Punakha.
- Tharpaling Thongdrel: 7th March 2023 at Chumi Bumthang.
- Zhemgang Tshechu: 29th to 31st March 2023 in Zhemgang.
- Gasa Tshechu: 29th to 31st March 2023 at Gasa.
- Gomphukora Festival: 29th to 31st March in Tashigang.
- Talo Festival: 29th to 31st March 2023 in Punakha.
- Paro Festival: From 1st to 5th April 2023.
- Rhododendron Festival: From 14th to 16th April 2023 in Thimphu.
- Chortenkora Festival: From 5th April and 20th April 2023 in Trashiyangtse.
- Domkhar Festival: From 30th April to 2nd May 2023 in Bumthang.
- Ura Yakchoea festival: From 2nd May to 6th May 2023 in Bumthang.
- Nimalung Festival: 26th to 28th June 2023 in Bumthang.
- Haa Summer Festival: 8th to 9th July 2023 at Haa.
- Kurjey Festival: From 28th July in Bumthang Kurjey Temple.
- Mushroom Festival: 15th to 16th August 2023 in genekha Thimphu.
- Tour of The dragon(Bicycle Race) on 2nd September 2023 from Bumthang to Thimphu.
- Thimphu Drubchen: 21st September 2023 in Thimphu Trashichhodzong.
- Wangdi Festival: 22nd to 24th September 2023 in Wangdi Dzong.
- Tamshing Phala Choepa Festival: 24th to 26th September 2023 in Bumthang.
- Popular Thimphu Festival from 24th to 26th September 2023 in Thimphu.
- Gangtey Festival: 27th to 29th September 2023 in Gangtey.
- Thangbi Mani festival: From 24th to 30th September 2023 in Bumthang.
- Jumolhari Mountain festival: From 14th to 15th October 2023 on the base of Mt. Jumolhari.
- Jakar Festival: 22nd to 24th October 2023 in Bumthang.
- Chukha Festival:22nd to 24th October 2023 in Chukha.
- Jomolhari Mountain Festival.
- Dechenphu festival: 24th October 2023 at Dechenphu Temple.
- Jambhay Lhakhang Festival: 28th to 1st November 2023 in Jambhay Lhakhang.
- Prakhar Ducchoed festival: 29th to 31st October in Bumthang.
- Black-Necked Crane Festival: 11th November in Phobjikha.
- Mongar Festival: 19th to 22nd November 2023 in Mongar Dzong.
- Trashigang Tshechu: 20th to 23rd November in Trashigang Dzong.
- Pemagatshel Tshechu: From 20th to 23rd November 2023 in Pemagatshel Dzong.
- Jambay Lhakhang Singye Cham: From 27th November 2023 at Bumthang.
- Nalakar Tshechu: From 27th to 29th November 2023 in Bumthang.
- Druk wangyel Tshechu: From 13th December 2023 at Dochula Pass.
- Lhuentse Festival: From 20th to 22nd December 2023.
- Trongsa Festival: 20th to 22nd December to 2023.
List of Tours you can combine with Festival.
- 11 Days Druk Path Trek
- Jumolhari Base Camp Trek
- 29 Days Snowman trek
- Dagala Thousand Lake Trek
- Laya Gasa trek
- Rodungla trek.
- Nub Tshonapata Trek
- Bumthang Owl trek
- Gangtey trek
- Sinchula Trek
- Salt Trek Route.
- Dur Hot Spring trek
- Nabji Korphu Trek
- Chelela Trek
- Bumdra Trek
- Samtengang Trek
- Royal Heritage Trek
- Rigsum Goenpa Trek
- 7 Days Bhutan Cultural Tour with Home Stay.
- 3 Days Bhutan Cultural Tour with Tiger Nest.
- 5 Days Cultural Tour with Haa.
- 9 Days Classic Bhutan Tour.
- 4 Days Hidden Kingdom Tour.
- 6 Days Bhutan Visit with Gangtye Valley Excursion.
- 12 Days Himalaya Journey with Bumthang Valley.
- 8 Days Cultural Heritage Tour.
- 5 Days Best of Bhutan Tour.
- 8 Days Rafting and Hiking Tour.
- 15 Days Amazing Bhutan Tour.
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Festival and Dances of Bhutan
Festivals in Bhutan
There are numerous festivals celebrated in Bhutan- both secular and religious. The most popular religious festival is called Tshechu which honors the memory of Guru Padmasambhava by depicting key episodes or great deeds from his life. This usually takes place on the 10th day of the Bhutanese calendar. The tradition of the Bhutan festival was established by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 16th century and many of the dances and ceremonies performed today are attributed to him or Pema Lingpa. Most of the Bhutan Festival last from 2 to 5 days and is celebrated in all the major Dzongs of Bhutan at varying times of the year.
The Tshechu is a religious festival and it is believed that by attending it a person gains merit. It also serves as the largest annual social gathering for the area with people decked up in all their finery coming to join in the celebration of good over evil, hoping all their unanswered wishes and prayers would be considered. Besides the dancers and musicians, the key character is the Atsara (Joker with big Phallus) who wears a dramatically expressive mask with a big bulging nose. The irreverent joke provides comic relief when the audience gets restive and only they are allowed to confront the monk and mock the religion(without any malicious intent).
They are actually treated with great respect as they are believed to be the representative of the ancient Acharyas-the Sanskrit word for teachers. During the interval between Chhams women in gorgeous traditional attire sing and perform classical dances. Most of the Festival ends with unfurling with great Thangka depicting Guru Padmasambhava and his eight manifestation. Such a thangka which is worshipped is called Thongdrel(Liberation on sight) and it is believed that simply by seeing it some are delivered from the cycle of reincarnation or their sins of this lifetime are washed away.
This is why people on the last day gather as early as 3 am in the morning to view Thongdrel. In some Tshechu there are customs of the wang- a collective verbal blessing high priest followed by the distribution of colored thread which the devote tie around their necks as evidence of the blessings. There are also other interesting tours and festivals you can witness in Bhutan. Check the best time to travel to Bhutan.
The religious dances are called Chhams and are performed by monks as well as laypeople, with the dances remaining the same but the order of performance varying from place to place. Chhams are the core event of the monastic festival. These highly choreographed sacred dance dramas are performed by masked lamas to the accompaniment of the monastic orchestra. The central theme is inevitably the depiction of the triumph of good over evil.
The lamas are dressed in rich brocade robes but it is mask they wear that makes the festival unique. Some dances wear fierce and terrifying whereas some are benign and pleasant. They represent various divinities from the Buddhist pantheon. The fearsome mask is actually the bodhisattvas in their wrathful, tantric form. Some of the Important dances are The Dance of the Four Stags, The Dance of the Heroes, The Dance of the Stag and Hounds, Dance of the Drums from Dremetse, Dance of the Black Hats, Dance of the twenty-one Black Hats and Drums, Dance of the Lord of the Cremation Ground, Dance of the Judgement of the Dead and Dance of the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava. Each dance has a deep meaning of its own.
- The dance of Stags is a protective dance that marks the subduing of the God of the Winds.
- Dance of the heroes proclaims the glory of Buddhism and depicts Pema Lingpa’s arrival in Guru heaven.
- Dance of the Stag and Hound represents the conversion of Hunter into Buddhism by Milarepa.
- The dance of the Drums from Dremetse was composed by a saint from the east and depicts the dance of heaven and victory over evil.
- Dance of the Black Hat is the powerful purification rite.
- Dance of the twenty-one Black hat with drums represents the triumph of Buddhism and religion is represented by the beating of the drums.
- Dance of the Lord of the Cremation carries tantric symbolism with skull clad dancers guarding the eight cremation grounds located at the edge of a cosmic diagram.
- Dance of the Judgement of the dead represnts the judgemt after the dead.
- Dance of the eight manifestation of Guru is a glory dance that shows the eight aspects under which the ripoche manifested.
Planning to Travel Bhutan During Festival
On Popular Bhutan festival Tours like Paro Festival, Thimphu Festival seats to flights to Bhutan tend to get fully booked and for this reason, we would advise you to book the tickets with us as early as 5months prior to your travel date. Bhutan has only two local flights operating in Bhutan and there is no other International airline operating in Bhutan. We don’t charge anything for ticket booking.