Punakha is marked by raw natural beauty, awesome Bhutanese Architecture , breathtaking villages and the spectacular view of meandering river of Mo-chu and Pho-Chu.These rivers are also home to the critically endangered white-bellied herons.
The melodious sound of the river, the variance of bird’s species, wild flowers in riots bloom, golden rice fields and spectacular architecture makes it a place worth to visit.
The district has warm and humid summers, with cool winters frequented by the Highlanders of Laya and Lunana.
Few of the places that you must visit while you are at Punakha
Sangchhen Nunnery or Wolakha Nunnery:
Beautifully located on a hilltop. It houses 120 nuns.
The lhakhang comprises a double storied temple housing a beautiful statue , a chorten resembling Nepal’s boudhanath stupa and a nunnery complex.
The place looks aesthetic with Modern Bhutanese Art, Sambhunath like Temple and golden monuments.
The Prime deity residing here is Avalotekeshra (The God of Compassion). From here you can also enjoy the grand view of Punakha and Wangdue valley.
Talo Sanga Choling Monastery: The Talo monastery is located in quaint village of Talo , approximately one hour drive from Punakha . It is situated at an elevation of 2800 m.
As you drive to Talo, you will be greeted by dense forest and confer. You will also come across few other scenic villages like Laptsakha whereby you will meet farmers at work & locals ; so you can stop by and interact with them or take photograph of the scenic valley .
Talo Monastery most prominent attraction is Talo Festival , and its spectacular architecture. You can also catch a grand view of nearby villages and the valley from here.
Spiritually this place is highly regarded as it is considered to be the mind manifestation of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel . The monastery houses many temples, including the Neten Chudrg (Sixteen Arhats) and statues brought from Samye in Tibet.
It is known locally as Daley Goenpa or Dalida and literally means ‘insatiable giving’.It is below Talo Monastery and above Wolokha, about a 30-minute drive from Wolokha.
In 1757, the 9th Je Khenpo, Shakya Rinchen, considered to be the reincarnation of Rechungpa, founded the Nalanda monastery in Punakha. He was one of the extraordinary disciple of Milarepa in Kagyu Buddhist Lineage. He has travelled in India to bring back profound teachings of Tibet.
The monastery is hidden inside the forest and has a tranquil ambience. At present it houses 150 to 160 monks.
Besides its temples and monasteries, Punakha is loved for its villages. The gentle terraces that lines the slopes of the villages are treat to the eyes.
Farmers using bullock-drawn ploughs or harvesting in a primitive manner can still be seen alongside the tiered fields. Some of the popular villages in Punakha are Sopsokha Village, Yuwakha Village, Laptsakha village , Rinchegang Village Mendregang and Ritsha village.
My own personal favorite is Dawakha village owing to the remoteness of the village . When you just lay your feet in this village you may feel the time has stood still.
The view of falling and rising mountains around the village over the golden paddy field could awake the poet in us. But ironically to visit this village you need to travel 1 hour from Punakha town and another 45 minutes through feeder road. But the whole drive will be rewarded with scenic treat.
Punakha Dzong: The Architectural Pride of Bhutan
Punakha Dzong also known as Punthang Dewa Chenpoi Phodrang (the palace of great happiness or bliss), is one of the most beautiful Dzong of Bhutan.
It is a visual treat to watch the Dzong standing majestically at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley as the shimmering sunlight is reflected off the water onto the whitewashed walls. The beauty is further enhanced in Spring when the Dzong is surrounded by riots of blooming flowers .
It is also administrative centre of Punakha District in Punakha, Bhutan. The dzong was constructed by Ngawang Namgyal, in 1637–38. The dzong houses the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, including the Rangjung Kasarpani and the sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal and the tertoen Pema Lingpa.
Chimi Lhakhang is beautifully situated in Yuwakha Village on a round hillock about 10Kms away from main town.
You have to walk about 20 minutes or so through the village of Yuwakha over the golden paddy fields to reach the temple. The walk through village is fun. As you walk, you will see many Bhutanese houses with phallus painting as the local believes that it will ward off evil spirits.
The temple was built in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Choegyel, after the site was blessed by the “Divine Madman” the maverick saint Drukpa Kunley (1455 –1529) who built a chorten on the site.
In founding the site it is said that Lama Kunley subdued a demon of Dochu La with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom” and trapped it in a rock at the location close to where the chorten now stands. The monastery is the repository of the original wooden symbol of phallus that Kunley brought from Tibet. This wooden phallus is decorated with a silver handle and is used to bless people who visit the monastery on pilgrimage, particularly women seeking blessings to beget children. The tradition at the monastery is to strike pilgrims on the head with a 10-inch (25 cm) wooden phallus
A must visit in Punakha if you want to penetrate through our unique cultural heritage
Khamsum Yulley Hike:
Found on the ledge of Punakha valley, Khamsum Yulley is a rare Buddhist monastery. The only one of its kind in the world and is considered the most sacred structure of Vajrayana Buddhisim. The concept and architectural design of the magnificent Khamsum Yulley Stupa were drawn from Buddhist structures visualized by treasure revealer. The calming golden spire and enchanting labyrinthine wall designs showcase the advanced art and craft.
To reach there we need to take a short hike. The hike usually takes 50 minutes or an hour maximum and begins at Punakha town. This trek is popular because it can be enjoyed all year long; there is no particular month that makes this route’s beauty shine more than usual
Walking through the stunning green grasslands through mountain streams and across the suspension bridge built over the River Mo Chhu is soul enrichening.
You can capture the fantast city of the county on a short trip. On your way back, you can follow the same route back or take the riverside route that will escort you through the village and farmland to Punakha.
- Samtengang Winter Trek
This four day trek is a short and pleasant journey from Punakha to Wangduephodrang Dzongkhag. It is a fairly easy trek as the altitude only ranges between 1100-1900m and the climate is warm throughout the hike.
The path takes you through forests of rhododendron and oak, through the villages of Sha and Chungsakha and across the longest foot bridge in Bhutan. While this trek is available throughout the winter the best times to embark on it are between March-April and September and October. The trail is approximately 54km in length.
Punakha Suspension Bridge, connects Punakha Dzong to to Shengana, Samdingkha, and Wangkha . It is built over Pho Chu River and is one of the longest suspension bridges in Bhutan.
During winter as you cross the bridge you can get the glimpse of lot of water birds at the bed side of the crystal clear shimmering Phochu river. You will also come across lot of monks and villagers crossing the bridge to reach the other side.
The bridge is adorned with colorful prayer flags and has an aesthetic touch. You can feel the sweeping breeze as you cross the bridge
If you are in Punakha, you need to definitely try a homestay so as to penetrate through Bhutanese Culture. You can start your day with the crowing of the cock and a cup of Butter Tea .You can also see the farmer milking or harvesting while at homestay. If you like you can lend your hand in their daily activities.
Some of the popular homestay are Leki Wangmo homestay, Chimi Lhakhang Homestay and Thuji Homestay.
There is a charm of another time when the lady of the house picks up the fresh organic vegetable from the garden and prepares the fresh organic food for you.