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Bhutan Festivals, Top Bhutan Festival Dates 2021

14 July 2020 Last updated at 11:51

Bhutan, a place of happiness, has over 50 festivals to celebrate throughout the year, which are usually divided into traditional festivals, non religious festivals and religious festivals. Tshechu, usually lasts 3-4 days, is the most important religious festival in Bhutan and is held in different areas on different days to commemorate Guru Padmasambhava. During the festival, Bhutanese usually hold prayer ceremony and mask dance (cham) performed by monks wearing various bright traditional costumes to represent the gods and Buddha they believe in. Local people will also put on their most beautiful dresses. On the last day of Tshechu, people will flood to see “thondrol” (a large Thangka of Buddha). People believe watching such holy things can wash off your sins.

Apart from the Tshechus, there are many other celebrations in Bhutan worth seeing such as Rhododendron festival near Thimphu to see the exhibition of flowers, Black-Necked Crane Festival in Phobjikha Valley to enjoy to joy of the returning of the cranes, and Nomad’s Festival in Bumthang which is designed for tourists and filled with jubilant performances and games.

To help you better plan your Bhutan tour and immerse in the atmosphere of local festivals, here we have selected top 6 and some main festivals in Bhutan. Have fun and don’t miss the opportunity to join in the celebrations.

Top 6 Bhutan Festivals

Bhutan Festivals
1

Thimphu Festival - Thimphu Tshechu

Place: Tashi Chho Dzong, Thimphu

Date: 4 days in September or October

Thimphu Tsechu Festival has been celebrated since 1670 to commemorate the birth of Guru Rinpoche. It is one of the biggest festivals in Bhutan with almost the whole citizens of Thimphu and thousands of domestic and foreign tourists joining in. According to the Bhutanese calendar, the Thimphu Tsechu usually falls into September or October and lasts for 3 to 4 days. The yearly social gathering and dancing are usually held in the beautiful Trashi Chhoe Dzong. The actual celebration involves a lot of traditional dance, continuous prayers, and solemn rituals to their gods. To most people in Thimphu, the Tshechu Festival offers a break from normal farming life and people receive blessings and pray for happiness, health, harvest for the coming seasons.

Recommended Tour: 7 Days Thimphu Tshechu Festival Tour

Bhutan Festivals
2

Paro Festival - Paro Tshechu

Place: Rinpung Dzong, Paro

Date: 4 days in March or April

Among all the tshechus all over Bhutan, Paro Tshechu is one of the most popular. Not only local people but countless tourists will gather in this little town to witness this great event of the year. On the first day, it is held inside Paro Dzong and for the rest of the days, the activities are organized outside of it. There will be continuous cham dances to celebrate the deeds of Guru Rinpoche. The highlight is the thondrel on the last day. A huge Thangka is unrolled at dawn and gives blessings to devout people who see it.

Bhutan Festivals
3

Punakha Festival - Punakha Drubchen & Tshechu

Place: Punakha Dzong, Punakha

Date: February or March

Punankha Drubchen & Tshechu last about 6 days together. The former is to honor the victory of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal of Punakha over intruders in the 17th century and the dances performed by thousands of pazaps (warriors) in costumes will tell the story of that battle. Punakha Tshechu, like other Tshechu Festivals in Bhutan, is one of the biggest religious events to honor Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava), founder of Tibetan Buddhism and one of the most influential Buddhist masters. Locals, especially women will dress beautifully during the festival to watch Cham Dance (mask dance) and a huge Thangka painting with image of Padmasambhava.

Bhutan Festivals
4

Black Necked Crane Festival

Place: Gangtey Gonpa, Phobjikha

Date: 11th November

This modern festival is set up to welcome the coming of the over 300 black-necked cranes. On that day, the kids will dress like a black-necked crane and dance together. Phobjikha Valley in Wangdue Phodrang provides a perfect reserve for them to roost there during their annual migration from Tibet Plateau. Every year from November to January, they will fly here in flocks to pass the winter. At that time, here will become a paradise for both the birds and birdwatchers. Local people consider black-necked cranes as divine birds that can bring peace and prosperity and think highly of them.

Recommended Tour: 13 Days Amazing Bhutan Bird-watching Tour

Bhutan Festivals
5

Jambay Lhakhang Drup

Place: Jambay Lhakhang, Bumthang

Date: 3 days in October or November

Jambay Lhakhang Drup is the most important festival in Bumthang. This 4-day celebration is usually held in October or November to observe the establishment of ancient Jambay Lhakhang built in the 7th century. Apart from the regular cham, Jambay Lhakhang Drup is most famous for the mewang (fire blessing ceremony, pilgrims will pass through a burning arch) and tercham (dance of treasures performed by naked males around a bonfire). Tercham is usually held at midnight to pray for the harvest of the coming season. Usually it is not allowed to take pictures.

Bhutan Festivals
6

Ura Yakchoe Festival

Place: Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang

Date: 3 days in April or May

Ura Yakchoe Festival, held in Ura Village, Bumthang is full of the simplicity of small town atmosphere. Inside Ura Lhakhang is a huge statue of Guru Rinpoche and some beautiful paintings. The highlight of the event is the invoking and escorting of the Yidam Chhana Dorjee from Gaythen to Ura. This festival is to worship the God of Yaks. There will be religious parade, dance, and prayer ceremonies. The only problem is that though the festival is usually in April or May, its exact date is uncertain, sometimes it is finally set just a couple of weeks before the festival.

Main Festivals in Bhutan

Festival Place Date (Bhutan Lunar Calendar) Date (Solar Calendar 2021) Activities
Losar (New Year in Tibetan Calender) All over Bhutan 1st January / Paint the house, visit the temple, hold archery and darts competition, etc.
Punakha Drubchen/Punakha Tshechu Punakha Dzong, Punakha January 19th - 24th February Thousands of pazaps (warriors) on costumes perform a battle in the 17th century.
Nomad’s Festival Nangsiphel, Bumthang / Third weekend in February Trade fair, traditional games, mask dance, etc.
Gomphukora Gom Kora Lhakhang, Trashigang 8th - 10th February 21st - 23rd March Kora
Rhododendron Festival Lamperi Botanical Garden, Dochula, Thimphu / 16th - 18th April Rhododendron exhibition
Paro Tshechu Rinpung Dzong, Paro February 24th - 28th March Cham, thondrel
Ura Yakchoe Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang March 24th - 28th April Religious parade, dance, prayer ceremony, etc.
Nimalung Tshechu Nimalung Dratshang, Chumni, Bumthang 6th - 8th May 18th - 20th June Mask dance
Kurjey Tshechu Kurjey Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang 8th May 20th June (on the last day of Nimalung Tshechu) Religious dance and ceremony for the birthday of Guru Rinpoche
Thimphu Tshechu Tashi Chho Dzong, Thimphu August 16th - 18th September Mask dance (Cham Dance), Thongdrel, etc.
Wangdue Tshechu Tencholing Army Ground, Wangdue Phodrang August 14th - 16th September Mask dance, trade fair, games, etc.
Gangtey Tshechu Gangtey Gonpa, Phobjikha, Wangdue Phodrang 8th - 10th August 18th - 20th September Mask dance and Thongdrel
Tamshing Phala Chhoepa Tamshing lhakhang, Bumthang 9th - 11th August October Religious dance
Jambay Lhakhang Drup Jambay Lhakhang, Bumthang 15th - 18th September 21st - 23th October Cham dance, bonfire, mewang (fire blessing ceremony) and tercham (dance of treasures)
Black Necked Crane Festival Gangtey Gonpa, Phobjikha / 11th November Children dress like Black-Necked Cranes and dance
Trongsa Tshechu Trongsa Dzong, Trongsa 9th - 11th November 12th - 14th December Mask dance, Thongdrol

Tips of Touring Bhutan During Festivals

1. Book in Advance: Hotels and flight tickets are usually sold out quickly during popular festivals such as Thimphu Tshechu, so you need to book your tour as early as possible.

2. Photography: It is OK to take photos of the celebration, but the flashlight should be turned off and don’t intrude into the dance floor to influence the performers or obstruct others’ line of sight. And it is better not to take pictures of the royal members.

3. As there will be a sea of people during festivals, you can bring a telescope to have a better view of the performance.

How to Plan A Bhutan Tour

A Bhutan trip usually starts from Paro where the Bhutan’s only international airport is located in, then travel eastward to Thimphu and Punakha, which is the most classic itinerary in Bhutan, taking 5~6 days to finish. Never miss the icon of Bhutan - Tiger’s Nest (the symbol of Bhutan) in Paro. If your time is quite limited, you can skip Punakha. If you want an in-depth Bhutan tour, we suggest you extend your trip to Phobjikha, Gangtey, Trongsa and Bumthang in central Bhutan, which costs you about 9~10 days. You can also spend more time in Bhutan to explore more features of Bhutan, such as trekking, birding, Tshechu festival, etc.

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