BHUTAN – Laya Gasa is considered the longest trek in Bhutan, and it also boasts some of the most stunning landscapes. Located on the border of Tibet, this trek offers breathtaking views of the country’s pristine valleys.
The Laya Gasa trek starts from Drukgyel in Paro and takes you through spectacular alpine meadows with towering mountains along the way.
As you hike, you can admire the peaks of Jhomolari, Tsherimgang, and Jichu Drake, and when you traverse the wilderness, you’ll become acquainted with the culture of the villages in Laya. You may even spot wildlife like blue sheep and Takins during your journey.
Here is a brief guide with all the essential details about the trip that will inspire you to plan it with your adventurous companions immediately!
About the Laya Gasa Trek
You can experience the Laya Gasa trek in Bhutan through various packages, all of which include exploring the land of happiness. Paro, Punakha, Thimphu, and the surrounding valleys are all on the list. However, this trek remains the centerpiece of attraction.
The entire trek offers a range of Bhutan’s landscapes and its rich culture, making it an exceptional trekking experience for everyone.
Starting from Drukgyel and passing through beautiful villages, hamlets, and farmland, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the full splendor of nature.
The vegetation varies from other areas as it extends into high-altitude alpine meadows where villagers graze their animals.
Additionally, you’ll find traditional salmon fishing in the clear blue waters with stunning mountain views all around. You may encounter some beautiful wildlife on the trek, such as blue sheep, and if you’re lucky, you may spot snow leopards.
Laya is the largest isolated region in the Gasa district, and life there is sustained by nearly 800 people known as Layaps. They have their own language and custom clothing.
Best Time to Trek
The ideal time to trek in this region is from April to June and then from September to November. Mid-September to November is the best time to enjoy the grandeur of Mount Jhomolari and the landscape.
Cost & Duration of the Laya Gasa Trek
The duration of the trek is 13 days. Since this is a long journey in Bhutan, trekking can be challenging for novice trekkers.
The cost for this trek can vary from low to high, but the usual range is around $3,000 per person in a group of 3 to 15 people, with an additional single supplement fee of $20. A solo trip might cost around $2,800.
Because the trek occurs from April to June and from September to November, rates can fluctuate depending on peak and off-peak seasons.
Things to Look for in Laya Gasa
There’s a lot to observe and explore when trekking through the Bhutanese forests, and the Laya Gasa trek is one of the best long-distance treks you can have. Here are the key highlights you’ll encounter throughout the journey:
From Gasa, you’ll have to hike uphill, crossing forests and a long 3080m mountain pass, and then descend, possibly through a steep incline, and you’ll have to cross the Bari la pass.
This is a muddy trail that delves deep into the rhododendron forests, and it will take 3 hours to reach Koina, a tiny but beautiful clearing in the mountain ravine at an altitude of 3050m.
You can rest here, but it’s a muddy campsite, and you’ll find a sheltered resting place for trekkers.
Gasa Hot Springs
Relax after a long hike in the Gasa hot springs, and you can even take a dip! From here, you can have lunch and continue your journey to Gasa Dzong, which will take 2 hours of uphill trekking. Gasa district comprises two remote villages, Lunana and Laya, which are very secluded, so there are no car routes.
Gasa village is small and situated at an elevation of 2770m, with only 10 shops. You’ll find a school, a small hospital, a forestry office, and the district administrative office in the dzong.
You can have a stunning view of the medieval dzong built in the 17th century to protect the region from Tibetan invaders to the north. You can camp here overnight and in the nearest field of the town if you wish.
In the Jomolhari Laya Gasa trek, you can visit Damji from Punakha, which takes 2 to 3 hours by car. Starting from Punakha, the route will head north through the beautiful rural landscapes of farmlands and tropical forests, ending in the small village of Damji.
If you want, you can camp overnight and start your trek the next day. The long-distance trek will involve some mountain ascents, and you’ll have to cross through villages and follow valleys, offering a magnificent view of Gasa Dzong.
This trail goes down to Gasa hot springs, and there’s a guesthouse for trekkers. The hot springs have 5 pools with temperatures ranging from mild to extremely hot.
People from all over Bhutan come here to relax in the pools, and after trekking through forests for several days, it’s a well-deserved reward.
During your trek through various locations, you’ll pass by the village of Chebisa. From there, you’ll cross extensive grasslands and might encounter a large herd of Tibetan yaks along the way.
After passing through the Gobu la pass, you’ll climb a bit, and then you’ll arrive at Shomuthang, located on a river tributary of the Nochu River. This is a camping spot, and many trekkers have camped here to rest for a day.
What to Pack for the Laya Gasa Trek in Bhutan
- Carry a waterproof jacket and pants since heavy clothing won’t be necessary as you’ll be hiking through forests.
- A water bottle with a minimum capacity of 3 liters.
- A wide-brimmed hat to shield from the intense sun at higher altitudes.
- Sunglasses will be essential when crossing snowy terrain.
- A trekking pole, which is beneficial for your leg joints.
- A pair of waterproof trekking shoes to ensure your feet stay dry.
- A winter hat.
- A pair of winter gloves.
- At the campsite, don’t forget to bring a headlamp and spare batteries, as well as camping shoes and thermal underwear.
Tips for the Laya Gasa Trek
- You’ll have the opportunity to see the majestic Jhomolhari, so make sure to prepare your camera and all other necessary equipment.
- Try not to linger at unusual places while trekking long distances, as it can slow down your pace, and when trekking in a group, you may fall behind.
- If you experience altitude-related breathing issues, use medication in advance.
Learn more: Traveling in Bhutan – Tips and Experiences.