Exploring Bhutan's Laya With Travel Writer Ranjan Pal

Located in the scenic vistas of Bhutan, Laya offers a unique blend of nature, cultural richness, and trekking adventures
Thimpu City, Bhutan
Thimpu City, BhutanShutterstock

For aspiring writers, there is no better wisdom than the one coming from seasoned masters. Ranjan Pal, a former economist, will not give you false hopes of making it big as a freelancer. Now, in his post-retirement phase, where 20 per cent of his time is spent travelling, while the remaining 80 per cent goes into pitching stories, Pal doesn't let that downplay his passion for writing. He enjoys engaging with new people, places, and cultures and finds travel as his pathway to adventure and new experiences. One of his latest travels was to Bhutan, where he attended the Royal Highland Festival in Laya.

Situated at around 3,850 metres, Laya provides an escape for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience. Speaking to Outlook Traveller, Pal shared takeaways from his trip, including interesting activities to try in and around this picturesque place:

Senior travel writer Ranjan Pal in Laya, Bhutan
Senior travel writer Ranjan Pal in Laya, BhutanRanjan Pal

Trek Up

Paro, Bhutan
Paro, BhutanJesse33/Shutterstock

The trek to Laya is an exhilarating adventure that showcases the beauty of Bhutan's mountainous terrain. The trek is typically one-day- long if you drive from Paro to the Tongchudrak road head. "We set off from Tongchudrak after lunch, and the trail ahead is deceptively easy, climbing gradually through lush coniferous forests following the banks of the ice-blue Moo Chhu with its glittering rapids and sparkling waterfalls. Laya was at 3800m, which means a substantial 700m climb from our starting point," Pal told us.

Appreciate Nature

A rare glimpse of White Yak
A rare glimpse of White Yak Hung Chung Chih/Shutterstock

As you ascend to Laya, take time to appreciate the unique flora and fauna of the region. The trail has rhododendron forests, alpine meadows, and crystal-clear streams. The trek provides a rare opportunity to spot diverse wildlife, including the elusive blue sheep (Bharal) and Himalayan monal (bird), a colourful pheasant native to the region.

Experience Local Culture

Buddhist stupas in Jomolhari base trekking, Paro
Buddhist stupas in Jomolhari base trekking, ParoShutterstock

Upon reaching Laya, immerse yourself in the local culture with a homestay experience. The villagers are known for their warmth and hospitality, offering visitors a chance to live like locals. Enjoy traditional Bhutanese meals, learn about age-old customs, and participate in community activities. The homestay provides rudimentary facilities and fosters cultural exchange and a deeper understanding of the local way of life.

See The Architectural Grandeur

Gasa Dzong
Gasa DzongShutterstock

On the way to Laya lies Gasa Dzong, perched on a hill overlooking the Mo Chu River. An architectural marvel with a rich history, this fortress exemplifies Bhutanese designs through its whitewashed walls, red-ochre woodwork, and intricately decorated temples. The dzong is a spiritual centre housing monastic quarters and religious relics.

Savour Local Delicacies

Traditional Bhutanese pancake
Traditional Bhutanese pancakeShutterstock

Bhutanese cuisine is integral to the travel experience, and Laya offers a chance to savour local delicacies. The traditional Bhutanese dish, Ema Datshi (chillies and cheese), is a must-try for spice enthusiasts.

You can also indulge in hearty servings of red rice, buckwheat pancakes, and butter tea, providing a taste of the local culinary culture.

Beyond the trek and cultural experiences, Laya and its surroundings offer ample opportunities for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Explore nearby lakes such as Tsho Chena and Kari Lake, which are surrounded by landscapes and offer a peaceful retreat.

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