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Discover the sacred celebrations of a Bhutanese festival

Festivals are a significant part of Bhutan's culture. Most festivals, also known as a 'tsechu', are of great religious significance and are mostly celebrated through music and masked dances.

Thimphu Tsechu by B&D Stallion

Festivals are a significant part of Bhutan's culture. Most festivals, also known as 'tsechus', are of great religious significance and are mostly celebrated through music and ritual masked dances called 'chams'. Tsechus attract large numbers of Bhutanese people, dressed in their finery, as they believe by attending these special celebrations they gain religious merit as well as enjoying a fine social event. Below are just a few of Bhutan's festivals, together with details of Mountain Kingdoms holiday you can visit them on.

Thimphu Tsechu
Thimphu Tsechu is one of Bhutan’s most important set-piece festivals and is massively impressive in its scale and colour. It is a three day event celebrated by thousands at Tashichho Dzong - Thimphu's central monastery. Like most Bhutanese festivals, Thimphu Tsechu is a religious celebration, during which monks perform dances wearing brightly coloured brocaded costumes and elaborate masks. The dances, often performed by monks, re-enact Buddhist myths and legends and are believed to dispel evil forces that have accumulated during the previous year.

Location: Thimphu
When: Autumn (October)

Which holidays attend this festival in Bhutan? Druk Path Trek, Definitive Cultural Tour of Bhutan, Highlights of Bhutan in Style, Gentle Walking, Bhutan, Thunder Dragon Trails in Style.

Paro Tsechu
During the vibrant Paro Tsechu, music, songs and ceremonial masked dances are performed to honour Guru Rinpoche who established Buddhism in the Himalaya. The festival is popular with tourists but also attracts many local people who travel from even the most remote villages to celebrate, socialise and have fun. They believe that by witnessing the performances they will achieve spiritual merit and move towards enlightenment. The last day of the festival is particularly famous for the unfurling of the giant thongdrol (a huge embroidered image depicting Guru Rinpoche), which happens just after dawn on the side of a five storey building. The local people line up to touch the sacred cloth and receive its blessings. But the thongdrol must be re-rolled before the first rays of the sun reach it.

Location: Paro
When: Spring (March)

Which holidays attend this festival in Bhutan? Druk Path Trek, Definitive Cultural Tour of Bhutan, Gentle Walking, Bhutan, Thunder Dragon Trails in Style and Tiger's Nest Trek Bhutan & Kathmandu Valley Trek.

Punakha Tsechu
Punakha Tsechu is held in the magnificent Punakha Dzong, situated at the confluence of two rivers, and considered to be one of the most beautiful and important dzongs in the kingdom. This festival was introduced as a commemoration of the Bhutanese victories over the Tibetans in the 17th century and has a unique procession on the final day. During the festival dances and other dramas re-enact the dramatic moments when the Bhutanese people gathered to expel the Tibetan forces from the country, and also to celebrate the peace and stability this brought to the country.

Location: Punakha
When: Winter (February/early March)

Which holidays attend this festival in Bhutan? Gentle Walking, Bhutan and Definitive Cultural Tour of Bhutan

Black-Necked Crane festival
The Black-Necked Crane festival takes place in the courtyard of Gangtey Gompa in Phobjika to celebrate the annual arrival of the endangered cranes to the feeding grounds in the surrounding valley. The festival was introduced relatively recently as a means of generating awareness of conservation efforts to preserve the cranes and their habitat. The festival lasts for a day and consists of traditional masked dances, as well as special crane dances, songs by the local school children and plays.

Location: Gangtey Gompa, Phobjikha
When: Winter (November)

Which holidays attend this festival in Bhutan? Definitive Cultural Tour of Bhutan, Cultural Cycling Tour of Bhutan, Hidden Valleys of Bhutan and Gentle Walking Bhutan.

Jakar Tsechu
This festival is held in Jakar Dzong in the Bumthang region of central Bhutan - the spiritual heart of the kingdom. The dzong is also known as 'the castle of the white bird' and is in a very picturesque location, perched on a hill overlooking the Chokhor Valley. The tsechu is held over three days and is the most important in the area, attracting many visitors to watch the spectacular masked dances, listen to the traditional folk songs and enjoy the japes of the festival clown.

Location: Jakar Dzong
When: Autumn (October)

Which holidays attend this festival in Bhutan? Gentle Walking Eastern Bhutan, Rodang La Trek and the Weavers' Trail.

Talo Tsechu
This traditional, local festival is held in the village of Talo, high above the Punakha Valley, each spring. A much smaller affair than the grand tsechu held at nearby Punakha Dzong, this is a fine example of a village celebration attended primarily by the local people with few tourists. The tsechu is held in the grounds outside the dzong which is built on a plateau giving commanding views. Masked dances and songs are performed over three days and, at the end of each day, there is a classical dance by the famous Talo dance troupe. The dance troupe are the pride of the community and their dances have great historical and spiritual significance.

Location: Talo village
When: Spring (April)

Which holidays attend this festival in Bhutan? Highlights of Bhutan in Style and Cultural Highlights of Nepal, Bhutan & Tibet


If you would like us to organise a private trip to Bhutan, taking in one of these fantastic festivals, then contact us and we can create a Tailor Made Holiday especially designed to suit your travel requirements.

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