Chhimi Dema 

Looking for a relaxing getaway? Katsho Eco Camp might have the answer.

The eco-camp is situated at an altitude of 2,900 metres, in the lush plains of Haa which used to be tsamdro (pasture land) for cattle belonging to the people of Bali and Mombitshokha villages.

The nine-member team behind the camp aims to make it a top destination for Bhutanese and bolster Haa’s tourism industry. In a way, it already is.

Dawa Tshering, a member of the team, says the idea came after opening the Haa Panorama Hiking Trail; hikers needed shelter to stop for meals and rest.

Located in the middle of the hiking trail, visitors can stop by or stay overnight. The trail covers 11km, overlooking four major monasteries of upper Haa – Yangthang, Katsho, Dranadingkha, and Takchu goenpas.

Tshering says their goal is to make the eco-camp a popular countrywide destination for retreats or getaways. The project received support from Bhutan Foundation and UNDP to start the eco-camp. In the coming months, Bhutan Foundation will provide the camp with solar power to light it up.

Locals helped in the construction and will continue working until the camp becomes fully operational next month.

The eco-camp also offers a medicinal hot stone bath, which according to the locals can even treat arthritis and constipation. Locals come to soak in these hot baths every day.

The camp has plans to source vegetables and dairy products locally to help farmers earn additional income.

For Yeshi Lhaden, a member of the team, the camp will also benefit neighbouring land left fallow due to an increase in wildlife attacks on crops.

Tashi, a team member, says that the eco-camp has helped him kick a serious problem he had been struggling with – alcoholism.

 “If it wasn’t for this camp, I would be away from home, struggling to make ends meet. But here the expenditure is less, and I learn to value my land. I am content here,” he said.

The team is now constructing electric fencing around the camp and carrying out minor infrastructure development projects.

The Katsho Eco Camp is perhaps Haa’s best tourism product.