Gasa is the most northern district in Bhutan. Gasa is a six-hour ride from Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, and three hours from Punakha. Landslides are very common on the route. I was delayed two hours going to Gasa because of a landslide and almost three days as I was leaving.
The only tourists that seem to visit this beautiful area of Bhutan (except me) are the adventurous folk attempting the Laya – Gasa Trek.
It’s a shame, so few tourists make it to Gasa. One of the most impressive Dzong’s in Bhutan is located here, and some fantastic natural hot springs are also found here. Even the Royal Bhutan family have a private hot spring up here. The whole Gasa District is an environmentally protected area of Bhutan, with the Jigme Dorji National Park being the jewel if the region.
The park holds a wide variety of rare wild animals like Snow leopard, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, red panda, sambar, barking deer, Indian leopards, and marmot. Sadly I didn’t see any of those animals during my visit.
Locally known as the Tashi Thongmon Dzong, the fortress served as a defending barrack in the seventeenth century to protect against invasion from Tibet. This fortress is different from the other nineteen historical Dzongs in Bhutan. The design here has a circular shape and three watch towers that are placed at strategic points to overlook the valley.
Parts of the Dzong were damaged by fire in 2008 and are slowly being rebuilt, most of it is rebuilt now, with only the main tower still under reconstruction.
Gasa Hot springs.
The other main sight in Gasa is the amazing hot spring, that is located on the valley’s floor next to the river. It’s a twenty-minute drive on a newly constructed road or a fifty-minute hike from the Dzong to reach the hot springs. The only accommodation in the area is also located near the springs.
There are about a dozen new guesthouses built here, with a few more currently being built. The guesthouses are built in a traditional way and very basic, but they do have a western toilet.
There are also two small shops here that sell only the most basic and important of necessities like beer, whisky, noodles and soft drinks!
The hot spring is located another ten-minute walk from the guesthouse. The hot spring complex was destroyed by a massive flood on the Mo Chhu river in 2008 but was re-opened in late 2011.
After the flood, a small Stumpa and temple were built in the area to protect the hot springs from future floods.
There are three different houses for tourists in the complex. Two of them have two hot springs inside. One is over twenty-six degrees Celcius, the second one over thirty-four degrees Celcius. The last building only holds one hot spring, which is also the warmest one by far with a temperature of up to forty degrees and more.