I was at Gasa sometimes in 2015 summer. But my stay there was very brief. So I couldn’t explore and experience many things of Gasa. Therefore, I had to leave Gasa with a promise to return again during one of the snowy winters to enjoy its unusual beauty.
I wanted to see how numerous ‘M’ and ‘N’ shaped mountains of Gasa would appear when they are clad with white snow and fluffy cloud-ribbons. I wanted to learn about all the places to visit in Gasa or tourist attractions of Gasa.
2 years have passed by. The dream of visiting Gasa during winter has remained as a dream for me all along. However, as I was at Punakha last time, I felt a certain urge to travel Gasa. Sure, it was controversial to my earlier promise. Yet another part of my mind was like maybe Gasa is inviting me again just to experience things which I must have missed during my last visit.
Therefore, we started our journey to Gasa from Punakha on 15th May. When we ascended through thick sub-alpine forest leaving sultry Punakha climate, temperature started becoming cooler. The occasional spring drizzle with light patters made us forget annoying pebbles strewn on those narrow and uneven roads.
Vegetation seems to be giving rise to another life – dry winter leaves have given their ways to green and fresh spring leaves. I would have got out of the car to taste those fresh spring leaves if I were a plant eating animal. They look so fresh and palatable.
Punakha – Gasa Travel Modes & Road conditions
If you are to travel from Thimphu to Gasa directly without a night-hold at Punakha, it would probably take you about 7 hours to reach Gasa. The road distance is about 134 KM. However, if you start from Punakha, it would be a journey of about 3 hours. The distance between Punakha and Gasa is about 47 KM.
However, road condition to Gasa from Punakha isn’t as good as that of Paro-Thimphu or Thimphu-Punakha Highways. Most parts of road which cruise into mountains towards Gasa aren’t blacktopped. Some parts are annoyingly strewn with pebbles making our ride quite a bumpy one.
Some parts of the road are narrow and steep. However, light and medium vehicles can ply quite comfortably. It’s very hard to judge weather conditions in Bhutan during monsoon seasons. Therefore, personally I don’t recommend travelling to Gasa during summer.
People who have limited time for this travel might feel devastated if road gets blocked due to landslide – which is often reported on Punakha-Gasa Road. However, during autumn and winter, I don’t sense much problem.
Tourist attractions of Gasa or places to visit in Gasa
#1 Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Park
One of the biggest protected areas of Bhutan starts after crossing Kabesa village in Punakha. This park has the maximum number of plants and animals that are listed as endangered species in the world.
The road to Gasa actually cuts through this park. It’s a thick forest of hemlocks, birches, oaks, walnut trees and rhododendrons. Travellers can also see wild takins, musk deer, beers, leopards and mountain goats on the way.
This park can be one of the best tourist attractions of Gasa. It offers good avenues for landscape photography, birds watching and wildlife photography. If you are someone who is on a mission of studying rare plants and animals of the world, this park can be one of the best places to visit in Gasa.
#2 Takin, National Animal of Bhutan in wild
Bhutan’s National Animal is Takin; an animal that looks like a mountain goat but has a body of cow. In Zoology, Takin is a wild animal. However, in Thimphu few Takins are at Motithang Takin Preserve for their Ethology and breed conservation purposes.
If you want to see Takins in wild, then travel Gasa. No sooner you enter the territory of the National Park there than you’ll see numerous wild Takins. However, wild Takins are quite shy unlike the ones that are in Motithang Takin Preserve. They disappear in woods on seeing us.
#3 Damji village and its ancient beauty
Damji village is also one of the best places to visit in Gasa. Tourists who haven’t arranged hotels in Gasa can spend nights at Damji – you’ll have wonderful home stay-kind-of holds. People are very friendly and interactive. The present Foreign Minister of Bhutan also comes from Damji.
This village also shares an important anecdote of Bhutan History. When fiddle between Zhabdrung and Tsang Desi was at climax, Damji lama invited Zhabdrung to Bhutan. It was on his invitation Zhabdrung came to Bhutan in 1616.
It’s said that the ancestral house of this lama has many religious items and utensils gifted by Zhabdrung when he left Punakha from Damji. This historical snippet makes Damji one of the best tourist attractions of Gasa. Head office of Jigme Dorji National Park is also at Damji.
#4 Gasa Dzong viewpoints at Bjishong
In few kilometers’ distance from Damji village, there is a small chorten (stupa). It’s said that in olden days when there was no road between Punakha and Gasa, this place used to be popular place to hold nights or rest for people travelling to Gasa and vice-versa.
This place provides a good distant view of Gasa Dzong. In winter when weather at Gasa is good, the view of the Gasa Dzong with backgrounds of snow-capped mountains from here would be something any photography enthusiast would love.
#5 Gasa Tsachu ViewPoint at Damji
If you can go little farther from Gasa Dzong Viewpoint, you’ll reach at a viewpoint of Gasa Tsachu (hot springs). The serene environment with towering mountains make Gasa Tsachu appear more beautiful.
During winter, Gasa Tsachu area will look more heavenly and beautiful. More people will visit the hot spring and more tents will be pitched. The distance view of Gasa Tsachu with rising of smoke in background would glorify the environment of Gasa Tsachu.
In distance, you can also see a beautiful waterfall that falls in a deep gorge. And some people claim that we can also enjoy bird watching on this spot.
#6 Gasa Tsachu (Hot springs)
Bhutanese would say that when you reach Gasa and then return without soaking in Gasa Tsachu at least once, then you’re returning from land of gems empty-handed. Why they say so? Because Gasa Tsachu is one of the best places to visit in Gasa or the main tourist attractions of Gasa.
You don’t have to worry about hotels at Gasa. Government has now constructed guest houses. You can stay there by paying a nominal charge of Nu.200-500 per night. There is also separate compartment at hot spring for people who want more privacy during bathe.
#7 Gasa Dzong and its nearby town
Gasa Dzong is an iconic structure of Gasa Dzongkhag and one of the most popular tourist attractions of Gasa. Bhutan history has that it was built by Desi Tenzin Drukdra sometimes in 1640s on a spot where Drubthob Terkungpa mediated.
The Dzong was built to house Bhutanese armies to protect the country from Northern Invaders. It was later enlarged into bigger administrative centre by Desi Tenzin Rabgye.
Gasa Dzong was razed to ground by fire in 2008. Therefore, the major renovation work is still in progress. I was told that it would take at least another one year to have Gasa Dzong in its initial glory.
#8 Gasa Dzong Tsho (Lake)
There is a small lake behind Gasa Dzong. We can see prayer flags hanging around it. People claim that it’s the drinking water of protective deity Mahakala.
During my first visit to Gasa, I could see this lake clean. But during my recent visit, the water has turned grey and its surrounding has also gone muddy. We can relate its appearance to ongoing renovation works of the dzong.
Recommend to read following travel experiences and exciting travel stories from Bhutan:
- Dzongdrakha Lhakhang, which looks similar to Paro Taktshang.
- Place of interest in Thimphu – Dodedrak Goemba.
- Royal Botanical Park of Bhutan at Lampelri, a nice place to visit.
- Place to visit in Paro – Chumbu Lhakhang.
- Bhutanese celebrate first snowfall as a symbol of prosperity.
- The reasons why you will love Royal Highlander Festival.
- Mystical Mebartsho or the Burning Lake of Bumthang.
- The secrets of Tiger Nest Monastery (Taktshang) Hike.
- National symbols of Bhutan – Travel Bhutan to Discover them.
- 45 uncommon facts of Bhutan that all tourists need to know.