Laya, the Valley of Layaps - Bhutan

BHUTAN / Himalaya


Going from the sub-tropical Punakha valley, at 1,300 metres (4,265 feet), it is a 4 day walk up to the high Laya region, at 4,000 metres (over 13,000 feet), where yak-herders live at the foot of Mount Masangang, 7,200 metres (23,620 feet). The trail passes by medicinal hot springs and the fortress of Gasa dwarfed by the Mt Kangbum (6200m) and through different levels of vegetation before reaching the village of Laya, beyond the tree line. There the women wear black yak-hair costumes and unique, conical bamboo hats.
The Layaps are semi-nomadic yak-herders. They spend most of the year in black tents woven from yak hair, but they also build drystone-walled houses. They serve as shelter during the coldest months of the year and as storehouses for the goods and grains that they barter with the lower central valleys.
Indeed, the high altitude limits cultivation to barley and radishes crops. The diet is largely made up of milk products such as butter and cheese and of yak meat. Their wealth is measured in woolen quilts which pile up in their rooms. Hardy people, they often cross illegally the Great Himalayas through a pass north of their village and go to the first market place in Tibet. They come back with Chinese goods and alcohol, of which they make the best use during their celebrations and rituals. These valley is unique, only in these small paradise
In Bhutan, we can meet the “Layap” ethnic group and these women with the special hat in bamboo, with the “peak” who symbolize the communion with the sky of these hight altitudes of the Himalayan montains.