Travel Tips

Top 4 Places to Visit in Punakha

Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still it is the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot).
Blessed with a temperate climate and fed by the Pho Chu (male) and Mo Chu (female) rivers, Punakha is the most fertile valley in the country. There are splendid views from Dochu-la pass (3,088m/10,130ft) on the Thimphu – Punakha road.

1. Punakha Dzong:

Punakha-dzong

Placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, the Dzong was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of the region. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored in recent years by the present monarch and displays some of the best works of Bhutanese arts and crafts. The Dzong is open for visitors during the Punakha festival (early spring) and in the summer months, after the monk body has returned to Thimphu.

Traditionally and customarily, all Kings in Bhutan are ceremonially enthroned in the Central Prayer Hall of Punakha Dzong. The Royal Wedding of the 5th King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was also solemnized in the Dzong.

2. Chimmi Lhakhang:

Chimmi-Lhakhang

Bhutan is a place where people believe in magic and mysticism. When a couple cannot have children, they
pray for the blessings of the Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of fertility, blessed by the Divine Mad Man, in the 1500s. The walk to the temple will take about 45 minutes one way through rice paddy fields.

3. Punakha Suspension Bridge:

Punakha-Suspension-Bridge

Behind Punakha Dzong stretches the Punakha Suspension Bridge, the longest of its kind in Bhutan. The bridge connects the dzong with the villages on the other bank of the Po Chhu river – Shengana, Samdingkha, and Wangkha , where traces of the Divine Madman Drukpa Kuenley can still be found, in the form of local stories, monasteries and markings on rocks.

In these small villages, locals sell their wares in tiny, traditional shops. Visitors can stop here for a quick and authentic view of true Bhutan. In order to access the suspension bridge from the dzong, one must walk past the King’s palace and the cremation ground.

4. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten:

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Standing regally on the hill above the Punakha valley, Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten is a classic example of gorgeous traditions and architecture of Asian country. This chorten, however, is unique. It is not designed for community worship or for monastic retreat or education like other Buddhist Institute and Colleges. It is designed as a magical tool. It was built by the Queen Mother for heading off the negative forces and transportation peace and harmony for all the living beings. The thing that sets this Chorten apart is that it was designed on the principals delineate within the Holy Scriptures instead of trendy engineering manuals. The golden spire and labyrinthine wall patterns square measure fine example of art and traditions of Asian country.

First, tourists have to park the bus on the west bank of the river, and walk across a suspension bridge. The iron bed and steel cable look new, but the towers look old. No one knows exactly how old. The first iron suspension bridges in Bhutan were built over 500 years ago, around circa 1440 and 5 of those are known to be still in use!

Despite the spiffed-up bridge, there’s nothing on the other side, but a narrow track along a little creek and through the rice paddies. It is very scenic in nature. The way the terraces are built and the irrigation water channeled from the creek is pretty much the same in South Asia region.

At the foot of the hill the paddies end and the real trail begins. Here there’s a big prayer wheel in its little shelter. Where an older person comes to turn the wheel and chants.  Then climbing up the hill is refreshing as trail surrounds pine trees, nice views up and down the valley, but however, weather is clear and hot.

At the top tourists can see a lovely Bodhi tree, well-tended gardens, two large prayer wheels in their special shelter, and the gorgeous little temple. Where caretaker greets guest and offers refreshment.