Punakha, a small and quaint town in the heart of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, was once the capital of the Wangchuk kings that still rule the country. Set in the Punakha valley and at the confluence of the Pho and Mo Chhu rivers, the town has a variety of experiences to offer to tourists.

Punakha Travel Guide

From forts, Dzongs to quiet flowing rivers, you have a lot to do in Punakha. You can go trekking up to a monastery or travel by taxi to any high altitude pass. It gives you the feeling of Bhutan in every aspect.

Things To Do In Punakha

Punakha Dzong

This is one thing that Punakha is extremely famous for. Referred to as the place of happiness this is the second oldest Dzong in Bhutan.

Located right at the confluence of the Mo and Pho Chhu, the palace of great happiness, as it is called, is the most picturesque of all of the dzongs in Bhutan, which are palace like administrative centers built in a unique style of Bhutanese architecture.

Photo: Punakha Dzong / CCo

Chimi Lhakhang

One of the most revered temples of Bhutan, Chimi Lhakhang is considered as the temple of fertility, dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, popularly known as the Divine Madman. Lama Drukpa Kuenley is a legendary saint in Bhutan, who is much revered in the country but because of his unusual way of teaching, he is considered an eccentric.

Photo: Chimi Lhakhang / CCo

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

The temple of the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten was commissioned by the Queen Mother of Bhutan Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. The temple was designed based on Buddhist scriptures and was built to bring peace and prosperity to the Kingdom as well as the world.

It is the trek to the temple that invites a lot of people to the place. The trek takes about an hour and is one of the best Punakha things to do.

Photo: Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten / CCo

Punakha Suspension Bridge

Though there is no record for how old the Punakha suspension bridge is, it isn’t very recent. Built high above the swift Pho Chhu, you will encounter the Punakha Suspension Bridge if you decide to not hike to the Chimi Lakhang Temple.

It is one of the longest suspension bridges in all of Bhutan, about 160-180 meters long, and crossing it is one of the best things to do in Punakha if you are looking for an adrenaline high on your Bhutan trip

Photo: The suspension bridge at Punakha / CCo

Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery

The magnificent and tranquil Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery sits atop a hill and commands the view of the gorgeous Punakha valley and Wangduephodrang valley. Standing amidst the lush pine trees, this structure is a perfect example of fine architecture and tradition of Bhutan.

The gleaming whitewashed walls are complemented by the richly carved woods painted in black, red and golden color and decorated with illustrious designs. The temple is home to a colossal 14 feet bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara. There are several other statues inside the temple.

Photo: The Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery / CCo

Nature

Torsa Nature Reserve

Torsa is one of the most famous tourist attractions for it is the only Nature Reserve in the world which has not been destroyed by human inhabitation. It is adorned with beautiful alpine and broad leaves tree forests, making it a favored trekking route in Bhutan. The name came to existence from the River Toorsa which penetrates from Tibet.

Photo: Variety of trees at Torsa / CCo

Jigme Dorgi National Park

The exotic park was built by the 3rd king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorgi in 1974 and is approx 4, 316 km in area. The park is second largest in the country and is a dwelling to many endangered animals such as Snow Leopard, Himalayan musk deer, Asiatic wild dog, Red Panda etc.

This national park is an ideal place for trekking because of its magnificent spread of flora and fauna.

Photo: A snow leopard at  the National Park/ CCo

Sports Activities

Rafting

One of the recently trending things to do in Punakha and certainly one of its hidden gems, white water rafting on the Mo and Pho Chhu river as it enters the Devil’s Gorge has become a popular attraction for thrill seekers.

Rafting in the Brahmaputra or its tributaries has always been attractive for extreme sports fanatics, and the choppy rapids of the Mo Chhu provide about 10 kilometers of 10 rapids that are at 2-2+.

Photo: Rafting at Punakha / CCo

Winter Treks

Having an altitude of 3400 meters this is one of the easiest and the most popular trekking journey among amateur trekkers through the ancient capital of Bhutan, Punakha. The trekking trail commences from Thimphu and concludes in the beautiful Punakha valley. Being a short trek, the gradual slopes on the trekking trail does not seem to be too much concern for the hikers.

Festivals

Punakha Tshechu

A popular annual festival, Punakha Tshechu, and Drubchen get celebrated in Punakha which is located on the western side of Bhutan. The festival has great historical importance which makes it more popular among natives. In 17thcentury, Tibetan forces invaded Bhutan from where Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the Buddhist saint, led the victory of the country.

Shop for

On your Bhutan trip, shopping is really fun and the gorgeous stoles and woolens made in the local style out of material that is sourced from local sheep are available in little shops and markets everywhere.

If you are wondering what to do in Punakha for shopping, the city center is where you can get all kinds of things you want to take back from your Bhutan trip. Dry fruits are also available in ample supply here, and local artisan work including statues, jewelry, and other quirky home decor items are commonly available in Punakha shops.

Photo: Local products at Punakha/ CCo

Local cuisine

The food is similar to the rest of Bhutan and you can get every type of local cuisine in most restaurants. You can even now get western food at a few restaurants due to the development of tourism.

Try the Chimi Lhakhang Cafeteria in the Chimi Lhakhang Monastery. It has an excellent à la carte menu and also a great buffet spread, comprising of Indian and Bhutanese cuisine. The restaurant has a window from the ceiling to the floor from where you can enjoy stunning views of the temple and surrounding rice paddy fields.

Photo: Cafeteria with a view at Chimi Lhakhang / CCo

Getting Around

Taxi is the main means of transport for tourist. You have shared cabs, taxis for private groups or a bus organized by your tour operator. If you happen to be an Indian who can enter the country without Visa and tour operator you can even use the local bus to move from one city to the other.

Where to stay

Generally, your stay will be organized by tour operators when you book the tour. If not you can always check out online options like booking.com and other sites to give you a good offer. Your tour operator generally arranges all your stay and you don’t have to worry about it.

March 1, 2019 1:57 am Published by

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