Beautiful Laya Gasa Trek
With the help of a dedicated trekking team we will take you high into the Himalayas, traversing forbidden high passes, visiting sacred temples and exploring rich forests. Breath taking views are complimented by breath taking altitudes, but we ascend gradually and with care so you will have time to acclimate to conditions.
Some days on this trekking schedule will require 8 hours on foot, but are balanced with rest days and a peaceful serenity out on the trail. When you first arrive in Paro you will take on the day hike to Tigers Nest, a warm up for the hills and passes ahead.
As always we can tailor this sample itinerary to suit your exact needs. See below for a price guide as well.
Day 1 / Arrive Paro
The flight into Paro offers you wonderful views of the Himalayas and an exciting descent into Bhutan. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel to settle in. After lunch visit the Paro Dzong and the National Museum. The evening ends with a walk through Paro’s main shopping district. Overnight in Paro at our choice of hotel.
Day 2 / Paro
Day excursion to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest), the most spectacular and iconic monastery in Bhutan and probably the most photographed one too. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery hence it is called “Tiger’s Nest”. The excursion to monastery’s view point takes about 5 hours for round trip. Lunch will be served at the Taktsang Cafeteria with views of Tigers Nest, followed by a short walk back. Overnight in Paro at our choice of hotel.
Day 3 / Paro - Shana
Distance 15 km/9.3 miles; Time 5 hours
Drive up to Drukyel Dzong (north of Paro) where the motorable road ends. The ruins of Drukgyel Dzong with Mount Chomolhari behind provide a wonderful vista for the start of this trek. Our trekking staff and the first group of pack animals are met here.
The trek to Shana starts along a dirt road for 1 hour through a wide, rich, cultivated valley, beneath forest-covered mountains, following the Paro Chu (river). Beware of the sun, which can be very fierce at this altitude. The first small settlement encountered is Tsento Zampa, where the traditional Bhutanese farmhouses with bright red chillies drying on their roofs in season. Farmers in this upper valley mostly grow red rice, potatoes and wheat.
The trek continues on the east side of the river, gently through the forests alive with numerous birds and brightly coloured butterflies. And after 2.5 hours the big military camp at Gunitsawa is reached. The camp has a school and some shops, and your trekking permit will be checked at the camp entrance. After 20 minutes through forest, you will suddenly see the camp in a big open field at Shana, near the river. Looking back from camp you can see a big snowy peak, Jo Drakey. Altitude of Shana: 2890m/9480ft.
Day 4 / Shana - Thangthangka
Distance 22 km/13.6 miles; Time 7-8 hour
Today is a hard day, with a lot of distance to cover. The altitude gain is also above the limit. The trail after lunch is rough and stony with many rises and drops.
Following the river upstream from the campsite about 10 minutes is the old ruined Shana bridge, destroyed by major flood caused by glacial lake outbursts in 1950s. This bridge was used in the old days by travellers coming from or going to Phari in Tibet. The trail climbs steadily through a heavily forested area of oak, rhododendron, bamboo and ferns. After crossing a small house, Shing Karap is reached. Not far after Shing Karap, we pass a junction en-route, where another path leads up the easy, forbidden pass of Tremo La and onwards to the city of Phari in Tibet. This used to be the old trading route.
Following the main river upstream, the trail makes a short steep climb and descent followed by a big bridge at 3250m, crossing to the east side of the river is Thongo Zam, a possible lunch spot. The trek to Thangthangka continues for about 3-4 hours through the forest consisting of birch, fir, larch, maple, blue pine and rhododendron. After a short climb we reach Seyende Zam where there is a big chorten (stupa). On clear weather we can see Mount Chomolhari to the North. We finally continue further up about 20-30 minutes until we reach our camp in a meadow. Altitude of Thangthangka: 3575m/11,730ft.
Day 5 / Thangthangka - Jangothang
Distance 17 km/10.5 miles; Time 4-5 hour
After enjoying the view to Chomolhari and breakfast, walk for 1 hr until we pass 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 Jangothang, the Chomolhari base camp. This valley is wide, and high mountains like Chomolhari, Jichu Drake overlook the camp and visible nearby are the ruins of an old fortress. Altitude of Jangothang: 4044m/13,260ft.
Day 6 / Jangothang
A rest day at Chomolhari camp will help with acclimatisation. There are some good hikes from Chomolhari camp, and is important to hike today so that you will progress with adjustment to altitude. The best hike is towards east up to the twin lakes of Tsho Phu. From the lakes there is a spectacular view back to Chomolhari and Jichu Drake mountains. Watch out for a herd of Himalayan Blue Sheep in this valley.
Day 7 / Jangothang - Lingshi
Distance 21 km/13 miles; Time 6-7 hour
After breakfast walk north to the last of the three houses and cross a log bridge crossing the stream. A steep switchback trail starts climbing out of the valley into another that leads to the final climb and pass. It is a long climb about 3-4 hours to reach the first high and very windy pass of this trek, the Nyelela Pass “sleepy pass” (4890m/16,040ft). From Nyelela Pass one can see far towards the east-northeast into the trekking area covered over the next couple of days. The Mt. Takaphu dominates the view towards the north. Gangchen Ta “Tiger Mountain” is the main mountain to be seen looking east.
From the pass, descend a short, steep section with loose stones. Less than 30 minutes down is a flat, more sheltered area - a good lunch spot. Continue to descend and after passing a narrow gorge with a small river crossing, the trail is easy, leading to a viewing point from which Lingshi Dzong can be seen - a powerful, solitary structure in the middle of an enormous wilderness. Campsite is located next to a river. Altitude of Lingshi: 4010m/13,150ft.
Day 8 / Lingshi - Chebisa
Distance 16 km/10 miles; Time 3-4 hours
This is a magical day and the most pleasant walk of the whole trek. Leaving Lingshi behind we gently climb gently to reach another delightful village, Gom Yu, which is set right below a 300m cliff. Another hours 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 very leisurely with plenty of reasons and opportunities to linger. Altitude of Chebisa: 3990m/13,090ft.
Day 9 / Chebisa - Shakya Pasang
Distance 14 km/9 miles; Time 5 hours
The day begins with stiff climb to Gogu La (4,440m/14,560ft) then it is a long descent to a stream at 4,170m. Later the trail again climbs over a small ridge through a cedar forest. It is a long climb over the ridge, then the trail descends on a muddy path into main Jholethang valley in a deep forest of fir and birch. Afternoon, the trail traverses high above the valley floor on stream right to Chachim, a yak pasture at 4,260m. The camp is in a cluster of brush beside a stream at the bottom of the valley. Altitude of Shakya Pasang: 4000m/13,120ft.
Day 10 / Shakya Pasang - Robluthang
Distance 16 km/10 miles; Time 7-8 hours
A long haul over the Jarela pass at 4785 m/15,695ft. where we once again get stunning views of the Himalayan mountains. We drop steeply down a forest trail to the Tsarigathang valley, the summer residence of rare Himalayan Takin (Bhutan’s National animal). Later after crossing the stream, the trail ascends till you reach Robluthang camp at altitude of 4,160m/13,645ft.
Day 11 / Robluthang - Limithang
Distance 14 km/8.5 miles; Time 6-7 hours
This day is long as well as tough crossing Shinchela pass(5,000m/16,400ft), the last and highest pass en route. You may be able to spot Blue Sheep high on the slopes. Eagles, griffin vultures, blue sheep and yaks abound in this area. From Shinchela, the descent is on a rough, rocky trail that follows moraine into another glacial valley. The last part of the trek is very interesting with fascinating view of Mount Gangchey Ta. Campsite in a meadow by the riverbank. Altitude of Limithang: 4,160m/13,645ft
Day 12 / Limithang – Laya
Distance 9 km/5.5 miles; Time 4 hours
The walk to Laya is very pleasant with wonderful views along the river, one of the tributaries of the Mochu. 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 3,800m/12,465ft.
Day 13 / Laya
The rest day is spent at leisure or visiting village houses and mixing with the Layaps.
People in Laya are semi-nomadic yak-herders. In contrast to women in the rest of the country, Laya women wear their hair long and wear a distinctive dress made of yak hair and sheep's wool, a black skirt with brown vertical stripes, a black jacket, a special conical bamboo hat.
Day 14 / Laya – Koina
Distance 16 km/10 miles; Time 6 hours
Descend to army camp and join the Mo Chu river. The trail winds along the river valley offers breathtaking views of the crashing river, feeder streams and waterfalls. Follow the river till you cross the bridge. After the bridge it is up and down several times through juniper and fir forest until you reach the camp at Koina at an altitude of 3,240 m/10,627ft.
Day 15 / Koina – Gasa Hot Spring
Distance 12 km/7.4 miles; Time 6 hours
The day begins with a long climb to Balela pass (3900m/12,792ft). There is a small rock cairn and a few prayer flags at the pass. The route starts down again, sometimes steeply, through a bamboo forest to a stream. Later it is downhill all the way to Gasa Hot Springs. If time permits visit Gasa village and Dzong built in 17th century. Then descend to Gasa Hot Springs for camp at an altitude of 2,220m/7,282ft.
Day 16 / Gasa Hot Spring – Damji - Punakha
Distance 14 km/8.5 miles; Time 4-5 hours
After the climb away from Gasa Tsachu (hot spring) the trail winds through rolling hillsides with the vista of fields, villages and forests of oak and pine. Gasa Dzong will be visible behind you glued to the valley wall, seeming afloat in space. The trail descends from the high agricultural benches into a lush semi-tropical gorge above Damji village. Our transport meets us here, and we drive 3 hours to Punakha to overnight at a nice hotel.
Day 17 / Punakha – Thimphu – Paro
Morning visit the Punakha Dzong (the winter residence of Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot and the central monastic body) and, depart to Paro across Dochula pass. Lunch and sightseeing in Thimphu. Evening drive to Paro and overnight at hotel.
Day 18 / Depart Paro
After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport for flight to onward destination.
PRICE GUIDE AND INCLUSIONS
High season touring for 18 days will typically cost USD$4500pp for a group of two or more people. The following are included in this price guide:
- Accommodation and Camping Support
- All Meals
- All Transportation
- Trekking Guides, Porters and Pack Animals
- Visa for entry into Bhutan
What's not included:
- International flights into and out of Paro
- Drinks and Alcohol
- Tips for guides