Punakha is an important Himalayan town in the western province of Bhutan and is situated at an altitude of around 3,900 feet above sea level (1,200 m). Punakha was the former capital of Bhutan until 1955 when it was moved to Thimphu which is the current capital of the country.
To reach Punakha, the best option is to take a taxi from Thimphu which is located 72 km away which takes roughly three hours to reach. The road condition is excellent.
A more economical option is to take a shared taxi or a bus from Thimphu to Punakha. Shared taxis are a lot more frequent and a much easier option for solo travellers to commute between the two cities.
As you leave from the capital, it is a zig-zag upward road for around 40 km before reaching the beautiful Dochu La at 10,006 feet above sea level (3050m). From Dochu La pass, travellers will get a mind-blowing view of the Himalayan range and Bhutan’s highest mountains, Jomolhari and Gangar Pensum.
Also at the pass, there are 108 stupas collectively called the Victory Stupas – these were built in honour of the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed in the battle against Assamese insurgents from India and in celebration of the Bhutanese victory in that battle.
While in Punakha, a few must-visit places are the Suspension bridge which is also the longest of its kind in the entire country. It’s surely a place worth visiting at least for a wanderlust selfie from Bhutan.
The next place on your list has to be the Chimi Lakhang Monastery also known as the Fertility Monastery. It is believed that when the lama inside the temple gives you his blessings by striking a 10-inch wooden phallus decorated with a silver handle. This is apparently guaranteed to cure any kind of infertility. The monastery is revered all over the country and married couples seeking a newborn, flock from all around the country as well as from places around the world.
After visiting the fertility temple, the last place on the list is the beautiful Dzong in Punakha. Dubbed as the most important Dzong in Bhutan.
It is the second oldest and second-largest Dzong in Bhutan and one of the most majestic structures in the country. The countries two important rivers – Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu merge in Punakha and the Dzong is built at the confluence of these two rivers. Inside the Dzong, are equally beautiful courtyards exquisitely decorated with carvings and paintwork.
After getting done with the Dzong, do spend some time along the river just relaxing and watching the clouds move. It’s a great way to just soak in the entire day.
Accommodation in Punakha
is in plenty with numerous guest houses and hotels. Even the most basic rooms here come with an attached washroom that has a geyser.
Eating options in the town are limited to a handful of restaurants but the good thing is that every guest house and hotel has a restaurant attached. Bhutanese food is very tasty. Do try out Ema datshi, Kewa datshi and Shamu datshi.
The best time to visit Phunaka is during the dry season from October to the end of May. Avoid travelling to this region during the rains.
Even though Phunaka is a lesser-known place in Bhutan, cell phone connectivity and electricity is excellent. You will even get 3G coverage all over the district.
Finally, if you are ever planning a trip to Bhutan make sure Phunaka is on the list. The culture and heritage make it an ideal place to get a first-hand feel of the country’s golden yesteryears.
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