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The Festivals of Bhutan

Have you ever seen monks performing sacred Cham dances alongside cymbals smashing whilst horns are blowing? From folklore performances to naughty clowns – locals flock from the surrounding villages dressed in their best clothes to receive blessings and watch the festivals. Bhutan’s festivals are known as tshechus. These are Buddhist festivals in honour of the Buddhist Saint Padmasambhava, popularly known as ‘Guru Rimpoche’, the saint who was responsible for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan.

Here are a handful of festivals celebrated in Bhutan which make for an incredible experience when visiting this beautiful and intriguing country:

Bhutanese festival dates do have a habit of changing so we keep our eye closely on the calendar.  If we are building a festival into your itinerary we work on the most up to date information there is (and assume nothing)

Trashigang Tshechu - 5th to 7th December 2019 - 22nd to 25th November 2020 

This festival takes place in the courtyard of Trashigang Dzong which is perched on a cliff overlooking two rivers. Pilgrims gather around the edge and monks look out from balconies on the first and second floors. The view of the Trashigang from these balconies is magnificent. As the monks perform their dances their swirling robes appear as spinning tops on the stone paved floor. Pilgrims travel from as far as the Indian border and Brokpas (a semi-nomadic community) make the journey from Merak and Sakteng.

Mongar Tshechu - 4th to 6th December 2019 - 21st to 24th November 2020 

The region of Mongar in eastern Bhutan is famous for its exquisite wood carvings and is known as the ‘Bastion of the Zhongarps’. The exciting and colourful three day tshechu is held here annually in November and is witnessed by people 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.

Druk Wangyel Tshechu (Dochu Laa) - 13th December 2019 - 13th December 2020 

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. This one of a kind tshechu is performed against the backdrop of the magnificent Jigme Singye Wangchuck mountain range.

Gomphukora Tshechu - 14th to 16th March 2019 - 1st to 3rd April 2020 

Gomphukora is one of the temples where Guru Rinpoche, the great tantric mystic, meditated. It is a small temple in front of a huge black rock, where he is said to have vanquished a local demon in the shape of a snake. Each spring, people from all over eastern Bhutan descend upon the narrow valley, dressed in all their finery, to partake in the festivities, worship and to reunite themselves with their past. Traditionally, this festival was an occasion for the people of eastern Bhutan, to choose their spouse.

Paro Tshechu - 17th to 21st March 2019 - 4th to 8th April 2020 

The five-day Paro Tsechu is held each spring, from the 11th to the 15th day of the second month of the Bhutanese calendar – usually late March or April – at the Paro Dzong (Rinchen Pung Dzong). This Tsechu is one of the largest festivals in Bhutan with pilgrims travelling from neighbouring districts to participate in the festivities. The first day of the festival is usually held in the courtyard of the Dzong and includes dances such as the ‘Black Hat Dance’ or ‘Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort’. On the final day, a giant appliqué thangka or Thondrol, is unrolled and displayed before dawn.

You can see a few of our favourite images and videos here.

Do you want to join the fun and spectacle of a Bhutanese Festival?  Check out some of our itineraries for inspiration and talk to us about creating one just for you that takes in a colourful festival.

Some of the other festivals, which are perhaps not as widely celebrated, are as follows:

 

Festival 2019 (2020) Where

Punakha Drubchhen

12 - 14 February 

(2 - 4 March ) 

Punakha Dzong, Punakha

Punakha Tsechu

15 - 17 February 

(5 - 7 March) 

Punakha Dzong, Punakha

Tharpaling Thongdrol

19 February              

(9 March)

Tharpaling Lhakhang, Bumthang

Talo Tshechu

14 - 16 March   

(1 - 3 April)

Talo Gonpa, Punhakha

Gasa Tshechu

14 - 16 March    

(1 - 3 April)

Gasa Dzong, Paro

Zhemgang Tshechu

14 - 17 March    

(1 - 3 April)

Zhemgang Dzong, Zhemgang

Chorten Kora

21 March & 5 April

(8 & 22 April )

Chorten Kora, Trashi Yangtse

Rhododendron Festival

19 - 21 April       

Lamperi Botanical Garden, Dochu La

Domkhar Tshechu

14 - 16 April   

 (3 - 5 May)

Domkhar, Chumni, Bumthang

Ura Yakchoe

16 - 20 April     

(4 - 8 May)

Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang

Nimalung Tshechu

10 - 11 July      

(30 June - 1 July)

Nimalung Dratshang, Bumthang

Kurjey Tshechu

11 July          

(30 June)

Kurjey Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang

Haa Summer Festival

13 - 14 July     

Haa

Mushroom Festival

15 - 16 August

Genekha, Thimphu

Masutaki Mushroom Festival

23 - 24 August  

Ura, Bumthang

Thimphu Drubchen

4 October      

(22 September)

Tashi Chhodzong, Thimphu

Wangdue Tshechu

5 - 7 October

(24 - 26 September)

Wangdi Dzong, Wangdue Phrodrang

Tamshing Phala Chhoepa

7 - 9 October 

(26 - 28 September)

Tamshing Lhakhang, Bumthang

Thimphu Tshechu

8 - 10 October 

(26 - 28 September)

Tashi Chhodzong, Thimphu

Gangtey Tshechu

10 - 13 October  

(28 September - 1 October)

Gangtey Goenpa, Phobjikha

Thangbi Mani

10 - 13 October 

(29 September - 2 October)

Tangbi Lhakhang, Bumthang

Jhomolhari Mountain Festival

14 - 15 October  

Dangochong, Thimphu

Chhukha Tshechu

6 - 8 November

(24 - 26 October)

Chhukha Dzong, Chhukha

Jakar Tshechu

5 - 9 November    

(23 - 27 October)

Jakar Dzong, Bumthang

Jambay Lhakhang Drup

13 - 16 November     

(31 October - 3 November)

Jambay Lhakhang, Bumthang

Prakhar Duchhoed

14 - 16 November   

(1 - 3 November)

Prakar Khakhang, Bumthang

Dechenphu Tshechu

8 November        

(26 October)

Dechenphu Lhakang, Thimphu

Black Necked Crane Festival

11 November    

(11 November)

Gangtey Goenpa, Phobjikha, Wangdue Phodrang

Jambay Lhakhang Singye Cham

12 December       

(30 November)

Jambay Lhakhang, Bumthang

Pemagatshel Tshechu

11 - 13 November   

(21 - 24 November)

Pemagatsel Dzong, Pemagatsel

Nalakhar Tshechu

12 - 14 December  

(30 November - 2 December)

Ngaa Lhakhang, Bumthang

Trongsa Tshechu

(4 - 7 Jan 2020)

Tongsa Dzong, Trongsa

Lhuentse Tshechu

(4 - 7 Jan 2020)

Lhuentse Dzong, Lhuentse

Nabji Lhakhang Drup

(10 - 12 Jan 2020)

Nabji Lhakhang, Trongsa

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"Paro Festival personal highlight : Moonlit unfurling of Thankha, butter lamps, leaping dancers, chanting monks & King & Queen sitting behind us 3 rows back!"

Suzana Radovic
Kath

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Whether it's to ask a quick question or to start planning the journey of a lifetime, we'd love to hear from you.

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