Festivals of Bhutan
Bhutan’s ‘high value, low impact’ tourism policy, it’s well preserved cultural heritage and natural environment, and sustainable practices are the reasons to top list of travel destinations in the world and also to explore unique Festivals of Bhutan.
Lonely Planet an international travel guide book publisher, ranked Bhutan as the best country to visit in 2020.
Whenever you travel to Bhutan, you will be greeted with one of the festivals. Festivals of Bhutan reflect cultural diversity and rich natural biodiversity.
Here are the best festivals of Bhutan both tourists and locals do not want to miss.
1. Tshechu (Unique Festival of Bhutan)
Tshechu, or the Mask Dance Festival, is held annually in various temples, monasteries and dzongs in well-favoured times. Monks and laymen perform dances with colourful costumes, while people gather to witness mask dances, receive blessing and socialize.
In between the mask dances, beautiful ladies perform traditional songs. Clowns, known as Atsara, also entertain the spectators with obscene jokes and acts.
When: Different times
Where: across the country
2. Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition
The Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition is the longest festival that lasts, at least, for two weeks. Varieties of flowers, both wild and homegrown, are showcased during the exhibition.
The location of the festival is changed every year. The landscape at the chosen venue is beautified. The festival also provides a platform for entrepreneurship in floriculture and horticulture in Bhutan. Visitors can buy flowers they love.
Local art, culture and culinary are also exhibited during the event. Ministry of Agriculture and Forest coordinates the event under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck. The first Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition was initiated upon the Royal Command of His Majesty the King in 2015.
Where: location changes annually
3. Royal Highlander Festival
Initiated in 2016 to celebrate the Birth of Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, the Royal Highlander Festival is an annual event to celebrate the beauty and unique tradition of highlander’s community in Gasa. Songs and dances native to Laya and Lunana are performed during the event. Various competitions on highland animals including the yaks, horses and mastiffs are organized.
The festival exhibits local-based yak produce, medicinal herbs and other local products. A festival is a three-day event.
Where: Laya, Gasa
4. Jomolhari Mountain Festival of Bhutan
Jomolhari Mountain Festival is a two-day event celebrated at the base of Mt Jomolhari coordinated by highlander’s communities.
The festival showcases the rich culture and colourful history of highlanders. It is also a festive time for highlanders to come together as a community to celebrate their life and culture. Some of the interesting features of the festival are horse race and traditional wrestling.
The Jomolhari Mountain Festival was first celebrated in 2013 to encourage snow leopard conservation through community participation.
Where: Soe, Thimphu
5. Mushroom Festival of Bhutan( Matsutake)
Matsutake mushroom is called as Sangay Shamu by Bhutanese, meaning the mushroom of Buddha primarily grown in the root of pine and oak forests and is the same species as the Japanese matsutake. Sangay Shamu is one of the most expensive mushrooms next to cordyceps due to its scarcity and medicinal values. It’s more popular among Japanese.
To promote the mushroom and the practice sustainable harvest, Bhutan began celebrating Annual Matsutake Festival. During the festival, varieties of matsutake, collected from wild, are showcased for sale to the visitors. Visitors can also taste mouthwatering matsutake dishes.
Matsutake Festival is a two-day event. Varies cultural programs are also performed to entertain the visitors.
Where: Genekha in Thimphu & Ura in Bumthang
6. Bhutan Bird Festival
Bhutan is home to more than 700 species of birds of which 500 are found in Zhemgang district. Critically endangered white-bellied heron and all the four species of hornbill are found in this place.
Bhutan Bird Festival is an annual event organized in Zhemgang to celebrate the prevalence of abundant species of birds. The festival welcomes local and international birders and wildlife enthusiast to witness beautiful birds and their spectacular natural habitat. The main highlight of the event is the guided bird watching and photography tour.
During the three day festival, local food and Indigenous arts and crafts are also showcased.
Where: Tingtibi, Zhemgang
7. Rhododendron Festival
For having, at least, 46 species of rhododendron flowers spread all over, Bhutan has every reason to celebrate blooming of rhododendrons.
Rhododendron Festival displays different species that are in full bloom in their natural habitat and features the rhododendron garden walk. Guided walk and photography tour in natural habitat is also organized. The festival is a three-day event and visitors are entertained with cultural programs, local cuisine and traditional sports.
Where: Lamperi, Thimphu
8. Mountain Echoes
A three day Mountain Echoes is a literary, art and cultural festival that holds an important position among all festivals in Bhutan.
The festival brings together writers, environmentalists, photographers, musicians, artists, film-makers to engage in cultural dialogue, share stories, create memories and spend three blissful days in the mountains. Mountain Echoes is an initiative of India-Bhutan Foundation in association with Siyahi under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.
9. Haa Summer Festival
Haa, once restricted to foreigners, now welcomes tourists from all around the worlds. Of many attractions, Haa Summer Festival is a two-day celebration where nomadic tradition and unique culture of the Haa valley is showcased. White poppies spread over valleys of Haa in summer and are one of the highlights of the festival.
Visitors can taste unique Bhutanese cuisine, engage in traditional sports and enjoy cultural programs.
10. Black-necked Crane Festival Of Bhutan
Globally endangered Black-necked Cranes fly to Bhutan in winter. They are considered heavenly birds. Gangteng-Phobji Valley receives the highest number of Black-necked Cranes with around 500 individuals every year.
To celebrate the arrival of Black-necked Cranes in winter, Black-necked Crane Festival is observed. The festival also creates awareness and understanding the importance of an endangered crane. A day-long festival is celebrated at the courtyard of Gangtey Goenpa in Phobjikha valley. Crane dance performed by students is the highlight of the festival.
When: November 11
Where: Gangteng Goenpa, Wangdi Phodrang