Altitude : 2700m/8858ft
Gasa, the northernmost district of the country adjoins the districts of Punakha, Thimphu and Wangduephodrang, and with Tibet to its north. This starkly beautiful region with elevations ranging from 1500m to 4500m experiences extremely long and cold winters, and short but beautiful summers.
It has the smallest population with just about 3000 inhabitants. This region is inhabited by the Layaps, nomadic herders with a unique culture. Their main sources revenue come from trading products made from their yaks, such as yak hair textiles, cheese, butter and yak meat. They also harvest and sell Cordyceps, (a fungus of extremely high value that is frequently used in oriental medicine).
Gasa has about thirteen well known religious monuments which include the Zabsel and Phulukha choetens, Throe Lhakhang, Dung Goemba, Drophel Choling, Yonzho Lhakhang, Jangchub Choling, Bumpa lhakhang, and the ruins of the ancestral home of the 1st Deb Raja of Bhutan, Tenzin Drugyel.
The natural splendor of Gasa is unparalleled in the country. It has some of the highest peaks arrayed like a saw along the natural border with Tibet. Over a hundred glacial lakes are at the foot of these mountains that feed the two major rivers in the country.
The entire district falls under the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park that has some rare flora and fauna species like the Snow Leopard, Takin – the national animal, Red Panda, the Mountain Goats, Blue Sheep and the Blue Poppy- the national flower of the country. Each year a number of tourists pass through the region along its popular trails including the famous Snowman trek, one of the most arduous treks in the world.
Places To See
The hot springs at Gasa in Western Bhutan are situated close to the banks of the Mo Chu River. This is one of the most popular springs in the country and are frequented not only with tourists but with local people as well. There are three bathhouses at the Gasa Tshachu. One of the bathhouses contains a large bathing pool and the remaining two each have two smaller pools. The water temperature varies in each of the pool so visitors can choose the one that they like best. Bathing facilities have also been provided to ensure that the Hot Springs remain clean and hygienic.
There is also an outdoor pool close to the facilities that are frequently used by both domestic and wild animals such as Takins.
To get to the Gasa Hot Spring visitors must trek for approximately 40 minutes from the nearby road to the springs located on the valley floor. The option to travel half way by vehicle until the village of Damji were it is a beautiful six hour trek to Gasa through gorgeous hills covered in verdant forests of pine and oak.
The valley of Lunana holds one of the remotest settlements in all of Bhutan. At Lunana Village you will get to experience the unchanged culture of the Himalayan people residing amongst the glaciers. The people here are chiefly herders, making their living from their yaks and sheep. These nomads are especially knowledgeable about medicinal herbs and is benefiting a lot from cordycep harvesting. This amazing fungus provides the nomads with a lucrative source of extra income, which is incredibly useful to the preservation of their nomadic culture.
Situated at an altitude of 3800m, this village is accessible only by a three-day trek but is definitely worth the effort. The scenic journey will have you walking through some of the most pristine natural environments in the country and the village will mesmerize you with its unique culture.
The inhabitants of Laya village are ethnically distinct and have been continuing their traditional way of life since time immemorial, hidden away in the far north of the kingdom. Hikers embarking on the Snow Leopard trek or the legendary Snowman Trek will pass through Laya.
The best time to experience the amazing culture of Laya is during the Owlay festival. This ancient festival occurs once in every three years and is an absolutely unforgettable celebration of the culture and religion of Laya. Another festival worth attending is the Takin Festival, it’s the perfect opportunity to mingle with the local nomads and get a taste of their traditions and culture. You’ll learn all about the national animal of Bhutan, the distinct and majestic Takin. Let your adventurous spirit take you on a three nights trek to Laya.
Locally known as the Tashi Thongmon Dzong, the fortress served as a defending barrack in the 17th It was named after the region’s protecting deity Tashi Thongmon. The fortress is unique with a circular shape and three watch towers that are placed at strategic points. The beauty of the dzong is heightened during clear days with view of Mt. Gangboom. Time your trip there during the annual autumn festival.