Tibet Festival: Summer Horse Racing

The summer Tibet festival season is on all over Tibet. Recently some friends sent us some pictures and videos of the horse racing festival – the wongo – in Pembo, the beautiful large valley just over a ridge of mountains north of Lhasa. We’ll share those with you here, along with a few images from the nearby Jara horse festival that we took in 2002. Jara is a little village just west of Lhasa. 

Horse racing festival
Horse rider after picking up a scarf from the ground at the Jara wongo in 2002.

The riders race the horses but also perform feats of skill and daring during the festival. While riding full speed, they scoop up Tibetan blessing scarves from the ground or shoot arrows at targets. The riders will hang from the horse, one leg hooked on the saddle, the other dragging the ground, with both arms stretched out or waving. It can be a little dangerous to spectators, who line up right by the horse tracks. We almost got run over at the Jara festival, standing – cluelessly — at an empty stretch of the track that we didn’t know was where the horses veer off at the end of the runs. Oops.

Video: Tibet Festival Great little video of the riders circling a lhaka – a place to make incense offerings for the gods – before the race.

Video: Offerings Before the Festival The riders make offerings before the race. 

Updated on February 15, 2020. First published on August 7, 2016.

Your Tibet travel advisors, Lobsang and Yolanda

Most people who want to go to Tibet don't know how to get there or who to trust for help. We’re Lobsang Wangdu and Yolanda O’Bannon, and we help make Tibet travel more simple, safe and ethical so you can feel peace of mind about your trip. Learn more about us and YoWangdu here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Luc Deman says

    Congratulations for your inspiring Yowangdu website !
    Looks great to be able to visit this horse race festival in Pembo.
    Is there already an exact date for the 2017 edition ?
    Is important for us to arrange travel schedule , so we can be in Pemba at the right moment.
    Thanks for a short reply.
    Luc Deman.

    • yowangdu says

      Hi Luc,

      Thanks so much for your kind comment! We’re not 100% when or even if there is a Pembo wongo this year. Our partner agents in Lhasa can help us with this though. Please fill out the Tibet Travel request at this page on our site:


      When we get your response to the form, we will refer you to our Tibetan-owned agent who will help you plan your trip in detail.

      All the best to you!
      Yolanda and Lobsang

  2. Karsang Gurung says

    Tashi delek !
    I am an advert reader of your blog . It is very well written and I enjoy all the recipes you have provided .. this article fought my eye since I am from Kagbeni Mustang , Nepal . We also have the exact festival called “yartong” meaning ‘yar ‘=summer and ‘tong’= let go ..it literally means to celebrate the end of summer .. we do the same horse riding and doing daring stunts like picking up khatak from the grounds .. and also archery .. it’s so nice to hear we share them same festivals in Tibet and mustang.. keep up with the good work .

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