Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It’s the winter seat of the Je Khempo (Chief Abbot) & the monk body. It has a temperate climate & its rich fertile valley is fed by the Pho Chu & Mo Chu rivers. It is one of very few places in Bhutan which offers Rafting facilities. It lies at an elevation of 1,310 m.
PLACES OF INTERESTS:
Khamsum Yulley Monastery: A monastery that stands majestically on a strategic ridge above the Punakha valley. Built over a period of 9 years, Bhutanese craftsmen consulted holy scriptures rather than engineering manuals, to construct this 4-storey temple. It takes an hour to hike to the Temple passing through rice fields on the way.
Punakha Dzong: The Punakha Dzong was known in ancient times as the Druk Pungthang Dechhen Phrodang or “the palace of great happiness”. It was built in 1637 at the confluence the Pho Chu and Mo Chu Rivers. This gigantic Dzong was damaged 6 times by fire, once by flood and once by an earthquake. It is the second Dzong to be built in Bhutan and was the seat of government when Punakha was the capital of Bhutan. Today, the Dzong is the winter home for the clergy. Parts of it is closed in winter months when the monk body is in Punakha. The annual Punakha Tshechu (Festival) is held here.
Punakha Suspension Bridge: It is one of the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. The bridge is high on mountain river and is perfect for those who wish to get their heart pumping with excitement. It connects the town of Punakha and the Punakha Dzong with the smaller villages surrounding the Punakha town. The view from the bridge is very stunning and spectacular. The bridge is a unique example of Bhutanese Architecture.
Bey Landra: Bey Landra is one of the three holiest site in Bhutan. On the way, we would pass many temples including the old Shaba Lhakhang where one can see a defined right foot print of Guru Rinpoche and beautifully carved hand-made wall-paintings. Later pass a cave where water is dripping through the roof from what appears to be no source. Just before reaching the starting point for the hike, one would spot Guru Rinpoche’s walking stick; an enormous old Cypress tree stuffed with craftsmanship of great lamas. There are two big temples at the trail head; the upper one is a meditation retreat and the lower one, Yoser Namseling Lhakhang, is a two storied temple with beautiful sculptures of Guru Rinpoche’s eight manifestations. The path leading up to Bey Landra is partly through forests and on open meadows scattered with prayer flags. The cliff-hanging temple is a breathtaking sight even though it is currently being renovated and expanded. It is believed that one day while in Tibet, Guru Rinpoche had a vision that people in the area where Bey Landra is now situated, were not practicing the Dharma and were engaged in doing evil. To put an end to this, he decided to travel here to reform the people. Whilst Guru Rinpoche was meditating here, the local evil spirit disguised himself as a red ox and attempted to distract and harm the Guru. Showing no compassion, Guru Rinpoche slaughtered the ox and later called upon his soul to make the evil spirit promise to stop harming the local people. Guru Rinpoche then concealed a total of 60 religious treasures into the rock which is now the wall of the temple, and gave the now liberated spirit the responsibility of guarding the hidden treasures. At present, the palm print of Guru Rinpoche, as well as an outline of a protective scorpion, is visible on the rock. The prophecy says that in the future a Terton (treasure discoverer) will come to reveal the valuable treasures. Directly translated, Bey Landra means – the hidden treasures in the ox rock.
Chimi Lhakhang: It is a very popular temple built in 15th century and revered temple that lies on the periphery of the fertile valley of Lobesa, where the borders of Thimphu, Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang districts meet. Being dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the Divine Madman, the temple is popularly considered to be a temple of fertility. The Lhakhang has a row of prayer wheels and its exterior walls are embedded with slates carved with images of saints. Images of Shabdrung, Sakyamuni Buddha and Chenresig are also deified in the monastery.
Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang: The Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang is a temple plus a nunnery and is perched on a ridge overlooking Toebesa, Punakha and Wangduephodrang valleys. The temple houses the 14 ft bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara. The temple also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation centre for nuns. Apart from religious training, the nuns are also trained in skills such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and Thangka painting, etc.
SHORT DAY TRIPS:
Limbukha Village: The village of Limbukha can be reached very easily by travelling through the Feeder road from Punakha and Wangdue. It is known for Bhutan's famous red rice which is supposed to have medicinal values. The locals are peaceful in nature. Trek from Punakha to Limbukha will take about 4.5 to 6 hours and is a distance of about 14 Kms where one has to walk past Suspension Bridge and then gradually climb upwards towards Dompala Hills following the Farm houses.
Talo Village: Talo village, lying at an altitude of 2800 m is scattered along the hilly slopes. It is known most for its cleanliness and hygiene among Punakha villages. The women of Talo are particularly known for their beauty. The beautiful farm houses of the village have their own flower gardens.
Punakha Ritsha Village: Punakha is famous for rice farming where both red and white rice are grown here. Ritsha which means “at the base of a hill” is a typical village in Punakha. The village houses are made of pounded mud with stone foundations. Each house is only two storey high surrounded with gardens and rice fields. The gardens usually have fruit bearing plants like oranges and papaya among the organic vegetables. This is one of the model rice growing village in western Bhutan.