Gasa, the “Roof of Bhutan”. Gasa is one the best place to visit in Bhutan, specially if you are looking for remote and off beaten path in your Bhutan visit. It is know for being a home for Bhutan Trekking Trails, Jigme Dorji National Park , Gasa Dzong , Laya and famous hot spring in Bhutan. Gasa has so much of superlatives associated with it.
It is situated in the Extreme North West of Bhutan and it prides itself of having the highest peak in Kingdom. It is about 185 Km drive from Thimphu to Gasa; Thimphu to Punakha is about 71 Km/2 hrs drive and from Punakha we have to take another 74 Km/3hours drive to reach Gasa. So in total it is about 5 hours’ drive but we took almost 8 hours as we got caught up in its scenic splendor and bird watching on the way.
The drive from Punakha to Gasa is amazingly picturesque. The mountains are arrayed like the teeth of the saw and interspersed occasionally by waterfalls. Must have encountered about eleven no of waterfalls from Punakha to Gasa.
Before reaching Gasa we stopped by Damji village , another scenic and awesome place situated in the valley.
Trust me, in our whole journey from Punakha to Gasa we could have encountered only two to three vehicles.
By evening side we were there at Gasa, the wild, remote and breath taking region with an incredible biodiversity of flora and fauna. The elevations range from 1500 to 4,500 m and this place also experiences extremely long and cold winters and short but beautiful summers.
Lodging at Gasa
Gasa has the largest area and least population. In whole of Gasa there is not even a single commercial hotel for lodging. So we were left with the option of camping / homestay or stay at Government guest house. We chose to stay at Government guest house as it was located near to Gasa Tshachhu. They have 3 categories of room here; Very basic, basic and comfortable. But all cooking items have to be brought by us. However in comfortable category room they provide utensils, gas stove, and bedding; the toilet also has geysers but nothing is provided in basic and very basic category.
Maybe due to meager population the cost of food is very expensive and choice of food is fewer so if you are planning to stay in Gasa guest house we recommend you to bring food items either from Thimphu or Punakha.
We chose to stay in comfortable category room so at least we did not have carry gas stove utensils and bedding all the way from Thimphu to Gasa. But we have brought our own rice and vegetables.
The next day we were woken up by chirping of birds and it was a wonderful day. The first day we just wanted to dedicate for hot springs which is thought to have lot of health benefits. Gasa is supposed to have more than 100 numbers of Tshachus/Hot Spring and Menchus but most hot springs are not accessible to road so that’s why we chose Gasa Tshachu. For more information on Gasa Tshachhu , you can read our blog on Gasa Tshachhu.
Next to Gasa hot spring, the protected area ,Jigme Dorji National Park is located. We took a short hiking trails through the tropical forest just to get the feel of JDNP.
The few other Attraction/ Facts about Gasa Dzonkhag are
The only Dzong in Bhutan with three watchtower at Strategic Points and a lake by its side. The beauty of the dzong is heightened during clear days with a view of Mt. Gangboom. Time your trip there during the annual autumn festival.Laya: The valley of Nomads. Situated at an altitude of 3800 m, this village will enchant you with their unique culture and heritage. Anyone on the Laya Gasa trek or the grand Snowman Trek will converge through Laya. To experience the maximum cultural richness, time your trip during their Royal Highland Festival . This festival only takes place once in every year.
Bhutan Trekking Trails/ Glacial Lakes:
If you really want to see the natural splendor of Gasa then you may need to embark in few of our popular treks like Laya Lingzhi Trek or Snowman Trek Gasa . These treks are visually splendid and takes you to the most amazing Glacial Lakes. Though the trekking trails can get difficult, the picturesque views of snow-capped peaks can give wings to your feet.
The Largest glacial lake (Thorthormi) is also located at Gasa.
Jigme Dorji National Park:
Covering 4316Km sq. and confined to northwestern part of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji National park is unarguably a natural jewel endowed with incredible wealth of biodiversity . It comprises over 1434 species of Vascular plants, 52 mammals, 362 birds and more than 22 orders of insects. The Jigme Dorji National park also serves as the water tower of for four major rivers of Bhutan. Besides the park is one of the favored destination for its numerous heart trending peaks, amazing trekking trails and countless other natural attraction.
5. Lunana Village:
The valley of Lunana is the most remote of Gasa district. To see Lunana is to experience the culture of the Himalayan people residing amongst the glaciers and have to take multiple day hikes to reach here.
The people here make their living from yaks and sheep. The nomads here know a lot on medicinal herbs and have benefited a lot from cordycep harvesting. This wonder worm (Cordyceps sinensis) has given the nomads an extra income which will eventually lead to preservation of this nomadic culture.
It was always Laya or Lingzhi village you had to locate in the Bhutan map in the geography examination paper. Until then, Laya had been, to me, people with apple red cheeks, women with antenna bamboo hats and with yak hair and woolen clothes running after yak, sheep and horses. It was in the year 2019, when I had the opportunity to visit Laya & mingle with the Layaps .
The idyllic highland village of laya is located at an altitude of 3,800 meters, on the northwestern front of Gasa.
Believed to be the lue- nagas- shooed away by the Tibetans, Layaps depend on highland animals for their basic necessities. Unique in culture and traditions, they outlive the harsh weather conditions- cold and long winters with heavy snow, short and warm summers with rain, and cold wind all year round. However, they migrate to warmer valleys during the cold season.
Due to its unique and different lifestyle and remoteness, Laya do host visitors- despite the difficulty to reach there. It’s the midpoint of the illustrious snowmen trek. And beginning from 2016, the Royal Highland Festival has added the color it’s already existing charm and beauty.
So if you don’t mind trekking this is one village that we recommend you to visit to witness its uniqueness.