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Festivals have a special place in the hearts of the Bhutanese and punctuate the country’s annual calendar with colour and spectacle. These highly social events bring together people of all ages, dressed in their finest attire, to celebrate Buddhist deities and re-enact ancient myths and legends with traditional dance, live music and sacred ritual.
Our festival tours of Bhutan offer an immersive insight into a culture defined by religious grandeur and tradition. Sit cross legged with the locals in a crowded monastery courtyard and see legends of the Dragon Kingdom brought to life by fearsome masked monks at the Paro Tshechu Festival. Witness the hypnotic midnight fire ceremony at Jambay Lhakhang, or venture to Bhutan’s ancient capital to witness an exhilarating recreation of a 17th Century battle scene at Punakha Dromche.
The itinerary below is an example of a custom itinerary organised around the Punakha Dromche Festival. Trips tailored around a festival must be booked well in advance to ensure securing a place.
Jambay Lhakhang Festival Tour (late October)
This festival is held in Bumthang to honour the deeds of Guru Rimpoche, an Indian saint who brought the Tantric form of Buddhism to Bhutan. One of the most important festivals in Bhutan it includes masked and traditional dances with the highlight being the Fire Dance performed at night to bless women for bearing children.
Tangbi Mani Festival Tour (late September)
The four day festival of Tangbi Mani is organised and performed by the locals of three villages, Tangbi, Goling and Kharsath, and displays the rich cultural heritage of ancient Lhakhang. People from all over the villages attend the festival dressed in their best costumes, and it is believed that it brings happiness and better harvest and prosperity to the local people.
Paro Tshechu and Festival Tour (late March)
Thimphu and Paro Festivals are very popular, and count for over half of the total arrivals to the region through tourism. Paro Tshechu is the most popular festival, with its unique unfurling of the world’s biggest Thangka or Thongdrei ceremony. The pageantry within the festival provides a unique experience for all visitors.
The deeds of the great saint Guru Rimpoche are commemorated in the festival, most of which are performed in the form of masked dances. The local villagers come dressed in their finest costumes to partake in the festival as they have been for centuries.
Ura Yakchoe Festival Tour (late April)
Ura is a rural Bhutanese village located in the pristine highland meadow area across the Thumsingla Pass. The village has retained its traditional character and holds its very own festival every year. The Ura Yakchoe Festival is about an old woman, who was visited by a lama while sitting outside her house. The lama asked for a glass of water, to which the woman went inside her home for, when she returned, the lama had vanished, leaving a sack containing an ancient relic. Ever since this day, the relic has been passed down from generation to generation, and is still owned by the descendants of the woman. During the festival, which is organised by these descendants, the relic is displayed to the public.
Village people from miles around attend the festival, dressed in their finest clothes. They come and watch masked dances, feast, and pray. The festival often includes dances in the form of plays, and re-enactments of historical events, such as encompassing the life of Guru Rimpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan.
Thimphu Festival Tour (late September)
The Thimphu festival is a religious festival in honour of the great saint Guru Rimpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. Guru Rimpoche is widely recognised as the founder of Nyingmapa, the “oldest school” division of Lamaism, which is still followed very popularly. The dances during the festival are performed by masked monks, followed by a mix of laymen. Cultural and religious views are a big part of life the Bhutanese people, and by attending a Tshechy, people believe they will gain special merits, which will make them happy and give them a good harvest of crops for the year. It is also an annual social get together for the local village people, where they dress in their finest costumes, and come together to rejoice.
Punakha Dromche Festival Tour (late February)
This festival includes masked dances wearing spectacular costumes made of yellow silk or rich brocade, often decorated with ornaments of carved bone. For certain dances, the monks wear masks which represent fearsome deities, animals or skulls of human being. This festival takes place in the first month of the lunar year and ends with ‘Serda’, a magnificent procession which re-enacts an episode of the war against the Tibetans in the 17th century.
With our local partners, GetAboutAsia runs a tour for each festival, customising the tour around the location of the festival and to cover the highlights of Bhutan. The below example is for the Punakha Dromche Festival:
Meet your guide at the airport and travel together to your hotel for check-in. During the journey your guide will provide an introduction to Paro, answer your questions and discuss plans for the following day. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the day.
Situated on the banks of the Paro Chhu River in the verdant Paro Valley, this small, charming town is scattered with elegant temples and historic architecture. The lively Main Street is lined with brightly coloured wooden shopfronts and a number of excellent restaurants that specialise in traditional Bhutanese cuisine, ask your guide for recommendations.
Spend the morning exploring Paro, perhaps embarking on the trek up to Taktsang or ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Monastery. Perched precariously on a 1,200 metre high mountainous ridge and often swathed in mist, this striking 8th century landmark was an important place of meditation for Guru Rimpoche and has become the unofficial symbol of Bhutan. You can reach the monastery by horseback, or join the pilgrims and monks with huge sacks of rice on their backs taking on the steep climb by foot.
Pay a visit to the impressive Rinpung Dzong, the ‘fortress on a heap of jewels’, then venture to The National Museum of Bhutan to explore a fascinating collection of art, artefacts and Bhutanese flora and fauna.
In the evening, travel to Thimphu with your guide for an overnight stay.
Once a scattering of hillside hamlets, Thimphu became Bhutan’s capital in 1961 when the King transferred the country’s administrative centre here from Punakha. Despite undergoing significant development since, cars have only existed on Thimphu’s streets since the 60s and it remains the only capital city in the world with no traffic lights!
Spend a day exploring the city, taking time to admire the magnificent fortress of Tashichho Dzong and the beautifully ornate Changangkha Lhakhang Temple. Enjoy an overview of the traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle at the Folk and Heritage Museum, glimpse the rare, priceless Buddhist manuscripts in the National Library and pay a visit to the gleaming golden spire of the Memorial Chorten, where locals gather nightly for evening prayer.
The city is also home to a large number of handicraft shops. Enjoy haggling with the friendly shopkeepers or simply wander between stores, browsing the beautiful fabrics, wood carvings and woven goods on offer.
This morning, travel with your guide to the Gangtey Gompa Monastery.
Perched on a small hill in the Gangtey Valley, this glorious, 450 year old building is the most remote Buddhist complex in Bhutan. Enjoy a scenic trek through the tranquil, glacial-carved valley, keeping an eye out for the graceful black necked cranes that make this beautiful spot their winter home each year. The Information Centre, located on the edge of the wetlands, offers a rare opportunity to see these protected birds close up with high-power telescopes.
Stop overnight in the hillside village of Gangtey.
After a scenic drive past forests of fir, rhododendron and hemlock to Punakha, pay a visit to the Chimi Lhakhang or "temple of the divine madman” to discover the story of the eccentric poet and Buddhist luminary Drukpa Kunley.
In the afternoon, venture to the Punakha Dzong at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. With its grand, pagoda roofed towers and idyllic location surrounded by purple blossomed Jacaranda Trees and mountains, the dzong is considered one of the finest pieces of architecture in Bhutan.
Today we spend a whole day at the Punakha Dromche Festival.
The festival is dedicated to protective deities Yeshi Gompo and Palden Lhamo and dramatically recreates a 17th century battle scene between Tibet and Bhutan over possession of the prized Ranjung Kharsapani relic. Its centrepiece is the vibrant ‘Serda’ procession; a vibrant display of graceful dances performed by monks wearing spectacular silk costumes and fearsome masks depicting animals, vengeful gods, and human skulls.
Sit with the locals and take in this unforgettable spectacle, staged in the courtyard of an ornate monastery.
Spend a morning experiencing the sights and sounds of the festival, before embarking on the drive back to Paro after lunch.
In the afternoon, enjoy free time exploring Paro, perhaps visiting the peaceful Druk Choeding Temple in the heart of the city, or venturing into the secluded woodland that surrounds palace Ugyen Pelri Thang to admire another beautiful example of Bhutanese architecture.
On your last day, enjoy free time until your departure transfer.
Phone now to discuss options to personalise your itinerary.
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|Standard:||from AU $4,575|
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