There are several annual festivals in Tibet which will add to your experience when visiting. If you are planning a Tibet tour then why not time it to coincide with one of the traditional festivals. In addition to seeing the many sites of Tibet you could attend the Tibet Nagqu Horse Racing Festival or the Kailash Saga Dawa Festival. There are Tibet tours which will accompany you to Tibet, show you the sites and take you to the festival venues. The Tibet tours include transport, accommodation, guides and the tour company even handles the paper work involved in getting your Tibet travel permit.
Image Credit: Antoine Taveneaux
Nagqu Horse Racing Festival
The Nagqu Horse Racing Festival takes place annually in August in the northern Nagqu Prefecture. Herdsmen arrive in Nagqu with their families from across Tibet and set up temporary camps for the festival. The picturesque scene includes long undulating grasslands, flocks of sheep, bright colored flags, small fires and locals dancing and singing and horses grazing nearby. There is an opening ceremony and then a series of events and races including races to test the horse’s speed, strength and agility, shooting, yak races and even Tibetan opera performances. In the evenings there is merriment with more eating, drinking, dancing and singing.
Kailash Saga Dawa Festival
Whereas the Horse Racing Festival is a social and cultural event the Kailash Saga Dawa Festival is a religious event. It is held on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month. The days of the festival coincide with the dates of Buddha’s birth, nirvana and death (parinirvana) and the people who gather for the festival are usually deep in prayer. It is a good opportunity to get an inside glimpse into the world of Tibetan Buddhism. People from all walks of life and all faiths come together to celebrate this festival. The celebrations are held at several locations including Dzongyab Lukhang Park near Potala but the main event is at the foot of Mount Kailash, the holiest mountain in Tibet. First the crowds of pilgrims gather to “replace the Tarboche flagpole”; the flagpole is taken down and new prayer flags are attached then the pole is raised. Visitors to the festival bring with them prayer flags which they attach to one large flag that is hoisted up on the Tarboche flagpole. As the flagpole is lifted by the many pilgrims working together, it is pointed in the direction of the Gyangdrak Monastery where the monks perform a special ritual. Visitors to Mount Kailash can enjoy the loud trumpets, conch shells being blown and the other traditional instruments played while the ceremony is preformed. Following the moving flagpole raising event many pilgrims take on the traditional trek around Mount Kailash which is believed to bring good things to those who complete it.
If you have decided to include one of these Tibetan festivals in your trip to Tibet then you will also get to see many other sites in this magical region. Tibet festival tours include visits to several monasteries, Lhasa, beautiful lakes and some include a visit to the Mount Everest Base Camp. You could also get your Tibet tour tailor made to suit your interests.