Festivals offer you an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of the Bhutanese religion and to gain much merit. They are also occasion for seeing people, for being seen, for social exchanges, and for flaunting success. Bhutan being a Buddhist kingdom, the best and the biggest event is called Tshechu. Tshechu's are festivals extolling the great deeds of Guru Rimpoche, taking place on the 10th day of the lunar month (which is also what Tshechu means). The Tshechu's are displayed annually in all the district dzongs.
Here we provide an introduction for each of the main festivals in Bhutan. The festivals are ordered by their schedules in a year. We have also included the full Bhutanese festival calendars at the end of this page. From the information, you can add a festival into your itinerary. Kindly note that religious festival dates are tentative. We will provide you with the latest information when you contact us.
Punakha Drubchen and Tshechu
Venue: Punakha Dzong, Punakha
Punakha has been of critical importance since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 17th century. During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the triumph he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen became the annual festival of Punakha Dzongkhag.
In 2005 another festival known as Punakha Tshechu was introduced by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley. The Tshechu was introduced in response to the requests made by Punakha District Administration and local people to host a Tshechu in order to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.
Venue: Rinpung Dzong, Paro
The Paro Tsechu is a Buddhist dance festival and one of the major annual events of Bhutan. The festival holds religious significance and is held to commemorate Guru Rinpoche, who brought tantric Buddhism, also known as Tibetan Buddhism, in Bhutan. The festival comes alive with vibrant colours, music, dances and drama as people gather to enjoy the masked dances, and other sacred rituals. The first day of the Paro Tshechu usually has rituals being held inside the courtyard of the fortress, Rinpung Dzong. The celebrations of Paro Tshechu, on rest of the days, take place outside in an open ground. On the final day, the festivities conclude with the display of a giant Thongdrol (religious picture) of Guru Rinpoche before dawn and blessings being provided.
Venue: Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang
Ura valley in Bumthang is known for the famous dance Ura Yakchoe. The dance is performed during this festival. According to legend an old woman sitting outside her house was visited by a lama asking for a drink of water. When she came out with the water, the lama had vanished leaving behind only a sack. Out of curiosity, she checked the bag and found a statue. This relic has been passed on from generation to generation and is still owned by the descendants of the woman. They display the relic in this festival so people can receive blessings from it.
Venue: Nimalung Dratshang, Chummi, Bumthang
Located in Chummi Valley in Bumthang, Nimalung Dratshang was co-founded by Dasho Gonpo Dorji and Doring Trulku Jamyang Kunzang, the third mind reincarnation of Terton Jigme Lingpa in the year 1935. Nimalung Tshechu is held once a year in the 5th month of the Bhutanese calendar. During the Tshechu an awe-inspiring Thongdrol (gigantic scroll painting) of Guru Rimpoche is put on display for attendees. The Thongdrol is nine meters long and twelve meters wide. It is said to cleanse the sins of all those who look upon it. During the festival, a series of colourful and spectacular mask dances are performed.
Haa Summer Festival
Venue: Town Festival Ground, Haa
Spread over two days, the Haa Summer Festival is unique in its own sense. By showcasing the traditional culture of Haa people, nomadic lifestyles, unique Haa cuisines, local traditional sports competition and religious performances, the festival brings together locals and visitors from all over. School children and the local community also perform various traditional songs and dances. Various local arts and crafts are also displayed during the two-day event.
Masutake Mushroom Festival
Venue: Ura, Bumthang
Matsutake mushroom, or Sangay Shamoo as it is known in Bhutan, is a pine mushroom, a highly sought-after mycorrhizal mushroom that grows in Asia, Europe, and North America. In Bhutan these mushrooms can be found growing in the wilds of Ura Valley in the Bumthang district. August starts yet another Matsutake mushroom season and this special mushroom season is observed with a festival of its own, The Matsutake Festival. The festival not only gives visitors the chance to sample these delicious mushrooms but also to showcase sustainable harvesting practices of the local community.
Venue: Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu
Thimphu Tsechu is one of the biggest festivals in the Bhutan. This festival is held in the capital city and witnessed by thousands of people, both local and tourists. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods. Mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags) and many more are performed.
Black-Necked Crane Festival
Schedule: 11 November
Venue: Gangtey Gonpa, Phobjikha
Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black-necked cranes migrating from the Tibetan plateau. The valley is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan. The annual Black-Necked Crane Festival is organised to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered black-necked cranes, and for the local community to showcase their cultural heritage and skills.
Jambay Lhakhang Drup
Venue: Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang
Jambay Lhakhang was built in the 7th century by the King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in his effort to propagate Buddhism. In Jambay Lhakhang Drup you will be watching many ritual dances, which are performed in the court yard of Jambay Lhakhang. There are a number of different dances, subdivided into three categories: those that are intended to give moral instruction, those that are designed to drive away evil spirits and those that celebrate the Buddhist faith in its many guises.
Venue: Trongsa Dzong, Trongsa
Trongsa Tshechu is celebrated for three days annually and is one of the most impressive festivals in the country. This annual event brings all the people from all walks of life together to witness the traditional mask dances, unfurling of the Thongdrol (religious scrolls) and display of sacred religious treasure for the spectators to receive blessings to again merit in their life.
Druk Wangyel Tshechu
Schedule: 13 December
Venue: Dochula, Thimphu
The Druk Wangyel Tshechu was established in 2011 in commemoration of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck and the Armed Forces’ victory over Indian insurgent forces residing in southern Bhutan in 2003. The festival is held annually on 13 December at the Festival Ground near Druk Wangyel Lhakhang which is located at Dochula Pass. Dochula Pass is one of the most scenic passes in Bhutan, which offers spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain range. Set amidst this breathtaking backdrop, the Druk Wangyal Tshechu is an experience unlike any other and truly exemplifies Bhutanese cultural traditions.