Gasa: On the trails of discovery
Gasa district lies in the northern most part of the country and adjoins the districts of Punakha, Thimphu and Wangdue Phodrang and with Tibet to its north. It is thinly populated with just about 3000 inhabitants.This starkly beautiful region with elevations ranging from 1500 to 4,500 metres experiences extremely long and hard winters and short but beautiful summers. Of culture meet the people of Laya, the nomads of western Bhutan. These people live on yaks and harvest of Cordycep (fungi of high value, used in oriental medicine).
The Dzong was built in 17th century. It is named after the region’s protecting deity Tashi Thongmon and it is locally known as the Tashi Thongmon Dzong.It served as a defending barrack during the battle with Tibetan army. 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. The most appropriate time to visit is in autumn when the Dzong has annual festival.
Trek to Laya is a three night adventure. The village is situated at an altitude of 3800m and has unique culture. The very sight of the settlement makes one to wonder how a small pocket of ethnic group survived for so long in the most difficult environment. The popular Snow Leopard trek or the grand Snowman Trek goes through Laya. We recommend you to visit during their Owlay festival. This festival happens once in three years and there is lavish display of maximum cultural richness. The other festival you can bank on is the Takin Festival.
The valley of Lunana is the most remote of Gasa district. To see Lunana is to experience the culture of Himalayan people residing amongst the glaciers. 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 (Cordycepssinensis) has given the nomads an extra income which will eventually lead to preservation of this nomadic culture.
Gasa has about thirteen well known religious monuments that includes the Zabsel and Phulukha choetens, Throe Lhakhang, Dung Goemba, Drophe lCholing, Yonzho Lhakhang, Jangchub Choling, Bumpa lhakhang, and the ruins of the ancestral home of the 1st Deb Raja of Bhutan, Tenzin Drugyel.
Gasa is popularly known for its numerous Tshachus (hot springs) with renowned medicinal properties. The hot springs at the base of the Mochu river draws not just the locals but as well as Bhutanese from other parts of the country and tourists. Taking a hot dip in the Tshachus will be not just a wonderful experience but give you a healing experience.
The natural splendour 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. One cn come across the elusive 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, one of the most arduous treks in the world.