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Tourist Places To Visit In Haa Valley
The Haa Valley is the smallest, the least populated and the less visited places of Bhutan; and everything about the valley, be it its culture-conscious people or the profusion of flora and fauna in its abundantly verdant environment makes Haa Valley one of the most amazing places of Bhutan. As you travel to Haa Valley from Paro via Chele La Pass or from Thimphu passing through Chuzom, you find such a profusion of interesting tourist places that will make the trip to Haa Valley unforgettable.
The Meri Phuensum Mountains or Brother Mountains of Haa valley symbolise Manjushri (God of Knowledge), Vajrapani (God of Power) and Avalokiteshwara (God of Compassion), the protector-deities of the Haa valley. At the foothills of these mountains, in the small village of Damchoe, is the Lhakhang Karpo or the White Temple which was built around the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo. The White Temple, whose walls are adorned with exquisite murals and paintings, embodies the values of kindness and Dharma.
Lhakhang Nagpo or the Black Temple is about 10 minutes walk away from the Lhakhang Karpo. It’s said that King Songtsen Gampo released a white and black pigeon preparing to build temples wherever the pigeons landed. The Lhakhang Nagpo was built where the black pigeon landed. The walls are painted in black, with horizontal stripes of red and white that symbolise the tantric practises of the valley in ancient times. The temple is said to be built on an subterranean lake, with a hole in the floor of the temple leading to the lake underground.
Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve
The Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve is spread over an area of about 609 km in the northwest of the country at altitudes ranging from 1400-4800 m, sharing a major portion of its area with Haa and then some with Samtse dzongkhags. It has a diverse ecosystem with tropical and alpine forests and you find a variety of animals like the Common and Clouded Leopards, Musk Deer, Red Panda, Tibetan Snowcock, Rufous Necked Hornbills and tigers in the Reserve.
Further up the valley from the Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo is the Haa Gompa. The monastery is said to be built at the place where a local farmer saw a lame pigeon which was actually a Bodhisattva in disguise. According to legends, the farmer was surprised to see strange flashes of light and the sounds of trumpets at the place where the monastery stands today.
Haa Wangchuck Lo Dzong
The Dzong was built in 1915, as an administrative centre for the Bhutan Royal Family, after the older Dzong was burnt down. The Dzong sits on the lush valley floor of Haa, surrounded by the Paro valley in the East and the Holy Mountains of Meri Puensum to the west. Today the Dzong is the headquarters of the Indian Military Forces and their training ground. The Dzong also functions as a military school. The Dzong, however not a monastery, is still rich in its architectural grandeur and though tours might not be allowed, you may admire the Dzong from afar.
This is a little quaint Hermitage that sits towards the North of Haa, about 40 minutes away from Katsho village. The path to the Hermitage is serene and peaceful through fields of rhododendrons, though you will have to reach the footsteps of the Hermitage through a precarious wooden ladder to the vertical face of the mountain where the hermitage sits. A unique feature of the hermitage is the imprinted footprint of Machig Labdrom, one of Bhutan’s ancient tantric practitioners.
The Dobzi Dzong is said to be one of Bhutan’s ancient Dzongs. The Dzong which was built in 1531 by Ngawang Choegyal sits most imposingly on the top of a mountain ledge. Meant to be used as a centre of Drukpa Kagyudpa teaching, the Dzong was soon converted into a monastic body and later on into a prison. Today the Dzong functions as a monastic school. The fortress is surrounded by dormitories and a temple in the facade. The Dzong not only offers a rich history of spirituality and imprisonments, but also a most scenic view of the green carpeted undulating valleys around and a steep ravine on one side that descends to the Pahu Wangchuu river. The Dobzi Dzong is 11 km away from Chuzom, on the way to Haa Valley.
The Gonpa is situated on a hilltop called Chubugang, in Yangthang, a small village about 3 km from Haa. Founded by Lama Thinley Gyatsho, the Yangthang Gonpa is one of the largest monasteries of Haa valley. The two storied monastery has statues of Avalokiteshwara, Dhrmakaya and Sambhogakaya. If you visit the Gonpa in the first month of the Bhutanese calendar, you can listen to the one million chant ceremony held in the monastery. Legends say that Yangthang Gonpa has a mysterious mythical flowering plant which is said to bloom on the 15th day of the sacred fourth month. The plant was said to have been planted by a Tibetan Drupthob in the 15th century.