Travel to Punakha and do the following sightseeing, hiking and experience other activities
Punakha region was serving as the capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955 when the capital was moved to Thimphu. It is about 72 km away from Thimphu and it takes about 3 hours by car from the capital Thimphu. Unlike Thimphu, it is quite warm in winter and hot in summer. It is located at an elevation of 1,200 metres above sea level. Dzongkha language is widely spoken in this district. Punakha valley is famous in Bhutan for rice farming. Both red and white rice are grown along the river valley of Pho and Mo Chu, two of the most prominent rivers in Bhutan. One can take chance to stop for a photo shooting at Dochula Pass. Dochula pass is a popular location among tourists as it offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquillity of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass.
Bhutanese families enjoy visiting the pass during holidays and weekends to picnic and simply enjoy the scenery. It is common to see families and groups of friends seated amongst the chortens, enjoying a packed lunch and hot tea. For tourists, this is an ideal location to capture beautiful pictures of the Himalayan mountain range during clear, warm days. Punakha valley has a pleasant climate with warm winters and hot summers. It is located at an average elevation of 1200 m above sea level. Owing to the favourable climatic conditions, rice has become the main cash crop cultivated in the region.
Punakha Sightseeing (1day)
Visit Chime Lhakhang, located on a hillock among the green and lush paddy field stands a pilgrimage site for a childless couple. Chimi Lhakhang is known as the “Temple Of Fertility”. The temple was built over half a millennium ago by Ngawang Choegyel, the 14th Drukpa hierarch. The monastery is renowned throughout Bhutan as a fertility inducing magnet, pledging that all who wish to conceive will find guidance at the temple. Thousands of pilgrimage within and across the country visit the Fertility Temple in the hopes of having a child, as well as receiving a wang, blessing, from the saint with the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom. Couples with new-borns often visit the temple so that a local lama, Buddhist teacher, can bestow a resounding forename on the child, whilst eager travellers can approach lamas for their unique Bhutanese name and special meaning. Myth and folklore cloak Chimi Lhakhang and its maverick saint, Drukpa Kunley. He preached Buddhism is an unconventional manner, by way of song, comedy, and shocking sensual connotations. Legend has it that the Yogi buried a dog-like demoness under the rotund earth, shaped in the female form, that now stands under the Stupa floor. He actively encouraged phallus symbols to be used throughout the design of the temple in paintings and carvings. To this day, the monastery safeguards the original wooden phallus symbol, embedded with a silver handle, from Tibet, that is used to bless visitors and pilgrims. You will be also given a wooden phallus symbol locket or wristband.
Visit Punakha Dzong: The journey continues through varying scenes of greenery all the way to Punakha Dzong. The Punakha Dzong lies between two great rivers with their local names as the Phochu (Male River) and the Mochu (Female River). Presently, this Dzong serves as the winter residence for the Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body and also the office of the District Administration. Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 by the founder of Bhutan, Shabdrung Rimpoche. Shabdrung Rimpoche went into meditation in 1651 at the age of 58, for 12 long years in the Punakha Dzong, after he had established the DUAL system of Governance in Bhutan. Shabdrung Rimpoche’s death was announced only 25 years after his death, as it was believed that even after his physical death, he remained in a meditational form which all the great Buddhist Lamas can only perform. The Dzong houses many sacred, holy ancient relics, the most sacred being the RANGJUNG KHARSAPANI. This relic is a self-created image of Avalokiteswara that miraculously emerged from the vertebrae of Tsangpa Gyarey, the founder of the Drukpa School when he was cremated. The first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. Punakha Dzong is not only the second oldest and second largest dzong but it also has one of the most majestic structures in the country.
Visit Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten: The magnificent chorine sits high above Punakha Valley, affording panoramic views of the verdant hillsides below. The four-storey temple remains a worthy example of the country’s traditional architecture and artistic techniques. This chorten, however, is unique. It is not designed for community worship or for a monastic retreat or education like other Buddhist Institute and Colleges. It is designed as a magical tool. This is a temple situated on a hilltop and built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan for the fifth and reigning King of Bhutan. The temple is a mark of Bhutanese architecture and paintings. Its a half day hike round trip.
Experience river rafting in Phochu and Mochu: This river facing experience will surely offer you the best opportunity to briefly break away from the tour itinerary. The Pho Chu, with its approx 16 km course with about 15 rapids of class 2-4 is the most popular for rafting in Bhutan followed by Mo Chu river with 10 Km course comprising around 10 rapids with 2 – 2+ rapids. you are not only enjoying the rafting but can also watch world’s rarest bird, the white belled Heron in its natural habitat and Kingfishers frolicking on the riverbank – all these topped off with the spectacular sight of serene lush green alpine valleys, are the most amazing experience you would love to treasure. Rafting in Bhutan is a superb experience in its own right. No special experience is required as long as you do not mind doing a bit of paddling and getting a bit wet – or quite possibly very wet! – then you will have an exciting time riding the white waters of the Himalayan rivers. Rivers in Bhutan also offer great potential for Kayaking. If you are looking for more adventure, we will be happy to customize a suitable Kayaking adventure in Bhutan.
Visit 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 beautiful demonstration of fine architecture and tradition of Bhutan.
The gleaming whitewashed walls are complemented by the richly carved woods painted in black, red and golden colour 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. Inside the complex, there is a meditation centre of nuns.
The temple provides a gorgeous view of the surrounding value and tranquil environment for peace and meditation. You also get an opportunity for bird watching and witnessing river smoke, an interesting and rare natural phenomenon.
Visit Punakha Suspension Bridge:
The Punakha valley of Bhutan offers a mesmerizing view of natural beauty to the beholder. Amidst this natural setting lies the second longest suspension bridge of the country. Built high on the river Po Chu, this arched wooden bridge connects the Punakha Dzong with Punakha City and the smaller villages scattered in the valley. A visit to this Bridge is must if you are seeking a bit of thrill and adrenaline pump in your body while surrounding amidst natural beauty.
Crossing the bridge is a fun in its own way. However, do not forget to make a visit to the nearby Punakha Dzong, a beautiful ancient fortress which houses valuable relics of time immemorial.
Hiking in Punakha region (1 day for each Hike)
Hike to Jigme Dorji National Park.
Time: 5 – 6 hours.
Difficulty level: Moderate
The exotic park was built by the 3rd king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck 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.
The national park is an ideal place for hiking because of its magnificent spread of flora and fauna. Hence, it is also known as Trekker’s Paradise. The park is also the dwelling of the Semi-Nomadic Community, Layap. Four rivers Mocchu, Phocchu, Wangchu, Pachu originate from this park; therefore is one of the largest contributors of Bhutan’s economy.
Highlights: the Largest collection of medicinal baths and hot springs; the only place where the Snow leopard meets the Royal Bengal tiger; views of majestic peaks namely Jomolhari, Tsherimgang and Jichu drakey
Time: 1.5 – 2 hours.
Difficulty level Easy.
If you wish to shorten your drive on the way back to Paro or Thimphu, this is a nice way to replace 45 minutes in the car with a pleasant and leisurely walk. The trail starts from just above Zangdo Pelri Hotel. It offers great views of the adjacent valley as it follows an irrigation channel along the mountainside. At some points, you are walking at the edge of the channel, and the drop down on the opposite side is often quite steep and might appear frightening for those who are scared of heights. The last part of the path takes you down the valley, past a couple of village houses, and ends with a climb up through rice paddies on the opposite side until you reach the main road where your car will be waiting.
Time: 45 minutes drive from the town, 1-hour hike downhill to Punakha Hospital.
Difficulty level: Easy.
Nobgang Village, situated on a hilltop before Talo, is the native village of the four Queens. A visit to this charming village with great views of Punakha valley can also be combined with a visit to Talo. In the well-laid out village community, you will also find the 4th King’s Palace, two lhakhangs, two chortens in memory of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, and the Residence of the Yab, the father of the four Queens. The four queens are from that village, Talo Nobgang. In the lhakhangs, old war weapons are exhibited. They also house very old statues in addition to a few new statues selected and put in place by the 4th King himself. From Nobgang village, a wide mud path slopes down the mountainside and ends up just next to Punakha Hospital. You may enjoy the beautiful views of the valley on your entire walk down