Dromchoe Festival, Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, BhutanBhutanese women in Thimphu’s Tashichho Dzong (Fortress)

After a long journey into Bhutan, we were excited to finally be in Thimphu, the country’s capital. Per our planned  itinerary, our first day was supposed to be a bit relaxed but wonderful unplanned events filled our day.

The Festival
Our arrival in Thimphu happened to coincide with its Dromchoe Festival, one of the most sacred festivals in Bhutan. We are not scheduled to go to a traditional festival until few days later in Bumthang Valley, so it came as a delightful surprise when our guide told us that we were also going to this one.

People arriving at Festival (Tsechu) in Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.Bhutanese, young and old alike, arriving in Tashichho Dzong (Fortress),  Thimpu’s  administrative and religious center, where the festival is held every autumn (the date changes each year but falls either in September or October). 


People arriving at Festival (Tsechu) in Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan. People entering the fortress. They came from near and far to celebrate the festival.


Festival (Tsechu), Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.Tens of thousands of people packed the courtyard of the Tashichho Dzong to witness Thimphu Dromchoe, a day long festival that dates back from the 17th century  to honor Palden Lhamo, the chief protective deity of Bhutan.


Dromchoe Festival in Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, BhutanThe festival features sacred mask dances performed by monks.


Dromchoe Festival in Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, BhutanLegend has it that Kuenga Gyeltshen, a holy man, initiated this spiritual festival after the deity Palden Lhamo performed the dances for him during his meditation.



Thimphu Drochoe Festival, Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, BhutanWe could have wiggled our way through the crowd for a closer view of the performances but we were so overwhelmed by the beautiful sea of colorful crowds that we found ourselves more fascinated in watching them than the perfomance.  (We had a chance to focus on the performances in two other festivals we later attended.)


Crowds in Festival (Tsechu), Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, BhutanAttending the festival is part of the Bhutanese spiritual devotion. They believe that those who attend are bestowed blessings and gain spiritual merits.  (This festival was followed 3 days later by an even bigger 3-day Tsechu festival. It was a busy but auspicious time for the locals). 


Bhutanese Me in Festival (Tsechu) in Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.Men looking so dignified and composed in their ghos,  the Bhutanese traditional clothing for men. 


Bhutanese Women in  Dromchoe Festival  Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, BhutanAnd the women looked so calm and collected in their colorful kiras, the traditional clothing for women, despite having to sit on the crowded ground. 


Traditional and Modern Shoes, Thimphu Festival, BhutanSome men were wearing traditional shoes while some women were very fashion forward wearing stilettos under their kiras.


Children in Festival (Tsechu) Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.There were many children in the festival and they were so adorable and noticeably well-behaved. Despite the overcrowded space, we didn’t hear any whining from the little ones.

Some kids had prime spots in the house – the window sills. Children on window sills, Dromchoe Festival, Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan Children in Festival (Tsechu), Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.

Children in Festival (Tsechu), Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.Some looked bored but they were not complaining.  


Festival (Tsechu, Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.Young men greeting each other. The festival is a big social event for locals . 


Festival (Tsechu), Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.Families watching from the windows of the one of the buildings surrounding the fortress courtyard.


Monks watching Festival (Tsechu),  Thimphu Festival, BhutanMonks looking down at the crowds from the temple building. 


Crowds in Dromchoe Festival, Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.A monk scanning the crowd from the stairwell of the temple.


Festival (Tsechu), Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.We found a spot on the temple stairway and met these two lovely, friendly girls who offered us tea and cookies. They were very smart and spoke very good English.  We had a nice conversation with them. 


Festival (Tsechu, Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan.While one of our little friends was busy chatting with Keith, a monk and an official behind them were busy chatting on their cellphones.


Crowds in Festival (Tsechu), Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan..A parting shot with our young friends, who were also so sweet to obtain a special permission for us to enter the temple, which was not open to the public at that time because high government and religious officials were in there (one of the girls was a daughter of an official). The temple housed a beautiful huge Buddha that was two-stories high. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos (as were in all temples in Bhutan.) 


The Buddha Point (Buddha Dordenma) Buddha Point, Thimphu, BhutanWhile driving around Bhutan, we noticed this statue of Buddha sitting high on a mountaintop.   We didn’t know about the existence of this giant Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, until we arrived in Thimphu.


Buddha Point, Thimphu, BhutanTo our delight, our guide Leki took us to the statue. We learned that it was newly constructed and is now the largest seating Buddha in the world. It is meant to bestow blessings, peace and happiness to all sentient beings.  Buddha Point, Thimphu, Bhutan While the statue itself is finished, its based is yet to be completed. The base will house one thousand smaller version of the statue.  The building of this giant statue is said to fulfill the ancient prophecy of Guru Rinpoche, the saint who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan.


View of Thimphu Valley from Buddha Point, Thimphu, Bhutan Buddha Point provides a breathtaking and unobstructive view of Thimphu Valley.

The City

The valley was nothing but rice fields, few farmhouses and a Dzong until the early 1960’s when Thimphu was appointed as the new capital of Bhutan.   

Norzo Lam, Main Street in Thimphu, Bhutan.jpToday, Thimphu is still very much quaint but is bustling city by Bhutanese standard. Small economical cars from India dominate the road. Commercial buildings blending modern and traditional architectures lined the streets.

Traffic cop, Norzin Lam, Main Street in Thimphu, Bhutan.jp

Thimpu is the only capital city in the world without  traffic lights.  Several years ago, a traffic light was installed, however, the locals complained that it was too impersonal. Hence, the traffic police with their graceful gestures continue to direct the traffic. 

Norzin Lam, Main Street in Thimphu, Bhutan.jpgShops, restaurants and hotels lined up Norzi Lam, the main thoroughfare of Thimphu.

Shops in Thimphu, Bhutan

Some shops and restaurants in Norzi Lam.

Shops in Thimphu, Bhutan


Clock Tower Square in Thimphu, BhutanThe pleasant Clock Tower Square is a city landmark that is a popular place for social and political gathering. It is quiet on this day as most people were attending the festival. 


Children playing in the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu, BhutanChildren playing in Clock Tower Square in front of the rows of prayer wheels. 

More about Bhutanese sports, artisans, and spiritual sites in our next post on Thimphu.  

Linking to Travel TuesdayOur World Tuesday, Photo Thursday and Travel Photo Discovery.

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About Marisol

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

57 responses to “Thimphu, Bhutan (Part 1): The Festival, the Big Buddha and the City

  1. Agness

    I’ve never heard of the Dromchoe Festival, but it looks amazing and so interesting. It’s great to see locals being so involved in their culture and traditions. Everyone looks so modest and blissfully happy and these colors! AMAZING!
    Agness recently posted..Low Budget Guide To FloridaMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Agness, Dromchoe is just one of the many beautiful, amazing festivals in Bhutan. Attending the festivals is definitely a great way to appreciate the Bhutanese love for their culture and tradition. Yes, they all seem so content and blissful. And all those colors were just incredible.

  2. Kira S.

    Hello M & K, Love this post! The photos look so exotic. It transport me into a different world! Bhutan and its people look so amazing and special. I look forward to see more of your post.

    • Marisol

      Heys Kirs, glad we were able to transport you. Yes, the people were truly amazing and special. Stay tune for the next post:)

    • Marisol

      Thank you, Muza-chan.

    • Marisol

      Hi Joanne, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the photos. Yes, no traffic lights and its wonderful!

  3. Jenny

    Wow, these photos are amazing – what a fascinating country! I love all the colours and patterns. Really enjoyed all the little insights too, like the lack of traffic lights, they really bring the photos to life. I think Bhutan is going to have to go on the list…!
    Jenny recently posted..What if it’s all for nothing?My Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Jenny, it’s really worth to be on your list. It truly is a fascinating, colorful country. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    • Marisol

      Hi Jackie, thanks! I’m pleased you enjoyed them.

  4. Marcia

    This was a delightful gift you received for your anniversary, thanks to your timing (there are no accidents!) and your guide.
    Your photos are absolutely stunning. I love the colorful costumes and how invested everyone was. Truly a beautiful experience, even from your photos. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be right there.
    Blessings, peace and happiness to you too, Marisol & Keith!
    Marcia recently posted..Gizzada (Coconut Pastry)My Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Marcia, It truly was a delightful gift. We felt so blessed. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. The locals with their colorful costumes were indeed wonderful sights to behold.

  5. Dennis

    How impressive to see local Bhutanese wearing traditional dresses. It seems like they do this not just during festivals but truly it a part of their daily lives – something we don’t see in other heavily westernized societies of Asia.
    Dennis recently posted..Kenai Fjords National ParkMy Profile

    • Marisol

      HI Dennis, yes they do wear their traditional dresses as part of their daily lives – to school, to work, to festivals, etc. Although they do wear western clothes from time to time when its appropriate.

  6. Tonya

    Your photos are beautiful and I love all the detail you share. I certainly didn’t expect to see the stilettos under traditional dress. I love all of the color, not only in the festival, but in the city.

    I had no idea that there was a city anywhere that lacked a traffic light.
    Tonya recently posted..Talking a Walk at Gorman Nature CenterMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Tonya, thanks! Glad you enjoyed the photos and all the colors. The stilettos also surprised us! We thought it was a great depiction of the blend of modernity and tradition that exemplifies Thimphu.

  7. Leigh

    You’ve got to love a culture that works on keeping things personal. I can’t imagine how the Butanese people would find the western world.
    Your photos are fantastic; I almost feel like I’m there with you.
    It looks a bit chilly in one of your photos. How were the temperatures when you were there?
    Leigh recently posted..Cycling the Banff Legacy Trail from Canmore to BanffMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Leigh, it truly is an endearing culture. They’ll probably find western world way too impersonal and chaotic. I’m pleased you enjoyed the photos. We had a very comfortable fall weather almost the whole time. I think the chiily picture you were referring was the one in Buddha Point. It was very windy up there so we had to bundle up a bit.

  8. Quite an event, Marisol! Very colorful! I love to look at the people faces, so your pictures of a crowd are my favorites here :) Street portraits of the kids in the windows are awesome!
    Closeups/details shots are nice too!
    memographer recently posted..Photo of Back Side of Beautiful Silk Wedding DressMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Alex, thanks! Glad you enjoyed them. It truly was an amazing event. You would have a great feast yourself taking photos of the people.

  9. Denise

    What a beautiful collection of photos. Very special.
    Denise recently posted..Goodbye JapanMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Thank you Denise. Glad you enjoyed them.

    • Marisol

      Hello Marissa, thank you!

  10. Love this (as always!). I always enjoy your shots of the locals and who the two of you befriend. What an amazing celebration! Those costumes and native garb are so colorful but I also loved seeing the stilettos underneath the kiras as well as the popularity of phones there. It’s such a beautiful city and I’m glad you were able to see this festival. That fortress looks stunning so I can only imagine how it must look in person. Definitely adding Bhutan to “when the kids grow up places to go” :)
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Seeing An Elephant Parade in AmericaMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Mary, I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos. We felt so blessed to be in this festival and to observe Bhutanese spritual tradition and their devotion. All their fortresses are truly stunning; it’s hard to capture their magnificence in photo. Bhutan is definitely worth to be on your list of places to see when the kids are bigger.

    • Marisol

      Bhutan is truly is an interesting place, Freya. If you love festivals, it’s a great place for you to visit.

    • Marisol

      Hi Louisette, both the festival and the valley are indeed wonderful. You have a nice day, too!

    • Marisol

      Thanks Irene. Yes, the density was amazing and it only happens during the festivals. It felt like NY Time Square but without all the chaos:)

    • Marisol

      Thank you, Ma. Alexandra! Yes, cell phone is no longer a novelty in even the remotest parts of the world. Everyone one seemed connected.

    • Marisol

      Thanks Rajesh. They’re very vibrant indeed!

  11. Erica

    What a beautiful place! I absolutely love the colorful clothing and those children are just adorable. Great job capturing the city!
    Erica recently posted..Home in Khon KaenMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Thanks Erica. Glad you enjoyed it.

  12. It was so serendipitous that this festival fell during your visit. I think that being able to observe an important local event certainly gives you a better window into the culture. I love the photos of the spinning masked monks doing their sacred dance and the colorful sea of people in the photo from the stairwell.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..The Sunshine AwardMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Michelle, we really felt bless to experience more festivals than we expected. They’re truly gave us a great glimpse of their culture and spirituality.

    • Marisol

      Thanks Amy! Bhutan is so picturesque it’s hard not to take pretty photos of it.

  13. Your pictures are blowing me away! I love all of the people pics and I love all of the vibrant colors of the ghos and kiras. When I make it to Bhutan one of these days, I will definitely be leaving with a kira. I also really like the image of the officer directing traffic. It almost looks surreal. Looking forward to more of your Bhutan posts.
    Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans recently posted..Review: Bluffer’s Guide to Insider HollywoodMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Thanks Dana! One thing I regret was not buying myself a kira. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

  14. noel

    this is a photographers dream trip with all the costumes, colors and performances….very envious!

    • Marisol

      Hi Noel, you and your camera will have a blast in Bhutan. I hope you head there soon. I’d love to see all the lovely images you will come up with.

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