View on the way down the Chelela Pass near Paro ©Solange Hando
The Haa Valley is a hidden gem close to Paro, accessed on the long winding road from Chuzom or if you don't mind a vertiginous short cut, over the Chelela Pass, at 3998 metres, the highest road pass in Bhutan.
It's a spectacular drive with fabulous views on both sides, snowy tops peeping over green conical hills, prayer flags clustered on the pass or tumbling down the slopes and tiny trails scratched into the earth meandering down to the valley far below.
Down there, a glistening river babbles over the stones, willows and pines line the banks and traditional houses add a distinctive Bhutanese touch with carved eaves and window frames and auspicious symbols painted on outside walls.
Traditional Architecture in the Haa Valley ©Solange Hando
Here and there a patchwork of fields bears witness to a generous land but everything is on a small scale, pocket-sized allotments, a couple of cows, a man restoring a temple, a woman carrying rice for the monk who meditates in a cave half way up the cliff.
Happy Monks in the Valley ©Solange Hando
As elsewhere in Bhutan, monks are highly respected and play an important role in the community, ensuring an auspicious life for all through daily prayers and religious rituals.
Some choose to live in solitude, most stay in monasteries but either way, Buddhism is a joyful religion here, based on respecting all living things and appreciating the gifts bestowed by the gods and the natural world.
Bhutanese Dzong above River Gorge ©Solange Hando
That includes the awesome scenery from mountains and valleys to deep river gorges guarded by fortified monasteries known as dzongs.
Here, you never know what awaits around the corner as the valley changes its look, now peaceful, now dramatic, dotted with isolated farms or rustic hamlets gathered around gilded temples.
Fun in the Snow on the Chelela Pass, above Paro ©Solange Hando
And of course, the biggest surprise of all may come on the Chelela Pass when snow flurries can descend like magic in the night but providing the road is open, there's plenty of fun to be had in this happy land.