Laya Gasa Trek is considered one of the most scenic long distance treks in Bhutan. Running along the border with Tibet, the trek offers amazing views of some of the most pristine and unspoiled landscapes in Bhutan. The trek begins at Drugyel in Paro and takes you through gorgeous alpine meadows and high mountain passes with awe-inspiring views of Mount Jumolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsherim Gang. You will trek through remote semi-nomadic village of Laya with unique culture and traditions.
You will also see indigenous animals such as blue sheep and Takins along the trail. From Laya, we descend to Gasa, where you will have a day of relaxation at the hot spring to rejuvenate yourself.
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17KM | 5-6 HOURS | 230M ASCENT | DESCENT 60M | CAMP ALT 2870M
You will drive 12km north of Paro valley from your hotel to the historic Drugyel Dzong ruins at 2,580m, from were your trek starts. Your trekking crew will be waiting here for you. After a brief meeting, you will walk downhill on a wide trail following the Pachhu (river), which then climbs gently traversing through well-maintained rice terraces and fields of millet. Soon the valley widens and the route enters an area of apple orchards, traditional farmhouses and the tiny settlements of Mitshi Zampa and Sangatan. You reach the army post of Gunitsawa at 2,810 after walking for a while through blue pine forest. Here your trekking permit will be checked and stamped. This is the last stop before Tibet and border close to it. You will then cross Pachu River on a wooden bridge and then climb to Sharna Zampa at 2,870m. Just beyond Shana Zampa, there are several meadows surrounded by trees where you will camp for tonight.
22KM | 8-9 HOURS | 900M ASCENT | CAMP ALT 3750M
The trail again follows Pachhu (Paro river), ascending and descending through pine, oak and spruce forests. After 2 hours of continuous hiking and crossing several streams, you will reach at Shingkharap, a stone house at 3110m. A hot lunch will be served after crossing the bridge towards the left side of the river. Little ahead is the trail junction – left an old trade route and invasion from Tibet and right leading to the wooden bridge (we follow the right). After climbing up through rhododendron forests and finally crossing the bridge again, we reach our camp at 3750m, which is amidst beautiful meadows.
19KM | 4-5 HOURS | 290M ASCENT | CAMP ALT 4040M
Although today’s is not a long trekking day, a significant height gain will take place as your trail goes above tree line. From the camp, your path ascends for a while till you reach the army camp. Then follow the river above the tree line enjoying the stunning view of surrounding peaks. We walk through a very muddy section of trail, pass a mani wall and enter yak country. Hot lunch will be served inside a yak herder’s camp. After lunch, we walk past yak herder settlements of Soe and Takethang. Common crops that people grow here are barley, potatoes and turnips. We walk our final approach across a plateau and up a stream bed and Dangochang village to the awesome campsite of Jangothang at an altitude of 4,040m. From here, the views of Mount Jumolhari and Jichu Drake are superb.
Today, you will spend a day by doing four-hour acclimatization hike to the north of your camp. There is practically no trail but you will climb on a open and endless slope till you see the view of Mt Jichu Drakye (6989m). You can scramble further up till 4895m (higher than Mount Blanc) to see amazing view of Mount Jumolhari. You are likely to spot rare blue sheep, Himalayan rhubarb, griffon vultures, golden eagles and the remarkable blue poppy. Jangothang base is a flat grassy land with an old ruined fortress on a hillock in the foreground, beneath the colossal Mount Jumolhari and its neighbour Jichu Drake. Most people show signs of mountain sickness at this altitude and it is recommended that all trekkers halt here. If you do not wish to hike but simply wish to just relax in camp, whichever option you choose, it certainly going to be a memorable day.
18KM | 6-7 HOURS | 830M ASCENT | 860M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4010M
The trail follows the stream for half an hour and crosses the bridge to the right side. Start the climb up to the first ridge with a breathtaking view of Jumolhari (7314m), Jichu Drake (6989m) and Tsherim Gang (6789m). Then walk towards the valley, almost flat for a while, until you climb to the Ngye La pass at an altitude of 4870m. After the pass, it is a gradual descent to the camp, enjoying the panoramic view of the surrounding peaks and Lingshi Dzong. If time permits, you can have a detour to this tiny fortress, which is sitting on a hilltop overlooking Lingzhi village below. For centuries, Lingzhi Dzong was a way station for weary Buddhist pilgrims and defence fort against Tibetan and Mongol invaders. Camp at an altitude of 4010m.
12KM | 5-6 HOURS | 250M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 3850M
Visit the Lingshi Dzong, perched on the hilltop with a commanding view of green hills, the winding river and magnificent peaks. For centuries, Lingzhi Dzong was a way station for weary Buddhist pilgrims and defence fort against Tibetan and Mongol invaders. It is an easy day and pleasant walk through villages and yak herders camp. After lunch, a short walk will take you to Chebisa, a charming little village adorned with a beautiful crystal clear waterfall. Camp by the side of stream at an altitude of 3,850m.
17KM | 6-7 HOURS | 570M ASCENT | 290M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4130M
Begin your trek with a stiff climb up a ridge to Gogu La pass (4500m) taking nearly four hours. The sights of rare blue sheep is common on the rocks near the top of this pass. After the pass, descend through rhododendron bushes to a lunch stop. Afternoon continue along the trail with intermittent ascents and descents and after crossing the stream, through rhododendron forests and yak herders camp we arrive at Shakepasa at 3980m. From there, we walk down through a thick rhododendron forest until our next camp in Shakshepasa at 3980m. Climbing steeply up to the northern side of the valley and passing by a couple of yak herder’s camp, we arrive at our camp, which is beside a stream at an altitude 4,250m.
17KM | 6-7 HOURS | 620M ASCENT | 590M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4130M
The trek starts by walking through edelweiss bound trail with a climb to Jari La pass at altitude 4750m. The snow capped peak visible to the south-east is Kangbum at 6526m. Then descend to Tsarijathang valley, the summer residence of rare Himalayan Takins (national animal of Bhutan). From here we may have to cross the stream as most of the time the footbridge is washed away. After crossing the stream towards the left, the trail ascends till you reach Robluthang, a rocky meadow camp at an altitude of 4160m.
19KM | 7-8 HOURS | 850M ASCENT | 870M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4140M
Today, you will cross the highest pass in our entire trek. Climb all way up through boggy patches crossing stream, traversing marmot holes and moraine, you will reach at the top of Shingchen La pass (5005m). The view of snow-covered Gangchenta or the Tiger Mountain (6,840m) filling the northern horizon is simply stunning. After the pass, descend through rough rocky trail following moraine river valley to Kango Chhu River. The path is quite narrow and you may have to cross a stream again and get wet. After walking through cedar forests we arrive Lingmithang (4,140m), which is a beautiful scattered meadow by the river with Tiger Mountain towering behind your campsite.
10KM | 4-5 HOURS | CAMP ALT 3850M
In the morning you wake up with a superb view of Gangchenta peak in front of you. The walk to Laya is very pleasant with wonderful views. You will pass through a damp forest, filled with moss and singing birds. Arrive at Laya village, the second highest settlement in the country, at altitude of 3850m.
Explore around Laya village. You can go and visit any of the houses around. Even to a perfect stranger, traditional Bhutanese hospitality is extended and a cup of tea and Chang (local, wine) is always offered. The people in this valley are very interesting especially the women. They wear conical bamboo hats decorated with turquoise and silver ornaments.
19KM | 6-7 HOURS | 950M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 2900M
Descend to army camp and join the Mo Chhu (Mother River of Punakha). Follow the river till you cross the bridge. After the bridge we will have to ascend and descend several times, through juniper and fir forests until you reach Koena at an altitude of 3800m. You will meet your car and driver here to transfer you to Gasa village. The drive is through the fir, spruce and rhododendron forest and after descending almost 1250m you reach Gasa. Here you can have a relaxing dip in the Tshachu or the hot spring which is located below your camp. It is going to be a treat relieving you from any muscle aches after a long trek. Overnight Gasa camp at 2900m. This marks the end of the this trek and tomorrow you will drive to Punakha valley.
Our visit was for 21 days, Karma was very well suited to our request. We did a 12 day trek Laya Gasa Trek Beautiful and exactly as described by the agency, Skip the Gasa Hot Springs in my opinion.
Our guide Geshi and hit team were excellent, I recommend that you ask for him if available.
Hotels in the base package are Ok, the last night we did an upgrade and I highly recommend these hotels are much better than the basics, for very little extra we were in a very nice hotel, and very well attended.
Don’t miss Haa valley!!
Our Laya-Gasa Trek was remarkable. The area is beautiful. Our guides were fantastic and the people were amazing. Highlights of our trip included crossing the big passes, tremendous mountain views, seeing blue sheep and himalayan Griffon vultures, the amazing food, and visiting some very remote schools.
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