(Haa, one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, was only opened to tourists as late as 2001. The sacred worth of the valley is complemented by the two sacred temples – Lhakhang Karpo and the Lhakhang Nagpo. The local guardian deity, popularly referred to as Ap Tshungdu, is worshipped as the guardian of the people of Haa. The residents propitiate the local deity every year for protection, good health and success. It is believed that Haa has been blessed by the three Bodhisattvas – Manjushree, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani as represented by the three sister hills known as ‘Meri Puensum’ and are believed to be the embodiment of Chana Dorji (representative of energy), Jampelyang (representative of wisdom) and Chenrezig (representative of Compassion).)

It is said that during the 7th century when Tibetan King Songtsen Gyembo was building the Samye Monastery in Tibet, evil forces never let the king complete the construction. Despite their best efforts, whatever they managed to accomplished during the day would be reduced to rubbles by night. One night, Guru Rinpoche appeared in Songtsen Gyapmo’s dream and prophesied that he must build 108 Lhakhangs in one day to avert the demonic forces at the Samye construction site. Following the prophecy, King Songtsen Gayembo built 108 Lhakhangs, of which four were built in Bhutan – Kichu Lhakhang in Paro, Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang and Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo in Haa. But no literature is available that suggests the years in which the Lhakhangs were built. Nor is there any evidence of how and by whom the Lhakhangs were built. Only oral accounts remain.

It is believed that a white and a black pigeon flew from the north of the country towards Haa and landed at the place where the two Lhakhangs stand today. The pigeons signified the imminent construction of two sacred and religious sites in Bhutan. According to the prophecy in his dream, the king built the Lhakhangs in Tibet and in Bhutan for which he disguised himself as two pigeons using his supernatural power.

Another account has it that the Lhakhangs were built by people who appeared suddenly from Miri Puensum. Those people are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig).

Although the two Lhakhangs are owned by the state, the community of Haa has been taking care of them for ages. This has, in fact, helped in keeping the sanctity of the Lhakhangs intact, even in this era of modernization. The Haaps believe that they feel cleansed and blessed after visiting the Lhakhangs. So, they hold the Lhakhangs in high respect. The Lhakhangs have served as a place of faith and spiritual solace, especially for the Haaps.

Its aura and sacredness have attracted people from not just the far-flung places of Bhutan but also from outside the country. Hundreds of tourists frequent the place every year, driven by wish to treat themselves to the spiritual opulence of the Lakhangs. What is more attractive to the outsiders is the esoteric history of the Lhakhangs.

ORIGIN OF THE NAMES ‘KARPO’ AND ‘NAGPO’

The Lhakhangs are believed to have been built by miraculous powers without the involvement of human labour. This is testified by the irregular structures of the Lhakhangs. At a glance, one can see that the structures are built without any architectural design. It is built with stones that are haphazardly arranged. Just as their existence, the names and the colours are mythical. No source of any kind can be found on how and why the Lhakhangs were named Karpo and Nagpo or how the colours for them were chosen.

According to some locals, the two Lhakhangs have never been refurbished since they were first built. The names of the Lhakhangs could have been drawn from the colour of the paints or the colour of the pigeons that landed at the site. The black and white colours are still vivid today. It is the essence of spirituality that upholds the originality of the Lhakhangs.

According to another account, light rays emanated from the heart (Nying) of Songsen Gampo when Guru Rinpoche prophesied the construction of the Lhakhangs. Lhakhang Karpo was built where the white rays settled and Lhakhang Nagpo on the place where the black rays descended.

Lhakhang Karpo

Earlier the Lhakhang was surrounded by buildings that housed the monastic body of Haa District with about 130 monks. But today the dratshang is undergoing extensive renovation works, which are all but completed.

Just as the Lhakhang was built by miraculous powers, myth has it that the main Nangten (the treasures – kuten, sung ten, thukten) the statues, paintings, scrolls and religious texts contained inside the Lhakhang are also said to be extraordinarily built. The main Nangten of Lhakhang Karpo is a large statue of Sangye Tsepamed placed at the centre of the shrine. Myths have it that while the statue was under construction, the head of the statue got damaged each time it was sculpted. One day, a man carrying a bamboo basket came to sell statue heads. A head from the basket perfectly fitted the headless statue of Tsepamed. Immediately after the head was fitted, the mysterious man disappeared. The man is believed to be Ap Chungdu, the local guardian deity of Haa. Today we see that the head of Tsepamed is slightly bigger and disproportionate to the body.

Another important Nangten of Lhakhang Karpo is the statue of Ap Chungdu. There are four statues of Ap Chungdu, each one standing in a position that looks fierce and protective. The deity is invoked during times of war, disasters or in times of any other chaotic situations that needs appeasement as the deity is known for its protective nature.

Lhakhang Nagpo

Lhakhang Nagpo is situated a kilometre away from Lhakhang Karpo. It is built amid tranquil woods. The sight of the Lhakhang itself is soothing to the mind and the eyes. No sound of any kind could be heard except for the chirping of the birds from the woods. This serenity has helped in upholding the originality and sanctity of the Lhakhang. No disaster or hostility of any kind has ever been confronted the Lhakhang. For that reason, the Lhakhang has never been renovated on any scale. The outer structure, the inner walls or the surroundings have remained the same since it was built.

The Lhakhang was amazingly built on a lake, a small part of which is still visible inside it. The Lu (naga) is believed to be protecting the Lhakhang from sinking into the lake.

The main Nangten of Lhakhang Nagpo is also believed to have been miraculously created. The one-storey high statue of Shakyamuni is the main Nangten. When a plague epidemic spread all over Bhutan in early 1980s and when people died in huge numbers, the Haaps survived the epidemic as the Jowo took on himself the disease and saved the people.

This is believed to have left marks on the abdomen of the Jowo which is still visible today. This is one reason why the Haaps still worship the Jowo with unshaken faith. It is also said that the Jowo is similar to that of the Lhasa Jowo Muni which is considered as one of the most sacred statues by all Buddhists. Similar sacred statues of Jowo can be found at Kichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang that were built among the 108 Lhakhangs by Gyalpo Songsen Gampo.)

POPULAR ATTRACTIONS

These are the most popular ones there plenty more to discover, hidden places

Crossing the Chele La Pass at an elevation of 3, 988 meters above sea level (from where we get to enjoy excellent views of Mount.

Haa Excursion

At Tachog Lhakhang you will be crossing a six hundred year old bridge built by the renowned iron bridge builder Drubthob (or the Realized and Accomplished One) Thangtong Gyelpo, a fourteenth century saint who built over fifty eight iron bridges throughout Tibet and Bhutan, mainly with the intent of helping pilgrims get to holy places.

Tachog Lhakhang

Kila Nunnery, popularly referred to as Chele La Gompa straddles the cliff facing Paro, with great views of Paro valley and Jele Dzong.

Kila Gompa Nunnery

Gangtey is one of the most beautiful destinations in Bhutan. It is a wide glacial valley with a central stream meandering through the open grassland and thickets of dwarf bamboo.

Gangtey Valley

Tashichho Dzong has been the seat of the government since 1952 and presently houses the throne room and offices of the King, the Secretariat and the Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance. Other government departments are housed in buildings nearby.

TashiChhodzong

Behind the Punakha Dzong stretches the Punakha Suspension Bridge, the second longest of its kind in Bhutan. Connecting the Punakha Dzong with the Punakha town, the suspension bridge spans over 350 meters and dangles above the meandering Pho Chhu river.

Suspension Bridge

The bazaar was initiated in 2011 to provide Bhutanese artisans a platform to display and sell their products. It showcases a wide range of authentic made-in-Bhutan arts and craft products.

Crafts Bazaar

Weaving is an integral component of the culture and tradition of Bhutan. With the aim to preserve and promote this living art, the Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan was instituted in May 2005 under the patronage of Her Majesty Gyalyum (Queen Mother) Sangay Choden Wangchuck as a non-government, non-profit organization.

Textile Museum

We Bhutanese treasure our traditional art forms and deem it crucial to preserve them as part of our cultural and religious heritage. It is what gives us our unique identity.

National Institute for Zorig Chusum

The Takin, which the locals refer to as ‘Drong Gyemtsi’ is the National Animal of Bhutan. It has the face of a goat and the body of a cow. The unique looking animal is associated with Drukpa Kunley, a fifteenth century saint, commonly referred to by Westerners as the ‘Divine Madman,’ and sometimes even as ‘The Original Gangsta of Tantra’ due to his unorthodox ways of teaching.

Takin Preserve

Crossing a small cantilever bridge over the Wang Chhu it is a steady climb up hill. People maintain that Zhabdrung spent upto three years in retreat at Cheri.

Cheri Monastery

This nice offbeat hike will take about two hours, depending on your stamina. There is a well-laid path and the climb isn’t very steep as well. The pathway to the monastery is lined with pine and rhododendron trees, colorful prayer-flags, cute resting spots, prayer wheels, Chortens and meditation huts.

Tango Monastery

There are very few things in life that are as satisfactory as a hot stone bath to help you unwind after a long day.

Hot Stone Bath

Built sometime in the seventh century by the Tibetan Buddhist King SongstenGyempo, KyichuLhakhang is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan and is of prime interest for art connoisseurs, historians, pilgrims and visitors alike.

Kyichu Lhakhang

Originally, the Dzong was referred to as ‘Rinche Pung Dzong,’ or ‘Rinpung Dzong,’ which translates as ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels.’ Over time it came to be known as Paro Dzong.

Paro Dzong

Though it originally used to be called Jakar Yugyal Dzong, over time, it has come to be known as Jakar Dzong, which translates as ‘White Bird Dzong,’ and owes its origins to the legend of how a white bird dramatically perched on that very spot where the Dzong was built and how it came to be interpreted as a good omen.

Jakar Dzong

The micro-brewery as well as the Swiss Farm was started in 1996 Fritz Maurer, a Swiss national who got married to a Bhutanese and went on to set up a brewery, and a Swiss Farm.

Bumthang Brewery

Jampey Lhakhang is said to be one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo in 659 AD. This temple is believed to have been built in a single day in order to pin down a giant female ogress obstructing the spread of Buddhism.

Jambay Lhakhang

The museum was established with artifacts found in the manor that had been handed down from generation to generation through the ages.

Ogyen Chholing

It is one of the most important sites related to Pema Lingpa the renowned Terton (Treasure Discoverer) who is attributed to have founded the monastery.

Kunzang Dra Monastery

Though the valley of Tang is the most remote of Bumthang’s valleys, the Arcadian scenes are truly picture perfect. It is the most off-the-beaten track destinations around Bumthang, and is known for its sheep and buckwheat.

Tang

Perched on a small hillock that rises from the valley floor, Gangtey Monastery is a very important monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism – the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition.

Gangtey Monastery

The village of Gaselo is an ideal location for day excursions and picnics. The region is primarily agrarian and the entire landscape is characterized by the most beautiful rice fields.

Gaselo Village

Adjacent to the 108 Chortens is a memorial in honor of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck and in commemoration of the hundred years of monarchy in Bhutan.

Druk Wangyal Lhakhang

Mojo Park is a live music venue and is a very popular weekend hangout for locals and travelers. You will get to try out local brews and interact with locals.

Nightlife in Bhutan

While on this trek, besides the scenic beauty of Himalayan ranges you will be visiting the two most revered Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Bhutan, Bumdra and Taktshang Monastery. Bumdra means ‘Rock of One Hundred Thousand Foot Prints’. The legends say that a hundred thousand Dakinis (angels) descended here and left their footprints on the rock […]

Bumdra Trek

Located in South West of Paro and covering an area of roughly 1706 sq. km, Haa is one of the smallest Dzongkhag in the country. This tiny region is one of the most beautiful and isolated areas in the kingdom, adorned with pristine alpine forests and tranquil mountain peaks.  Haa is the ancestral home of […]

Haa

The king of Bumthang region in the 8th century fell terribly ill after falling out with the local guardian deity. Desperate to recover from the curse, he invited Guru Rinpoche to Bumthang to help the King regain his health.

Kurje Lhakhang

Taktsang translates to The Tiger’s Nest. The monastery is situated 900 meters above the Paro valley precariously perched on a cliff. It has an equally fascinating history.

Paro Taktsang Monastery

Taktsang translates to The Tiger’s Nest. The monastery is situated 900 meters above the Paro valley precariously perched on a cliff. It has an equally fascinating history.

Paro Ta Dzong National Museum

The memorial chorten in Thimphu was built in the honor of the Third King of Bhutan. The Tibetan style white washed stupa is crowned with a golden crescent moon and the sun.

Memorial Chorten

The 51 meter statue of Buddha Shakyamuni sits atop a hill overlooking the Thimphu valley. Buddha Dordenma statue is one of the most prominent landmarks of Thimphu city.

Buddha Dordenma Statue