If you see the map of Bhutan showing passes, you’ll come to know that Chele La pass is the highest motorable pass in Bhutan that lies between Haa and Paro. Other similar motorable passes of Bhutan are Dochula, Pele La, Thrimshing La and Yotong La.
When you are done with sightseeing in Paro and Haa, Chele La Pass provides a short getaway from town life. It usually welcomes its visitors with chilly wind and vast array of fluttering prayers.
The expansive views of distant snow-laden mountains, well-tended agriculture fields, and mountain vegetation in all give a good nature’s set up for photography. Chele La Trekking is one of the things you can do in western part of Bhutan.
I have crossed Chele La Pass several times in the past – sometimes in summer. But in all, I was just crossing it. I didn’t have time to undertake Chelela Trekking. But this weekend, I travelled from Thimphu with an intention to go for trekking at Chele La Pass. I wanted to come up with a travelogue of Chelela Pass Trekking.
Best Route to reach Chelela Pass, Bhutan
The best way to travel Chelela Pass is either from Paro or Haa. Paro to Chele La Pass distance is about 35 kilometers. It would take you about an hour. And if you come to Chele La Pass from Haa, it should take you about 40 minutes. Chele La Pass to Haa Valley distance is about 21 kilometers.
Some tourists visit Chelela Pass when they travel Haa from Paro. However, some keep it as an excursion for their return journey from Haa valley. And some tourists just like me travel to Chelela from Thimphu via Paro.
In my case too, I could have travelled directly to Haa via Dobji Dzong. And then during my journey to Paro from Haa, I can visit Chele La.
But this would entail me one night hold at Haa. Otherwise, it would be quite a rushful journey for me. Instead I travelled to Paro and then visited Chelela.
The distance between Thimphu and Haa and then subsequently to Chele La Pass is about 85 kilometers. But distance between Thimphu and Paro and then to Chelela Pass is about 75 kilometers. Moreover road condition is much better in latter.
How to get at Chelela Pass – Taxi or Bus?
If you travel through Bhutan travel agencies, you’ll have transportation services arranged by them as per an agreed western Bhutan itinerary. If not you have to arrange vehicles on your own.
In a shared taxi from Paro to Chelela and then back to Paro, a four-seats taxi charges about Nu.1,000 per person. And since distance between Haa and Chelela Pass is just about 21 kilometers, it will cost less if you are visiting Chelela from Haa.
There is no public transportation service between Paro and Haa that takes you through Chelela Pass. The only public bus that connects Haa and Paro travels from Chuzom. This means if you are to travel Chelela from Paro, there is no choice. You have to hire a taxi.
Chele la Pass – Weather and Vegetation
Chele La Pass altitude is 3810 meters. This means we can expect Chelela Pass weather to be cold in winter and cool in summer. During winter, even when it’s sunny, there will be strong cold wind as you hike up to its peaks. During summer, cloudy weather takes away some charm of sightseeing.
During winter, sometimes there will be snowfall. It’s at such times, tourists get to experience snowfall. The views are distinct in its own ways. We can see Paro and Haa valleys carpeted white with snow as you walk through Chelela Hiking Trails.
When we compare temperature of Chele La Pass and Haa valley or Paro, it’s bit colder. Paro and Haa are at lower altitude. When we travel Chele La Pass from either of them, you’ll notice changes in vegetation. Thick forest of pine trees gradually gives way to thin alpine bushes and herbs.
Things to do at Chele La Pass of Bhutan
When you are at Chelela Pass, you’ll feel like you are on the top of world. The moments of trekking among the rugged hills wrapped up with fluffy clouds altogether offer different and divine kind of experiences.
During appropriate seasons, spectacular views of mountains and valleys and unique hairy Himalayan Domestic Animal Yaks grazing casually at distance will be a feast for photography lovers. Chelela Pass height ensures a good place to shoot time elapse videos of expansive views of Paro and Haa valleys.
Chele La Pass is also one of the nearest places in Bhutan where you can spot Blue Poppy; the National Flower of Bhutan. If you have time, you can take a book with you and read it loud sitting among fluttering colourful prayer flags. I can bet immense joy in it.
Some tourists also travel Chelela on motorbikes or cycles. If you are travelling so, the moments of paddling through hilly ridges of Bhutan will become great subject of photography. But don’t go there on motorbikes or cycles when there is snowfall or rainfall.
There are few makeshift shops on hilltop that sell hot Bhutanese Thukpa (porridge) or other edible items. You can stand at their fireplaces and have hot Thukpa as to experience lifestyles of nomads or gypsies on one of the highest motorable road points of Bhutan.
You can also visit Kila Goemba nunnery on the return trip. It’s few meters below the pass. Since its temples are built among sheer cliffs, moments of getting there would be heart-pumping experiences. And just few kilometers towards Paro Bondey, you can visit Dzongdrakha Lhakhang. It has a fame of being an architectural replica of Taktsang Monastery.
When is the Best time to travel Chele La?
If you are more into landscape photography and videography, travel to Chelela Pass during spring. Green lush alpine meadow with fresh vegetation background, you’ll pat yourself later for being able to shoot good photos or videos.
In winter, you can hike when there is snowfall. If not, Chelela Pass will look barren and boring just like any other passes you have crossed in your life.
When there is rainfall or snowfall, travelling to Chelela Pass either on a motorbike or cycle will be a death race. You’ll never know what would happen. Bhutan’s road with sharp turnings have never proved favourable for such activities. When surface is wet and snow-laden, risk will be more.
Recommend to read following travel experiences and exciting travel stories from Bhutan:
- 65 Tourist Attractions in Paro other than Paro Taktsang Monastery.
- Bhutan Travel Guide: All Things Solo Travellers Need to Know.
- Phaktshoding Lake – Oasis for Fishes at Chukha Gedu Jungle Hills.
- Mystical Mebartsho or the Burning Lake of Bumthang.
- Bhutan in Winter – 15 Reasons for Travelling Bhutan in Winter.
- Khoma: The Birthplace of Traditional Weaving Culture in Bhutan.
- Place of interest in Thimphu – Dodedrak Goemba.
- Travel to Samtse Bhutan – Places to visit in Samtse Dzongkhag.
- Thimphu Lampelri Botanical Park – Is it worth to visit in Winter.
- Dzongdrakha Lhakhang – Temple that is like Paro Taktsang Temple.