Bhutan’s festivals are extremely lively and vibrant. With traditional mask dances, dramas and delicacies, they attract thousands of tourists every year.
We recommend at least an 8-day Bhutan Cultural Tour to include a festival.
Tshechus, held on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar, are among the most celebrated festivals, particularly the Paro Tshechu (Spring Festival) and Thimphu Tshechu (Fall Festival). Entire communities come together in colorful Bhutanese attire to receive blessings, socialize, make merry and rejoice in the festive mood.
Flights and hotels book up fast around the festival dates, so you will want to book 6-12 months in advance!
Why be a part of the Bhutanese festival?
- Join the locals in their finest attires
- Realize the meaning of life through the acts of dances
- Receive blessings from rare displays of sacred relics
- Dress in Bhutanese costume by choosing your favorite color
- Relish festival meals like the locals
1. Paro Tshechu
Held every spring, Paro Tshechu is one of the most colorful and significant events in Paro district. The Tshechu is considered a major attraction and people travel from neighboring districts to participate in the festivity. At dawn on the last day of the celebration the monks display a gigantic thangkha (embroidered painting), the Guru Throngdel, inside the dzong. Thongdrols are impressive examples of Buddhist art and keep spectators in awe. Simply viewing a Thongdrol is considered so pure, it is said to wash one’s sins away.
- Paro Tshechu Dates: March 27-31, 2018
2. Thimphu Tshechu & Thimphu Drubchen
One of the biggest festivals in the country is the Thimphu Tshechu. Several days prior to this grand festival, the Thimphu Drubchen takes place where thousands of people travel to the capital city and offer prayers and rituals to invoke the gods. Held at the Tashichho Dzong, both these festivals are among the extremely popular festivals in Bhutan.
When it was initiated by the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867 the Tshechu consisted of only a few dances being performed strictly by monks. Later in the 1950s, the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced numerous mask dances performed by lay monks that added color and variation to the festival without compromising on its spiritual significance. Mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestations of Guru), Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags) are enjoyed because they are similar to stage-theater. Short skits are also performed to spread health and social awareness messages.
These festivals are also a break for farmers from their farm life who celebrate, receive blessings and pray on this happy occasion.
- Thimphu Drubchen Dates: Sept 26 – 29, 2017
- Thimphu Tshechu Dates: Sept 30 – Oct 2, 2017
3. Punakha Tshechu
After several requests made by Punakha District Administration and local people, Punakha Tshechu was introduced in 2005 by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley. This Tshechu was established to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche, the unifier of Bhutan.
This festival not only plays an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions but also provides devout Buddhists with an opportunity for prayer and pilgrimage. They reflect the richness of the Bhutanese cultural heritage and are very special for both Bhutanese and tourists who visit Bhutan.
- Punakha Tshechu Dates: February 25-27, 2018
4. Black Necked Crane Festival
The Black-necked Crane festival is celebrated annually in the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa, in Phobjikha valley. Unlike other festivals, this festival is celebrated to mark the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part of the locals’ daily lives during winter.
Organized to generate awareness on the importance of conserving the endangered Black‐necked cranes, the one day festival includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and mask dances performed by the local people, crane dances and environmental conservation-themed dramas.
The festival has become a part of the local culture in Phobjikha valley ever since it was first initiated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) in 1998.
- Black Necked Crane Festival Dates: November 11, 2017