Autumn in Bhutan marks a series of festivities while spring has it own share of surprises for visitors. It’s the time of the year to immerse in the breathtaking beauty of spring and witness different blossoms high up the mountains besides migratory birds.
For flower lovers, it is the right time to see varieties of wild Rhododendron in its full glory. Those who have walked the trail of rhododendron forests even compare it with cherry blossoms in Japan.
The three-day Rhododendron festival at the Royal Botanical Park in Lamperi, about 35 kms from the capital Thimphu, is a truly an experience for nature lovers to engage in the beauty of wild rhododendron that grows in abundance.
Bhutanese derive out of it various use from wild Rhododendrons since time immemorial. From homemade remedy to its use in traditional medicines, rhododendron has always been special for Bhutanese.
Numerous Bhutanese songs glorify the flower owing to its aesthetic beauty.
Showcasing different rhododendron species that are in full bloom by May, the three-day rhododendron festival celebrates the blossoms at the Lamperi botanical park. Initiated in 2013, the rhododendron festival is an annual event.
The Lamperi botanical park records the highest species of rhododendron with 29 of the total 46 that are grown in Bhutan.
With rhododendron blossoms at its peak in May, it’s the perfect time to showcase the beauty of rhododendron, as it’s also the time of the year when Bhutan sees an increase in tourist arrivals.
The rhododendron festival is expected to create a platform to promote eco-tourism and at the same time create opportunities of self sufficiency for local communities.
The festival also highlights conservation efforts of the country and the harmony between people and parks. It also aims to enhance ecotourism opportunities, provide means of income opportunities to park residents apart from showcasing the rich diversity of rhododendrons and associated ecology in Bhutan.
The festival will focus on ecology, culture, food and entertainment. It also serves as an avenue to integrate the ecological and cultural themes through entertainment.
During the three-day festival, enjoy traditional Boedra and Zhungdra songs relating to nature performed by the local community. Take a stroll through the different stalls depicting livelihood of local communities nearby and their dependence on park resources. The event is be followed by other cultural programmes and educational activities on environment conservation performed by school children.
Visitors can also take up short and long hikes in the botanical park to see different rhododendron species and engage in the ecological richness.
Recognising the significance of such festivals as a strong tool to promote potential areas for ecotourism and income opportunity for local communities, similar park festivals was initiated in parks across the country since 2009.
Parks across the country are protected areas and very often local communities living in and around the parks are marginalised with to restriction on natural resource extraction from the protected areas.
Such festivals, therefore, serve as platform for local communities to enhance their livelihoods by exploring or exhibiting potential activities in the area.
The annual rhododendron festival is organised by Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division under the agriculture ministry with support from Tourism Council of Bhutan and also involves the participation of the community and schools of Toeb, Dagala, Chang and Kawang gewog through a committee, Meto Pelri Tshogpa, Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators, and Guide Association of Bhutan, among others.