Festivals (or tsechus) are big family and social occasions in Bhutan – people dress in their finest clothing and jewellery (usually in shades of coral and turquoise), they pack picnic lunches and stay at the festivals all day.
The festivals themselves are known for being rich and happy expressions of the country’s ancient Buddhist culture. They are held in honour of Guru Rimpoche, the saint who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century.
Monks spend weeks before the festival preparing themselves through deep prayer and meditation. They perform special masked dances that are inspired by enlightened people in history; the Bhutanese believe that watching these mystical dances is essential for gaining enlightenment themselves.
The Bhutanese people use the festivals to pass on values, mythology and spiritual beliefs through the dance dramas performed. Many of them finish with a rare display of a giant silk applique thangkha (painting) of Guru Padmasambava or another important Buddhist deity.
The most popular festivals, particularly amongst tourists, are ParoTsechu and Thimphu Tsechu. There are two reasons for this – firstly, they are located in Bhutan’s west (only an hours drive from the airport); secondly, they take place in spring and autumn (the best times to visit the country).
This festival is held during spring; the dates usually fall in early April. Early in the morning on the final day of the celebration, the monks will display a gigantic thangkha of the Guru Throngdel inside the dzong. The artwork is considered so sacred that simply seeing one is believed to cleanse the viewer of sin.
This festival is held during autumn, beginning on the 10th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. A number of dances are performed, such as the Zhanachham and Shaw Shachi. Equally as important are the Atsaras, who are similar to clowns except are believed to enchant evil forces and prevent them from causing harm.
In past years, it was recommended that you book accommodation at least 6 months in advance if you wished to participate in one of the festivals. These days, however, it is much easier to get accommodation closer to the date.
|Domkhar Tshechu||Bumthang||Apr 25 - Apr 27, 2018|
|Ura Yakchoe||Bumthang||Apr 26 - Apr 29, 2018|
|Nimalung Tshechu||Bumthang||Jun 21 - Jun 23, 2018|
|Kurjey Tshechu||Bumthang||Jun 23, 2018|
|Haa Summer Festival||Haa Valley||Jul 08 - Jul 09, 2018|
|Mushroom Festival||Thimphu||Aug 12 - Aug 13, 2018|
|Masutaki Mushroom Festival||Bumthang||Aug 23 - Aug 24, 2018|
|Thimphu Dromche||Thimphu||Sep 15, 2018|
|Wandue Tshechu||Wangdue Phodrang||Sep 17 - Sep 19, 2018|
|Tamshing Phala Choedpa||Bumthang||Sep 18 - Sep 20, 2018|
|Thimphu Tshechu||Thimphu||Sep 19 - Sep 21, 2018|
|Gangtey Tshechu||Wangdue Phodrang||Nov 11, 2018|
|Thangbi Mani||Bumthang||Sep 23 - Sep 26, 2018|
|Jhomolhari Mountain Festival||Thimphu||Oct 4 - Oct 5, 2018|
|Royal Highland Festival||Gasa||Oct 23 - Oct 24, 2018|
|Jakar Tshechu||Bumthang||Oct 19, 2018|
|Dechenphu Tshechu||Bumthang||Oct 15, Oct 18 2018|
|Jambay Lhakhang Drup||Bumthang||Oct 24 - Oct 27, 2018|
|Pakar Duechoed||Bumthang||Oct 25 - Oct 27, 2018|
|Black Necked Crane Festival||Wangdue Phodrang||Nov 11, 2018|
|Mongar Tshechu||Mongar||Nov 14 - Nov 18, 2018|
|Pemagatshel Tshechu||Pemagatshel||Nov 14 - Nov 18, 2018|
|Trashigang Tshechu||Trashigang||Nov 15 - Nov 19, 2018|
|Jambay Lakhang Singye Cham||Bumthang||Nov 23, 2018|
|Nalakhar Tshechu||Bumthang||Dec 03 - Dec 05, 2017|
|Druk Wangyel Tshechu||Thimphu||Dec 13, 2018|
|Trongsa Tshechu||Trongsa||Dec 15 - Dec 18, 2018|
|Lhuentse Tshechu||Lhuentse||Dec 15 - Dec 19, 2018|
Just keep in mind that experienced tour guides tend to be in high demand during these times, so if you’re able to travel for one of the less popular festivals (such as KurjeyTsechu or WangdueTsechu) this could be best.
If you’re unable to catch the festival itself, remember that preparation starts weeks before the celebration commences. Be sure to visit the dzong, as you might be able to catch the monks practicing and preparing their material for the festival. This also gives you the opportunity to actually speak to the monks.
If you are interested in visiting Bhutan for one of the festivals, get in touch with the Viktorianz team. We are more than happy to tailor a tour that allows you to take in the celebrations, as well as see plenty of the country.