GASA BHUTAN

Gasa, the northernmost district of the country adjoins the districts of Punakha, Thimphu and Wangdue Phodrang and with Tibet to its north. This starkly beautiful region with elevations ranging from 1500 to 4,500 m 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 source of revenue comes 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). The majority of the known herds of wild Takin also occur in Gasa.

Gasa has become a tourist destination because of its pristine forests and the exceptionally scenic location of its Dzong.  A narrow road from Punakha, which is mostly unpaved, reaches up to the Dzong and is now being extended up to Laya. Gasa Dzong was built by Zhabdrung in 1646 to commemorate the victories over the Tibetans and it later defended the country against several invasions in the 17th and 18th century. 

Gasa is famously known for its inhabitants, the Layaps, and for the Snowman Trek – one of the most challenging treks in the Himalayas. The newly established festival called the Royal Highlander Festival is becoming more popular each year. Attending this festival allows you to see the real feature of this remote Dzongkhag and should not be missed by travellers. Gasa is also famous for its healing hot springs, located around 2hrs walk at the bottom of the ridge. The hot spring is popular amongst Bhutanese all over the country during the winter. 

TOP ATTRACTION

Let your adventurous spirit take you on a three nights trek to Laya. Situated at an altitude of 3800 m, this village will mesmerize you with their unique culture.

It is amazing how a small pocket of ethnic groups survived for so long in the northern part of the country. Anyone on the Snow Leopard trek or the grand Snowman Trek will converge through Laya. To experience the maximum cultural richness, time your trip during their Owlay festival. This festival only takes place once in three years.

The hot springs at Gasa in Western Bhutan are situated close to the banks of the Mo Chhu 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.

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. There is also an 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 route also takes you through small villages, bamboo forests and across sparkling mountain streams. Along the way, trekkers will cross a mountain pass from which there is an absolutely stunning view of Gasa Dzong seated below majestic snow covered mountains.

There are three bath houses at the Gasa Tshachu. One of the bath houses 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.

Lunana VIllage

The valley of Lunana is the most remote of Gasa district. To see Lunana is to experience the culture of the 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 (Cordyceps sinensis) has given the nomads an extra income which will eventually lead to preservation of this nomadic culture.

The National Memorial Chorten was built in memory of Third Druk Gyalpo and is dedicated to World Peace. The chorten is a large white structure crowned with a golden spire.

It is located close to the center of Thimphu city and is one of its most iconic monuments. Visitors will find elderly Bhutanese people circumambulating the Chorten throughout the day. Chorten literally means ‘Seat of Faith’ and Buddhists often call such monuments, the ‘Mind of Buddha’. The Chorten is an extraordinary example of Buddhist architecture and artwork with its gorgeous paintings and intricate sculptures.

The Buddha Dordenma is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. The statue fulfils an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.

This massive statue of Shakyamuni measures in at a height of 51.5 m, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue; 100,000 statues of which are 8-inches-tall and 25,000 statues of which are 12 inches tall. Each of these thousands of Buddhas have also been cast in bronze and gilded. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.

The_National_Folk_Heritage_Museum,_Thimphu,_Bhutan

Located in the capital city of Thimphu, this museum was established in 2001 and provides visitors and tourists with fascinating insights into the Bhutanese material culture and way of life. The Folk Heritage Museum is set inside a three storied, 19th century traditional house.

The museum gives you a glimpse of the traditional Bhutanese lifestyle, in addition to artifacts from rural households; it also displays an impressive collection of typical household objects, tools and equipment. The museum also organizes regular demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, habits and customs as well as hosting educational programs for children.

The activities of the museum follow a seasonal rhythm, just like the activities of a true rural household, offering you something new to see every time you visit the place. The museum does a remarkable job of recapturing the rural setting and ambiance of a traditional household by setting up paddy, wheat and millet fields, a traditional water-mill with mill stones more than 150 years old, traditional style kitchen gardens with vegetables that were typically grown during the past 100 years and even one of the traditional hot stone baths that are famous throughout the country.

In an effort to maintain our knowledge of indigenous natural resources, native trees and plants that had domestic uses in a rural Bhutanese household is grown, creating an oasis of greenery, right in the heart of the capital city of Thimphu.

Tourists may also avail the special offers of the museum at a nominal fee with an advance booking of at least one week. These include demonstrations of the traditional way of extracting oil or Markhu Tsene, brewing ara or Ara Kayne, roasting rice or Zaw Ngowni and pounding rice or Tham Dhungni within the museum premises. The museum also organizes an open air buffet lunch and dinner offering visitors a taste of traditional cuisine. The menu for such arrangements is available at the Museum and consists of a variety of traditional dishes from every region of the Kingdom.

However, lunch and dinner arrangements are only available for groups with five or more members. The museum is closed on government holidays. Hours of operation are from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm from Monday to Friday, from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm on Saturdays and 11:30 am to 3:30 pm on Sundays.