Haa Valley - Adjoining the districts of Paro, Chhukha and Samtse, Haa valley is one of the most picturesque places in the Kingdom, spread over an area of 1706 sq. km. During pre-Buddhist era, Haa valley was known for its animist tradition. Inhabitants then were enthused in offering animal blood to their local deities. Such animist belief however was transformed into peaceful Buddhist tradition in 8th century by Guru Padmasambhava. The tantric master, Guru Padmasambhava, subdued the local deities like Ap Chundu and made the guardians of the Buddhist tradition. However, the traces of this belief system are still noticed in the form of festivals and rituals.
The Haa valley was opened for the first time to foreign tourists in 2002. It is culturally rich valley and some of famous sites in this region are : 7th century Lhakhang Karpo (White temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black temple) at the foothills of a venerated three brotherly mountains known as Meri Puensum. The grand annual Haa Tshechu is also performed here at Lhakhang Karpo on the 8th-10th day of the 8th Bhutanese month.
The Haa Wangchuklo Dzong built in 1915 after the Dumchog Dzong was razed to the ground by fire is worth visiting. The other place of interest which involves some walking includes the hike to the 8th century Juneydrag, Katsho Goempa, Drana Trashidingkhag, Yangto Goempa, Jamtoe Goempa, Shelkardrag, Takchu Goempa and Haa Goempa.
The valley is also unparalleled in Bhutan in terms of the diversity of the folk culture, legends and shamanistic rituals. The shamanistic traditions is vividly practiced in almost all the communities, most notable of which is the annual ceremony to honour Ap Chundu, the guardian deity of the valley. The valley is also a paradise for nature lovers and travelling there is a very rewarding experience.
The drive to Haa valley crosses 3988m Chele-la pass, from where one can have a superb views of Mount. Chomolhari & Jichu Drakey. It is also an ideal place to take short walk, enjoying panoramic vistas.
Hiking excursion around Haa Valley
Yangthang - Hatey Hike
Travelers can drive from Haa Town till Yangthang, which will be approximately 15 to 20 minutes drive and then the hike starts. Yangthang – Hatey day hike provides a rich experience walking along the riverbank of calm Haa Chhu. The hiking trail is one of the famous trade routes used by the people of Haa in the olden days. Probably, this very route was used by the people of Tibet when there existed a system of Tibetans coming to Haa for annual offerings and vice versa. This hike provides opportunity for the visitors to virtually walk on the footsteps of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. When Pandit Nehru was the Prime Minister of India, he came to Bhutan on foot crossing Tibet. He came to Haa Valley and met with local officials before continuing to Paro and Thimphu. This day hike will be a walk along the river, on the same historical route that he followed. One could walk till Gaychu Lakhang, visit it and walk back to Yangthang or could drive from Gaychu Lakhang back to Haa Town.
Time : approx. 3 hours
Bjungneydra – Kat - Sho Gonpa Hike
Bjungneydra – Kat - Sho Gonpa day hike could start from Bali Lhakhang to Bjungneydra/Katsho Gonpa and may take around 3 hours. It is an easy climb through Katsho village with beautiful traditional houses and ruins. One can visit Bali Lhakhang, which is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche and also privately owned Lungkha Lhakhang. This day hike would take the visitors into pine forest with beautiful flowers while ascending to Bjungneydra and Katsho Gonpa. One can either climb up to visit Kat - sho Gonpa and then visit Junidrak Nye and walk down or climb up to Junidrak and then visit Katsho Gonpa. On the way, one can see semi permanent cowsheds, traditional cow milking, churning milk to produce butter and cheese balls. Travelers can enjoy picnic-lunch in the meadow above Kadam Chorten. Then the trail will lead to Bjungneydra. Bjungneydra is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche and houses the right footprint of Machig Lhabdron (1055- 1132), a female Tibetan Tantric practitioner. It is believed that her left footprint is at Pelphug/Paro Taksang. Built on a cliff at 2950 m, it serves as a sacred pilgrim spot. While walking to Katsho Gonpa (3070m), one has to climb up above the rocky cliff of Bjungneydra Nye. However, an alternative route above the cliff is much easier. Katsho Gonpa is connected with 3 km farm road from Haa town. All the traditional rituals for the Katsho Gewog are done in this Gonpa. It is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche and is considered to be sacred. While in Bjungneydra and Katsho Gonpa, one can get good photo view of the Haa valley.
Time : approx. 3 – 4 hours
Jyenkhakha – Jamtey Gonpa – Yangthang Gonpa Hike
One can drive from Haa town till to Jyenkhakha and start hiking from there. Jyenkhakha is an open ground near the farm road, one km away from Yangthang village. In this open ground Ap Chundu Soelkha is celebrated every year. Jyenkhakha is nice place for nature walk, picnicking, biking, etc. From Jyenkhakha one can hike to Yangthang Gonpa, which would be around half an hour walk through pine forest and beautiful wild flowers. From the Gonpa, there is fascinating view of Haa valley. One can also walk along the farm road to Yangthang Gonpa and take village tour passing through the pine forest. From Yangthang Gonpa also exits option to proceed towards Jamtey Gonpa. The Gonpa was home to 13th Je Sherub Gyeltshen. During this day-hike, one can also visit Tshenka Goenpa, a privately owned Lhakhang located above Talung village. Choeje Ngawang Gyeltshen constructed Tshenka Goenpa about 800 years ago.
Bangena – Shelkardra- Tagchu Goempa
After driving from Haa town hotel to Bangena, one could start walking uphill towards Shelkardra. It is enjoyable walking through pine forest and variety of flowers, taking photographs and viewing the villages downhill. Following the visit to Shelkardra, one has to walk further uphill towards Takchu Gonpa. Takchu Gonpa is located on top of the hill with good view of Haa valley. There is plenty of photo opportunity on the way. After having lunch at Takchu Gonpa, one can start walking down back to the road point.