Discover Bhutan's FESTIVALS
When all aspects of a place pleasantly surprise us, it’s nothing short of magic. Scenery, wildlife, food, music, culture, people, art, architecture and heritage. Bhutan ticks all the boxes. It captivates us with its beauty. If you think it’s predominantly wildlife and nature and trekking that’s calling you to the ‘Land of Happiness’ - think again.
Let’s dig a little deeper. What’s one thing that brings people closer to a culture? What is it that spreads happiness in abundance, creating a strong bond of humanity? It’s a festival! Festivals are a testimony to the diverse culture and tradition of the region. All Bhutanese celebrate festivals with equal zeal.
Filled with rich culture and heritage, Bhutan - the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ is home to a number of festivals, with festive spirit deeply imprinted in people’s hearts and souls. Explore the culture and heritage of the Himalayan Kingdom with its festivals, fairs and races. In fact, cultural tourism in Bhutan is a major contributor to the country’s travel sector.
We have curated a list of some of the interesting festivals and events in Bhutan that guests love to experience.
Please note that the dates mentioned below are only tentative and do tend to change each year, so please double check online or with your travel partner in advance.
Rhododendron Festival *New dates* April 22 - 24, 2023
This festival is made for those who love flowers. It marks the blooming of the beautiful Rhododendron flower that drapes the country with a spectacular hue of pink, red and white. Bring out your cameras because it’s a feast to the eyes that you’ll want to relive again and again. The flower is also celebrated in the folktales and songs by the locals, enchanted by its beauty.
Bhutan boasts of 46 species of Rhododendron. The festival features a walk-through of the Rhododendron garden, as well as an arts and crafts exhibition. Traditional games and cultural programs are also on the list of events. The park also has a lake, which adds a charm to the event.
Nimalung Festival - 10th and 11th July, 2023
Nestled in the beautiful valley of Bumthang - a three-day celebration of the gods is a visual pageantry of songs, dances and costumes. The highlight of the festival is the unfurling of a nine-meter high and twelve meters wide thongdrol scroll depicting Guru Rinpoche, who is also known as Padmasambhava.
Want to experience something out of the box? Visit Bhutan for one of its festivals or races. That’s another way of exploring the majestic mountains and valleys of the Kingdom. Run, walk, sing, dance or ride through them! Bring alive the dragon in you and fight hard to finish the Races/Trails. Or adorn a traditional costume and blend in the crowd.
The land of happiness awaits your smiles.
Bhutan Enchoes (Drukyul Literature Festival) – tentatively scheduled for August 2023
A country is best discovered through its literature. Come and join the Drukyul Literature Festival (Bhutan Echoes 2023) as the tale of Bhutan unfolds through stories, dialogues, arts and music. Bhutan Echoes is an annual event that usually happens in the month of August and it brings world-renowned literature laureates, artists and musicians together with local renowned names. See more at: https://www.drukyul.org/
Jomolhari Mountain Festival - 14th and 15th October
Taking the idea of ‘for us, by us’ ahead, the Jomolhari Mountain Festival is an exquisitely themed two-day event celebrated at the base of Mt. Jomolhari. Communities located along one of the most scenic trekking routes in Bhutan celebrate the culture of the communities living together. They further honour the coexistence between the highlanders and nature around them, specifically the snow leopard. The event includes a snow leopard-themed song, traditional games of archery and darts, dances, yak riding, highland food and shopping for native crafts pieces.
Want to have an extra-special experience? Take a helicopter ride for a breakfast camp at the base of the gorgeous Jomolhari Mountain!
Black Mountain Festival - early October
Organised in Trongsa, central Bhutan, the two-day festival displays art and craft, traditional food dishes, farm produce, authentic cultural items, lifestyle and flora. The festival is an integrated approach for the communities to live in harmony with wonders of nature. It also features the first ever exhilarating 100 kilometre International Open Black Mountain Bike Challenge connecting hills and valleys of historical significance.
But what’s the most interesting bit? The Black Mountain, also locally known as Jowo Dungshing, forms a majestic silhouette to the Trongsa district and is historically significant to the people of this place.
Royal Highland Festival - 23rd to 24th October
The Royal Highland festival takes place in one of the highest settlements in Bhutan, Laya in Gasa at an altitude of 4,000m. The festival celebrates the simplicity and authenticity of the life of highlanders through its nature, history and traditions. Visitors can witness the age-old practice of traditional offerings that existed as early as the 16th century. There are various competitions held on highland animals including yaks, horses and mastiffs. Accessing the festival can be via a drive to Gasa followed by a hike to Laya, or helicopter transfers are also available. A not to be missed festival in Bhutan.
Dechenphu Tshechu (Thimphu) - 3rd November 2022
This is a lucky day for all of us. Ask us why? Because it’s this festival that allows foreigners into the sacred Dechenphu Ihakhang (a fortress-like monastery) - the only day of the year when foreigners can enter this sacred and extremely beautiful temple. Sacred dances, colourful costumes and the essence of Bhutanese life come alive at this festival dedicated to the guardian deity of Bhutan. It is dedicated to Gay Ngyen Jakpa Melen, a powerful guardian deity of Bhutan.
Druk Wangyel Tshechu (Dochula Festival) - 13th December 2022
A festival to celebrate the nation’s sovereignty, the Royal Bhutan Army comes out with all its finery to pay tribute to His Majesty, The King. Colourful costumes are adorned and pageantry is performed against the splendour of the Jigme Wangchuck range. It is held at the Dochula Pass, less than one hour from Thimphu.
Flower Festival (dates to be confirmed for 2023)
After a wait of 2 years, the 7th Annual Flower Exhibition is set to bloom this year in Mongar and Gyalpozhing. Stand a chance to see some of the varied and endemic flora and fauna of Bhutan. Approximately 46 species of Rhododendrons and over 300 types of medicinal plants, including Junipers, Magnolias, Orchids, Blue Poppies (the national flower), Edelweiss, Gentian, various medicinal herbs, Daphne, Giant Rhubarb, Pine and Oak trees should be on display in all their flowering glory!
Matsutake Festival (Dates to be confirmed for 2023)
A fan of mushrooms? This one’s for you! With over 62 different types of edible species, mushrooms are one of the main summer delicacies in Bhutan. The rich, damp and thick forest of Bhutan makes a good home for these mushrooms. This festival is honoured in the name of the most prized Mushroom (Matsutake) that is harvested towards the end of August in Bumthang and Genekha, the two places where these mushrooms are found abundantly. This is one time of the year when you can relish a variety of mushroom dishes prepared with traditional knowledge by the villagers. The matsutake mushrooms are also exported to other Asian countries and the best graded ones can cost as high as USD 1000 per kilogram.