The peaks beckon

For about a month, the quiet and serene village of Laya has been bursting with activity as preparations for the Royal Highland Festival, which commences from October 23 began. More than 145 Dessups, people from Gasa Dzongkhag, the locals, and others are engaged to welcome and offer visitors to the festival held at 3850m (12631feet) a feast they will cherish.

This grand festivity was first unfurled as the Royal Highland Festival, on 16th October 2016 and has since become a gem amongst the cultural crowns of Bhutan. Its significance is also associated with the fact that the festival was introduced in a year that was historic for Bhutan; a year where three significant events converged; the celebration of the birth of His Royal Highness the Gyalsey, the commemoration of four centuries since the presence of Zhabdrung Rimpoche, and the auspicious birth year of Guru Rimpoche within the Rabjung, a 60-year cycle.

But why would one want to hike for a festive at such a height? The answer is simple – you will experience the extraordinary; it will be a journey, a sojourn you will never forget as you witness the traditional offering of Buelwa (Gift offering) with Auley (traditional epic poem/song recitation tradition originated from Zhabdrung Rinpoche days) that begun during Zhabdrung Rinpoche’s reign in showing loyalty and respect by the community of Laya is being offered for dynamic and visionary leadership of our successive monarchs.

You will see the culture, traditions and the heart of the people of Laya through the variety of cultural programs performed by Layaps. There will be entertainment; various competitions on highland animals including the Yaks, horses and Mastiffs just as there will be competition of traditional songs and dances.

The festival will also have a series of stalls ranging from local based yak produce to highland technology, highland agriculture technology, medicinal herbs, plants and others.

You will be able to see in its raw and bare form, the authenticity and simplicity of the lives of the Highlanders. Visitors will be transported back in time, while being mesmerized by the lyrical offerings, which symbolize the unshakable loyalty and profound respect of the Laya community, a homage to the dynamic and visionary leadership of Bhutan’s successive monarchs.

The festival will resemble a bustling bazaar of ideas and innovation, with stalls spanning the spectrum from locally sourced yak products to highland agricultural technologies, medicinal herbs, and beyond.

Set against the backdrop of the picturesque Laya, the Royal Highlander Festival will breathe life into the highlands, fostering a thriving economy and showcasing the highlanders’ innovative spirit. It is a celebration of Bhutan’s highlands, uniting brethren from distant corners to share knowledge, skills, and best practices in the realms of highland life and yak farming.

Visitors will be spell bound witnessing the cultural performances, of the Layaps, their voices and dances painting vivid portraits of their ancient traditions. The festival also offers a treasure trove of local delights, from delectable yak cuisine to highland technologies, agricultural innovations, and the healing secrets of medicinal herbs.

The Royal Highland Festival Tour was thoughtfully designed to provide the quintessential Bhutanese experience. It not only immerses visitors in the unique festival but also transports them through some of Bhutan’s most enchanting valleys, offering cultural insights along the way. It is driven by the underlying goal of making the highlands a vibrant and thriving economy, the festival aims to promote the sustainable livelihood of highlanders, showcase highlander’s innovation, and exhibit the highlands as a pride of Bhutan.

During the festival, tourists could embark on a journey to the mesmerizing and secluded village of Laya, nestled among the awe-inspiring Himalayan peaks. They could explore one of the kingdom’s remotest villages, perched at a breathtaking 3,800 meters above sea level.

This year, you can experience the festival, the warmth and authenticity of the Highlander’s way of life, witness age-old traditions and cultural performances that have withstood the test of time, while being surrounded by magical peaks from October 23 to 24, 2023.

You are still not late.

Ugyen Tenzin from Thimphu