Punakha is a beautiful valley in the Western region of Bhutan. It is known for its spectacular Bhutanese architecture , breathtaking villages and awesome weather. Moreover, the meandering river of Mo-chu and Pho-Chu furthermore enhances its beauty. In addition, these rivers are also home to the critically endangered white-bellied herons and other water birds.The melodious sound of the river, the wild flowers in riots bloom, golden rice fields makes Punakha the best place to visit in Bhutan. We have listed down, few of the things that you can do while you are at Punakha. You can try out rafting , visit villages or hike through Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Lhakhang . Punakha is also known Some of the best sightseeing places are located in Punakha, including Punakha Dzong, Talo monastery, Chimi Lhakhang and Suspension Bridge
1. Visit Sangchhen Nunnery or Wolakha Nunnery
The monastery is beautifully located on a hilltop and houses 120 nuns.It is comprised of double storied temple and a nunnery complex. The chorten resembles Nepal’s Boudhanath stupa.
The place looks aesthetic with Modern Bhutanese Art and has a touch of Sambhunath like Temple .
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.
2. Light Butter Lamp at Talo Monastery:
The Talo monastery is located in quaint village of Talo . It is approximately one hour drive from Punakha and situated at an elevation of 2800 m.
As you drive to Talo, you will be greeted by dense forest and conifer forest. You will also come across few other scenic villages like Laptsakha where you will meet farmers at work . So you can stop by and interact with them or take photograph of the scenic valley .
Talo Monastery’s 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. It is one of the peaceful place to visit in Punakha.
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.
3. Meet the little monk at Nalanda University
It is locally known 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 . 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.
4. Explore the Villages of Punakha
Punakha is loved for its villages besides its temples and monasteries. The gentle terraces that lines the slopes of the villages are treat to the eyes.
We can see the farmers using bullock-drawn ploughs or harvesting in a primitive manner alongside the tiered fields. Some of the popular villages in Punakha are Sopsokha Village, Yuwakha Village, Laptsakha village and Talo 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 you. But ironically to visit this village you need to travel 1 hour from Punakha town and another 45 minutes through feeder road. However, the whole drive will be rewarded with scenic treat.
5. Punakha Dzong: Take a selfie at Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong also known as Punthang Dewa Chenpoi Phodrang (the palace of great happiness or bliss). It is one of the most beautiful architectural masterpiece of Bhutan. It is also administrative center of Punakha District in Punakha, Bhutan. Ngawang Namgyal has constructed the dzong in 1637–38. The dzong houses the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism .It includes the Rangjung Kasarpani and the sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal and the tertoen Pema Lingpa.
It is a visual treat to watch the Punakha Dzong standing majestically at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers. In spring the beauty of the Dzong is furthermore enhaced due to the riots of blooming flowers .
6. Chimi Lhakhang the best sightseeing place in Punakha to explore Bhutan Culture
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. However, the walk through village is fun. The village is famous for the display of phallus painting and is also called as Phallus Village. As you walk, you will see many Bhutanese houses with phallus painting . The local believes that it will ward off evil spirits.
The site was blessed by the “Divine Madman” the maverick saint Drukpa Kunley (1455 –1529) and later Ngawang Choegyel built Chimi Lhakhang on the same spot.
Lama Kunley subdued a demon of Dochu La with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom” . He trapped the demon in a rock at the location 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 highly decorative and has a silver handle. The Lama uses it to bless the people . Usually the women who has issues with infertility visit the monastery on pilgrimage to beget child. The tradition at the monastery is to strike pilgrims on the head with a 10-inch (25 cm) wooden phallus.
A must visit place to visit in Punakha if you want to penetrate through our unique cultural heritage of Bhutan.
7. Take a Hike through Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten :
Khamsum Yulley is undoubtedly a rare Buddhist monastery, found on the ledge of Punakha valley . Above all, Vajrayana Buddhisim regard it as the most sacred monastery. It was built as per the guidance of treasure revealer . The Khamsum Yulley Lhakhang is the initiative of Her Majesty Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk . Primarily it was built as an act of offering to His Majesty and for the well being of all Bhutanese.
We have to take a short hike to reach Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten . The hike usually takes 50 minutes or an hour at maximum. It begins at Punakha town. The hike is feasible to do throughout the year.
As we walk along, we can enjoy stunning green grasslands , mountain streams and golden paddy fields. It is one of the beautiful sightseeing place in Punakha.
On your way back, you can follow the same route back or take the riverside route through the village .
Try Samtengang Winter Trek
Winter is the best time to visit Punakha . The weather in Punakha is pleasant in winter. This is one of the most suitable trek to do in winter.
This four day trek is a short and pleasant journey from Punakha to Wangduephodrang Dzongkhag. Nevertheless,it is a fairly easy trek as the altitude only ranges between 1100-1900m.
The path takes you through forests of rhododendron and oak. Along the way you will come across beautiful through the villages of Sha and Chungsakha. You will also be crossing the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. The trail is approximately 54km in length.
9 Suspension Bridge:Walk along the longest bridge in Bhutan
Punakha Suspension Bridge, connects Punakha Dzong to to Shengana, Samdingkha, and Wangkha . It is one of the longest suspension bridges in Bhutan.
As you cross the bridge you can get the glimpse of lot of water birds at the bed side of river. In addition, many a monks and villagers uses the bridge to reach to the other side.
The colorful prayer flags adorns the bridge and gives an aesthetic touch. You can feel the sweeping breeze as you cross the bridge.
10. Delve into Bhutan culture by staying at Homestay
If you are in Punakha, you need to definitely try a homestay. Firstly, it is a way to penetrate through Bhutanese Culture. Secondly waking you up in the morning with crowing of the cock take you back in time . Thirdly, it would fun to watch many a activity happening at homestay . Some members will be gone out for farming & some others will be gone to milk the cow. And the lady of the house will be busy preparing the breakfast for her family & you. If you like you can also lend your hand in their daily activities.
Some of the popular homestays are Leki Wangmo homestay, Chimi Lhakhang Homestay and Thuji Homestay.