Discovering the Haa Valley in Bhutan
The Haa Valley is one of the best lesser known valleys in Bhutan to visit, having only opened to tourism in 2002. It is hidden above Paro and the development of hotels has been banned for now in an effort to retain its rustic old world charms.
Although very close, the Haa Valley has not been developed in the same way as Paro and here you will get a feel for the more traditional way of life that is more commonly seen in the eastern part of the country. We love this valley for its picturesque scenery, a sense of utter peace and excellent hiking.
Haa is accessed by day trip from Paro (2 hours each way), or alternatively, I recommend staying at Sonam Zing Haa. This family run guesthouse is as characterful as it gets in Bhutan, offering a fantastic and colourful place to stay with friendly staff and quant location in the middle of the town.
The drive to the Haa valley crosses the 3,988m Chele-la pass, from where you have superb views of Mount Chomolhari and Jichu Drakey in winter. From here, Western Bhutan is laid out before you with the unspoilt Haa valley and the mountains of Sikkim to the west, Jhomalhari and Tibet to the north and the patchwork fields of the Paro valley down to the east.
On the way back from Haa, we recommend hiking from the summit of Chele La, through the blue pine and rhododendron forests into windswept highlands much favoured by yaks and dotted with azaleas and edelweiss. Ending at the very special Kila Nunnery Hike (Kila Goemba) which has been a retreat for meditation since the 9th century. As with so many temples in the Himalaya it was destroyed by fire before being rebuilt by the 25th Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan), Sherab Gyaltsen. These days it is a nunnery and home to about 30 hardy nuns. I recommend spending time at this nunnery. Sit in prayer with the nuns in the beautifully spotless temple – unlike the monasteries one sees in Bhutan, the nuns keep their homes spotless! The friendly nuns will be happy to give you a blessing and offer you some tea. This is a great place to reflect on your inspiring trip in Bhutan and and spend some time meditating or at peace in the main prayer room.
For the adventurous, we can organise some mountain bikes for you to make your way back down to Paro valley.