Tibet Tour Calendar and Festivals
Though January and February are always regarded as the low season of Tibet's tourism due to the cold weather, it is a great time to experience Tibetan culture and local customs. At the beginning of the New Year, Tibetans celebrate good harvest of the last year and pray for a good life and harvest in the new year. Many pligrims go to visit monasteries and temples in this slack farming season. In front of Jokhang Temple, there are hundreds of pilgrims each day. Moreover, tourists can enjoy considerable discount in all aspects.
Tibetan New Year
The Tibetan New year, also known as Losar Festival, is the most important festival on the Tibetan calendar. Based on the Tibetan Calendar, annual New Year celebration begins on December 29 and lasts 2 weeks.Tibetan New Year offers the travelers a great opportunity to enjoy the annual festive occasion with local Tibetans.
Butter Sculpture Exhibition
An annual exhibition of butter sculptures was held in celebration of the Chinese Lantern Festival in Taer Monastery, a prominent monastery in northwest China's Qinghai Province. With delicate handmade yak butter sculptures, the exhibition has attracted up to 150,000 masses and visitors from all ethnic groups on Chinese Lantern Festival, the climax of Chinese New Year celebrations on the 15th day of lunar January.
Sera Bengqin Festival
It is a traditional religious event and it is annually hold four days before Losar in the Sera Monastery in the northern suburb of Lhasa (Lhasa is the capital city of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region). And the ritual has been held exclusively at Sera Monastery for centuries since it was first initiated in the 17th century.
Spring Sowing Festival
A saying says that the whole year's work depends on a good start in spring. Thus, Spring Sowing Festival in Tibet is an important traditional festival for Tibetan farmers. Tibetan Spring Sowing Festival will be held on an auspicious day in the first month of New Year for the celebration of the calf tying to plough for the first time.
Spring comes in eastern Tibet earlier than the rest of Tibet. Tourists are highly recommended to make a visit to Nyingchi. This area has become quite warm and green when Lhasa is still cold. Praised as the Switzerland in Tibet, Nyingchi is a fantastic place with Mt. Namjagbarwa – the most beautiful mountain in China, and the world-famous Yalong Zangpu Grand Canyon. The most grand traditional festival, Tibetan New Year will fall in early March next year, offering travelers a great opportunity to experience local cuture.
Butter Lantern Festival
The Butter Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first month in Tibetan calendar. It is the last high tide of celebrations of the Tibetan New Year. During the daytime, people go to pray in temples and monasteries while at night there is a lantern show. The butter lanterns they made prayer themselves.
Great Prayer Festival
As one of the greatest religious festivals in Tibet, the celebration of the Great Prayer Festival would last from January 1st to 25th according to the Tibetan calendar. Thousands of monks (of the three main monasteries of Drepung, Sera and Ganden) would gather for chanting prayers and performing religious rituals at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. The lamas would debate the Buddhism scriptures in the temple, may also raise questions to the elites of Tibetan Buddhism and debate with them.
Nyingchi Peach Blossom Festival
Spring is a season of freshness and hope. When spring comes, it means reverberation for Tibet tourism. The spring leaves obvious footprint in Nyingchi since Mid March. With an average altitude of 3,100 meters and surrounded by the snow-capped Himalaya mountain range, the region welcomes spring earlier than the rest of Tibet. Though unexhausted chill might hit Nyingchi in March now and then, Nyingchi has become a sea of peach blossoms.
It becomes warmer in April and May at most areas of Tibet and Tibet gradually turns into the peak tourism season. The number of tourists travelling to Tibet keeps increasing since the beginning of April. April and May are regarded as the best time for mountaineering enthusiasts to conquer Mt. Everest. Flocks of climbers with different colors gather at Everest Base Camp, turning the base camp into a small UN. For tourists, it is also a great time to visit Everest as you will get a chance to witness those brave climbers as well as enjoy a close view of the world highest peak.
Chawalong Horse Racing Festival
Chawalong Village is located in Chayu County, Nyingchi Prefecture, Tibet. Chawalong has very limited resources, with no access to electricity, phone signals, etc., almost everywhere! Most importantly, there are only 4 roads connecting Chawalong to outside world. However, whichever road you choose, you are going to need to ride horses though some rough sections. Thus, horse is a very important part of Chawalong villagers’ life.
Two main festivals in June 2015 are held in Shigatse, one is Gyantse Horse Racing Festival and another is Tashilhunpo Festival, thus Shigatse is the highlights of this month. in another hand, the weather is fine without large amount of rainfall. Grasslands gradually turn green and herdsmen begin to move to the grasslands to start a new year’s work. If driving though the grasslands, you can see flocks of sheep or yaks dotting the green land. June is a wonderful time to visit the Heavenly Lake Namtso and the Nyainqentanglha Range north of Lhasa. The warm weather also offers a best chance to trek in Tibet. No wonder, the number of tourists to Tibet starts increasing rapidly.
Saga Dawa Festival
Saga Dawa Festival is one of the most solemn religious festivals, marking the date of Sakyamuni’s enlightenment and nirvana. It would be celebrated on April 15th according to Tibetan calendar.
Tsurphu Cham Dance Festival
The cham dance, also spelled tscham or chaam, is a lively masked and costumed dance associated with some sects of Buddhism, and is part of Buddhist festivals. The dance is accompanied by music played by monks using traditional Tibetan instruments. The dances often offer moral instruction relating to compassion for sentient beings and are held to bring merit to all who perceive them.
Gyantse Horse Racing Festival
Horse race is quite popular in Tibet. This annual festival is usually held in June, with the grandest scene and largest scale in local. Gyantse Horse Racing Festival is a great chance for tourists to witness Tibetan people’s enthusiasm on Horse race. Contests in early times included horse race, archery, and shooting on gallop followed by a few days' entertainment or picnicking. Nowadays, the activities are enriched by ball games, track and field events, folk songs and dances, barter trade, etc.
Drigung Cham Dance Festival
As the most interesting part in Drigung Dharma Assembly, Cham Dance Festival will last for three days. Cham dance is a religious ritual dance performed by Tibetan Buddhist monks. It can be a solo dance, or played by pair or groups. It's usually Tibetan Lamas who would put on cham masks, dance costumes and wear ribbons and knives. Accompanied with Tibetan Buddhist music, a senior lama leads the honour guard coming out and then the black hat cham dancers, dharma protectors, ghosts follow by.
July and August are the top season for Tibet tour due to the fine weather, breathtaking natural landscapes and various festivals, especially the most popular Shoton Festival. Flocks of tourists would rush to Lhasa to experience Tibetan culture and the festal atmosphere. The grassland of northern Tibet also welcomes its golden time with thousands of flowers in bloom and blue Namtso lake like a blue pearl on the Tibetan plateau. The annual Nagchu Horse Racing Festival held in August attracts thousands of Tibetans and tourists to the grassland to have fun together.
Universal Prayer Day
The Tibetan Festival, Universal Prayer Day or Dzam Ling Chi Sang is a Tibetan Buddhist festival celebrated on the 15th day of the fifth month in Tibetan Calendar. It is a time for spiritual cleansing. On the Universal Prayer Day, Tibetan people go to the tops of local mountains to burn incense and hang prayer flags. Thus, it’s also called as World Incense Festival, which will fall on July 9 in 2017.
Yushu Horse Racing Festival
Yushu Horse Racing Festival held in Qinghai is a traditional Tibetan Festival in Amdo Tibetan Area. The festival is usually celebrated in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Region from July 25 to August 1 each year.
Chokor Duchen Festival
Chokor Duchen Festival is one of the four great seasonal festivals (Losar, Saga Dawa, Chokor Duchen and Lhabab Duchen) celebrated by all Tibetan Buddhists. During those times, it is believed that the effects of positive or negative actions are multiplied ten million times.
Tashilhunpo Monastery Festival
As an important religious Tibet festival with a history over 500 years, Tashilhunpo Monastery Festival, also known as Buddha Exhibition Festival in Tashilhunpo Monastery enjoys high popularity among local Tibetans and tourists. The Tashilhunpo Thangka Festival usually erupts for three days in the middle of the fifth lunar Tibetan month, from May 14th-16th in Tibetan Calendar every year. Different Buddhas are exhibited on each day during this festival.
Ganden Thangka Unveiling Festival
The Ganden Festival is held on the 15th day of the sixth lunar month of Tibetan Calendar in memory of the enlightenment of Tsongkhapa, a well-known Tibetan religious philosopher. During this festival, Ganden Monastery would display its 25 holiest relics, which are normally locked away. A large offering ceremony accompanies the unveiling.
Litang Horse Racing Festival
Litang Horse Racing Festival in Kham Tibetan Area is a traditional Tibetan festival held on from August 1 to August 7 every year in Litang County, Sichuan province. The Litang Horse Racing Festival is the most celebrated holiday in the Eastern Tibetan Plateau. Khampas from all over the Tibetan Plateau come to trade, celebrate and ride. Khampas are nomads that are Tibetan and are usually herders.
Xiangxiong Cultural Festival
Xiangxiong, also Shang Shung, is an ancient culture and kingdom of western Tibet that dates back more than 1300 years. According to historical records, Xiangxiong Kingdom once dominated central and western Tibet, and its culture has influenced the philosophies and practices of Tibetan Buddhism. Now, the local government has established a tourism festival based on its rich cultural heritage.
Nagqu Horse Racing Festival
Few days before the opening ceremony of Horsing Race Festival, traditionally dressed and decorated Tibetans living on this immense grassland gather at Naqu County to set up their tents around horse racing track, hundreds of tents stand and are packed there within a few days, as if a crowed temporary city suddenly appeared on grassland.
Shoton Festival is one of the grandest traditional festivals for all Tibetan people. It is a celebration to mark the end of the monks 'Yarné, their hundred day summer retreat. This festival starts on the last day of the sixth month in Tibetan Calendar and lasts for a few days. "Shoton" in Tibetan means sour milk banquet. As Tibetan operas are performed and Buddha paintings are exhibited at this time, it is also called "Tibetan Opera Festival" or "Buddha Exhibition Festival".
Autumn comes to Tibet in September, making Tibet like a rainbow with a wide range of colors. The temperature in Tibet is becoming cooler from hot, but it is not very cold in Tibet during Sep. and Oct. The sky is clear, clouds are pale, air is fresh and temperature is comfortable. It is still a great time to trek in Tibet and watch all kinds of wild animals on the Tibetan plateau. You will feel quite comfortable to go anywhere of Tibet, especially the sacred Mt. Kailash and holy Lake Manasarovar.
This festival, also known as Garma Ri Gi in Tibetan, usually falls on the first ten days of July in Tibetan calendar when Venus appears in the sky. During this festival, the local people washing away the grime of the previous year in an act of purification that coincides with the week- long. Legend goes that bathing at this period is beneficial to health. For a whole week, from morning to evening, Tibetans of all ages go to the rivers to take a holy bath. The rivers are full of people as young and old people and families all participate.
Pabang Dangkuo Festival
Pabang Dangkuo Festival is the most important festival held in Reting Monastery north of Lhasa. Pabang Dangkuo Festival in Reting Monastery was only purely religious prayer activity and then gradually developed into an integrative festival including varied entertainments and goods exchange.
Each August in Tibetan Calendar, the Ongkor Festival is held in farming areas to celebrate the bumper harvest; "Ongkor" in Tibetan means "surrounding the farmland." The celebrations include horse racing, shooting, dancing and singing, Tibetan traditional Opera, stone lifting and wrestling, people show all their contentment and happiness on bumper harvest during the festival celebration. The “Ongkor” is also a good time for farmers to have a rest. Since crops ripen in different times, the festival is held accordingly.
Yak was regarded as god and became the best sacrifice for divinities. Then, the Yak Festival finally emerged. It starts from the 15th day of the 8th month in Tibetan calendar and usually lasts more than 10 days or even one month sometimes, with generally more than 1,000 people.
Winter comes to Tibet and most areas of Tibet witness snow since late October. There are no crowds of tourists, but flocks of pilgrims in Lhasa. It is a perfect season to visit all kinds of temples in Tibet and watch pilgrims at all ages. The best time to view Mt. Everest also comes after November when the rainy season of Tibet ends. Without much mist, Mt. Everest shows its panorama nearly all the day.
Buddha's Descent from Heaven Festival
Lhabab Duchen Festival or Buddha Sakyamuni's Descent Day is one of the four great Tibetan Buddhist festivals commemorating four events in the life of the Buddha. The other three are Losar Festival, Saga Dawa Festival, Chokor Duchen Festival according to Tibetan traditions.
Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival
Gaden Ngachen Chenmo Festival, also known as Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival, is celebrated to commemorate the parinirvana of Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Tsongkhapa Festival falls on the 25th day of the tenth month in Tibetan calendar. On that day, Tibetan monks would light up numerous butter lamps on the altars in and out of temples, and it’s common to see lamps illuminating day and night at Tibetan homes.
Tibetan Fairy Festival
The Fairy Festival is a traditional Tibetan festival in Tibet believed to be a festival of women, so it is also known as the "Women's Festival" in modern Tibet. The Fairy Festival in Tibet is celebrated on Oct. 15 in the Tibetan calendar, when various kinds of religious activities are held.