An Adventure Junkie's Handy Guide To Explore Chele La Pass

Posted by Payal Mathur on May 8th, 2019

Connecting the scenic Paro Valley and the untouched beauty of Ha Valley is one of the highest mountain passes in Bhutan - Chele La. At an altitude of 3,988 m above sea level, Chele La looks out to a breathtaking view of the Himalayan mountains, including the towering Mt Jumolhari, Jichu Drake and their adjoining peaks in the North West.

The journey from Paro to Chele La to Ha Valley

The asphalted tracks leading to Chele La Pass are pretty steep and treacherous if not navigated with a careful hand. One can choose to drive up to this road - one of the highest motorable roads in Bhutan. It would be a jewel in the crown for those into adventure road trips. Built in the 1990s, this narrow road comprises of more than its share of hairpin curves and steep drops but is worth the breathtaking panorama of lush rhododendron and pine forests and scenic valleys it offers.

Views from Chele La

An adrenaline pumping drives past sheer dips and turns along with increased chances of car sickness for the ones with a weaker stomach, the drive to Chele La Pass is certainly bound to be eventful. But the banquet of breathtaking vistas that greet you on the way is definitely worth the effort. Chele La Pass is situated at an altitude of 3,988 m or 13,084 ft above sea level. The most prominent peak to be witnessed from here is Mt Jumolhari, also known as the ‘bride of Kanchenjunga’. This peak rises 7, 326 m above sea level and is considered sacred by the Tibetan Buddhists as home to their Goddess of protection (Jomo). 

Places to visit near Chele La

Temples of Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo

The most important of places to visit near Chele La Pass are the temples of Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo, located at the base of Miri Punsum - a sacred site to the locals. These temples were built by Songtsen Gampo (Tibetan King from the 7th century), and are two of the 108 monasteries built by him. A fascinating history lies behind the construction of these temples, where the king is said to have released two doves to determine the locations of the temples. The site where the white dove landed became the location Lhakhang Karpo or the White Temple, and the site of the black dove became the location for Lhakhang Nagpo or the Black Temple.

The architecture of Lhakhang Karpo is a beautiful representation of Bhutanese art and culture, and the colossal door with its intricately carved designs catches the eye of every visitor. From the White Temple, a 10-minute walk to the north would take you to the Black Temple or Lhakhang Nagpo. This temple has been painted black with red and white horizontal slits, and it stands magnificently above a serene lake. This temple with its dark facade also is the representation of the valley’s tantric procedures.

National Museum of Bhutan

If you have more time to spend at Chele La Pass, you can take a detour to visit the National Museum of Bhutan located in the Paro Valley. Here, you can go back to over 1,500 years of Bhutan’s cultural heritage, witness some of the most exquisite pieces of Bhutanese art, bronze craftsmanship and paintings.

Kyichu Lhakhang Monastery

The Kyichu Lhakhang Monastery is another notable point of sightseeing in Paro district that you can visit from Chele La. This temple is another of the 108 monasteries built by Songtsen Gampo and is believed to have been visited by Padmasambhava who concealed several spiritual treasures here.

Things to do at Chele La

Chele La with its high altitude calls out to adventurers to carry out some serious trekking which, to the less-experienced can be extremely daunting. One tends to experience altitude sickness as they approach a height of 2,500-2,800 m above sea level, which is just halfway to the top. But if you can brave the odds, the route presents itself as a series of breathtaking images composed of lush alpine forests, beautiful mist covered valleys and the far away from snow peaks. The entire trek would take you around 2 1/2 hours, which again, depends on the fitness level of an individual. The route to Chele La Pass is also popular for road trips and mountain biking adventures.

Best time to visit Chele La

To be witness to a mesmerizing spectacle of the valleys brightened by the blooming rhododendrons, the months of April to June would be the best time to visit Chele La Pass. These months also promise pleasant weather that would make your visit to Chele La extremely convenient. The monsoon months of July to September sees an occasional rainfall but is otherwise a suitable time to visit Chele La. But if you are looking for a daunting adventure amidst the snow-covered landscape, the winter months of October to March would be best. This season should be avoided if you are planning road trips as the route tends to be extremely treacherous with icy slopes and can remain closed too.

How to reach Chele La

Tourists can hire a car from Paro to Chele La pass that would take you to your destination in an hour’s drive, covering a distance of 37 kilometers.

The promise of an adventure and natural beauty is what that takes people to the heights of Chele La Pass. This handy guide should definitely come in useful if you are ever planning a leisurely or adventure trip to the highest motorable mountain pass in Bhutan.

Like it? Share it!

Payal Mathur

About the Author

Payal Mathur
Joined: December 29th, 2018
Articles Posted: 11

More by this author