How to visit Punakha from Thimphu and more!
The fourth largest town in Bhutan, Punakha used to be the capital till 1955. Punakha, located on the banks of the river Pho Chu (Father River) and Mo Chu (Mother River), is a 3-hour drive from Thimphu. It is Bhutan’s most picturesque town.
How To Reach:
Punakha is a 3 hrs drive from Thimphu. Rent a car or take a bus from Thimphu.
N.B: Keep in mind that you must get a permit from the immigration office to visit Punakha. Please carry the Bhutan entry permit for the same (would advise you to carry the entry permit everywhere).
Punakha has many options ranging from budget to boutique to luxury resorts. Choose one that suits your pocket.
Places To See:
Dochula Pass (10,171 ft):
The eldest Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk constructed 108 chortens or stupas known as the “Druk Wangyel Chortens” on the hill pass between Thimphu and Punakha. The chortens were constructed in honor of the soldiers who were killed while fighting against Assamese insurgents in 2003. A monastery is also dedicated to the fourth King or Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It’s a magnificent viewpoint for the Bhutan Himalayas on a clear day. There is a Dochula Cafe and clean toilets to offer refreshments to the visitors.
Located at the confluence of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, the lovely Punakha dzong or the Pungthang Dewachen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness) is a sight to behold. The approach road to the dzong is constructed as a covered wooden cantilever bridge over the river. The dzong serves as HH Je Khenpo’s (Monastic Body Head) winter residence.
Punakha Dzong was also the coronation site of the first King of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuk in 1907, and then the next four monarchs. It’s also where the handsome fifth King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, married the lovely Jetsun Pema.
The Punakha Dzong is Bhutan’s most lovely dzong. The Jacaranda trees are in complete bloom in Spring along the bank of the river and it imparts a celestial beauty to the dzong. To see this gorgeous sight, one should visit Punakha in April-May.
The hanging bridge on Pho Chu is another popular attraction in Punakha. Here it gets quite windy and the bridge sways vigorously giving you a kick of adrenaline.
Chimi Lhakhang is located about 10 km from Punakha, close to Lobesa. According to popular beliefs, Lama Kunley had defeated a demon and trapped it under a rock near the chorten. The Lama’s way of preaching Buddhism was informal and had sexual overtones. Thus, Kunley was known as the “Divine Madman”. He was also the first to have started using the famous phallus symbols to ward off the evil eye. At the monastery, pilgrims are struck with a 10-inch long wooden phallus on their heads, particularly females who are trying to conceive.
Safety & Precaution:
Punakha is extremely safe. Just be aware of your surroundings like in any other city / country.