Located in South West of Paro and covering an area of roughly 1706 sq. km. Haa is the smallest Dzongkhag in the country. This tiny region is one of the most beautiful and isolated areas in the kingdom, adorned with pristine alpine forests and tranquil mountain peaks.
Haa is the ancestral home of the Queen Grandmother and the illustrious Dorji family. This valley remains one of the least visited areas in the country and retains the air of an unspoiled, primeval forest. The wooded hills of Haa provides an ideal location for hiking and mountain biking. Biking around the valley to visit the dozen or so local temples is an enjoyable way to spend the day when visiting.
Haa is home to a number of nomadic herders and hosts an annual Summer Festival that showcases their unique lifestyle and culture. The festival is an ideal occasion to immerse yourself into the traditions and unchanged lifestyles of nomadic Bhutanese herders, as well as to sample some delectable Haapi cuisine.
The town has been developed along the Haa Chu River and can be divided into two distinct sectors; the Northern part of town has the central bazaar, main shops and restaurants while the Southern half of town is occupied by an IMTRAT (Indian Military Training Team) camp and a Bhutanese army training camp. Rather uniquely, Wangchulo Dzong is located inside the IMTRAT compound. This is one of the newer dzongs having been constructed in 1913.
Start the day early for drive to Haa via Chele-la pass. 4 Km away at Bondey village the road to Haa diverts towards the right hand side and ascends towards the chele-la pass starts. After driving through blue pine & rhododendron forest for 45 km, reach Chele-la pass (4200 m). From this point one can have superb views of Mt. Jomolhari & Jichu Drakey. This is a very good place to walk around for few minutes enjoying the view. Drive on to Haa, descending all the way for another 22 km (under an hours drive), finally reaching Haa. The Haa Dzong is presently occupied by military, but the view from outside is stunning.
After picnic lunch visit to the famous Monastery of Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) followed by visit to Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple).
The central shrine in Lhakhang Nagpo is said to have no difference with that of Lhasa JOWO in Tibet. The construction of the Lakhang Karpo is believed to have been assisted by the locality. As a result the place came to be locally known as "Hay" meaning" surprise" which later became "Haa" due to the differences in interpretations and pronunciations of different people over time.
The three giant hills looming over the fringes of Haa valley were called "Me Rig Puen Sum" especially after the incidence of the Lhakhang Karpo construction. Today the three hills are popularly known as "Rig Sum Goenpa" signifying three deities-Jambayang Chana Dorji and Chenrizig.
Later, other Buddhist saints like Guru Rinpoche and "Machi Labdorn" came to the Jungney Drag in Haa and blessed the locality. The principal religion followed is Drukpa Kagyupa. After the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the chief guardian deity of Haa became, Ap Chundu.
Built in 1531 by Ngawang Chogyal, the brother of Drukpa Kuenley popularly known as the “Divine Madman”, Dobji Dzong is situated at an altitude of 6,600 feet on the way to Thimphu to Haa National Highway in western Bhutan.
It is said that Ngawang Chogyal followed the spring originating from the throne of Jetsun Milarepa in Druk Ralung, Tibet in order to select a suitable site to establish a Drukpa Kagyud centre in Bhutan. The water site was found suitable to construct a centre that came to be.
The Dzong houses relics such as the statue of Jetsun Milarepa, Guru Langdarchen, Dungsay Dewa Zangpo, and Ngawang Chogyal while the gonkhang houses the Goem-Chamdal Sum: Mahakala, Mahakali and the Raven Crown.
Chele la (pass), at an elevation 3,988 meters is considered to be one of the highest motor able passes in Bhutan. About an hour's drive along a thickly-forested road, is this Pass-a botanical paradise. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountain Jomolhari and Jichu Drake.
It is also marked by hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Here, visitors can see cascades of wild roses; purple and yellow primulas, and swathes of deep blue iris covering the forest floor. The top of the pass bloom with rhododendrons in a variety of colours-pale pink, deep pink, burnt orange, mauve, white and scarlet.
Built by the Tibetan saint and king, Songtsen Gampo, Lhakhang Karpo with its sparkling white wall is situated at the foothills of the three towering mountains venerated as Rigsum Gonpo (Jampelyang:Manjushri, Chana Dorji: Vajrapani, Chenrizi: Avaloketesvara) it is located in the tiny village of Dumchoe.
The temple stands as the guardian sentinels keeping watch at the south entrance of the Haa valley. According to a legend, a black and a white pigeon were released to select sites to build the temples. The white pigeon landed on the foothills of the mountain Chenrizi (Avaloketesvara), one of the towering Rigsum. Lhakhang Karpo was thus built on the foothills of the mountain Chenrizi (Avaloketesvara).
According to a legend, King Songtsen Gampo released a black and a white pigeon to select sites to build the temples. The white pigeon landed on the foothills of the mountain Chenrizi (Avaloketesvara) of the towering Rigsum.
The black pigeon landed on a little north of the white pigeon, indicating the pre ordained site of the present day Lhakhang Nagpo.The temple was named Nagpo (black) as it was built on the site where the black pigeon landed.
It is the serene home of Buddhist nuns who have dedicated their life for spiritual fulfilment and leading undisturbed life of religious studies, prayer and meditation. The Gomba is nestled in a craggy patch on mountain side below the CheleLa pass and perched precariously along the rock face. From Chele-La pass, the Lhakhang is about an hour walk amidst magnificent wooded area.