Discover The 'Almost Medieval' Charm Of Haa - A Well Kept Secret Of Bhutan


Urbanisation has not touched Haa fully yet.

(Source: Wander with knowledge)


By Phub Dem Kuensel

The two-day Summer Festival started in Haa over the weekend from 13-14 July. The festival celebrates the living-culture and nomadic lifestyles of the people of Haa.

Other highlights include: unique Bhutanese cuisine, traditional sports and religious performances. There was also an exhibition showcasing local artefacts and alpine flowers.

According to Haa’s Dzongdag, Kinzang Dorji, the number of tourist arrival to Haa had increased drastically over the past two years. The summer festival, he said, was a major event to attract tourists.

Haa is still ‘relatively’ untouched compared to some other districts in Bhutan

Urbanisation has not touched Haa fully yet. In fact, outsiders, particularly the tourists, often describe it as ‘almost-medieval’.


Source: Bhutan Map


The people of Haa still depend largely on livestock and agriculture for a living. It appears that the dzongkhag (district) has been left out by development mainly due to its location and winter in Haa is known to be very cold.

However, given the right developmental focus, Haa could easily become an attractive tourist destination.  Income opportunities will also vastly improve for the people of the dzongkhag.

Kinzang Dorji said that Haa was amongst the best among the 20 dzongkhags to open itself to tourism.

“Due to a varied range of altitude, various kinds of flora and fauna are found,” he added.

Plans in the pipeline to develop Haa as a popular tourist destination

In recent years, the dzongkhag administration’s focus has been on developing Haa as a potential tourist destination.


Home-stays in Bhutan arranged by Druk Asia.

Photo: Druk Asia


Although Haa is not included in the tourism development focus group, the Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) has endorsed a tourism action plan document to develop tourism in Haa over the next five years.

Kinzang Dorji said that the endorsement signified the unity among the people of the dzongkhag and the importance of the tourism development plan in the region.

The DT has also put forth a moratorium on foreign investment for the construction of high-end hotels in Haa to promote home-stays and farmhouses.

Presently, there are 25 home-stays in Haa. A home-stay owner, Ugyen said that the initiative will be good for the people of Haa.

“Haa will otherwise be no different from Thimphu and Paro if five-star hotels are built everywhere. We would lose our unique selling point.”

Haa has also restricted the sale of imported handicraft products. Here, one can find only ‘Made in Bhutan’ products.


Savour Haa's cuisine at a home-stay with Mark Wiens (Migrationology).

Source: Youtube/Mark Wiens


Challenges faced to develop Haa as a tourist destination

There are a few challenges to be tackled: if tourists are to be kept engaged, there ought to be other products besides culture and handicraft items.

Trekking routes should be developed and new tourism markets such as Chundu Gongzhay, Yangthang Bongko, Chundu Lhasoel could be explored.

For a start, the dzongkhag administration has constructed a tourism information centre which is a convenient one-stop-shop for tourists.

With this, it is hoped that marketing home-stays will become more efficient. Kinzang Dorji said that the initiative could help poverty alleviation in Haa. Since it was the decision of the DT, the plan must be launched, whatever the cost.

“That Haa is not in the focus group of Bhutan’s Tourism flagship programme is strange. Haa has the action plan ready, we just need the budget.”

6th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition in 2020

Haa will host the 6th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition (RBFE) next year, a perfect opportunity for the dzongkhag to promote itself as a potential tourist destination.


His Royal Highness The Gyalsey at the 4th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition in Punakha.

Photo: Kuensel


According to Kinzang Dorji, the exhibition will be spread across many households and it will be sustainable.

This means that any visitors can visit any part of Haa – from Sombaykha, Gakhiling, and Samar to the mountains bordering China.    

“It will be different from the other five exhibitions held in other districts. Rather than beautifying the area that hardly lasts for a few weeks, Haa will focus on something permanent,” he explained.

The dzongkhag administration of Haa will be meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests next week to discuss and plan the activities for the 6th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition


This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.


Related Posts

Yak Farming In Haa, Bhutan Is Becoming A Vanishing Trade

Once an important source of livelihood for the people in Uesu Gewog, yak farming has seen its popularity wane over the...

Nov 12, 2018 16:19

Haa Develops Tourism Action Plan To Promote Its Rich Cultural...

Haa had the 6th highest visitor arrivals among the dzongkhags in the country, according to the Bhutan Tourism Monitor...

Jul 26, 2018 08:23

Heading To Haa, Bhutan For The Summer Festival? Here Are Some...

Savour the most delectable cuisine from the province of Haa in Bhutan.

Jul 13, 2018 14:54

Tapping On Brand Bhutan To Promote The Himalayan Kingdom As An...

Gross National Happiness and the Wangchuck dynasty will always be the core components of Brand Bhutan.

Jul 08, 2019 22:28

Study Finds Homestays And Eco-tourism Helped Preserve Bhutan’s...

The evaluation found that 98 percent of the homestays used exclusive traditional products like local food products and...

Aug 25, 2018 16:17

The Theme Of Bhutan’s Jhomolhari Festival 2018 - Living In...

The theme of this year’s festival 'Living in Harmony with the Ghost of High Mountains' is centred on the conservation of...

Nov 02, 2018 16:20



Co-Funded By The EU, [email protected] Project Launched To Provide High Speed Internet For Bhutan’s Research And Education Communities

A high-speed network called DrukREN for research and education communities in Bhutan was also launched.

Aug 21, 2019 09:58

Find Innovative Solutions For Every Challenge: Prime Minister Modi To Bhutan’s Youth

Prime Minister Modi said that he ‘sees dynamism and felt energised’ while meeting with the future of Bhutan.

Aug 18, 2019 23:58


Bhutan Women Parliamentary Caucus Launched To Promote Gender Equality

It is expected to address the need for women role models at leadership and decision-making levels in Bhutan.

Aug 20, 2019 17:08

Fulfilling His Majesty The King’s Vision, Digital Drukyul Is Set To Improve Public Service Delivery And Empower Citizens Digitally

Digital Drukyul will help create a digital ecosystem for citizens which is unencumbered by bureaucratic red tape.

Aug 19, 2019 15:28


Two Young Bhutanese Swimmers Competed In 18th FINA World Championship

The duo are proud to represent Bhutan and compete on a worldwide stage for the first time.

Jul 28, 2019 21:32

Bhutan’s Dragon Boys Starts FIFA World Cup Qualifiers With A 1-0 Win Over Guam

Midfielder, Tshering Dorji’s 35th minute strike was enough to make Bhutan win the first leg of the first round of the 2022 World Cup and...

Jun 08, 2019 22:18


Southeast Asian Company Invests Over US$100,000 In Bhutanese Start-up Drukfood

The investment includes a mix of cash and investment-in-kind.

Aug 15, 2019 14:26

Bhutan’s First Crowdfunding Platform Gaining Traction, Opens Doors For Entrepreneurs To Raise Funds

So far, three promoters - Bhutan Alternatives, Freelancer Bhutan and Himalayan food have registered with the Bhutan crowdfunding platform.

Aug 05, 2019 22:10


7 Facts You Never Knew About Flying Into Bhutan

Druk Asia interviewed Namgyal Wangchuk, Senior First Officer with Drukair to find out what it's like to fly into Paro International Airport.

Aug 07, 2019 23:18

Bhutan Has Great Potential To Be A Top Eco-Tourism Spot: Albert Teo

Despite Bhutan being home to a wide array of flora and fauna, it is still not a top ecotourism destination.

Jul 19, 2019 23:58


Bali-Bhutan Art Exhibition Hosted By VAST Bhutan To Enhance Friendship And Exchange Of Ideas

Founded in 1998, VAST Bhutan has been promoting and facilitating art exchange programmes with various nationalities.

Aug 22, 2019 14:28

Finding One’s Voice: Rapping In The Kingdom Of Bhutan

The lack of support for rappers stems from the general misconception that most people have about rap.

Aug 10, 2019 23:38

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!