Lonely Planet ranked Bhutan as the best country to visit in 2020. That is above England and North Macedonia.

A Bhutanese hamlet

Lonely Planet, an international travel guide book publisher, ranked Bhutan as the best country to visit in 2020. That is above England and North Macedonia.

Bhutan’s ‘high value, low impact’ tourism policy, its well preserved cultural heritage and natural environment, and sustainable practices are the reasons to top the list of travel destinations in the world.  

Whenever you travel to Bhutan, you will be greeted with one of the festivals. Festivals in Bhutan reflect cultural diversity and rich natural biodiversity.

Here are the best festivals in Bhutan both tourists and locals do not want to miss.  

1. Tshechu

Mask Dance

Tshechu, or the Mask Dance Festival, is held annually in various temples, monasteries and dzongs in well favored times. It is the biggest religious and cultural festival in Bhutan and normally lasts for three days.  

Monks and laymen perform dances with colorful 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

A yak contest

The Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition is the longest festival that lasts, at least, for two weeks. Varieties of flowers, both wild and home grown, are show cased during the exhibition.

The location of the festival is changed every year. The landscape at the chosen venue is beautified. 

The festival also provides 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.

When: Spring
Where: location changes annually

3. Royal Highlander Festival

Layaps perform traditional dance

Initiated in 2016 to celebrate the Birth of Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, the Royal Highlander Festival is an annual event to celebrate 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. The festival is a three day event.

When: October
Where: Laya, Gasa

4. Jomolhari Mountain Festival

Visitors walk to the location

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 colorful 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 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.

When: October
Where: Soe, Thimphu

5. Matsutake Festival

Matsutake mushroom

Matsutake mushroom is called as Sangay Shamu by Bhutanese, meaning the mushroom of Buddha. Matsutake is found in Bhutan in the pine and oak forests and is the same species as the Japanese matsutake.

Matsutake 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.

Mastsutake festival is a two day event. Varies cultural programs are also performed to entertain the visitors.   

When: August
Where: Genekha in Thimphu & Ura in Bumthang

6. Bhutan Bird Festival

White-bellied Heron

Bhutan is a 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.

When: October/November
Where: Tingtibi, Zhemgang

7. Rhododendron Festival

Rhododendron flowers

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.

When: April
Where: Lamperi, Thimphu

8. Mountain Echoes

Panelists sharing stories

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.

When: August
Where: Thimphu

9. Haa Summer Festival

A nomad’s tent/home

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 is one of the highlights of the festival.

Visitors can taste unique Bhutanese cuisine, engage in traditional sports and enjoy cultural programs.   

When: June
Where: Haa

10. Black-necked Crane Festival

Black-necked dance performed by students

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 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

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