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Bhutan Tourism : Places to Visit in Bhutan : Gasa in Western Bhutan

Places to visit in Gasa Bhutan

Gasa (alt. 2,850m / 9,348 ft)
Bordered by Tibet in the north, surrounded by rugged mountains and craggy hills, Gasa is a sparsely inhabited region of Bhutan. Owing to its starkly natural beauty Gasa is increasingly becoming popular among visitors from around the world. gasa-dzong BhutanThe region is mostly inhibited by the Layaps – nomadic herders with unique lifestyle and traditions. On your trip to Gasa you will encounter Layaps tending their yaks and sheep on the green pastures along the roadside or walking trail. You may also have an opportunity to walk into their distinctive looking hamlets if you wish to experience their unique ways of nomadic life.

A natural hot spring is another top attraction of this region where locals as well as international visitors come here to take a bath in a natural hot spring which is believed to contain a host of medical benefits.  

The 17th century Gasa Dzong sits calmly atop a sleepy hill overlooking a snowy mountain range in distance. The Dzong (monastic cum administrative building) was built to commemorate victory over Tibetans by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal.

One of the world toughest treks – The snowman trekking trail passes through Gasa village. A herd of wild Takin (Bhutanese national animal) are also frequently seen on the forested hills around Gasa.

Royal Highland Festival which is held here annually showcases the rich cultural heritage of highland community of Gasa. The festival is a landmark activity of Gasa district’s ‘Good to Great Gasa’, a vision inspired by His Majesty’s passion to make country great. During the festival, variety of cultural programs performed by Layaps. Various entertaining programs including the animal parade, tug of war, horse race, cattle show, strongwoman competition, wrestling, run and lottery along with various cultural dances also steal the hearts of visitors.

Travelling to Gasa is a bit of an adventure. There is a newly constructed partially paved road from Punakha that passes through the forest of oaks and pine. Due to treacherous mountainous terrain, the road is often disrupted by falling boulders and landslides. Under normal road conditions, a roundtrip travel between Punakha (the nearest town) and Gasa should take 5-6 hours.

Places of interest in and around Gasa

Gasa Dzong
Built in 17th century to commemorate the victories over the Tibetans by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal Gasa Dzong is also locally known as the Tashi Thongmon Dzong, named after the regions’ protecting deity Tashi Thongmon. Unlike other Dzongs in Bhutan, Gasa Dzong is unique with its circular shape that reflects beautiful manifestations of traditional Bhutanese architecture. Strategically placed watchtowers around the Dzongs are other unique features of the Dzong.

On clear days one can enjoy a breath-taking view of Mt Gangboom in the eastern Himalayan range. An annual autumn festival called Gasa Tshechu held at the courtyard of the Dzong is quite spectacular.

Gasa Tshachu (Gasa Natural hot springs)
One of the top reasons to visit Gasa is to enjoy its natural hot springs set against strikingly beautiful natural surroundings. Located on the bank of Mo Chhu River, Gasa Tshachu has bathhouses and outdoor pools with varied water temperatures. Hot water occurring gasa-hotspring Bhutannaturally from the surface of the earth is believed to contain many medically beneficial properties. Its medicinally valued water has not only attracted locals but also many international visitors despite its remote location. The local authorities who oversee its facilities do their best to ensure bathhouse areas remain safe & hygienic and eco sensitivity of the natural surrounding is not disturbed. A small pool is also built a litter further from the main area specially for the wild animals (mostly Takins) and domestic animals from nearby villages.

A visit to Gasa Hot Spring involves walking approximately 40 minutes from the nearby motor road which is located on the valley floor. If you are up for a bit of an adventure you can drive halfway by car to the village of Damji and trek through the scenic and verdant forest trail for about 5-6 hours. The route passes through the vantage mountain passes, forests of bamboo, oaks and pines and a few small villages on the backdrop of snowclad Himalayan range – a pure delight for photographers and explorers. A small rest house is also available should you wish to spend a night near Gasa hot springs.

Laya Village
Situated at an altitude of 3,700m in northern part of the country, the remote hamlet of Laya is mesmerising owing to its unique highland culture, traditions and the fascinating landscape of the region. The peak of daunting Tsenda Gang (7,100m) towers over the village, which is spread out over a hillside near the Tibetan border. Layaps (people of Laya) call their land as BAYU or Bey-Yul (hidden land) and it’s amazing to see how this small pocket of ethnic groups survived for so long preserving their unique culture, traditional and dialects. Wearing typical bamboo hats with spike at the top, Laya women dress in their distinct black woollen jacket with silver trims and long woollen skirts with few strips in orange and brown. Their wear lots of silver jewellery on their back and keep their hair long.

Falling under Gasa district, Laya village terrain forms country’s primary yak-breeding area while agriculture and livestock are the major source of income for the villagers. The people here raise turnip and mustard and produce a crop of wheat or barley each year before winter. The collection of Cordyceps is also enhancing income of villagers. During summer months villagers move to high pastures and live-in black tents woven from yak hair.

Recognising the importance of the highlanders and their culture and traditions, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck initiated the Highland Festivals. The festival celebrates and preserve the rich cultural traditions of the highland communities in the country.

 

(Images credit: Royal Govt of Bhutan www.gasa.gov.bt )




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