- Altitude: 2400 – 4200 mts
- Best Season: April to June and September to November
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 1: Gunitsawa Village – Sharna Zampa
40mins, 80 m descent, camp altitude 2,850 m.
This trek begins at Gunitsawa Village were you pass the army post. At the army checkpost your trek permit (provided by your tour operator) will be checked and endorsed. The campsite is on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa.
Day 2: Sharna Zampa – Thangthangkha
Distance 22 km, 7-8 hours, 770 m ascent, 10 m descent, camp altitude 3,610 m.
On this long day, the trail continues with lots of small ups and downs. After going uphill through the river valley the valley finally narrows gradually to a mere path which descends to a meadow where a camp will be set up. From here, if weather permits, you will have the first great view of Mt. Jomolhari.
Day 3: Thangthangkha – Jangothang
Distance 19 km, 5-6 hours, 480 m ascent, camp altitude 4,080 m.
If you did not see Mt. Jomolhari the previous evening, you will still have a chance to get a great view early this morning. This morning the trek continues up the Paro Chhu valley which widens into patches of alpine meadow and scanty growths of forest. You will cross an army checkpoint along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. In this area yaks and their herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. After reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari.
Day 4: Jangothang (Halt)
The rest day in Jangothang provides plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views of lakes and snow capped mountains such as Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. There are good chances to spot some blue sheep on the upper slopes of the valley. Jangothang is a perfect environment for your acclimatization. You can also trek up to Tosoh or hike around the area. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jomolhari and its subsidiary mountain chains lie directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and there are a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.
Day 5: Jangothang – Lingshi
Distance 18 km, 6-7 hours, 840 m ascent, 870 m descent, camp altitude 4,010 m.
This is one of the longest days of the trek. A short distance from the camp the trail begins climbing rapidly for about half an hour and then becomes a gradual ascent to the Nyilila pass at 4,870m. While on the climb enjoy the surroundings. You might see herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes of the mountains. From the pass you will have spectacular views of Mt. Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsherimgang, all of them rising above 7,000m. It’s a gradual descent to the camp where you will pass by some of the yak herder’s tents, made from yak wool. The herders use these tents while travelling tovarious pastures for their yaks. As you come down into the Lingshi basin, a beautiful U-shaped valley, you get a wonderful view of Lingshi Dzong on clear days. Tserimgang and its glaciers rise up at the north end of the valley. The campsite is next to a stone hut you reach just before Lingshi Dzong.
Day 6: Lingshi – Chebisa
Distance 10 km, 5-6 hours, 280 m ascent, 410 m descent, camp altitude 3,880 m.
Today is the shortest walking day, and you can really take it easy. Shortly after starting you will reach a chorten below Lingshi Dzong. Here, you have the choice of staying on the main trail or taking a detour up to the Lingshi Dzong (4,220m), which sits right atop a high ridge. This Dzong is under reconstruction from a 2011 earthquake which damaged its central building. In addition to a very special atmosphere of mystic tranquility, Lingshi Dzong provides a great view over the valley. After Lingshi Dzong you will be passing the villages of Lingshi and Goyul. In Goyul, the stone houses are clustered together to form a small compact village that is unusual in Bhutan where settlements are usually scattered. On reaching the campsite at Chebisa you will have plenty of time to visit the village houses if you feel up to it. There is also a beautiful waterfall located behind the village that is worth visiting.
Day 7: Chebisa – Shomuthang
Distance 17 km, 6-7 hours, 890 m ascent, 540 m descent, camp altitude 4,220 m.
The morning starts with a long ascent behind Chebisa Village (2-3 hours) through a wide pastureland towards Gobu La (pass). On the way, you will see a few people herding yaks. There is also a great chance to spot large herds of blue sheep above the trail. After crossing Gobu La (4,410m), you descend into the valley, then climb again a little bit, before descending again to Shakshepasa (3,980), a large U-shaped valley. Climbing from here you will finally reach the campsite at Shomuthang, above a river, which is a tributary of the Nochu river.
Day 8: Shomuthang – Robluthang
Distance 18 km, 6-7 hours, 700 m ascent, 760 m descent, camp altitude 4,160 m.
You begin by climbing up the valley to view Kang Bum (6,526 m) and some edelweiss. After two hours of climbing you will reach Jhari La (4,750m), from where you catch the first glimpse of Sinche La, the pass you will have to cross the day after. The big snow peak in the north is Gangchhenta 6,840 m, better known as the Great Tiger Mountain. If weather is clear, Tserim Kang and the top of Jomolhari will be visible. The camp by the river is called Tsheri Jathang located in a beautiful wide and remote valley. Herds of takin, the Bhutanese National Animal, migrate to this valley in summer and remain for about four months. The valley has been declared a takin sanctuary. Climb up a little bit and you will reach the campsite at Robluthang in a rocky meadow.
Day 9: Robluthang – Limithang
Distance 19 km, 6-7 hours, 850 m ascent, 870 m descent, camp altitude 4,140 m.
The trek starts out with an initial 40-60mins ascent before gradually raising for another 1.5 hours through a boulder field. It is then a 1 hour steep ascent before reaching Sinche La (5,005m) – the final and highest pass on the trek if you don’t intend to continue the Snowman trek from Laya onwards. As you descend the far side of the passyou will see an impressive terminal moraine and a glacial lake at the foot of the valley. You can see classic examples of lateral moraines where the glacier has pushed rocks up both sides of the valley. Below the moraine, you cross the Kango Chhu and soon reach the Limithang campsite. The peak of Gangchhenta towers over the campsite even though it’s quite a distance away.
Day 10: Limithang – Laya
Distance 10 km, 4-5 hours, 60 m ascent, 340 m descent, camp altitude 3,840 m.
Today, you walk downhill all the way along a narrow, winding river valley. After a long time, the trail takes you through densely forested region. The trail leads you to the west side of Laya village. From the west of the village you will have spectacular views of Mt. Gangchhenta and catch Mt. Masagang. In the village centre is a community school and a basic health unit with a telephone connection. The campsite is located below the school.
Day 11: Laya – Koina
Distance 19 km, 6-7 hours, 260 m ascent, 1,070 m descent, camp altitude 3,050 m.
The trail winds up and down along the river valley of Mo Chhu avoiding natural obstacles and affording breath-taking views of the raging river, feeder streams and waterfalls. Lots of ups and downs will lead you to Kohi Lapcha at 3.300 m. The trek then drops down to the large stream of Koina Chhu, where you will find the campsite of Koina.
Day 12: Koina – Gasa (Finish)
Distance 14 km, 6-7 hours, 740 m ascent, 1,500 m descent, camp altitude 2,240 m.
Today you will have the last major climb of the Laya Gasa Trek. You will cross Bari La (3,740m), after which the trail descends all the way until you reach Gasa village (2,770m), where you will find the first restaurants since you started from Drukgyel Dzong. There also is a campsite close to Gasa Dzong. You will have to decide whether you want to stay in Gasa village or descend for another hour to the Gasa Tsachu (hot springs) and relax in the rejuvenating mineral waters. The Gasa Tsachu is one of the most popular hot springs in Bhutan.
This trek finishes in Gasa, this remote village is home to a distinctive and architecturally unique Dzong.
Trekking Rates For Bhutan
The government of Bhutan requires that a minimum standard needs to be maintained while trekking in Bhutan. You will be accompanied by your own trekking staff consisting of a professional trekking guide, cook, camping assistant and a few horsemen and horses to carry your gear; regardless of whether you’re a solo trekker or you are a part of a bigger group. All food supplies must be carried in and prepared in camp. Trekking in Bhutan can therefore be a little expensive for solo travelers and those traveling in smaller groups.
TREKKING SURCHAGE PER PERSON ON TOP OF SDF, GUIDE & VEHICLE CHARGES:
1 Pax: USD 250 Per Person Per Day
2 Pax: USD 200 Per Person Per Day
3 Pax: USD 180 Per Person Per Day
4 Pax or More: USD 160 Per Person Per Day
- 4 season mountaineering tents. (Mountain Hardware Trango ll).
- Freshly prepared meals with tea and snacks throughout the trek.
- All trekking logistics like dinning tent with utensils, chairs and tables, toilet tent, etc.
- Sleeping bag and blankets
- Fully seasoned support team.
- Portage charges.
- Filtered/boiled drinking water throughout the trek.
- Hot washing water in the mornings and evenings.
- Hot water bags for the night.
- Individual footprint foam mattress.
- Communal first aid kit (We always carry multiple oxygen canisters for emergency scenarios).
DOES NOT INCLUDE:
- Personal snacks, drinks and equipment
- Gratuity for staff.
A TYPICAL DAY ON THE TREK:
The day starts off with a wake up call, around 6-6:30 am, if you are not already awake by then. A staff will come with a bowl of warm water to wash up along with tea/coffee brought to your tent. Before heading over to the dinning tent for breakfast, usually around 7-8, we suggest you pack your overnight gear into your duffel bag and prepare for the day. During breakfast the staff will pack away the tents and ready the horses.
After breakfast, usually between 8:30-9 am, we start walking. The pace of the trek is leisurely with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, take photos and explore the local settlements, if any. Lunch will be around noon at a favourable spot by the side of the trail. Lunch is carried by the staff.
There is usually more walking after lunch, we will always plan to cover big ascents/passes before lunch but this does not always pan out as expected. Normally we will get into camp by mid afternoon with the tents already set up by the support team. Once you arrive at camp, you will be able to wash up, change to get into your comfy camp clothes and try and get comfortable.
Tea and snacks will be served. Followed by dinner later in the evening around 7pm.
All meals are freshly prepared by our cook and kitchen team. Breakfast with fried rice, toast/pancakes with various condiments, omelettes and a range of hot drinks. Hot lunch is prepared by the kitchen crew during breakfast and packed into containers carried by the staff to be eaten on the trail. On arrival at the campsite, there will be tea and other hot drinks in the dining tent with biscuits and snacks, help yourselves. Dinner will follow with soup, meal and dessert.
ACUTE MOUNTAIN SICKNESS (AMS).
This happens due to the body’s reaction to the low air pressure (less oxygen) at high altitudes and each individual responds to this situation differently. So please ascent at your own steady pace so that you allow your body to acclimate as you gain elevation.
This is a problem for some people, especially when hiking and sleeping above 3500 meters. The onset of symptoms has no logic in the sense that you never know who will get it regardless of your previous climbs and high ascents. There is no natural way to avoid getting AMS. However, acclimatization before the trek (we recommend day hikes, climbing high and sleeping low) and staying hydrated, eating and sleeping (rest) well on the trek goes a long to keeping yourself fit and feeling good.
Usually a steady and throbbing headache at the back of your head is a telltale sign of the onset of AMS. But this is not a major concern if it does not develop further and persists. Other symptoms include: fatigue, shortness of breathe, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and vomiting. There is no treatment to this sickness other than letting the body rest, acclimate and cure itself. If the symptoms do not get better, we will descend in altitude.
PACKING LIST AND TIPS:
They say we pack our fears when we travel and thus all of us pack different and are each their own creatures of comfort. But the rule of thumb on treks is to keep it to the essentials and be organized.
Less things to pack in the morning means, being swift and at ease which translates to a few more cups of coffee while enjoying the morning sun.
Therefore only listing the essentials here.
- DAS BOOT: Your favourite hiking boot or shoe. One that is broken in and kept you on the trail, blister free, while hitting the gnarly stuff. A pair with good ankle support that breathes well and to a certain extent is water resistant, keeps your feet happy!
- THE FART SACK: I mean the sleeping bag. Check where and when you are going and take something that is rated lower by 5ºC than the expected temperature, just be on the warmer and safer side. Women typical tend to sleep colder than men.
- MATTRESS: A foldable and comfortable mat, ideally an inflatable mattress. After a long day, you just want some good sleep. One that can be packed away inside your duffle bag or secured on the outside with the straps (easier for us to stow away and load it onto the horses). We will provide a footprint foam mat.
- DAY PACK: Just like your boots, a backpack is something you wear almost throughout the day and the entirety of your trek. So take a pack that you are comfortable with. A 20-30 L pack is ideal, depending on the gear you carrying.
- CLOTHING: Apart from the clothes you are comfortable with, a rain jacket or a poncho that can double up as a windbreaker, is indispensable. Micro climates in the mountains are an enigma. So its always nice to be prepared, that way the rain doesn’t feel so bad and you can slog on with a grin on your face. Another essential is a down jacket, to throw over yourself while at camp after the sun goes down.
- MEDICATION: Please don’t forget you personal medication. Also a small personal first aid kit. You may never need them, but it can prove to be crucial for your wellbeing incase you do while on the trail. We will also have a common first aid with only the essential medicine and kit.
- GLOVES & BEANIES
- SUNSCREEN, SUN GLASSES AND HAT
- WATER BOTTLES
- A PACKABLE PILLOW
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