The journey has always delighted me more than the destination. When I was on my way from Phuentsholing to Thimpu I was completely engrossed in the beautiful mountains covered with clouds, the valleys and the greenery all around. The picture gave me a glimpse of what was awaiting me in Thimpu and Paro. But I would be wrong if I say that everything looked similar, the sights and sounds of Bhutan kept changing with the change in locations.
While Thimpu and Paro were more of man-made architectural structures like the Dzongs, the museums, the majestic statue of Buddha, the other two places that I visited Haa Valley and Chele la Pass was more into the unbelievable beauty of nature. Although Haaa Valley does have a Dzong yet it has its full share of nature’s bounty and beauty.
While I was planning my Bhutan trip, I contacted one of my friend and ardent traveller Debjani who has been to a long and adventure-filled trip to Bhutan some time back. She was the one who suggested me to visit Haa Valley. “Oshadharon” ( which in Bengali means – extraordinary ) is the word she associated with Haa Valley. True to her word I found Haa Valley extraordinary, the other-worldly charm, the small Bhutanese villages, the river flowing by, the Haa Dzong and the sweet breeze of the flowers blooming in the apple trees cast an everlasting spell on me.
Enroute highest road pass in Bhutan – Chele la Pass
Our first destination was Chele La Pass. The journey on way to Chele La Pass awed me with lovely flowers of various sizes, shapes and colours- pink, purple, yellow, red and what not bloomed everywhere throughout the whole way. I stopped our car and plucked some to adorn my hair. They were so pretty and the yellow flowers looked like stars on a sky which someone painted green.
Chele La Pass is the highest road pass in the country located at an elevation of 3810m (13,000ft). It is preferred by bikers, tourists who love their way on the wheels and depending on the season you will be able to witness the various kinds of rhododendrons blooming along the long stretch of forests. I was so glad to see the beautiful rhododendrons which I could not see when I visited North Sikkim as the season was over. Also, you can see yaks grazing on pasture lands with a backdrop of the mountains like those you can see in a Bollywood movie.
I grasped the location to take some shots in my green gamcha saree. It was quite a clear day and as we neared our destination we got a clearer view of the majestic Mt. Jumolhari (Bhutan’s most sacred peak at over 22,000 ft). The snow-covered mountain peak literally gave me chills. O
n reaching Chele la pass I found the location crowded with vehicles of all kinds. It is quite tourist friendly whereas I found Haa Valley which is approximately 20kms from Chele la Pass quite deserted and peaceful. It was so windy, at times I felt I shall get carried with it. And the pleasure of sipping tea on that high altitude with strong winds blowing made the time spent at Chele la Pass quite memorable.
The lesser known destination in Bhutan – Haa Valley
On descending the sun shone bright, the weather started getting hot and humid. We were approaching towards Haa Valley. I noticed most of the tourists returned from Chele la Pass but I guess it is a loss if you don’t visit Haa Valley being so near to it. It is one of the lesser known places in Bhutan may be due to the presence of the Border Security Forces. The population is sparse may be due to the presence of army camps. It is the ancestral home to the Dorji family. The inhabitants are basically cultivators and yak herders.
The Haa Dzong was indeed majestic, but unlike other Dzongs I visited in Paro and Thimpu, I found this one quite deserted. I and my husband were the only visitors at that time of the day. It was so silent and calm that I felt it was a way nature sang a song. The valley was pristine and the visit left behind a permanent impression on my mind.
Also, read my post on – 20 Things to Know as an Indian Before Planning your Bhutan Itinerary
Some points to remember before visiting Haa Valley and Chele la Pass
- The journey is away from human settlement so carry an adequate quantity of water to last at least for 5-6 hours.
- Our guide cum driver suggested us to Carry some dry food like biscuits and cakes as the journey might be long since we had Haa valley in our itinerary. I packed some Alu Paratha (Potato stuffed chapati) served at my hotel early morning. for the journey.
- The journey is more beautiful than the destination so I suggest take some halts and enjoy the beauty on way.
- Carry light woollens as Chele la Pass is quite chilly and cold winds blow all the time.
- You need to get your passes done for visiting Chele la Pass and Haa Valley which you can get it done at the office in Thimpu.
That was all about my experience in these unpopular destinations in Bhutan. But I tell you the whole of Bhutan is worth exploring, I am sure there are some more such destinations which remain unexplored and which can be indeed a treasure for travel lovers and explorers like me.