Witnessing one of this captivating kingdom’s 200 or so annual tshechus is a truly memorable and extraordinary experience, says Laura Birtles. Scroll down to read about five of our favourite festivals in Bhutan

The Buddhist mountain kingdom of Bhutan’s annual festivals (or ‘tshechus’) are impressive, spiritual, timeless and exhilarating events where whole communities gather together to witness the pageantry and receive blessings. They are a wonderful way of experiencing the fascinating culture of Bhutan.

As Venetia Stanley, Head of our Asia, the Middle East + Australasia team, describes, “Monks perform to the crash of cymbals, sonorous drumbeats and lilting horns. The masked dances offer a combination of moral messages, ward off evil and celebrate the Buddhist faith in a wonderful medieval style. While all tshechus adhere to the main religious ceremonies, they often add some local flavour – be it re-enacting a local legend or recognising a regional deity. Many of the shows have an apocryphal tale or moral message attached.”

Below, we have selected five fantastic festivals in Bhutan we recommend attending on your next trip to this enchanting corner of the world:

+ Punakha Tshechu, Punakha

Taking place each February or March inside the incredible Punakha Dzong (translating as ‘Palace of Great Happiness’), the ancient capital of Bhutan, this festival is scheduled for the first month of the lunar year and ends with the Serda, a vibrant procession that relates an episode of the battle against Tibet in the 17th century. The tshechu is exceptional for being the only one with a parade such as this. As well as being an uplifting and exciting day out for the Bhutanese, it also provides devout Buddhists with an opportunity for prayer and pilgrimage. 

Atsara Punakha Festival

+ Paro Tshechu, Rinpung Dzong, Paro  

The Paro Tshechu in spring is one of the country’s biggest events and has a large fair nearby. On the first day, all masked dances are held in the courtyard of Rinpung Dzong (meaning ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’), moving out to the festival ground for the last four days. A massive thongdrel (or ‘tapestry’) of Padmasambhava (or Guru Rinpoche), who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, is displayed on the last night until minutes before dawn. 

Paro Festival Bhutan

+ Ura Yakchoed, Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang

At the top of the village of Ura, a temple houses a huge statue of Guru Rinpoche and exquisite murals. One highlight of this springtime festival is the invoking and escorting of a small statue of the bodhisattva, Yidam Chana Dorje, from Gaythen temple through the countryside to Ura in honour of a local legend. 

Atsara or Clowns at Ura Festival

+ Kurjey Tshechu, Kurjey Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang

The people of Jakar, Kurjey and their surroundings attend the tshechu to pay obeisance to Padmasambhava. The dances include the Guru Tshengye and Shinjay cham, and are performed by the monks of Kurjey Lhakhang before this summer festival culminates with the unfurling of a giant Buddha or guru thongdrel. 

+ Druk Wangyel Tshechu, Dochula Pass, Thimphu  

This extraordinary festival, held in winter, is run by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or lay people in tribute to the wise leadership of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan. In celebration of the sovereignty and stability of the country, dancers perform on a grassy pass against a glorious Himalayan backdrop. 


  1. A tshechu is a Bhutanese religious festival meaning ‘10th day’, held annually in various temples, monasteries and dzongs throughout the country. It is celebrated on the 10th day of a month of the lunar calendar, corresponding to the birthday of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche).  
  2. It is believed that everyone must attend a tshechu and witness the masked dances at least once in their lifetime to receive blessings and wash away their sins.  
  3. Every masked dance has a special meaning or story behind it and many are based on incidents from as long ago as the 8th century, during the life of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). In monasteries, they are performed by monks, and in remote villages, by both monks and local men.  

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