Royal Highland Festival
The two days Royal Highland Festival is an annual celebration of nomadic highlander traditions in Laya , Bhutan. It is one of the unique festivals of Bhutan. This Bhutan festival was initiated by the fifth king of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, to promote the highland culture and to improve their economy. The Royal Highlander Festival gives you the glimpse of how highlander people live in the Himalayas of northern Bhutan.
The Royal Highland Festival takes place in Laya, a remote, highland village located at around 4,000 meters (12,000 feet) . Nevertheless it is one of the most scenic festival locations in Bhutan. The picturesque village with beautiful backdrop of extraordinary surrounding peaks , makes it the wonderful venue for the festival.
Things to see in Royal Highland Festival
When attending a Bhutan festival, you will have the opportunity to feel the happiness of the people at first hand. There is something soothing about the people of Bhutan which put you at ease. Apart from preserving and showcasing the unique culture, the Festival itself is a celebration of the nomadic life and there are many interesting events held within the 2 days. The top things to see in Royal Highland festival are:
The Laya Run kicks off the festival. In this race, local men and women race, running 25km up and across the Himalayas of Bhutan. The Run is challenging but you will come across beautiful scenery and will get fresh air.
You can also watch cultural programed by the villagers and students of Laya .
Meet The Highlander
You can meet so many locals on the way up to the Royal Highlander Festival. The festival attracts communities from all over Bhutan and many tribes come down from the High Himalayas to compete in races and showings of their animals.
You have a chance to see yaks up at 4400 meters and they are one of the most beautiful animals.
The competition for the best yak, horse, and dogs are also held to assess the athletic prowess of herders and strength of animals. The animals are beautifully decorated based on their local tradition and culture. The animals are dressed in expensive fabrics , colored hairs and adorned bells. These decorated Yaks, Mastiff and horses put up an intimidating show as they travelled in caravan .
Even the dogs get awards at the Royal Highlander Festival.
Strong Man Competition
There are events like the strongman competition, where you will watch people go through an obstacle course. Like lifting the log and running or brawling. There are events for women also like carrying their mates upon their backs and running across the field.
There are game for couples. The couples pull heavy sandbags across the course , stacking them one atop another before loading them onto the male’s back and where he runs back to the starting line to finish the race. However all the activities are carried out more for fun than winning.
Over the course of two days, men wrestle, horses race, and children dance. Tireless runners scale mountains while clueless cows win prizes. The Royal Highlander Festival in Bhutan is a visual treat of colors, cuisines, and culture. Everything seems to be in very good fun. This is a festival of celebration and happiness more than the competition.
Enjoy Free Tea and Biscuits
Something that is very impressive, is how the festival offers free food, water, and tea to spectators.
Great care is taken to keep the food safe as servers wear gloves, hairnets, and uniforms as they scoop out large portions of dhal, rice, and potatoes. They go around offering cups of water and tea and there are several stations for recycling and trash. Bhutan is leading the world in responsible tourism thinking of every little thing. During the entire trek up to Laya, you can notice the pits dug for garbage and stations set aside for water bottles. So you do not pollute the pristine environment.
How to Get There
There are no motorable roads to Laya. And the only way to get there is either by trekking for 2 days from Gasa or by taking a helicopter ride. The helicopter ride is pretty expensive in Bhutan . You can check the general cost of heli-scenic ride in Bhutan. And the other option is venturing into Laya-Gasa Trek .
The Laya-Gasa trek is considered one of the most scenic trek in Bhutan. Depending on the route, the trekking days can vary from 2 days to 8 days. If you have come to Bhutan just with the intention to visit the festival then you can take the shortest route. The shortest route starts from Gasa.
Day 1: Gasa-Koina (Camp 1 Night)
Glimpse of Detailed Tour Itinerary
Check out the detailed tour itinerary below:
The 2 days Laya-Gasa trek is a high-altitude trek of moderate difficulty . Nevertheless, horses are available for carrying luggage along the route. Your tour operator like Bhutan Best Inbound Tour will be arranging all the logistics for treks.
Keep in mind that the weather can be quite unpredictable in the mountains. Before you dive into this colorful world, there are some important things to keep in mind. These are the Himalayas we’re talking about. Prepare yourself for the trek before venturing into one. Here are the guidelines https://www.bhutaninbound.com/for-trekkers
Future Prospective of Royal Highland Festival
The Royal Highlander Festival is the newest Bhutan festival. The Royal Highlander Festival is only in its second year but it is going to expand in the future.
It is going to rotate to other villages around the Himalayas. As time goes by, it is gaining more and more popularity.
Festivals dominate the land of Bhutan, which is known for its celebrations and unity. Festival like this also gives you a glimpse to see why the Bhutanese measure life with a happiness index over GDP. From local Layaps in pointed beaded headdresses to groups of Monpas in dreaded yak hair hats comes together to celebrate the Highland Festival.
It is a joy to watch, the highlanders of all ethnicities congregating in Laya to share their culture . Royalty, volunteers, and visitors from all over Bhutan further complete the crowd. Some foreigners visit too, however, they are by and large a minority for now. The fact that any outsiders showed up at all is impressive in itself; as traveling to Laya, even for a native, is a multi-day endeavor.
The Highlander festival is a day filled with goodwill and celebration. And you can be a part of it by joining this unique Festival.
Check out Bhutan Festival Calendar so you can coincide your holiday with Royal Highland Festival.
That’s all you need to know for now. The rest is for you to find out. The Royal Highlanders festival of Bhutan awaits your arrival.
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