10 Fairs and Festivals in Bhutan You Must See to Experience the Heritage of the Country

10 Fairs and Festivals You Must See in Bhutan to Imbibe the Happiness of the Country

First Published on: 28 Jan, 2019   |  Last Updated: 04 Dec, 2019 By

A land of prosperity and happiness, Bhutan is a country of pristine beauty and captivating heritage. From famous tourist destinations to popular fairs and festivals in Bhutan, each aspect of the country is equally enthralling. Cultural tourism in Bhutan is a major contributor to the travel sector in Bhutan. Although the natural beauty is what attracts tourists to Bhutan, we suggest you explore the culture and heritage here with these festivals and fairs. Since you might be wondering how to find out about these festivals and fairs, we have curated a list of top 10 festivals in Bhutan you must see for an amazing stay in the land of happiness.

Punakha Drubchen, Punakha

Punakha-Drubchen

Narrating the tales of the history of Bhutan, the glorious cultural festival of Punakha Drubchen is a celebration of the country’s victory over the invading neighbouring forces of Tibet. Celebrating the unification of Bhutan as a nation, the festive events reenact the scenes from the fights of Bhutan and Tibet. With no formal Bhutan army, locals came forward to ward off the attacks from Tibet. The locals militias now dress up as the soldiers of that time and enact the battle scenes. Starting as a celebration of Bhutan’s victory, today this festival is an annual event, celebrated with great pride and joy. Also, the winter home of Chief Abbott Je Khenpo of Bhutan, Punakha is one of the must-visit places to visit in Bhutan.

Attraction of the festival:

Reenactment of the battle between Bhutan and Tibet is the biggest attraction of this famous festival in Bhutan. With locals militia dressing up as Bhutanese warriors from the battle between Bhutan and Tibet, the event is an excellent option to witness the glorious history of the country.

Dates: February 12-14, 2019
Location: Punakha

Gomphu Kora Festival, Trashigang

Gomphu Kora Festival

A festival like none other in Bhutan, Gomphu Kora Festival is of prime importance to the locals of Trashigang. To understand the significance of the festival, we need to understand the legend behind the festival. The tale of the Ghompha goes back to 8th century when Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the cave for three days to vanquish the evil that was hiding in the cave. The word Ghompha means meditation cave and Kora means circumambulation. The name refers to the cave formed of a rock-face, which is next to a temple built as a tribute. During the festival, the devotees take a trip around the cave and the festival marks the victory of good over evil.

Attraction of the festival:

The trip around the cave is the major attraction on the festival. During the festival, the entire area gets lively and people flock to the site in the traditional finery to offer prayers to Guru Padmasambhava and seek his blessings.

Dates: March 14-16, 2019
Location: Trashigang

Paro Tshechu, Paro

Paro Tshechu

One of the most popular cultural events in Bhutan, Paro Tshechu is a big cultural celebrations during spring time. Celebrated in the city of Paro, the festival witnesses thousands of locals and tourists gathering around the courtyard of the Dzong to celebrate the deeds of Guru Rinpoche. Marked by the masked dance performed by lamas and laymen, the festival is meant to thank deities for their blessings. A must-see during every Bhutan tour, Paro Tshechu allows tourists to have an insight into the vibrant culture of Bhutan. At the end of the festival a four-storey high Buddhist religious scroll(thangkha) is unrolled. The scroll is said to be more than 350 years old.

Attraction of the festival: Dance forms like:

  • Shingje Yabyum – the dance of the lord of death, Durdag.
  • The dance of the lords of the cremation grounds.
  • The dance of the drums from Drametse.
  • The dance of the black hats are part of Paro Tshechu traditions.

Date: March 17-21, 2019
Location: Paro

Sakteng Festival, Sakteng

Sakteng Festival

Nestled at 3000m above sea level, the mesmerising Sakteng Valley is home to one of the most exciting festivals of Bhutan. Celebrated by the locals called Brokpas, a semi-nomadic settlement, the festival is the celebration of the local deities for their blessings. An occasion of revelry and merrymaking, the alluring festival is an insight into the local culture. Living close to the nature in the pristine valley, Brokpas have remained untouched and they have managed to preserve their centuries-old traditions and practices. During the festival, the entire community come together to offer prayers and thank deities for the prosperity.

Attraction of the festival:

  • Like all the Tshechu in Bhutan, the festival is marked by dance and local folk music.
  • People dress up in the traditional finery and ara(local wine) is an integral part of the celebration.
  • Rare Yak dance and the Ache Lhamo dance are two of the most popular dance forms performed in the festival.

Dates: June 12-16, 2019
Location: Sakteng

Haa Summer Festival, Haa

Haa Summer Festival

If you are planning a visit during your Bhutan festival tour, then Haa Summer Festival in Haa Valley is a must-see. Demonstrating a blend of cultural extravaganza and tranquility of nature, the festival is a celebration of the nomadic and traditional lifestyles of the people of Bhutan. A perfect destination for those who wish to experience the traditional Bhutanese culture. The festival exhibits the vibrant local culture, complemented with the local cuisine, sports, drinks, religious performances, dance and songs. With the picture-perfect Haa’ scenic landscape in the background, the festival is the ideal chance to capture the true essence of Bhutan and its scenic beauty. A treat for photographers, there is also a photography contest at the festival.

Attraction of the festival:

  • Local sports, dance, music and cuisines on offer.
  • The festival is a perfect spot to get acquainted with the local culture.
  • Photography contest and mountain-biking are also major attractions of the festival.

Dates: July 12-13, 2019
Location: Haa

Merak Tshechu, Merak Valley

Merak Tshechu

Celebrated in the lush green Merak Valley in the eastern Bhutan, the festival is a celebration of the local culture and traditions. During the course of the festival, the entire community come together to put up an exhibition of the exuberant local culture. The three-days festival offers an insight into the Brokpas community, bringing you closer to nature and its beauty. A community still thriving without using money, the homegrown and homemade culture of the Brokpas is on display during the festival.

Attraction of the festival:

  • The three days festival is marked by traditional dance, music and celebration.
  • Yak dance performance is also a major attraction of this festival.

Dates: NA
Location: Merak Valley

Matsutake Festival, Bumthang

Matsutake Festival

If you happen to be a foodie, this festival in Bhutan is a perfect choice for you. A cultural festival aimed at spreading awareness about the sustainable harvesting of the local mushrooms and promoting the organic harvesting. Exhibiting the indigenous mushrooms and many more organic food, Matsutake Festival is a feast for every visitor. Organised in the picturesque Ura Valley, the festival offers a perfect blend of lip-smacking local delicacies amidst the luxury of nature. You can also participate in the mushroom picking excursion and getting acquainted with the rural Bhutanese lifestyle.

Attraction of the festival:

Mushroom picking excursion is also a major attraction of this festival.

Dates: August 23-24, 2019
Location: Ura Valley, Bumthang

Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu, Wangdue Phodrang

Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu

Photo Credit: https://bit.ly/2sSa82C

Wangdue Phodrang, the gateway of Eastern Bhutan, celebrates the annual festival of Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu with furore and great joy every year. Introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the festival has been celebrated since the 17th century. A religious and cultural festival known for local songs and ornamental speeches(Lozeys), it exhibits the vibrant culture and traditions with great pride. Also, celebrating the good deeds of Guru Rinpoche, the dance performed at the festivals aim to thank deities for their blessings. The Dance of Ox is a major tourist attraction of the festival which concludes with the unfurling of the Guru Tshengye Thongdrol.

Attraction of the festival:

  • The Dance of Ox or Raksha Mancham is a famous dance performed at the festival.
  • The festival is known for the recital of the local songs and the ornamental speeches(Lozey).

Dates: October 06-08, 2019
Location: Wangdue Phodrang

Thimphu Tshechu, Thimphu

Thimphu Tshechu

A 3-day cultural extravaganza exhibiting the vibrant culture and proud heritage of Bhutan, Thimphu Tshechu is a festival celebrated to commemorate the birth of Guru Rinpoche. The festival is celebrated in the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu on the 10th day of 8th month of Lunar Calendar. One of the most popular festivals of Bhutan, it is attended by locals from neighbouring districts. A religious festival, Thimphu Tshechu is marked by days and nights of prayers to invoke God. It is believed that by attending this festival, one gains merit points. Thimphu Tshechu festival celebrates the prosperity of the country and its citizens, and the rituals of the festivals aim to seek blessings of deities.

Attraction of the festival:

  • The locals dress up in finery and perform dance rituals which were established by lamas.
  • The dance rituals are meant to invoke deities of tantric teachings.
  • Dance rituals like Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Ground, Dance of the Terrifying Deities, Mask dances performed by lay monks and Dances of the 21 Black Hats are some of the most famous dance rituals of Thimphu Tshechu.

Date: October 08-10, 2019
Location: Thimphu

Jambay Lhakhang Drup, Bumthang

Jambay Lhakhang Drup

A must-see religious and cultural festival in the town of Bumthang, this 4-day festival is an exhibition of the rich culture and heritage of Bhutan. The festival is celebrated for two reasons – one being the celebration of the deeds of Guru Rinpoche and other being the celebration of the commemoration of the establishment of Jambay Lhakhang temple of the 7th century. It is marked by various dance rituals like the naked dance (tourists are not allowed to see it) and dancing under the fire being the most famous. Like many other religious festivals across Bhutan, Jambay Lhakhang Drup is also celebrated as a way to thank deities for bestowing the land with prosperity and happiness.

Attraction of the festival:

  • Ter Cham is the naked masked dance performed by the lamas and locals at midnight.
  • The fire dance, known as Mewang is an expression of blessings from fire god, the dance is performed to bless infertile women.

Dates: November 13-16, 2019
Location: Bumthang

Information that can help you plan your trip to Bhutan with ease:

How to reach Bhutan

How to reach Bhutan:

You can enter Bhutan only through air or via land.

By air: There is only one international airport in Bhutan, which is in Paro. The flight to Paro is an adventure in itself. Only three airlines fly to and from Paro – Druk Air, Bhutan Airlines and Buddha Air. The airport is well-connected to major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Gaya, Kolkata.

By road: Entering to Bhutan via road is only possible through Indo-Bhutan borders. Entering via roads through China and Tibet is not allowed. The three land borders are Gelephu, Phuentsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar.

Best time to visit Bhutan:

Bhutan has a diverse climate because of change in altitude and also because of the southwest and northeast monsoon from India. However, between September to November is the best time to visit Bhutan to witness the scenic beauty.

Spring: March to May
Monsoon: June to August
Autumn: September to November
Winter: December to February

Travelling in Bhutan

Bhutan Punakha Dzong River

Bhutan is not like your usual travel destination. One of the happiest country in the world, which takes great pride in its culture and traditions. Although Bhutan is a trending travel destination in the world, the country comes with certain guidelines and rules. The rules are different for SAARC countries and rest of the countries.

Countries other than SAARC

  • You would need visa to visit the country. Also, you would need to hire a tour company before applying for a Visa. You can’t travel independently in Bhutan.
  • The cost for staying in Bhutan is between USD 200 and 250 per day. This fee would include the transportation, accommodation, three meals and permit fee.
  • You would need to tell your tour operator beforehand about the places you wish to travel as different areas need separate entry permit. These entry-permits would be obtained by the tour company.
  • You can only fly or enter the country overland. There are only three entry and exit points for tourists. You can enter through India by road but not through China or Tibet.
  • You can travel anywhere in the country but only with zone permit, which would be obtained by the tour company.

SAARC Countries

  • Indian and Bangladesh’s citizens can travel to Bhutan without Visa but other SAARC country’ citizens need visa.
  • Travellers can SAARC countries can travel Bhutan without hiring a tour operator but entry permit is still a must for every traveller. In this case, you would have to obtain the permit yourself.
  • You are free to travel anywhere in the country but only with a zone permit for each zone.

Currency of Bhutan:

Bhutanese Ngultrum = INR 1
1 USD = 70.42 Bhutanese Ngultrum

For more details on planning your Bhutan tour from India you can get detailed information here.

Bhutan is a land of breathtaking beauty and a culture that will leave you wanting for more. The rich heritage is a major plus point for the country that is fused with the enchanting landscape and rich culture. Bhutan is a destination that will give you the best of both the worlds. So, don’t think much and plan your trip to Bhutan and experience the rich history and heritage of the country. Do share with us your experience.

Also, if you’re looking for such tours to Bhutan and don’t want to plan it on your own, you can contact us at Tour My India. You can call us at +919212553175 or send us your queries at info@tourmyindia.com and we’ll get back to you with Best Bhutan tourism holiday packages where you can pick the one that suits you the most.

For any queries, feel free to post your questions in the comment section below.

Tags: Bhutan Tours

About the author

Ashwini

Born and brought up in the Lucknowi tehzeeb, Ashwini wishes to someday settle in a quaint little town in the Himalayas. If you do not find him daydreaming about his travel plans, you’ll find him exploring the vastness of Youtube and Netflix. A travel romantic and a cricket fanatic, he also wishes to try every cuisine ever made in this world.

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