The permit suspense was finally over on 4th July when the immigration office opened. I got my permit
for the multiple districts that I wanted to cover in my trip, and one of them was the famous HAA valley. I was informed that there is a summer Valley festival in HAA from 5th to 7th July, so I planned to get there on the 4th and attend the festival on 5th before returning to Paro. My hotel owner helped me with the route to make sure that I don’t miss another famous sight on the way: the Chele La Pass. I thought I will cover both Chele La pass and HAA valley in one post because they fall on the same route and can be visited in the single stretch.
How to Get to HAA Valley and Chele La Pass?
As I mentioned, there are two routes from Paro to HAA, and both are about 70 km long and take about 2–3 hours by taxi. Unfortunately, in the off-season, it was hard to find a shared taxi. So I along with another traveler hired a taxi on a daily rate of 2800 INR. Out of the two routes to HAA, one goes through the highest point of Bhutan called the Chele La Pass. We obviously took that route because we wanted to see the Chele La Point. This point is about 42 km from Paro and 28 km before the HAA valley.
Chele La Pass:
Located 42 km scenic drive away from Paro, in the west of Bhutan, is the point that’s considered to be the highest point of Bhutan. The point is about 4,000-meter high, which makes it about 10,000 ft from the sea level. Being the highest point, it’s an ideal place for prayer flags to be hoisted as the wind speed was much higher than the lower levels. Thousands of colorful prayer flags not only make it look incredibly beautiful but also make you feel the fresh energy in the atmosphere. We were told that in the summertime when the sky is clear, you can see the famous Himalayan peaks like Kanchanjangha and Annapoorna from the spot. Too bad we chose the monsoon season because the visibility up there was limited to a few meters due to the dense mist-heavy wind. The Chele La Pass doesn’t take any extra route or planning to visit, so it should definitely be on your list if you have HAA Valley plans. Whatever little it offers in terms of touristy experience, it’s a sight you just don’t want to miss.
After a two and half hour drive from Paro, we ended up at a point where we could see a small town full of army training camps spread over three holy peaks. The town was HAA Valley, and it looked incredibly beautiful with the three peaks half-covered in mist and protecting the town of Indian and Bhutanese army men as well as locals. We were supposed to attend the summer valley festival there, but we got to know the festival starts on 9th and not 5th. Once again, we missed another big event. We were disappointed for sure, but we decided to make the most of it. We stayed in a very nice homestay called Ugyen Homestay. We were received by the whole family and given a sharing room with two mattresses on the ground. It was very well managed. The room cost was about 1000 INR per night with food if you want (costs extra).
We had the opportunity to sit down with the family and eat dinner with them. The owner made multiple local dishes, and we were just too overwhelmed with the respect and love given to us. Our dinner was followed by a traditional alcoholic drink called “Araa”. It’s made of wheat and mixed with eggs before drinking. I won’t say it’s the best drink I tasted because alcohol mixed with egg probably was enough to make me say no to it, but I still tried and had a couple of them afterward.
The story of the three mountains protecting the town is interesting. “Chundu” is the name of the local god in HAA Valley and the three peaks represent Wealth, Wisdom, and Longevity. There are two major temples located at the foot of these three peaks, called “White Temple” and “Black Temple”. Their names have no religious significance; they’re just called that way because their outer walls are painted with the respective colors.
After we checked out from our lovely homestay in the morning, we went to both the temples. They were same as tradition temples anywhere else in Bhutan. It was early morning, so we got to attend the offerings and the morning prayers that the monks were performing there; that was something we hadn’t had a chance to see yet.
The same day, we drove back through the same route while stopping at a couple of points to capture the beautiful HAA Valley in my camera. We reached Paro about midday and spent the rest of the day visiting Paro museums and temples in the city. I will be writing another detailed post about things to do in Paro. Till then, keep exploring and please do not hesitate to share your views and experiences.