BHUTAN – Bhutan is known for its interconnected mountainous landscapes linked by numerous mountain passes. The highest pass in Bhutan is Chelela Pass, connecting Paro Valley and Haa. It’s renowned for trekking and mountaineering adventures.
Here’s a detailed guide to learn more about visiting Chelela Pass in Bhutan.
How to Reach Chelela Pass
The road to Chelela Pass, through Paro Valley or Haa, takes you through dense forests, creating an exciting adventure. On clear days, you can witness spectacular views of Mount Jumolhari, Jichu Drake, and other northern mountain peaks, along with the scenic Paro and Haa Valleys.
Best Time to Visit Chelela Pass in Bhutan
Between April and June, you can enjoy pleasant weather along with rhododendron blooms adorning the vibrant landscape of the surrounding valleys. This is an ideal time for outdoor activities and camping with friends and family.
From October to March, the region experiences winter, offering breathtaking views of snow-covered high peaks. However, be prepared for extremely cold weather during this season.
Overview of Chelela Pass
- Chelela Pass stands at an elevation of 3,988 meters, making it Bhutan’s highest motorable road. The most sacred mountain in Bhutan, Mount Jomolhari, at 22,000 feet, can be clearly seen from this location.
- The distance from Paro to Chelela Pass is approximately 39.8 kilometers, and it takes about 1.5 hours by car to reach the pass. The drive to Chelela Pass from Paro offers stunning vistas of lush vegetation.
- The surrounding area of this pass features ancient trails and pristine forests, making it an ideal spot for long-distance hikers.
- The mountainsides with white rhododendron blooms are a sight you won’t find anywhere else in the world. You might even spot large water bodies in the region, home to rainbow trout.
Exciting Activities at Chelela Pass
Most activities around Chelela Pass are geared towards exploring Bhutan’s natural landscapes. Here are the top 6 things to do when visiting Chelela Pass:
Chelela Pass: Long-distance Trekking
The pleasant weather and the beautiful surrounding landscape make the trek between Chelela Pass and Paro one of the most fantastic activities for travelers.
Long-distance hikers may even encounter many other local residents along the way, allowing them to interact and learn more about the traditional way of life of the Bhutanese people.
The best time for long-distance trekking here is between mid-May and mid-November when the weather and the surrounding scenery are at their best.
Haa Festival: Join the Celebration
The Haa Festival is a popular summer event among the local people of Bhutan. It is a vibrant celebration featuring the display of Bhutanese traditions.
It includes various religious performances, a tempting selection of different Bhutanese cuisines, traditional sports, and exhibits of cultural artifacts.
The entire area is filled with local residents celebrating their traditional way of life, high-altitude wildflowers, and various ancient artifacts crafted by talented artisans.
Travelers can even plan to stay overnight at one of the renowned homestays in Haa Valley and experience genuine hospitality.
Chelela Pass: Immerse Yourself in Bird-Watching
The early morning is the best time to observe various bird species in the area surrounding the winding roads from Chelela Pass to Paro. This region is renowned for discovering beautiful monal pheasants with echoing calls throughout the valley.
You can spot birds flying over the treetops, and among the species you may encounter are the white-winged grosbeak, long-tailed minivet, cuckoos, white-browed rosefinch, mountain finch, orioles, and many more.
The backdrop of snow-covered peaks and a variety of bird species creates a stunning scene.
Paro Taktsang: Seek Blessings
Paro Taktsang, also known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, is a famous ancient Buddhist monastery located high above the Paro Valley, overlooking a stunning valley. It is a prominent religious site in the Himalayas and one of Bhutan’s top attractions for travelers of all backgrounds.
It’s believed to be the spot where the “Second Buddha” meditated. The hike to this monastery takes about 2 hours and is quite challenging, with steep inclines and high altitudes. However, the magnificent monastery makes the effort worthwhile.
Learn more: Famous Monasteries in Bhutan.
Rinpung Dzong: Admire Architectural Masterpiece
The full name of the famous Paro monastery is Rinchen Pung Dzong, abbreviated as Rinpung Dzong, which means “fortress on a heap of jewels.” This fortress was historically used to protect the Paro Valley from Tibetan invasions.
Built on a steep hillside, the view from here is simply captivating. It perfectly showcases Bhutan’s traditional architecture with towering walls and intricately carved wooden works. It’s considered one of the top places to visit in Bhutan.
National Museum: Explore Bhutan’s History
This round museum has a conch-shell shape and sits atop Paro Dzong.
A wide range of unique modern and ancient thangkas, intimidating masks used in tsechu dances, a conch shell birthed by a la, Guru Rinpoche’s horse’s horn, and some original links of the Tamchhog Bridge are beautifully displayed here.
The only regret is that no cameras are allowed inside the museum, so you can’t capture the stunning artworks on display.
Learn more: Bhutan travel guide