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Chele La Pass, Bhutan Overview

Bhutan, being a country with a mountainous landscape, is linked with a series of passes. Located at approximately 13,000 feet between the valley of Paro and Haa, Chele La Pass is the highest motorable road pass in Bhutan. The pass is famous for the stunning Himalayan views it offers, especially Mt. Jhomolari which is Bhutan’s most sacred peak at 22,000 feet, Tsherimgang mountains, Jichu Drake as well as views of both the valleys, Paro and Haa.

Just a two-hour drive from the valley floor in Paro, you will reach Chele La Pass, covered in untouched forests, home to thriving flora and fauna. The surrounding area of this pass has several ancient trails, perfect for hikers. The slopes of the mountains around are covered in White Poppy, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The drive to Chele La Pass is through dense spruce and larch forests where you can see many sightings such as yaks grazing, frozen river, waterfalls, rhododendron forest and roadside springs.

Mountains of Bhutan from Chele La Pass
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Hiking at Chele La Pass

The most popular activity that Chele La is known for, is its hike trails. Many people choose to do the one day Chele La Ridge hike where the path is lined with thousands of prayer flags and the air is thin.

Paro to Chelela Pass Distance: 39.8 KM (one and half hour drive)
Duration of Trek: 9 hr 44 mins by walk

The nine-hour trek involves an elevation walk surrounded by Himalayan blue poppies and many other flowers, while the steep descent through meadows leads you to Kila Gompa Nunnery. You can then head back to the pass or to Haa town.

Haa Valley to Chele la Pass Distance: 27 KM (48 mins drive)
Duration of Trek: 8 hr 2 mins by walk

Another great option, but a little more adventurous, would be the trek from Haa valley to Chele La Pass. This one takes you through rhododendrons and meadows, forests of juniper and hemlock, yak herders and grazing lands. You will also cross two high passes of Ningula and Kungkarpo. While trekking, you can also visit the many religious sites like Lhakhang Karpo (White temple), Lhakhang Nagpo (Black temple) monasteries and local villages on the way. This trek can be done in one day, however, you can also choose to spread it over two days to give yourself a good rest.

Prayer Flags at Chele La Pass Bhutan
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Note:
  • While planning these treks, always check the weather and temperatures so as to make sure your experience doesn't get affected by sudden rainfall or wind storms.
  • You can trek on your own by carrying your own hiking gear like tents, sleeping bags, food and other things.
  • Or a more convenient option would be to book a trek through the various tour companies in Bhutan or online.
  • This is better because the company would take care of your accommodation and food, take you to points on the trek which are secluded and offer some great views, provide you safety so you don't have to worry about anything, you can just put on your shoes and hike along.
  • If you're a solo traveller, maybe you can also make friends on the trek who have joined the same company!

Best Time to Visit Chele La Pass

May to September is known to be the best time to visit Chele La Pass since the weather is pleasant and perfect for a one day picnic. Although, these are also the months of monsoon and therefore, before planning a trek here, you should definitely check with the locals about the weather beforehand. July, in particular, is a good time to visit here because of the Haa Summer Festival that takes place. It involves the display of traditional Bhutanese performances, food stalls, sports and other cultural celebrations where the locals, known as the nomadic Haaps, and some tourists come together. It takes place every year, spread over two days in the month of July.

How To Reach Chele La Pass

You can take a car or a motorbike from Paro or Thimphu to get to Chele La Pass. If you go from Paro, it would take you approximately one and a half hours, and from Thimpu, it would take you approximately two and a half hours to reach. Both ways, the scenic surroundings while on the way to Chele La is breathtaking. Many tour companies in Paro and Thimpu offer cars and motorbikes on rent.

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