Jomolhari Laya Gasa Trekking
Jomolhari Laya Gasa Trekking is considered to be 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 Drukgyal 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 Jomolhari Laya Gasa Trekking follow the same route as the Jomolhari trek through Jigme Singye National Park and offer awe-inspiring views of Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. 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 will be able to spot indigenous animals such as blue sheep, marmots, musk deer and Takins, the national animal of Bhutan. You should not even rule out the possibility of seeing the rare snow leopard. You will travel through remote mountain villages inhabited by Layaps (people of Laya), a distinct segment of the Bhutanese society with unique culture, traditions and appearance. The 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 to June and mid-September to mid-November.
This trek also takes in a visit to the awe inspiring Taktsang Monastery (Tigers Nest) and to visit two other Dzongs in Paro on arrival.
We can customise this trek to suit your needs.
Trek: Jomolhari Laya Gasa
Trek starts: Drukgyal Dzong (Paro)
Trek duration: 13 days/20 days including transportation
Grade: Moderate to strenuous
Maximum altitude: 5005m
Minimum altitude: 2250m
Trek ends: Tashithang (Punakha)
Day 1: Arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu and a representative of Unique Nepal Adventure Trek will welcome and transfer you to your selected hotel by private vehicle.
Day 2: Fly from Kathmandu to Paro (2250m). This flight into Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights to take, as it flies past Everest, Makalu, Kanchenjunga and many more peaks. The flight takes around an hour and a half. We will then go to our hotel and take refreshment and visit Ta Dzong (National Museum) and Paro Rinpung Dzong.
Day 3: After breakfast, we drive to Kyichu Lhakhang. King Songtsän Gampo built the Lhakhang in the 7th century AD. The associated legend is that – this is one of 108 Lhakhang’s built in a single night by the king to tame his kingdom’s borders. Return to stay for lunch, rest and prepare for the trek up to Taktsang Monastery (the “Tiger’s Nest”).
Drive to the start of the trek. Trek (or horse ride) to Taktsang Monastery (trek time is 2-3 hours depending on weather and fitness level).Taktsang is perched on a precipitous 900 meter cliff. The monastery has been restored at painstaking efforts to former glory after a fire in 1998. The legend is that Guru Padmasambhava flew to this holy place on the back of tigress to meditate. More recently, one of the most enlightened abbots in modern Bhutan history, Geshe Gendun Rinchen (1926 – 1997) also known as Draphugpa (Of the Caves), was born in a small cave by the path to the monastery. Tea and refreshments will be taken at Taktsang Café for about an hour’s rest to take photos and view the scenery. We will then descend to road point (horses cannot be ridden) and drive back to Paro to prepare for the trek.
Day 4: Drukgyal Dzong – Sharna Zampa
Distance 17 km, 4-5 hours, 360m ascent, 80m descent, camp altitude 2850m.
We first drive to Drukgyal Dzong (2580m) where the road ends. The next stop is the ancient ruins of Drukgyal Dzong (30 minutes). The Dzong is a monument to the Shabdrung’s victory against an invasion of allied Tibetan-Mongolian forces in 1649. The name “Drukgyal Dzong” thus translates to “Fortress of Victory”. The Dzong was destroyed in a fire in the 1950s. On clear days, Drukgyal is an excellent place to view the glorious mountain Jomolhari. The trek begins with a gradual climb and the trail follows the Paro Chhu passing beautiful meadows, paddy fields and impressive farm houses. After about four hours you will reach the army post at Gunitsawa village. At the army check post your trek permit will be checked and endorsed. The campsite is on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa.
Day 5: Sharna Zampa – Thangthangkha
Distance 22 km, 7-8 hours, 770m ascent, 10m descent, camp altitude 3610m.
On this long day, the trail continues with lots of small ups and downs. After going uphill through the river valley, you enter the Jigme Dorje National Park. 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 views of Jomolhari.
Day 6: Thangthangkha – Jangothang
Distance 19 km, 5-6 hours, 480m ascent, camp altitude 4080m.
If you did not see Jomolhari last evening, you will have a great chance to get a great view this early morning. This morning the trek continues up the Paro Chhu valley, which widens into patches of alpine meadow and sparse growths of forest. Cross an army outpost along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. Yaks and the herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages of Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. Reaching Jangothang has one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, where you will again have a spectacular view of Jomolhari.
Day 7: Jangothang – Rest day
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 trek around the area. There are good short trekking trails in three directions. Excellent views can be had to Jomolhari and many other peaks to the west, Jichu Drake to the north and there are a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.
Day 8: Jangothang – Lingshi
Distance 18 km, 6-7 hours, 840m ascent, 870m descent, camp altitude 4010m.
After fifteen minutes from the camp, the trail climbs rapidly for about half an hour and then becomes a gradual ascent to the Nyili La pass at 4870m. Whilst on the climb you can 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 Jomolhari, Jichu Drake also known as Ts(h)erim Kang and many other names. On the way down to the camp you will pass by some of the yak herder’s tents, made from yak wool, where the herders take shelter while on the move to various pastures for their yaks. As you come down into the Lingshi basin, you get a wonderful view of Lingshi Dzong on a clear day. Unfortunately the Dzong was damaged by an earthquake on 18th September 2012. Jichu Drake 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 9: Lingshi – Chebisa
Distance 10 km, 5-6 hours, 280m ascent, 410m descent, camp altitude 3880m.
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 (4220m), which sits right atop a high ridge. This Dzong is under reconstruction from a 2011 earthquake that damaged its central building. In addition to a very special atmosphere of mystic tranquillity, 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 10: Chebisa – Shomuthang
Distance 17 km, 6-7 hours, 890m ascent, 540m descent, camp altitude 4220m.
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 the Gobu La (4410m), you descend into the valley, then climb again a little bit, before descending again to Shakshepasa (3980m), 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 11: Shomuthang – Robluthang
Distance 18 km, 6-7 hours, 700m ascent, 760m descent, camp altitude 4160m.
You begin by climbing up the valley to view Kang Bum (6526m) and some edelweiss. After two hours of climbing you will reach Jhari La (4750m), 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 Gangchenta 6840m, better known as the Great Tiger Mountain. If the weather is clear, Tsherim Gang 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 12: Robluthang – Limithang
Distance 19 km, 6-7 hours, 850m ascent, 870m descent, camp altitude 4140m.
The trek starts out with an initial 40-60minutes of ascent, before gradually rising for another hour and a half through a boulder field. It is then a one hour steep ascent before reaching Sinche La (5005m) – the final and highest pass on the trek, that is, if you don’t intend to continue the Snowman trek from Laya onwards. As you descend the far side of the pass, you 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 Gangchenta towers over the campsite even though it is quite a distance away.
Day 13: Limithang – Laya
Distance 10 km, 4-5 hours, 60m ascent, 340m descent, camp altitude 3840m.
Today, you walk downhill all the way along a narrow, winding river valley. After a long time, the trail takes you through a 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 Gangchenta and also Masagang. In the village centre, there is a community school and a basic health unit with a telephone connection. The campsite is located below the school.
Day 14: Laya – Koina
Distance 19 km, 6-7 hours, 260m ascent, 1070m descent, camp altitude 3050m.
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. There are plenty of ups and downs that will lead you up to Kohi Lapcha at 3300m. The trail then drops down to the large stream of Koina Chhu, where you will find the campsite of Koina.
Day 15: Koina – Gasa – or decide to descend to Gasa Tsachu for another hour
Distance 14 km, 6-7 hours, 740m ascent, 1500m descent, camp altitude 2240m.
Today you will have the last major climb of the Laya Gasa trek. You will cross Bari La (3740m), after which the trail descends all the way until you reach Gasa village (2770m), where you will find the first restaurants since you started from Drukgyal 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. The trek finishes in Gasa, a remote village, which is home to a distinctive and architecturally unique Dzong.
Day 16: Gasa – Gasa Tsachu – Punakha – Thimphu
If you decided to stay at Gasa then after breakfast walk down to Gasa Tsachu. Relax in the hot spring. After the climbing uphill for 30 minutes until you reach Pho Chu, your car will be waiting to transfer you to Punakha.
Visit Punakha Dzong, which was the ancient capital until 1955. The remains of the Shabdrung (also known as Zhabdrung) the saint who unified Bhutan in the 17th century are interred here. The Je Khenpo, head abbot of the monk body of Bhutan, resides here with the monk body from Thimphu during the winter because it is warmer at this altitude. We will then drive to Thimphu and on the way visit Chimi Lhakhang, which was built in 15th Century (dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley also known as the divine mad man). It is a pilgrim site especially for childless couples and it is a half an hour walk through a local village and rice field. Everyone in this kingdom believes that the Lama’s blessings will help a woman conceive. Then drive to Thimphu, which will take about three hours. Cross the Dochu La pass (3116m) and if the weather is clear, you will have beautiful views of the snow-capped mountains. Stay overnight at a hotel.
Day 17: Thimphu – Paro
Drive back to Paro for 4-5 hours and have an evening walk around Paro city and do some sightseeing and shopping for some souvenirs. Stay overnight at a hotel.
Day 18: Fly back to Kathmandu. Stay overnight at your selected hotel in Kathmandu.
Day 19: Souvenir and sightseeing in Kathmandu.
Day 20: A representative ofUnique Nepal Adventure Trek will drop you off at Tribhuvan International Airport by private vehicle.
- Airport pick-up and drop off by private vehicle.
- Two nights in your selected Kathmandu hotel with breakfast.
- All meals during the trek (lunch, dinner, breakfast and tea or coffee).
- Accommodation in a hotel in Paro and Thimphu.
- Accommodation in twin shared tents with mattress.
- All necessary equipment for camping.
- One English speaking government trained license holder and well informed trekking guide.
- Dependent on group size, cook, kitchen boy and extra horses)
- All expenses for guide and porters – meals, accommodation, salary, equipment, insurance, transportation (bus/flights) etc.
- First Aid kit bag.
- Government and local area taxes where applicable. These include Royalty fees and road permit fees.
- Return transportation from Kathmandu to Paro by flight.
- Transportation from Paro to the start of trek and from the end of trek to Punakha and Thimphu and then onto Paro by private vehicle.
- A Bhutanese visa fee, where the cost is dependent on the time of year you visit. See the link for Bhutan Information for prices.
- Nepalese entry visa fee and departure tax. (See the ‘Visa Information’ link under ‘Trekking Info’ for current fees)
- Travel insurance.
- Soft and alcoholic drinks (mineral water, hot water, coke, fanta, beer, spirits, etc).
- Snacks (Chocolate, biscuits etc).
- Hot water, hot shower, heater charge, battery charge, phone calls and laundry service.
- Donation, tips and personal expenses.
- Emergency evacuation and medical equipment.
- In case of natural calamities i.e. political unrest, cancellation of flight due to weather, landslides, etc, the extra charge will be borne by themselves.
- Lunch and dinner in Kathmandu.
- Please note that you cannot hire equipment and other personal items in Bhutan such as (sleeping bag, down jacket, hiking boots, etc). You must either bring these items into the country by yourself, or they can be hired from Kathmandu.