The Laya-Gasa Trek is considered one of the most scenic treks in Bhutan, offering amazing views of some 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 camp site 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. Thhe trek also offers a day of relaxation at the famous Gasa hot springs that is sure to rejuvenate you.
This is one of the more difficult treks offered in Bhutan due to the high altitudes and steep ascents and descents along the path. The best seasons to complete this challenge are in April-June and Mid-September-Mid-November.
Day 01: Arrive Paro :Arrival at Paro on national carrier; Druk Air. It is the most exciting mountain flights and befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of our country. In a clear weather, there are magnificent views of the world's highest peaks. On arrival, you will be welcomed by the our agent at the airport, assist you with your luggage and drive to hotel for lunch. After lunch, we drive and visit the National Museum, an ancient tower, which served as watch tower to the Paro Rimpong Dzong until 1968 when it was converted into museum. The museum collection includes displays of spectacular thankas (religious scroll painting), ancient artifacts dating from 7th century onwards, beautiful Bhutanese stamps, temple with tree of wisdom depicting the history of Buddhism, collection of animals, birds & butterflies and the good collection of ancient armors such as canons, guns, shield, bows & arrows, spears etc. Visit the Rimpong dzong (fortress), the administrative & religious centre of Paro district. This dzong was built in 1646 by the order of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the one who unified Bhutan in the 17th century. Overnight at the hotel. L/D
Day 02: Excursion to Taktsang Monastery :After b/fast at the hotel, drive 10km north and hike to Taktsang (tiger's Den) monastery hanging on a cliff 800m above the valley. It takes 2 hours ascend till the closest view point and 1 hour descend to the valley. We stop at tourism café situated half way for refreshment. Excursion to Taktsang is the highlight of the trip. Many tour operators abroad recommended including this excursion. In the 8th century Guru Rimpoche flew here on the back of a tigress in one of his eight forms (Guru Dorje Drolo) and meditated for 3 months in a cave and converted Paro valley into Buddhism. Dinner & overnight at the hotel. (Taktsang excursion is recommended to acclimatize yourself before you start your trek).
Day 03: Drukgyel Dzong - Shana:Distance: 15km, Time: 6 hours, altitude: 2890m
Following breakfast, drive up to Drugyel Dzong where the road ends and the trek begins, following the river gently uphill through a narrow agricultural valley, passing by village houses. It is a well worn trail with lots of round stones and irrigation water running down through it. Cross Gunitsawa army camp and then cross the river to the left and continue for another 20 minutes to camp beside river Overnight in Camp. B/L/D
Day 04: Shana - Thangthangkha:-Distance: 21km, Time: 7-8 hours, altitude: 3575m
Following breakfast, continue uphill through the river valley. It narrows and closes in and the trail winds along the drainage. It is a long hard day with many short ups and downs. One should have a good balance to hop from one stone to another to avoid mud especially when it rains. The trail makes a continuous but gentle climb through oak, rhododendrons and ferns, birch and firs, crossing several small streams finally arriving to Thangthangkha campsite at Thangthangkha. Overnight in Camp. BLD ( because of the distance, hot lunch will be served)
Day 05: Thangthangkha - Jangothang:-Distance: 16km, Time: 5-6 hours, altitude: 4044m
Continue up the Pa Chhu (river). Pass a small army post where the valley begins to widen again. Now views of high ridges and snow-capped peaks can be seen all around. You may see yak herders' winter homes depend on time of year. Camp beneath a ruined fortress at the base of Mount Jhomolhari. Overnight in stone shelter/tent. B/L/D
Day 06: Rest day at Jangothang:-A rest day at this height is recommended for acclimatization. There are some good day hikes and you can choose one of the ridges (not more than 5000m) with your pack lunch. Those who don't want to make day hike, can stay in the camp, relax and wash cloths as you wish. Our staff will cook lunch for you and help you fetching water, supply you with hotel water for bath. Overnight in stone shelter.Tent. BLD
Day 07: Jangothang - Soi Yaksha:-Distance: 16km, Time: 6-7 hours
The trail leads north to the last settlement in the valley and drops to the Paro Chhu, crossing it on a wooden bridge. Switch back up the side of the hill to a glare cirque and the lake of Tsho Phu (4380m), which is inhabited by a flock of ruddy shelducks. Stay on the eastern side of the lake, passing a second lake as the trail climbs across a slope to a crest. Descend into a hidden valley and climb steeply to Bontela pass at alt. 4890m. From the pass the route descends steep slope, then winds down a ridge with a lot of crisscrossing yak trails, it finally switchbacks down to the Dhumzo Chhu. Trek down stream below the few houses of Dhumzo to a bridge, cross to the south side of the river and continue a short distance to a camp at 3800m. Overnight in camp. B/L/D
Day 08: Soi Yaksa – Thombu Shong:-Distance: 11km, Time 4-5 hours
The trail climbs 100m over a ridge and then drops to another stream. Crossing that stream, the trail heads up the hillside, dropping onto a ridge. Here the route turns south, ascending past a few huts to Takhung La pass (4520m). a short descent leads to Thombu Shong (4180m) with a open pasture land with 3 yak herders' huts. Overnight in camp. B/L/D.
Day 09: Thombu Shong – Sharna Zampa:-Distance: 13km, Time: 4-5 hours.
Climb out of the valley to Thombula pass( 4380m), then drop gradually to about 4000m. The trail then makes a steep descent, switch backing down the ridge, finally reaching the helipad at Gunitsawa (2730m). Camp here or walk further down past the army camp and camp below village houses near a stream. Overnight in camp. B/L/D.
Day 10: Sharna Zampa – Drukgyel Dzong- Thimphu:-Distance; 17km, Time: 4-5 hours
Follow day 3 program of the same trek in reverse. On arrival at Drukgyel dzong, you will be picked up by our vehicle and drive to Thimphu. On arrival check in to the hotel. Good shower and nice dinner. B/L/D
Day 11: Thimphu sightseeing. Sightseeing of Thimphu valley. Evening, drive to Punakha:-you enjoy full day of sightseeing that includes:
Memorial Chorten: This is a most impressive stupa built in the memory of Bhutan's third King by the order of Grand Queen mother Ashi Phuntsho Chhoden in 1974.
Changangkha Lhakhang: One of the oldest temple in Thimphu valley situated on top of a knoll with commending views of the valley below. This place has a special magical atmosphere with its prayer flags floating in the wind and its feeling of riding above the hurly-burly of the city. This was built in 15th century by one of descendents of Pjajo Drukjom Shigpo, the founder of Drukpa School in Bhutan. The main statue inside the temple is that of the god of compassion.
Mini Zoo: Drive further north and visit the mini zoo where the Takins (national animals of Bhutan are kept). Drive till the dead end of the road at Sangaygang view point to enjoy the fresh air and to view the whole valley of Thimphu below. The hill is dotted with prayer flags and gives a impression that one is near to heaven.
Nunnery (Drubthob Lhakhang): This small red temple is also called Zilukha nunnery. It plays a role of protecting the Dzong from the fire. Now it houses Buddhist nuns.
National Library: It holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts, manuscripts and also modern academic books.
Handicrafts Emporiums: It displays wide range of products such as beautifully woven fabrics for man & women, crafted products & other decorative items. You can as well visit many local handicraft products where you have wide range of selection and prices to choose from.
National Institute for Zorig Chusum (thirteen traditional arts & crafts): The Royal Government of Bhutan has sponsored and established this national institute in the year 1971 mainly to preserve and promote culture and to contribute to the country's economy through quality products and services. In the course of history Bhutan has developed a unique artistic tradition, which has played a vital role in modeling its distinct cultural heritage and this tradition is reflected in thirteen traditional arts & crafts.
Traditional medicine Institute: It was established with the help of European Union to improve traditional medicine. The rich herbal medicines abundant in the kingdom are prepared here.
Tashichhodzong: The biggest fort of Bhutan built in 1648. It houses secretariat building, King's throne room and other government offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot.
Folk Heritage Museum: One of the oldest house in Thimphu, having been restored and transformed into Folk Heritage Museum in the year 2001 under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo. This museum is meant to serve an account of everyday rural life for the young urbanized generations and as a place for preserving objects related to this life, in case this way of life disappears as time passes.
Textile Museum: This museum was inaugurated under the patronage of Queen Ashi Sangay Choden in June 2001. Many intricate designs of Bhutanese textiles are displayed here. It will also serve as center for conservation, restoration and documentation of Bhutanese textiles. There are many more things to see apart from above mentioned sightseeing places. Overnight at the hotel. B/L/D
Day 12: Drive Thimphu – Punakha and sightseeing:-ollowing breakfast, drive to Punakha which is about 75km and takes approx. 2.5 hours. Punakha is the winter residence of chief abbot. The road climbs for about an hour till you reach a pass at Dochula at an altitude of 3150M. Weather permitting, this pass offers the most spectacular view over the high peaks of the eastern Himalayas. You can stop at several places and even walk to nearby forest to watch various species of birds. Lunch will probably at Dochula cafeteria depends on weather and bit of hike that you decide to make on and around the pass. After having your nice lunch, continue driving on a windy road with many loops that makes the drive cautious and slow. The road descends all the way to Punakha & Wangdue through temperate forest of rhododendron & magnolia bloom in spring then a semi-tropical zone where orange trees, banana trees and cactuses are found in abundance. On arrival, check in to the hotel. After lunch, 10 minutes drive to visit the most impressive Dzong of Punakha situated in confluence of Phochhu & Mochhu rivers. It looks like a giant ship with excellent wood work and detail of paintings. It was here that the first King was crowned in 1907. It was capital of Bhutan until 1955. This dzong was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1637. This dzong still serves as winter resident of the chief lama of Bhutan and houses both administrative & religious centre of Punakha district. Return to hotel for overnight. B/L/D
Day 13: Drive Punakha – Paro:-Following breakfast, visit the most famous temple called Chime Lhakhang or the temple of fertility. It is about 20 minutes walking through rice terraces and the village of Yoakha. The temple is situated on the spur above the village. It is believed that barren couple will have children if they get blessing from this temple. Continue your drive for a brief look of Wangdue valley and then drive back to Paro via the same road taken earlier. Overnight at the hotel. B/L/D
Day 14: Fly out to your next destination: