Tibetan festivals have multiple origins and qualities. Though most of them are related to Buddhism, we can still seek for the general look of Tibetan and Chinese cultures and the historical clues of cultural exchange between them.

    Shoton Festival

    Shoton Festival originates from the 11th century. It had been exclusively a religious observance until the 17th century when the Great 5th Dalai Lama introduced the Tibetan opera into the celebration, making it a nationwide gala. Being the largest and most mysterious festival on the roof of the world, Shoton Festival serves as a showcase to rooted tradition, appealing culture and great piety of the Tibetan people. Global travelers, who urge to discover more than just turquoise lakes and snow capped mountains on this forbidden land, are drawn to Tibet at this time of year.

    The festival mainly consists of 3 parts - Great Buddha Display, Tibetan Opera Show and Horsemanship & Yak Race Show. In combination they represent the best of Tibetan religion, culture and tradition.

    Generally speaking, the Shoton Festival comes in each August according to the Gregorian calendar, and it falls on the 22nd, August, 2017. Travelling to Tibet in summer is very comfortable thanks to good weather, yet August is also the very peak season in the Tibet tourism owing to worldwide summer vacations. The days when the festival precede sees the peak time at this peak season, there will be definitely no hotel, guide or vehicle left available if late booking. If you decide to join in this cultural gala on the roof of the world, we suggest you book a tour as early as possible.

    What follows are some of the best selected tour packages for your summer vacation, not only with the must-see festival highlights included but also with the unique and breathtaking Tibet natural beauties.
    - Shoton Festival plus Lhasa-Kathmandu Tour 8 Days
    - Shoton Festival plus Mt. Everest9 Days
    - Shoton Festival in the holy city Lhasa only5 Days

    Tibetan New Year

    The establishment of Tibetan New Year has close relationship with usage of Tibetan calendar, which can date back to more than 950 years ago. From then on, it became a survival of the past. Tibetans start preparing for New Year Holiday in Dec of Tibetan calendar. During the process, whole families will infuse barley seeds in basins. On the New Year Eve, every family will present all kinds of foods in front of Buddha images and keep busy preparing deep into the night, so that there will be plentiful food during the holiday. On the first day of the Tibetan New Year (first day of lunar calendar), the first thing Tibetans must do is sending one family member to take a barrel of water home from the river, the first barrel of water in the new year is called auspicious water. Form the second day, relatives and friends begin to visit each other and celebrate the New Year, which will lasts 3 to 5 days. During the festival, people will play Guozhang or Guoxie dance at the squares or open grasslands with the accompaniment of guitars, cymbals, gongs and other musical instruments. Hand in hand, arm in arm, Tibetans dance in a circle while singing following the rhythm by stamping their feet. Children, on the other hand, will fire firecrackers. A happy, harmony and auspicious festival atmosphere will pervade the whole area.

    Ox festival

    It derives from Tibetans' awareness of the importance of ox in agriculture. During their daily labor, they gradually produced strong feeling to ox, and consequently, numerous phenomena of ox culture came into being. Ox was regarded as god and became the best sacrifice for divinities. Then, the Ox Festival finally emerged. It starts from the 15th day of the 8th month in Tibetan year and usually lasts more than 10 days or even one month sometimes, with generally more than 1,000 people. During this process, people will ask "heiba"(wizard) to recite scriptures, play yak horn and kill tens of yaks or over 100 sheep, drinking freely and talking noisily. Because of the high expenses, this large-sized fair was held only once in almost one century.

    Moreover, members who take part in Ox Festival share the same blood relationship. So, it is placed among the cultural festivals of ancestors worship.

    Great Prayer Festival

    It falls on the fourth up to the eleventh day of the first Tibetan month. It is the grandest religious festival in Tibet. Monks of Dreprang Monastery, Sera Monastery and Gaden Monastery will assemble in Jokhang Monastery on the occasion. It dates back to 1049 when Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelu sect, held a praying ceremony in Lhasa. Examinations taking form of sutra debates for the Geshe degree, the highest degree in Buddhist theology, were also held. Pilgrims from other places in Tibet crowded to listen to the sermons while others give religious donations. After that, it is continuously enlarged and enriched, becoming a fixed and popular religious festival and lasting until today, with a larger size than is was set up.

    Butter Lamp Festival

    The grand festival falls on the 15th day of the first Tibetan month, the last day of Great Prayer Festival. In the daytime, people will go to monasteries to worship Buddhas and pray. At night, a lamp festival will be held on the Barkhor Street, where there will be lots of shelves filled with colorful and various images such as gods, figures, birds, animals, flowers and trees. Meanwhile, you can also enjoy the puppet show. Thousands of lamps just like the shining stars falling from the sky, which takes on a splendid look.

    Saka Dawa Festival

    The 15th day of the fourth month in the Tibetan calendar is a day when Sakyamuni was born, achieved nirvana and passed away. It is also a traditional festival for Tibetan people. April in Tibetan calendar is Buddha Month, so it is called "Saka Dawa" in Tibetan. On this day, in accordance with their conventions, Tibetans will dress themselves in their holiday best and assemble at the Dragon King Pool behind the magnificent Potala Palace to celebrate this grand religious festival. After long period of development, it gradually evolves into a mass festival for Tibetans to visit parks in spring and summer and pray for a good harvest in agriculture and animal husbandry. During this festival, some people set up colorful tents; some prepare barley wine and butter tea, families resting beside the pool with great joy. Then young Tibetans dance in a circle while singing following the rhythm by stamping their feet.

    Bathing Festival

    It falls in the first ten days of the 7th month in Tibetan calendar. As a conventional festival in Tibet, it has a long history of seven or eight hundred years at least. Because Tibetans believe July is the best time for bathing.Shoton Festival.

    It is one of grand festivals in Tibet. "Shoton" means yoghurt in Tibetan. The origin of the festival started from the 17th century. According to the rule of Gelu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the 6th month in Tibetan calendar was the retreat period when monks and nuns of all monasteries were prohibited from going out to avoid stamping on or hurting little bugs. Then, on the 1st day of the 6th month in Tibetan year when the ban was lifted, they went down the hill one after another. And the peasants and herdsmen would serve yoghurt to them.

    During the festival, Tibetans, no matter male or female, old or young, will pour into Norbulingka Summer Palace in knots, with colorful bags on back and barley wine barrels in hand. Some will set up tents, put carpet on the ground, and lay out barley wine, dishes and other holiday foods. Horseracing is a favorite activity for Tibetans. It not only provides a good place to assemble and exchange experience in agriculture and animal husbandry in spare time, but also shows the spirit of Tibetans. Consequently, horse racing has become an indispensable activity in almost all the Tibetan festivals that are handed down and spread among the people.

Other Travelers' Questions

The questions raised by our past customers can help you get a more clear picture about tours to Tibet, read them or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side, our specialists will reply you within 24 hours.

user portrait Ms. Janette Ressue from: 15 days Tibet Mount Kailash Trekking plus Mt. Everest Base Camp

I am very interested in the tour this June beginning June 19th.  Are there any earlier departures in June for this 15 day tour that includes Mt. Everest and Mt Kailash trek?

Thanks you!
Answered by Nancy

Dear Ms. Janette Ressue,

Greetings from Nancy Chung at BTT. We have this group tour 4th and 22nd June. Both dates are available for you. Please check your email for the details. Thanks a lot.

Email to Nancy about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

user portrait Ms. Ute Wilmas from: 10 Days Tibet Mt. Everest Base Camp plus Namtso Lake Group Tour
Hey, what means TTP and PSB?
Is the fee for Tibet visa included in this tour price?
Thanks for your answers.
Ute Wilmas
Answered by Nancy

Dear Ms. Ute Wilmas,

Greetings from Nancy at BTT. TTP (B) and PSB mean Tibet Travel Bureau and Public Security Bureau. And if you want to travel to Tibet, we have to apply Tibet permit from them with your passport and China visa copies. Yeah, the tour package includes the permit service and the fee. For more details please check your email. Best regards.

Email to Nancy about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

user portrait Mr. Rai from: Nepal to Tibet overland tour plus Mt. Kailash
hi i want to go to mt kailash and mansovar lake as well as lhasa and shigatse this early May from kathmandu. could you email me the packages like 13 days or 16 days etc and the cost for a nepali passport holder and for my friend who is a british passport holder
Answered by Nancy

Dear Mr. Rai,

Thanks for visiting our website and sending your inquiry. Yes, we have 13days Tibet Mount Kailash Trekking plus Mt. Everest Base Camp group tour on 13th and 21st May. As this group tour can end at the border of Nepal and China. For the 21st May group tour it will come cross the Saga Dawa festival in Kailash if you are interested. Please check your email for the tour details about it. Thanks a lot.

Email to Nancy about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

user portrait Ms. Tina from: 7 Days Lhasa to Kathmandu Tour via Everest Base Camp
Hi interested in joining this tour early Sept. Also interested to know what the discount is if I book early and for the entrance costs extra are these not needed if I was not to enter some of the the places  Tina
Answered by Helen

Dear Tina,

Thank you very much for your inquiry. If you book tour with us three months in advance, to show our welcome gesture, we are able to offer an early bird discount to you. Because the entrance fee is not included in our tour price, if you don't want to visit some spots, you won't need to pay the entrance fee. For more details, please check your email. Best regards, Helen.

Email to Helen about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

user portrait Mr. Stephen Sayuk from: 4 Days Lhasa Holy Landmarks Express
We have booked a tour to China. We would like to leave the tour to visit Tibet. The opportunity we have is to fly to Lhasa the morning of May 3 and rejoin the tour in Chongqing on May 6. Thus we would have 4 days and 3 nights available. I have a US passport and my wife has a Chilean passport.  Please give us your recommendations and costs for such a diversion. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Answered by Helen

Dear Stephen,

Thank you very much for your inquiry. It's no problem for you to join a 4-day Lhasa tour. But we currently have one departure date on 2nd May, not on 3rd May, I was wondering whether you can advance your Lhasa tour one day earlier or not. If not, we will make a little adjustment for your Lhasa tour. Please check your email for more details. Best wishes, Helen.

Email to Helen about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

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