Rigorous trekking; 26 days
Nestled high on the Tibetan borderlands, the Laya Valley is one of the most culturally and ecologically pristine redoubts in the long arc of the Himalaya. This effortful, eventful, and very rare trek takes you into Laya, and branches off to the base camp at the foot of Masa Gang (circa 22,900 feet; no one knows for sure) for some glorious solitude and thundering views. Rarity has its charms, but there's far more: the scenery along the way--past elegant Chomolhari, into the yak-hair tent-villages of the highlands and on to Laya and the embrace of the Bhutan Himalaya--is an aesthetic triumph, And Laya's welcoming people are a treat for the heart.
You will begin trekking near Paro, walking through tidy farmland toward Tibet's Chumbi Valley and Chomolhari, Bhutan's patron peak. After one day rest at Chomolhari Base Camp, you will slowly shed the 20th century, trekking northeast toward Laya and Masa Gang. You reach the highpoint, 16,500-foot at Sinche La, just before descending to Laya. On the fall version of the Laya trek you arrive during harvest season, when the semi-nomadic Layans are gleefully gathering their barley, mustard, and turnips. In the spring the land is bursting with wildflowers and song. Then you go up valley to Masa Gang, a major chapter in any trekker's life story.