Chele La Trek: Experience the thrills of Bhutan in 3 to 4 days

8 March, 2021 | Reccy Guide

Chele La Pass trek is one of the shorter treks in Bhutan. If you’re planning to be in Bhutan for a few days and want to explore the regional Himalaya, it’s good to know that it is quite unique compared with Ladakh or Nepalese Himalaya, and Chele La trek is a great option, because you will get to do this in a comparatively short time. Although the trek is not too long, it is  moderately difficult, with quite a few steep ascents and descents while you cross high mountain passes.

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The Chele La trek is well known for offering hikers with breathtaking views of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the world ‘s third-highest peak, at 8586m, as well as some of the highest peaks in  Bhutan including Jomolhari (7314 m), Jichu Drake (6989 m), and Tsherim Gang (6789 m). Due to a strict rule that no one can climb above 6,000 meters in Bhutan. 

The trek starts from Haa Valley and ends in the lush Paro valley. Both the valleys provide hikers the opportunity to experience the natural Bhutanese topography and its unique ancient culture. Connecting the Bhutanese districts of Paro, Samtse, and Chukka and carved by the Haa Choo river, the Haa valley is situated just 13 miles from the Indo-China border, sections of which are disputed by the respective governments. However, the valley itself is politically stable. It is overshadowed by mighty mountains. Some of the popular tourist places in Haa valley are Lakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lakhang Nagpo (Black temple). Nestled in the foothills of Meri Puensuem, they are ancient temples, built in the 7th century AD. The valley’s local inhabitants are religious and follow Shamanistic customs and rituals. The local belief is that the deities on the mountains protect their lands. Therefore, the region has temples located in almost every nook and corner.

Chele La Trek routeChele La trek: a shorter trek in Bhutanese Himalayas

The Haa Valley is a politically important area because it lies very close to the international border with China and India and serves as a base to Indian Military Training Teams (IMTRAT). The valley offers multiple fine resorts and homestays. It has many ancient temples and gompas, providing backpackers ample opportunities to learn about the local culture.

The Chele La trek will take you through scenic parts of the Haa valley. Starting from the Haa Valley the trail moves along the village until it reaches a bifurcation, from where one road leads to the Chinese border while the other one heads to the trek’s second base camp at Sagala village. This route passes through coniferous forests and expansive meadows.

After having explored Haa valley at ~3,000m and landing at Sagala basecamp at 3,890m, the next day will offer you some steep ascents and descents. Many hikers choose to trek to the Sagala village. Sagala basecamp offers you the unique experience of being in a remote and rustic location while enjoying magnificent views of the Paro valley as well as Drukgyel Dzong, Mt. Jomolhari, and other peaks of this region. 

View during the trek

The next day, during a short half an hour ascent, you will enjoy the remarkable views of popular Bhutanese peaks. The route to the second campsite at 4191m is filled with many scissor bends. En route, you will reach a ridge at 4435m, flanked by the Paro valley on one side and the Haa valley on the other. The experience of observing the two distinct Bhutanese cultures on either side of this ridge is an unique feature of the Chele La Nature trek. Enjoy walking past the beautiful rhododendrons and junipers while spotting many indigenous birds in this ancient Himalayan kingdom.

The final destination of the trek is the Chele La pass, at an elevation of 3990m. Hikers leave the second campsite to ascend the yak herder’s settlement and grazing lands. Climbing through rhododendrons, you will reach an elevation of 4458m, the path dotted with cairns en route to Kung Karpo famous for its Sky Burial grounds.  After this it is a constant uphill and downhill terrain along with spectacular sights of Paro valley to the left and the enchanting Haa valley to the right. Finally, the trek culminates with the descent to the Chele La pass, one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan, from where a short drive will take you back to Paro while you reminisce probably one of the most enjoyable and blissful 4 days of adventure in your life.

Important note: The Government of Bhutan has a strict rule that requires hikers to obtain permits for undertaking any trek in Bhutan.  Many of the trek routes are closed for Indian and Chinese nationals, however, Indians are allowed to trek in the Paro and Thimphu region. A special permit can be obtained to trek Haa valley, Bumthang, Gasa, Laya, and other protected regions of Bhutan. The permit could be applied at a local immigration office or trekkers can get in touch with a registered Bhutanese travel agency / tour operator. In case you opt to go to the trek with an operator, the operator will typically arrange for all the necessary permits.

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