David and I are being extra ambitious with our travel plans this year and taking full advantage of our excellent geographical position in China. After spending New Year’s in Fenghuang (west Hunan province), we are setting off to visit Yunnan province for over almost the entire month of February. Luckily, we have this month free for the Chinese Spring Festival celebration. We are very excited to do some hiking, get some fresh air for a change and see some spectacular scenery. However, this trip is overshadowed by our summer plans, which are truly epic, if I dare say so myself. What we hope to be able to fit in our 6 weeks of vacation and into our budget are three destinations that have been on our list for quite some time that we weren’t hoping to see so soon and especially not all in one trip: Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.
All of them are quite pricy to visit, either because of the policies imposed by their governments over tourism or because they are not easily accessible. We were initially planning to go to Tibet and do a short detour in Nepal and fly back home from Kathmandu. However, we were surprised to come across a Bhutanese travel agency who offered us a great deal to visit their country this summer, a once in a lifetime opportunity we unhesitatingly snatched up. It looks like we will have a sensational summer. Nothing has been booked yet, but we are working on it!
2015, a great year to visit Bhutan
Gongo, our newest friend and the man who runs the Bhutan Doya Tours & Travel tour operator, was extremely informative and nice to us. We learned from him that this year is going to be a special year to visit Bhutan, the whole kingdom will be celebrating the 60th birthday of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck the beloved 4th King. This event is very important to Bhutanese and they are opening their gates more this year for tourists who wish to join in the merry celebrations. There will be countless festivals going on all throughout the year, adding more attractions to the unique scenery to be seen in this part of the world, the Buddhist culture to be experienced and the amazing outdoor adventure activities opportunities (some of the best hiking trails in the world are to be found here, as well as biking routes and rivers in which rafting can be practised).
2015 Bhutan Events Calendar
If you are planning on visiting the Himalayan country this year but don’t how and when, here’s the contact information of the agency we’re going with and also a list of the most important events planned in 2015 which should help you choose the best time for you to experience Bhutan.
Bhutan Doya Tours & Travel
1 – 5 January | Venue: Tseza, Dagana
The five-day Dagana Tshechu takes place in the early week of the New Year and it brings together Bhutanese folks from all walks of life, to observe and partake in this annual
festival of mask dances.
23 February | Venue: Bumthang
The annual nomad festival is held in Bumthang in central Bhutan. Bumthang is about an eight-hour drive from the capital city of Thimphu. This annual gathering brings together the nomads of the northeastern and northwestern Himalayan frontiers in an unforgettable celebration of their unique cultures and traditions. The festival is an ideal platform to witness and experience the unique traditions and way of life of different highlander communities in the country.
5 March | Venue: Chorten Kora, Trashiyangtse
The Chorten Kora Festival is one of the most popular festivals in eastern Bhutan. ‘Kora’ means circumambulation. The biggest activity of the festival is circumambulating the Chorten Kora. It also attracts people from the neighboring Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It brings out colorful aspects of Bhutanese culture such as mask dances, the rich textiles and brocades worn by the locals and the triumphant atmosphere of the festival itself.
18 – 20 April | Venue: Lamperi Botanical Garden, Dochula, Thimphu
The festival celebrates the rhododendron flower. The festival features the rhododendron garden walk and exhibition, local culture and cuisines, arts and crafts, traditional games, cultural program, guided walks and activities. The festival showcases different species that are in full bloom in their natural habitat. Of the 46 rhododendron species recorded in the country, 29 are found in Lamperi Botanical Park, 35km from Thimphu.
MAXIMUM TREES PLANTED BY A TEAM (A Guinness World Record attempt)
Coinciding with the coronation of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and the Social Forestry Day, 111 Bhutanese will plant 50,000 trees in one hour on June 2, 2015. This mass tree plantation event is an attempt to beat the current world record of 40,885 trees planted by 100 heads in one hour. Participants will undergo a vigorous 10-day training on tree plantation technique prior to the event for proper coordination, speed and technique to beat the current
record. The tentative name for the park is Jigme Singye Wangchuck Forest Park.
Exhibition: A Tribute To His Majesty The Fourth
July | Venue: Royal Textile Academy, Thimphu
In honor of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s 60th birth anniversary, the Royal Textile Academy / Textile Museum will host an exhibition, ‘A Tribute to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo – A King of Destiny.’
Gala Orchestra Performance by Benjamin Zander and BPYO
17 – 18 August 2015
World famous conductor Benjamin Zander is overjoyed to be performing in Bhutan with his acclaimed BPYO orchestra in August 2015 in celebration of the Fourth King His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s 60th birthday. Traveling exclusively to Bhutan, he will present gala performances of the orchestra in a most spectacular setting. In addition, there will be chamber ensembles and solos throughout Thimphu to share in the celebration of music with everyone in honor of His Majesty.
Tour of the Dragon
5 September | Venue: Bumthang to Thimphu
Considered one of the most challenging one-day events in the world, the race covers 268 kilometers of absolutely stunning Himalayan landscapes as it takes cyclists from central to western Bhutan. Bikers traverse indomitable mountains, travel through pristine, virgin forests, over babbling streams and raging rivers of crystal clear water and across four high mountain passes. Set amid the high mountains of Bhutan, the race covers elevations ranging from 1,200-3,340 meters. Much like the infamous Paris Roubaix, the Tour of the Dragon is a trial that no self-respecting cyclist will want to pass up.
Jomolhari Mountain Festival
8 – 9 October | Venue: Dangojang
Jomolhari Mountain Festival is an exquisitely themed two-day event celebrated at the base of Mt. Jomolhari, by communities located along one of the most scenic trekking routes in Bhutan. The festival celebrates the culture of the communities living together with the natural wonders that surround them: one in particular, the elusive, yet elegant, snow leopard! This endangered cat thrives in the region; several camera trap photos and definite signs have established the region as one of the best snow leopard habitats in Bhutan.
Launch of the 60th Birth Anniversary Celebrations
11 November | Venue: Changlimithang Ground, Thimphu
On 11th November 2015 His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck the 4th King of Bhutan turns sixty. This day will see the culmination of the year long celebrations that Bhutan will be observing to celebrate the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty. To mark this occasion every Dzongkhag in Bhutan will be observing the day with various cultural programs and events participated in by people from all walks of life. In the capital, a grand celebration is expected to take place at the Changlimithang Stadium with a variety of entertainment programs.
Druk Wangyel Tshechu
13 December | Venue: Dochula, Thimphu
The Druk Wangyel Tshechu is a unique festival performed by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or lay people. It is a tribute to the wise leadership of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan. It also celebrates the continuous efforts of the Royal Bhutan Army in protecting the sovereignty and the stability of the country. This one of a kind tshechu is performed against the backdrop of the magnificent Jigme Singye Wangchuck mountain range.
* Disclaimer: all the photos from this article belong to the travel agency mentioned above, Bhutan Doya Tours & Travel.