Bhutan Trekking – Festival Etiquette
Until relatively recently, Bhutan trekking holidays were extremely rare. The country was only opened to western visitors in 1974 and, since then, visitor numbers have been limited in order to preserve both the culture and environment of this very special kingdom.
While the people of Bhutan are renowned for their warmth and openness, it is very important to observe certain behaviour when enjoying the privilege of their hospitality. When in Bhutan, trekking through the kingdom’s remote mountain villages you may be fortunate enough to encounter one of the country’s many festivals. While it’s easy to get swept up in the celebrations, bear in mind Bhutan’s unique culture and traditions and ensure you follow the correct etiquette so as not to offend.
The grounds on which Bhutan’s religious festivals are held are consecrated by the lamas so, in effect, if you attend you are on sacred ground. Bear this in mind and behave accordingly when watching the dancing; do not eat, drink or smoke, and do not make loud or inappropriate noises.
While the taking of photos is not banned, use your discretion and common sense and don’t intrude on the dancer’s space or use a flash. Also be respectful when taking pictures of the crowd; it is always polite to ask where possible.
Respect the Religion
It is important to remember that although they may seem like a celebration, the festivals you will find whilst in Bhutan trekking are actually religious ceremonies with great spiritual significance. So, by all means have fun but also act in a respectful way.
As religious festivals rank amongst the most important events of the year in Bhutan, it is good manners to present yourself as neatly as possible. Although it may not always be easy if you’re trekking Bhutan, make as much effort as you can under the circumstances and it will be appreciated.
There have been occasions in the past where the actions of western tourists have caused offense to the people of Bhutan – so ensure you act in a way that gives these festivals the respect they deserve.