Laya Gasa Trek – 18Days/17 Nights
Laya Gasa trek is one of the most scenic treks in Bhutan. This trek offers astonishing views of the most pristine and unspoiled landscapes in Bhutan.
This fourteen-day, 217 km journey begins at Drukgyel in Paro and takes you through gorgeous alpine meadows, high mountain passes, and dense sub-tropical jungles before terminating in Damji in Tashithang. The first five days of this trek follow the same route as the Jomolhari Trek I through Jigme Singye National Park and offer awe-inspiring views of Mt. Jomolhari, Jichu Drake, and Tsherimgang. On the sixth day, the path diverges and you will depart Lingshi for the campsite at Chebisa, a charming little village adorned with a beautiful waterfall of crystal clear water.
Along the trail, you’ll be able to spot indigenous animals such as blue sheep and Takins, the national animal of Bhutan. You’ll travel through remote mountain villages inhabited by Layaps (people of Laya), a distinct segment of the Bhutanese society with unique culture, traditions, and appearance. The trek also offers a day of relaxation at the famous Gasa hot springs that is sure to rejuvenate you.
Season: This trek is generally open from April to June and mid-September to mid-November. However, April is the best trekking month for the Laya region.
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks, give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. Our Representative from Bhutan Travel Center will greet you on arrival and then drive you to the hotel.
After lunch, visit the Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Paro Rimpung Dzong, the center of civil and religious authority in this valley. A short walk takes you to the base of the dzong and across a traditional cantilevered, covered bridge. A short distance further is one of the innumerable archery grounds (Archery is the national sport of Bhutan).
In the evening, free to stroll in the town for shopping and photography. Overnight Hotel in Paro.
Day 02: Paro – Hike to Taktsang Monastery ‘Tiger’s Nest’ (3120m)
After breakfast drive towards the base camp of Taktsang for the hike up to the Taktsang Monastery-Tiger’s Nest. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 2 hours uphill. From this point, enjoy the spectacular view of the monastery, The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 meters above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. He then mediated in a cave there for three months where the monastery was later built. The cave is said to be the origin of Buddhism in Bhutan. In the afternoon drive to the almost fully reconstructed Drukgyel Dzong. In fine weather, the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit other sights in Paro valley. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 03: Shana – Thangthangka (Start of Trek)
Altitude: 3610 m; Distance 22 Km; Time 7 – 8 hours, Ascent: 770 meters, Descent: 10 meters.
The trail follows the river through a heavily forested area with a few isolated farmhouses. It narrows and closes in and the trail winds up and down along the drainage. We pass a junction en-route, where another path leads north over the Tremo La to Tibet. The camp is in a meadow with a stone shelter.
Day 04: Thangthangka – Jangothang
Altitude: 4080 m; Distance 19 Km; Time 5 – 6 hours, 480 meters Ascent
In the morning, after passing a small army post, the trail slowly leaves the forest line and gradually climbs into a beautiful valley, passing Tegethang, a winter home of yak herdsmen. Lunch will be served in one of these huts. Lots of yaks will be seen today before we arrive at the Jhomolhari base camp (4,115 m). High mountains overlook the camp and visible nearby are the ruins of an old fortress used to guard Bhutan against Tibetan invasions. Dinner and overnight in camp.
Day 05: Jangothang
Rest day at Jangothang, enjoy the superb view all around.
The rest day in Jangothang provides plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views of lakes and snow-capped mountains such as Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. There are good chances to spot some blue sheep on the upper slopes of the valley. Jangothang is a perfect environment for your acclimatization. You can also trek up to Tosoh or hike around the area. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jomolhari and its subsidiary mountain chains lie directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and there are a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.
Day 06: Jangothang – Lingshi
Altitude 4000 m; Distance 17 km; Time 6 – 7 hours.
A good day’s walk today with spectacular views of the Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake, and the Tserim Gang. We start climbing straight away and after some 3 to 4 hours reach the Nyelela pass (4,700 m). After the pass, we descend to a circular hut just below Lingshi, where we camp. Coming down from Lingshi we obtain our first views of the truly mystical Dzong atop a high hill. Dinner and overnight in camp.
Day 07: Lingshi – Chebisa
Campsite at an altitude of 3880 m; Distance 10 km; Time 5 – 6 hours, Ascent: 280 meters, Descent: 410 meters.
This is a magical day. After we leave Lingshi, we gently climb gently to reach another delightful village, Gom Yu, which is set right below a 300 m cliff. Another hour walk brings us to a lovely little valley with a huge waterfall at one end of the Shangri La village of Chebisa, where we camp by the side of the river. The walk is an easy one. Dinner and overnight in camp.
Day 08: Chebisa – Shomuthang
Camp at Altitude 4220 m; Distance 17 km; Time 6-7 hours, Ascent 890 meters, Descent 540 meters.
We start with quite a stiff climb through high pastures up the Gokula pass (4,320 m) before we drop through forests of dwarf rhododendron. We climb gradually and head down to the camp near a riverbed.
Day 09: Shomuthang – Robluthang
Camp at Altitude: 4,160 m; Distance 18 km; Time 6 – 7 hours, Ascent 700 meters, Descent 760 meters.
A long haul over the Jarela pass at 4,640 m where we once again get stunning views of the Himalayan Mountains above us. We drop steeply down a forest trail to the Tsarigathang valley, where herds of Takin roam, then cross a knee-deep river before climbing up Robluthang where we camp.
Day 10: Robluthang – Lemithang
Camp at Altitude 4,140 meters; Distance: 19 km; Time 6-7 hours. Ascent 850 meters, Descent 870 meters.
This is one of the hardest days of the trek. We climb slowly up to Shinchela pass at 4,870 m. and are rewarded with stunning views of mountains, including the spectacular Gang Chen Ta at the head of the valley. On a clear day, practically all the mountains on the northern border are visible. Eagles, griffin vultures, blue sheep, and yaks abound in this area. We descend down to camp on a lovely spot by the riverbank.
Day 11: Lemithang – Laya
Camp at Altitude 3840 m; Distance 10 km; Time 4-5 hours, Ascent 60 meters, Descent 340 meters.
We walk along the river, one of the tributaries of the Mochu, and through a forest of rhododendron and silver fir, and then enter the village of Laya. The people of Laya are famous for their vertical stripe yak hair clothing and their strange conical bamboo hats. The women wear their hair long and with a great deal of turquoise and jade jewelry. The features of the people are even more Tibetan/ Mongolian than the Bhutanese who live in the central valleys The rest of the day is spent at leisure or visiting village houses and mixing with the villagers. Good views of the Masagang and the other peaks.
Day 12: Laya (Halt)
We have a rest day at Laya and an opportunity to meet the local people and explore laya village.
Day 13: Laya – Koena
Camp at Altitude 3050 meters; Distance 19 km; Time 6-7 hours, 260 meters Ascent, Descent 1070 meters.
The trail winds up and down along the river valley of Mo Chhu avoiding natural obstacles and affording breath-taking views of the raging river, feeder streams, and waterfalls. Lots of ups and downs will lead you to Kohi Lapcha at 3.300 m. The trek then drops down to the large stream of Koina Chhu, where you will find the campsite of Koina.
Day 14: Koena – Gasa Tsachu (End of Trek)
Camp at Altitude: 2,638 m; Distance 14 km; Time: 6-7 hours, Ascent 900 meters, Descent 1710 meters.
We gradually climb up to Balela pass at 3,740 m and then descend to Gasa village. The first sight of the Gasa Dzong perched on the hillside over the village is one of the sights of the trip. We then drop steeply down to the river for an hour and camp near the Hot Spring a chance for a good hot bath!
Day 15: Gasa Tsachu – Punakha (47 km)
After breakfast, drive to Punakha. On the way, hike to Khamsung Yulley Namgyal Choling Monastery (short hike 45 minutes).
Drive to Yabesa village and hike to through rice fields and up to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions.
After lunch, visit Punakha Dzong built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and is situated between Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female river). For many years until the time of the second king, it served as the seat of the Government. The construction of the Dzong was foretold by Guru Rimpoche, who predicted, “…a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant”. There was a smaller building here called Dzong Chu (Small Dzong) that housed a statue of Buddha. The war materials captured during the battle with Tibetans are preserved here. Punakha is still the winter residence of Je-Khenpo and King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk convened the new national Assembly here in 1952.
Dinner and overnight in Hotel in Punakha.
Day 16: Punakha –Thimphu (72 Km)
After breakfast, drive to Thimphu. On the way, visit Chimi Lhakhang, which was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley (Popularly known as “The Divine Madman”, in the year 1499. The Temple is also known as “the Temple of Fertility”.Lama Drukpa Kuenley (1455 – 1529) was one of Bhutan’s Favorite Saints who was born in Tibet, trained at Ralung Monastery, and was a contemporary disciple of Pema Lingpa. He traveled throughout Bhutan and Tibet as a “Neljorpa” (Yogi) using songs, humor, and outrageous behavior to dramatize his teachings of Salvation through sex.
Then drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.
Evening visit Trashichhoedzong, “fortress of the glorious religion”. This is the center of government and religion, the site of the monarch’s throne room, and the seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built-in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in the 1960s in a traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans. Then stroll and explore around Thimphu town and do some shopping in Bhutan.Overnight Hotel in Thimphu.
Day 17: Thimphu – Paro (55km)
After breakfast, sightseeing in Thimphu valley including visit to the following: The National Library, housing an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts; the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undergo a 6-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts. Later visit the Textile Museum, which provides insight into Bhutan’s one of the most distinct art forms. Also visit Simply Bhutan, a living museum and studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people.
After lunch, visit King’s Memorial Chorten continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”) who has wished to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.
Later drive to Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang). Located at a short drive from Thimphu city center, visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley from the Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang). You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
Then drive to Paro en route visiting Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the country built in 1627 which now houses the School for Buddhist studies. Then stroll and explore around Paro town and do some shopping.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 18: Depart Paro
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for a flight to your onward destination. Tashi Delek!