The Jomolhari Mountain Festival is a two-day event celebrated at the base of Mt. Jomolhari (7326 m) by the local communities that live along what could be one of the most scenic trekking routes in Bhutan. The festival celebrates the rich vibrant local culture of the communities and the natural wonders that surround them like the elusive snow leopard who has been aptly nicknamed “the ghost of the Himalayas” due to its extremely rare sightly and pale white coat that blends in seamlessly with the white backdrop of the snowy mountains. However, with the help of modern technology in the form of camera traps, these ghosts have been sighted thriving in the region.
Unlike most of the festivals in Bhutan that have their origins centuries ago, the Jomolhari Mountain Festival is relatively new. It was first organized in 2013 from the 23rd to the 24th of October by the Nature and Recreation and Eco-Tourism Division (NRED) and the Department of Forest and Park Services to raise awareness on the conservation of the snow leopard.
This two-day festival takes place every year in October, the dates may change from year to year, but the festival dates are announced sometime in August.
The festival takes place at the base of Mt. Jomolhari. The camp is called Jangothang camp, and it is located at an elevation of 4080 m above sea level. It is a 3-day trek to the festival grounds.
Itinerary for the Jumolhari Festival
Cultural songs and Dances
The local community will perform folk songs and traditional dances to welcome all festival goers. Even local school children will perform a small play based on the snow leopard.
You can witness an exciting horse race high up in the mountains. Should you wish, you can participate in a game of traditional darts (Khuru) or if you wish to test your physical prowess you can compete in shot put.
You can visit various stalls set up on the festival grounds. You can pick up some local handicraft goods made from felt, wool and even yak hair. Some of the stalls will be selling various local delicacies to savour and there are various official stalls that will provide all the information you require on Snow Leopards.
On the second day of the festival, you will be guided to scenic and sacred sites such as Tsophu (twin lakes) and this trek will take you through the habitat of the snow lion. The hikes are stunning with scenic panoramic views greeting your every step of the way.
Reasons to attend the Jomolhari festival
Experience authentic Bhutan
This region of Bhutan is very remote with only about 28 households in the area and no electricity, it is a glimpse of Bhutan in the past before it opened to the outside world. You can interact with the local highlanders some of whom lead a semi nomadic lifestyle rearing yaks.
With the sacred snow-capped Mt. Jomolhari in the background and a colourful festival taking place at the base, it is one of the most picturesque settings for a festival. The trek to reach the festival and the hikes on the second day of the festival will take you through some of the most remote and scenic places in Bhutan.
Witness Himalayan Wildlife
Although one would have to be extremely lucky or keen sighted to see a snow leopard you can still see some blue sheep in the area. These creatures are the natural prey of the Snow Leopard and can be seen grazing on the mountain slopes
Assist in conservation efforts
By attending the festival, you are actively taking part in the conservation of the snow leopard and helping the local community by supporting their businesses.
It would be of great help if you could invest in a decent pair of trekking shoes with good ankle support, the hike itself is not very difficult but the terrain can be a bit rough so good footwear is a must
While the trek is not the most difficult trek to complete it will be much easier if you are physically active, so some light jogging or any cardiovascular exercise training before your trip will help you make the ascent and acclimatize easier.