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Haa Valley Tourism And Travel Guide
10.5° C / 50.9° F
March to May
2 to 3 Days
Paro International Airport (30.3 kms)
Hasimara (62 kms)
The picturesque valley of Haa in the western parts of Bhutan is partially, as its name suggests, a Hidden-Rice Valley. Rice is not a staple crop of Haa, but hidden, it is! Haa Valley was opened to tourism only as late as 2002 and many tourists are hardly aware of such a striking place.
In the ancient times, Haa Valley was not bereft of its own enchantments. Each area has its own deity and the local Haap pacified their deities with sacrifices and tantric practises. Legends say that it was Guru Padmasambhava who in the 8th century cloaked the valley with a blanket of peaceful Buddhist traditions. When in Haa, you will experience a charming rurality, with its simple home-stays and the mountains bordering the valley and the peacefulness of the place that strikes a chord in your heart and makes you yearn to come back! If this sounds tempting enough, we’ll give you a travel guide to Haa valley.
How to Reach
Paro is quite close to Haa Valley and you can travel from Paro to Haa across the awesome Chele La Pass that would be quite a journey! All of Bhutan’s roads are winding and curvy and it takes plenty of experience and skill to manoeuvre through those tricky mountain roundabouts.
Fly to Paro International Airport in Bhutan by Royal Bhutan or DrukAir flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Kathmandu, Bagdogra or Guwahati. From Paro get the permit to travel to Haa Valley and you can zip off to the serene valley in a cab or a bus.
There are trains from Kolkata to Hasimara, a small town in West Bengal on the Indian side. Hasimara is 17 km from the Jaigaon Phuntsholing Border. All that you need to do is travel by train to Hasimara, take a taxi or bus to the border town on Phuntsholing in Bhutan and simply follow the route that you take by road.
Weather and the Best Time to Visit
The best time to enjoy the beautiful valley of Haa is in spring and autumn when the weather is pleasant and sightseeing and trekking are hassle free. Summer is a little hot and rainy while winter is unpredictable with snowfall in some areas.
Spring is one of the best seasons to be in Haa Valley. You find the weather good and calm, with fields of rhododendrons everywhere. Trekking and mountain biking keeps you occupied in spring. A good time for fishing in Haa’s rivers.
Summer’s quite hot and steamy with occasional rains. The yak and cattle herders are busy with their milking and processing of butter and cheese. You will surely enjoy the annual Haa Festival of summer.
Autumn is a good touristy season. The skies are clear and suitable for trekking and photography. You will find the Haap busy harvesting and the yak products processed in summer have hit the markets by now. Autumn is another good season for fishing.
Winter is cold in Haa Valley. You find snowfall in Chele La Pass and in most of the villages. There are bouts of cloudy and sunny weather too in warmer parts of Haa like Chubaka and Kamla, where the people of Haa from the colder parts migrate to during winter.
Things to Do
Most of Haa’s monasteries and goembas are associated with the ritualistic traditions of the past, when Haa had its own local deities. You can visit the legendary Miri Punsum or Three Brothers mountains which is one of the most important landmarks of Haa. The monasteries are right on the foothills of the mountains.
Nestled amidst the valley are little villages which you can tour. Each village has its own legends and monasteries and the local Haap would only be glad to share their stories with you. Visit Jangkhakha for the nature walks and the birds or Yangthang for its monasteries. Try your hand at golfing in Haa’s Golf Course near the Army Base Camp.
There are day treks to the monasteries which you can probably do as you take a nature walk. There are longer treks to the Chele La Pass, Haa-Paro Sagela Trek or the Haa Valley Trek through Blue Pine tree forests and past pastures where the Haap graze their cattle and yak.
Call on the Haa Valley city where you can buy Thangkas, prayer bells and products made out of yak wool. There are not many shops around, but the place is old-fashioned and you can walk over the main street on an exploration. You can buy smoke-dried yak cheese called Chugo, which you’ll find strung in strands of yak hair. Chugo, which the yak herders barter in the shops for rice and other products, is a trendy gift item from Haa. Most of the shops in Haa have strings of Chugo and Shakam, dried beef hanging down from the rafters!
The villages of Haa have their own festivals for their local deities. Some of Haa’s most beautiful festivals are Bho-Yak or Ap Chundu’s birthday which includes the most colourful procession and marching ceremony accompanied by a whole lot of singing and dancing. Do visit Haa during their New Year or Lomba festival where the Haap offer thanksgiving to a good harvest with traditional games, special dishes including Hoentey and greet one another with a ‘Lolay’ which means a ‘Happy New Year.’ The annual Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) mela, a fair with daredevilry stunts, food and folk dances is organised in Haa to cement the friendship between Bhutan and India. There are plenty of stalls in the mela, where you can buy local Haap products.
What to Eat
Haa Valley, apart from the Bhutanese traditional dishes, has its own specialities made out of their local produce. If you do go to Haa and stay in their most beautiful homestays or eat in the restaurants, try their Hoentay dumplings made of cheese, chillies, buckwheat flour, spinach or turnip leaves and mushrooms, which goes along with a chilli sauce called Ezay. In the home-stays, relish the smoky cooked flavour of the dishes that steam over the bukari or traditional Bhutanese stove.