Total Distance: 66kms. Duration: 5 Days (including a day rest at Laya). Grade: Moderate. Altitude Gain: 2780m. Altitude Loss: 2780m. While mountain weather can always provide an unpleasant surprise or two, this trek is timed to fit the narrow window in the fall when classic Himalayan weather should prevail: crisp cool days and cold nights, with lots of opportunities to view the Bhutan Himalaya up-close.
This trek takes us up the Mo Chhu River valley. Further up the valley, at the border with Tibet, we come to the charming village of Laya, a favorite of many experienced trekkers. Set at the feet of some of Bhutan’s most dramatic spires, Laya is home to a warm and friendly people whose dress and customs set them apart from the Bhutanese mainstream.
Day 01. Gasa to Koina. 14kms, 6-7 hours, 1710m ascent, 900m descent.
Visit the Tashi Thongmoen Dzong in Gasa, built in 1646 after the Zhabdrung’s victory over the Tibetians. The dzong defended the country from the Tibetian invasions in the 17th and 18th century. Then set off for a full morning of ascending to the Bari La pass 3900m, after the pass it’s a gradual, long, slow descend to the camp at Koina 3050m.
Overnight at Camp.
Day 02. Koina to Laya. 19kms, 6-7 hours, 1070m ascent, 260m descent.
Work your way up the even smaller and more powerful river this morning, crossing it and other small tributaries. There are short up and downs, but there are some steep sections. The afternoon walk is easier till the army out-post, here the trail begins its ascent to the village of Laya 3840m.
Overnight at Camp.
Day 03. Laya Halt. Explore Laya.
Going around the villages visiting houses and the people. Laya people are friendly and will happily pose for photographs. Women of Laya wear special dress and typical bamboo hats, decorated with turquoise and silver ornaments. Cultural show in the evening performed by the locals are a feast for your eyes. Or one can do many hikes up to the ridge behind the village or towards the Tiger Mountain.
Overnight at Camp/Tent.
Day 04. Laya to Koina. 19kms, 6-7 hours, 260m ascent, 1070m descent.
The trail leaves Laya through fields and clusters of houses. Descend through the village entrance porch or arch chorten (khonying) housing protective deities. Cross two rivers, Zamdo Nangi Chhu and Togtserkhagi Chhu, both fed by Masa Gang glacier. After the army out-post the trail descends following the Mo Chhu. At the end of the final climb the trail rounds a ridge into the side valley. At the pass, Kohi Laptsa 3300m, and then drop to camp at Koina 3050m.
Overnight at Camp/tent.
Day 05. Koina to Gasa. 14kms, 6-7 hours, 900m ascent, 1710m descent.
After crossing the Koina Chhu, start a long climb through an enormous sub tropical forest. If misty the atmosphere can become very eerie, and the gorge transforms something out of a fairytale. On the other side of the gorge is one of the few places where the tiger and the snow leopard share the same territory. The pass for today Bari La 3900m, then the trail descents down to a viewpoint from where you can view the magnificent Gasa dzong with Kangbum 6526m in the background. From here it is another hour to get to the small town of Gasa 2770m, if you are interested in the hot springs drop another hour to the Gasa Tshachu 2240m. An evening here would be great to relax after the trek and soak in the spring, water temperature is 40 degrees centigrade, which is comfortably warm not scalding.
Overnight at camp/tent.