The smallest and one of the least visited districts in Bhutan, the Haa Valley only opened to tourists ten years ago, possibly due to it being close to the border with Tibet. It is only three hours from Paro though, home to Bhutan’s sole international airport. Reaching the valley involves driving over the highest road in Bhutan, the 3,810m prayer flag laden Cheli La pass.
It is a great place for walking, with almost no one else around, and some impressively situated temples to visit. The valley is one of the few places left in Bhutan that continue to practice animalism, incorporated into the Buddhist belief system that generally replaced animalism. They no longer sacrifice animals though, that wouldn’t be very Buddhist given the concept of reincarnation.
Katsho Goemba was an attractive temple, home to six monks, built in the 19th century. As with so many buildings in Bhutan it has been damaged by fire, most recently after an earthquake, requiring rebuilding.
The nearby Juneydrak hermitage is spectacularly situated, like a much smaller version of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. It contains a foot print in rock said to be of the 11th century female Tibetan yogin Maching Labdrom. Reaching it used to involve climbing wooden ladders but these have been replaced with concrete steps and guide rope, though it still a little sketchy in places.
Returning back down the valley we crossed this attractive bridge, even functional infrastructure are things of beauty here, a couple of water powered prayer wheels called mani chukor, and a walk through chorten called a khonying.
To end with a photo of the lovely facade of Risum Resort where we stayed.