Top 5 Springtime Cultural Festivals

Bhutan's ceremonial celebrations include ornate masked dancers
Bhutan's ceremonial celebrations include ornate masked dancers

The spring season sees a lot of cultural festivals being celebrated around the world. We collected the most colourful ones that are a privilege to take part in at least once in your life. 

Travel to Paro in Bhutan for the Paro Tshechu festival or reach higher spheres during the Hemis festival in Ladakh. Then there are the Buddhist Pi Mai (New Year) in Laos; Mongolia’s annual sporting event, Naadam Festival; and Cusco’s vibrant Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun), all of which are colourful celebrations that are attended by locals and visitors alike.

Inti Raymi in Peru

What is it? The Festival of the Sun

Inti Raymi celebrations |  <i>Nigel Leadbitter</i>

The event traditionally involved the sacrifice of an animal to ensure healthy crops. The sacrifice was banned by the Spaniards, and today the festival involves a procession through the streets with music, prayers, dancing, and scattered flowers. 

The Inti Raymi Festival or "sun festival" is a religious ceremony that dates back 500 years to the Incan Empire’s heyday. The festival honours one of the most venerated gods in the Inca Empire: Inti. 

Women with brooms sweep away the evil spirits plus you will see priests and participants dressed as snakes, condors and pumas. It’s the second largest festival in South America with hundreds of thousands of people travelling to Cusco to celebrate the weeklong event.

Local enjoying Inti Raymi Festival in the streets of Cusco |  <i>Heike Krumm</i>

When is it? It is celebrated on the shortest day of the year, also known as the Winter Solstice, which is generally around June. 

Want to join? Time your visit to Peru around June when the festival is set to occur. It's a great way to add more cultural elements while incorporating the magnificent sights of places like Machu Picchu.

Hemis Festival in India

What is it? Celebrating the Birth of Guru Rinpoche (or Lord Padmasambhava)

Gathered men at the festival at Hemis, Ladakh |  <i>Adam Mussolum</i>

Observed at the Hemis Monastery, the festival is situated in a gorge in the north-Indian province of Ladakh and is a colourful celebration in honour of Lord Padmasambhava. 

The festival is famous for the masked dances that represent the good prevailing over evil and is performed by gompas that follow tantric traditions. 

The festival is said to originate in the 8th Century and other activities include the offering of food, playing traditional music (think cymbals, trumpets and drums), and performing spiritual ceremonies. Joining the festival is believed to give spiritual strength and good health.

Colourful costumes at the Hemis Festival |  <i>Brad Atwal</i> Several hundred Ladakhi villagers from throughout the Indus Valley attend the Hemis festival. |  <i>Adam Mussolum</i> Hemis Festival |  <i>Adam Mussolum</i> The traditions of the two-day festival at Hemis, Ladakh |  <i>Adam Mussolum</i> Traditional and elaborate masked dancer at the Hemis Festival |  <i>Adam Mussolum</i>

When is it? The Hemis Festival is celebrated annually in the month of June or July.

Want to join? You can visit the beautiful Indian Himalayan region of Ladakh in June or July. We often offer special itineraries centred around the festival.

Naadam Festival in Mongolia

What is it? It is locally known as the 'Three Games of Men Festival'

Spectators looking on during the Naadam festivities

The festival is an ancient cultural spectacle that combines colourful costumes and performances with an exciting tournament of three traditional sports: archery, wrestling and bareback horse riding. 

Travel to Chandman village to experience the festival in a setting of nomadic life. In the capital of Ulaanbaatar, visitors are presented with an incredible opportunity to experience the culture and people of this amazing land.

Locals in the Naadam Festival opening ceremony |  <i>Fiona Windon</i> Wrestling, archery and horse riding are the three competitions of Naadam Festival Spectators looking on during a provincial Naadam archery competition Naadam Festival opening ceremony |  <i>Fiona Windon</i> Wrestlers at the Naadam Festival in Mongolia |  <i>Caroline Mongrain</i> Locals at Naadam Festival |  <i>Caroline Mongrain</i> Naadam Festival in the Mongolian steppe |  <i>Caroline Mongrain</i>

When is it? This is the biggest festival of the year in Mongolia and is held throughout the country in midsummer from July 11-15. 

Want to join? You have several opportunities to visit the Naadam Festival when travelling on our Mongolia trips in early July. Get in touch with our team for ideas on the best trips that include the Naadam Festival. 

Pi Mai in Laos

What is it? Buddhist New Year

Photographer capturing the History and art at a temple in Luang Prabang |  <i>Peter Walton</i>

Like its neighbouring countries of Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar, celebrations for the new Buddhist year are important for locals. 

Expect to be celebrating alongside them towards the last days of the festival. Usually, days at the start of the festival are set aside to clean homes and temples and to spend with family. A traditional ceremony is for women to pour on men a cup of perfumed water with flowers. 

Today, this transformed into a carnivalesque water festival in places like Luang Prabang.

When is it? Celebrations are from 13 or 14 April to 15 or 16 April.

Want to join? Book an April departure to join in on the festivities in Luang Prabang.

Paro Tshechu in Bhutan

What is it? The Festival of Paro

The magnificent colours of Tatksang Monastery in Bhutan |  <i>Liz Light</i>

A tshechu is a religious and cultural festival in Bhutan and, according to the Lunar Tibetan calendar, throughout the year many are held. 

One of the most popular ones is in Paro valley: Paro Tshechu. Experience the living Bhutanese culture when the local people celebrate Guru Rimpoche who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. 

Festivities include masked dances, drums, trumpets, ceremonies and people wearing their beautiful, colourful costumes. One of the highlights of the festival is the unfolding of the thangka, named ‘thnongdroel’ in Bhutan.

When is it? The Paro Tshechu Festival is generally held in March or April.

Want to join? Tie in an exploration of Bhutan with a Paro Valley visit. We incorporate various cultural journeys into our Bhutan itineraries.

Bhutan, Festivals, India, Laos, Mongolia, Peru, Tibet

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