The Royal Highlander Festival held at Laya, Gasa District is one of the major festivals of the kingdom. The festival was first introduced on 16th October in 2016 to mark the celebration of the birth of HRH the Gyalsey; 400 years of Shabdrung Rimpoche and the Rabjung (60 years' cycle) birth year of Guru Rimpoche. The Royal Highlander festival offers beauty and the marvel of Gasa Dzongkhag through its nature, history, and its ancient tradition and culture and the simplicity of the life of the Highlanders to the travelers.
Laya lies at an elevation of 3800m, and the festival spot lies at 4000m. It can be quite cold in October. The day time ranges between 1-12 C and nighttime temperatures dip below 0 C. You might expect light rain and snowfall. Afternoons are mostly windy, with an average humidity of 48%. The walk from Gasa to Laya can be quite strenuous, mainly when the weather is wet. It is advisable to wear/carry extra windproof and rainproof clothes and hiking boots.
What to Expect
Are you traveling the world in search of a delightful experience? Then, attend the Royal Highlander Festival in the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas. Join us in this twelve-day cultural adventure and have a amazing time engaging in the enthralling traditional practices and rituals with the locals. Tour famous holy sites, like the great Taktsang Monastery, hanging on the edge of a cliff. Go on stimulating treks along the Thimphu and Gasa valleys, cross the Dochula Pass, visit the Palace of Great Bliss. Learn techniques to make authentic Bhutanese cuisine. Try archery while wearing a garb. Walk up to a hill to raise a prayer flag handpicked, particularly for you by a divine astrologer. Celebrate life by partaking in this exciting venture full of goodwill and joy!
Enjoy this 12 days' trek in Bhutan and immerse yourself in the local culture
Adore exciting trips around the Thimphu Valley, Dochula Pass, and Punakha Dzong
Pay a visit to the sacred Taktsang Monastery, a renowned Buddhist site perched on a cliff
Engage in the Royal Highlander Festival and partake in traditional practices and rituals
- Government Royalty USD 65/person/night
- All government Taxes.
- Lodging (3* hotel – Twin Sharing)
- Meals (Three Meals a day)
- Comfortable Land Transportation within Bhutan
- Service of guides (English Speaking)
- Camping Equipment & Transport during trekking tours
- Traditional dress on rent to enjoy the festival like locals
- Mineral Water
- Tea/coffee with snacks every evening at the hotel
- Travel Insurance Coverage
- Medical Expenses
- Tips to guide and driver, others
- Personal bills and others
Arrive at Paro, transfer to Thimphu
After you arrive at Paro, our airport representative will welcome you and escort you towards Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. After reaching the Thimpu, we will have lunch. After lunch, we go for a sightseeing tour around Thimphu. We will visit the Memorial Chorten, built around1974 in the memory of third king late Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is famous as the father of modern Bhutan. Then we visit Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang) this massive statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. The figure measures at a height of 51.5 meters, making it one of the giant Buddha'sBuddha's sculptures in the world. Buddha'sBuddha's point is also famous for the panoramic views of the city. Other spots for sightseeing include Motithang Taking Preserve that resides Bhutan'sBhutan's national animal, the Takin. This unusual animal looks like a moose that got stung by a bee. In the past, this sanctuary was a small zoo. However, the king announced that it was against Buddhist beliefs to cage animals, so they were released. But, Takin had difficulty adjusting, so the preserve got established to care for these gentle creatures. In the evening, we pay a visit to Trachichho Dzong, an architectural beauty that houses the throne room and the office of His Majesty, the king, and the ministries of home affairs and finance. Dinner and overnight stay at hotel in Thimphu
Stay at Thimphu
After our breakfast, we will go for sightseeing in the Thimphu region. We visit the Post office to make some personalized stamps. Then, we move towards Drupthop Dewachen Nunnery. Rikey Jadrel founded this nunnery during 1976. Rikey Jadrel is also considered an emanation of Thangtong Gyalpo. Visit the Chime Lhakhang/Temple of Fertility, walking distance of approximately 20-minute through the paddy fields and village. We will also visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang (a nunnery). From here, we get to relish views of the Wangdue and Punakha valleys. Afterward, we will stop for a short lunch break in one of Thimphu's restaurants. After lunch, we visit the Paper Factory. This factory uses traditional methods to produce original Bhutanese paper, Deg-sho. From here, we head out to Craft Bazaar. Pay a visit to Changangkha Lhakhang, one of the oldest temple in Thimphu. There are bamboo houses aligned beautifully below Norzin Lam, opposite Nehru Wangchuk Cultural Centre, that displays a variety of authentic Bhutanese art and craft products. In the evening, we roam around Thimphu town on foot.
Thimphu to Punakha
On the way to Punakha, the capital of Bhutan in the past, we stop at Dochula Pass. Dochula Pass offers beautiful panoramic views of the Himalayas silver peaks, and also is the location of the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens. Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, the present Queen Mother of Bhutan, built the memorial to remember Bhutan'sBhutan's victory over Indian militants and to liberate the souls of martyrs of the war. Punakha Dzong is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan and lies at the crack between two rivers. Punakha Dzong displays some stunning Bhutanese architecture and stands like an ancient city bounded by lavender Jacaranda trees. This six-story structure, built around 1637, is one of the oldest and largest Dzongs in Bhutan. The place still functions as the winter home of the Je Khenpo, Chief Abbott of the clergy. In 2011, it was the place of the royal wedding of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema.
Punakha to Gasa to Tongchu Zam
We will depart from the hotel in the early morning and make a trip towards Gasa, which is the starting point of our trek. We begin the trek from Gasa towards Koina, our destination for the day. The trek today takes approximately five hours. Initially, the path moves with a steady descent until Koina then winds up with a gradual ascend till you reach the campsite past the small bridge of Thongchu Zam.
Thongchu Zam to Laya
We begin the trek after some delicious breakfast. Today, our destination is the beautiful highland village of Laya. The trail moves gradually through some easy paths. However, there are some steep climbs to reach Laya. We reach the campsite early afternoon. From there, we can get gorgeous views of the terrain, and then we will get near to the settlements of locals. Here, we can learn about their traditions, cultures, and lifestyle. We will also get to witness them in their traditional dress.
Laya Festival (day 1)
The Royal Highlander festival was first introduced in the year 2016, 16th October. The festival was to mark the celebration of the birth of HRH the Gyalsey; 400 years of Zhabdrung Rinpoche and the Rabjung (60 years' cycle) birth year of Guru Rimpoche. The Royal Highlander festival shares the beauty and the marvel of Gasa Dzongkhag through its nature, history, and its ancient tradition and culture to reveal Gasa'sGasa's image of "Good to Great Gasa." And, to share all the originality and simplicity of the Highlanders with the visitors.
During the festival, visitors can see the traditional offering of Buelwa (Gift offering) with Auley (classical epic poem/song recital practice created during Zhabdrung Rinpoche days). It started during Zhabdrung Rinpoche'sRinpoche's reign in displaying faithfulness, and admiration by the community of Laya is being offered for the dynamic and visionary leadership of the successive royals. Layaps will perform a variety of cultural programs. Various competitions on mountain animals such as the Yaks, horses, and Mastiffs are held. Likewise, there we will also be traditional songs and dance competitions. The festival offers a variety of stalls that ranges from local-based yak produce to highland technology, highland agriculture technology, medicinal herbs & plants, among many more.
Laya Festival (Day 2)
Enjoy the second day of the festival at Laya. Attend the festival at the festival spots and walk around the valley to interact with the locals. Watch animal carnivals of Yaks, horses, and highland dogs, and taste the various local cuisine.
Day Eight :
Laya to Thongchu Zam
After the festival, we retrace our path back to Thongchu Zam on this day. Overnight at Thongchu Zam.
Thongchu Zam to Gasa
After breakfast, we depart form Thongchu Zam and head towards Gasa. After arriving at Gasa, we visit the Gasa Dzong, the administrative and religious center of Gasa. Then, we stop for lunch at the Gasa Camp. After lunch, we move towards Gasa Hot Spring, where we can take a relaxing bath on the water with healing properties. Dinner and overnight stay at Gasa camp.
Gasa to Paro
Today, we head back to the beautiful Paro Valley. Paro valley is home to Bhutan'sBhutan's several ancient monasteries, and the country's only airport. Paro displays Bhutan'sBhutan's unique past significance and is a complete blend of Bhutan'sBhutan's new and old culture and architecture. The valley is also home to the Jomolhari Mountain, located on the northwestern border of Bhutan and Tibet. Jomolhari mountain is the third largest mountain in Bhutan. Many rivers of Paro valley originate from the glacier waters flowing from the Jomolahariri mountain. Rinpung Dzong also lies here. The name means Fortress on Jewels, as the fortress is built of stones and rather than clay. The fort is the perfect example of Bhutan'sBhutan's 15th-century architecture and is one of the most imposing fortresses in Bhutan. The fort serves as a government center of Paro. A plank bridge used to cross the river got damaged by fire in 1907 and later got washed away by floods, so the original bridge is no longer there. Paro is also famous for the National Museum, former Ta Dzong. The National Museum stands over Para Dzong on a hill. Built during 1649, this Dzong was previously used as a watchtower to watch Tibetan invaders. The cylindrical shape building contains antiques, art, textiles, weapons, and household items that tell the history of Bhutan.
After breakfast, we drive towards the Ramthangka. From here, we hike to Tiger'sTiger's Nest (Taktshang Monastery), Bhutan'sBhutan's one of the most dramatic monuments. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), the father of Bhutanese Buddhism, flew on the back of a tiger to meditate in a cave for three years. We have to hike up to the monastery from the cafeteria for about one and a half an hour. On the way, we can get spellbinding views of the Himalayas, and the path full of prayer flags. We can get gorgeous views of the world's one of the most sacred Buddhist monasteries, even from the cafeteria. If any of you cannot hike up to the monastery, you can relax at the cafeteria and enjoy the spectacular view of the monastery. The monastery stands on the rock, about 900 meters above the valley floor. We will have lunch at the cafeteria. On the way back to the hotel, we pay a visit to Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the most sacred and oldest temples in Bhutan. Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo built this temple in the 7th century. King Songtsen Gampo was the 33rd Tibetan king who is also the manifestation of Avoloketeshivara, commonly known to Bhutanese as Chenrize)
Today, we depart from this beautiful country. After having early morning breakfast, our airport representative will transfer you to the airport approximately three hours before your scheduled flight.