Hidden Land Rice Valley

Also called

About Haa

Haa was one of the main commercial gateways until road opened through Phuentsholing in the earlier 1960s. The route via Haa used to be an important trade link for the Bhutanese just as the Silk Route was for many Himalayan countries. Bhutanese traders used Haa to connect Phari and Chumbi valleys, the nearest trade centres beyond the Bhutanese borders.

Haa is also known as ‘the Hidden Land Rice Valley’. This culturally rich valley was opened for the first time to foreign tourists in 2002. Adjoining the district 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. The valley is beautiful with the three ridges, locally called the Rig-sum-Goemn, artistically shaped like identical ridges. Rig-sum-Goemn means the three types of goemns (spiritual pathfinders) and are represented by the Lords of compassion (Chenrigzee), of knowledge (Jampelyang) and the destroyer of negativity (Chana-Dorjee). The main deity of this valley is Chundu, the great warrior guardian affectionately referred as Ap Chundu. Ap Chundu is honoured by most farmers in western Bhutan and one may note that the three striped flags on the roof of the houses is often called the Chundu Dharchu. This shows that the deity is being honoured during the Choeguu (the family annual ritual).

In its fertile valleys, the people of Haa grow high altitude crops such as wheat, potatoes, barley and millet. The population of the region numbers about 12,000 people in 63 villages, that fall under six blocks, or district sub-divisons.

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 valley is also unparalleled in Bhutan in terms of the diversity of the folk culture, legends and shamanistic rituals. The shamanistic traditions 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 3988 m Chele-la pass, from where one can have a superb view of Mount. Chomolhari & Jichu Drakey. It is also an ideal place to take short walk, enjoying panoramic vistas. For the Buddhists, it is also a sacred place to festoon the pass with prayer flags. For naturalists, the Chelela ridge offers gardens of Himalayan flowers, plants and of special pheasant species. The blooming seasons for most flowers are in June and early July and best time to watch pheasants on the ridge are in April and Many months. Blue Poppy, beautiful national flowers of Bhutan, blooms in June and can be spotted few minutes’ walk towards the southern ridges.


Places of interest in Haa

Chundu Lhakhang

It is one of several shrines dedicated to the valley’s protective deity, Ap Chundu. The temple houses statues of the blue-faced Chundu and his red-faced cousin Jowya.

Lhakhang Karpo (white temple) & Lhakhang Nagpo (black temple)

Built in 7th century, Lhakhang Karpo’s sparkling white walls can be seen from a distance in the foothills of three towering mountains venerated in the region as the Rigsum gonpo, the geological manifestations of the Bodhisattavas Jampelyang (Manjushri), Chana Dorji (Vajrapani), and Chenrizig (Avalokesthvara). Similarly, Lhakhang Nagpo is easily distinguished by its grayish black wall situated a little higher up the mountain from white temple.