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 meters experiences extremely long and cold winters and short but beautiful summers.
It has the smallest population of 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).
Locally known as the Tashi Thongmon Dzong, the fortress served as a defending barrack in the 17th century. It was named after the region’s protecting deity Tashi Thongmon. The fortress is unique with a circular shape and three watchtowers that are placed at strategic points. The beauty of the dzong is heightened during clear days with the view of Mt. Gangboom. Time your trip there during the annual autumn festival.
Let your adventurous spirit take you on a three nights trek to Laya. Situated at an altitude of 3800m, this village will mesmerize you with their unique culture. It is amazing how a small pocket of the ethnic group survived for so long in the north of this small country. Anyone on the Snow Leopard trek or the grand Snowman Trek will converge through Laya. To experience the maximum cultural richness, why not time during their Owlay festival. This festival happens once in three years.
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 of medicinal herbs and have benefited a lot from cordyceps harvesting. This wonder worm (Cordyceps Sinensis) has given the nomads an extra income which will eventually lead to the preservation of this nomadic culture.
Gasa has about thirteen well known religious monuments which include the Zabsel and Phulukha chrotens, 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.
One can 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 trek, one of the most arduous treks in the world.
The Gasa Tshachu
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 is frequented not only by 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. The option to travel halfway by vehicle until the village of Damji was 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(fortress) seated below majestic snow-covered mountains.
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