Nomad Festival - Celebrating the Bhutanese Ancient Nomadic Life

Known for its rich cultural heritage and high standards of well-being, Bhutan celebrates its joy through abundant festivals. One of such celebrations is the annual Nomad Festival; rejoicing the untouched Bhutanese culture, squished for centuries by neighbouring giants.

Nomad Festival of Bhutan - Dates

A day-long festival, the Bhutan Nomad Festival is usually held each year during the last week of February.
Dates - 23rd February 2020

Where does it take place?

Located in the Bumthang Dzongkhag province of Central Bhutan, Nagasphel, an eight-hour drive from the capital city of Thimphu is the main venue of the festival.

Celebrations at the Bhutan Nomad Festival


Bhutan Nomad Festival
The Chipdrel Procession during the Bhutan Nomad Festival

The ceremonial royal procession of Chipdrel along with arrays of stalls featuring various indigenous arts, crafts and food are some of the prominent events of the Bhutan Nomad Festival.

Highlander's Sale

Bhutan Nomad Festival
Women participants from Laya

Participant highlanders from Laya and Sakteng sell local products such as conical hats and fermented cheese respectively, at the tourism fair.

Cultural Excitement of the Festival
Traditional games of Soksum, Pungdo, Khuru, Dego along with various nomadic dances are prominent elements of the Bhutan Nomad Festival. The festival also hosts a collection of traditional dishes such as Jagbuli, Khuli and Puta, Pin and the classic ‘Ema Datshi’. Some of the other activities of the day include yak shows, yak and horse riding, livestock quizzes.

Reasons To Not Miss The Bhutan Nomad Festival

Visitors witness and participate in activities such as yak herding and riding, maize grinding, oxen field tilling and rice husking during the Bhutan Nomad Festival.

A Rare Sight
Local artisans crafting statues, vessels and swords right there is a common sight during the festival, which can be a rare exploration otherwise.

Traditional Outfits 
Visitors also don the highlander’s wear such as the headgear, hand-woven aprons, and outerwear spun from yak hair adorning colourful ribbons.

Hats of the Region

Bhutan Nomad Festival
The traditional Laya conical hat
The festival also exhibits the Brokpa black hat; an accessory with five long fringes down the front and the conical bamboo Layap headgear.

Exclusive Lady-Things 

Bhutan Nomad Festival
Women draped in traditional Bhutanese clothing during the festival

You could spot traditional female costumes such as the hand-woven wide aprons designed in rich flora and fauna motifs at the festival.
Accessorised hair braiding in vibrant native ribbons that form a significant part of the Bhutanese nomadic culture is a common event during the Bhutan Nomad Festival. 

About the Bhutan Nomad Festival

Launched in 2009, the Bhutan Nomad Festival is a two-day celebration organised by Wangchuck Centennial Park and the Department of Forests and Park Services.

The Crux of the Festival
The Nomad Festival is a yearly celebration of highland herders living the traditional nomadic way of life that depends on the migratory flock-patterns.

Significance of the Bhutan Nomad Festival

Bhutan Nomad Festival
Bhutanese Nomadic Life
Unique in culture and lifestyle, Bhutanese rural communities give a glimpse into Bhutan's retained traditional and unchanged ways of life despite changing modernity. The Bhutan Nomad Festival is an excellent time to witness ethnic diversity and customs of the northwestern and northeastern nomads across the Himalayan frontiers.

Reasons Why - Story Behind The Festival

Geared towards attracting local and global tourists, the Bhutan Nomad Festival aims at creating a better understanding of indigenous nomadic life, common hurdles, economic development of the state, flora and fauna conservation, watershed management and preservation. During the festival, visitor and nomad participants are provided with a great platform to meet highlanders from other parts of the country.

The Bhutanese Yak - The Country's Community Resource

Bhutan Nomad Festival
The Yak is a valuable asset for Bhutanese Nomads

Over a hundred rural communities from Bumthang, Thimphu, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Wangduephodrang, Paro, Gasa and Haa annually participate in the festival. Retaining ancient methods of survival, such as the barter system, these communities heavily depend on yak products. Thus, the yak features a prominent recognition of the community interdependency.

Traveller Tips

  • Plan your trip inclusive of both days of the festival along with prior accommodative reservations at Bumthang.
  • Although parts of the culture may seem new and different, ensure to respect local customs and nomadic equally.

This post was published by Shreyasee Deb

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