Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1960 and still has a regal feel to it and is very serene, hence why they built the Dzong on an island between the Muu cut and Pho rivers. Guided tour to the Serene Ancient Island Of Punakha Dzong is the best way to see this island.
The main attraction is, of course, the Serene Ancient Island of Fortress Dzong, which is also the monk's winter retreat. However, there are lots of things to visit that may interest you nearby., which are all within walking distance.
To reach the Dzong, you have to cross the arch bridge which takes you from the mainland over the mu Chu river. The Dzong is the most photographed fortresses of all time, and where ever you travel within the country you will see pictures hanging everywhere. Read More...
The Fertility Temple of Punakha-the Chimi Lhakhang Private Tours
The Chimi Lhakhang is also based here and is widely known as the fertility temple; people far and wide travel here to be blessed by a 10 foot Phallus! The Fertility Temple of Punakha-the Chimi Lhakhang Private Tour has to be done, even if it is just to get your picture took next to the many Phallus!
It is believed anyone having difficulty bearing children would visit the Temple, and their wishes would become true.
The Temple was built in or around the 14th century by a saint known for his bizarre behaviour of teaching Buddhism, hence he was known at the Divine Madman!
What to do in Punakha
Shining in the sun on a small hill is the yellow roofed chapel of Lama Drukpa Kunley. According to local lore, he subdued the demons making him one of the most important people in Bhutanese religious history. From the dusty road, you trek through rice fields to this tiny complex courtyard and its magical prayer wheel. Decorated with colourful murals, the Chapel is stunningly beautiful where childless women come for a fertility blessing.
Arguably the most magnificent Dzong in the country it had been the official seat of government until the mid-1950s. Best seen in Spring months when heavenly lilac coloured Jacaranda trees cover the towering walls it still houses the official order of monks during winter and is where every king of Bhutan has been crowned. When you exit don’t forget to visit the statue of Sakyamuni to have all your wishes fulfilled.
Punakha Suspension Bridge
Built high above the roaring river thundering down from the surrounding mountains this bridge is draped with prayer flags and is mainly used as a shortcut by locals. From the scenic valley at Punakha, it connects the various towns on either side of the river and is the second longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. While it's not everybody’s cup of tea for those that do make the crossing, it would give a perfect adrenaline rush.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
Trekking through rice fields and the surrounding pine trees you arrive at this charming four storey Temple. It took over nine years to construct, and no engineering manuals were used only the Holy Scriptures were consulted making it a fine example of Bhutanese artistic traditions. Dedicated to the well-being of the kingdom and its inhabitants it is a truly stunning feat of engineering and the views from the top are simply breathtaking.
Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup
Sangchhen Dori Lhuendrup Lhakhang is a tranquil complex of Temple and Nunnery clinging to a ridge high above the valleys. The 70 room Nunnery complex also houses a meditation and higher learning centre where traditional crafts such as embroidery, thangka painting, tailoring amongst other things are still taught as well as general life skills. The peaceful calmness of this secluded complex is sure to relax anybody visiting here.
Royal Botanical Park, Lampelri
The royal botanical park is a great place to stop on your way back to Punakha. If you love taking wildlife photos or are a bird lover, then you will love this place. The park rangers are very knowledgeable on all aspects of the park. It's a beautiful setting with a small lake and is also ideal for the kids to play while having a picnic. This park is a starting area for many of the trek tours through the forests.
Visit the village of the Phalluses, Sopsokha
The Chimi Lhakhang Temple is about a 30-minute trek through a village called Sopsokha, a walk through rice fields leads you to the temple, the best bit was walking towards the temple and everywhere, and I mean everywhere is covered in penises ! all colours and sizes. In the temple, you'll see a photo album of ladies from all over the world who have previously visited for fertility reasons with photos of their babies ! so it must work!
Rafting in Punakha
The white water rafting experience was more than I imagined, the 360-degree views you see as you are rushing down the Mocha river was so wonderfully scenic! We even stopped off for to take some pictures of the stunning scenery.The tour guides were fabulous with real Bhutanese charm! I would advise you to do the Private tour rafting trough the white waters of the Himalayan rivers if you do not mind getting a bit wet!
Punakha Winter Trek
What better way to see the Himalayan mountains but with a Winter trekking private tour to see the snow capped mountains! The trek normally starts up the valley from Dechencholing Palace, and the trek can take 2 to 5 days depending on which tour you take. You will have the opportunity to see and smell the blue pine and oak trees and the stunning lush winter greenery. The views are fantastic, and you won't be disappointed.
Taste Delicious Bhutanese Foods
What is the Bhutanese cuisine? That’s what you ask when you arrive. The best one was the cheese and chilli dish called Ema Datshi beware as it's very spicy! And seems to be the favourite of there staple diet.Red rice was another favourite and has a lot more fibre than normal white rice, and my favourite was the chicken momos washed down with a red panda beer!
Travel Tips for Punakha
Best Time To Visit Punakha
The beginning of the year especially January and February can be extremely cold with a chance of a heavy snowfall. October through to December would be the ideal time to visit as the skies are clear and the air is fresh and average temperatures are in the 60s. From April onwards the climate is pleasant and dry until June when the monsoon season starts and over three months up to a metre of torrential rain may fall.
Typical Costs in Punakha
Tour packages have to be arranged in advance, and prices are set by the Royal Government. They impose a minimum price to be paid in US dollars before arrival. As an example costs per person per night are $250 in March-May and September-November. This does, however, include accommodation, meals, taxes, guiding and all costs apart from personal expenses. More details can be found on their Tourism Council website. Private tours try and book before hand.
Know Before Visiting Punakha
One very important thing to know before you book is that, unless you are invited as a personal guest by a Bhutanese, you need to be on a guided tour at all times. If you want to go off wandering on your own, then this is not the country for you. The Government sets these packets and prices and have a list of approved hotels etc. It includes everything except personal expenses and must be paid in advance of your trip and in US$ . Private guides are good !
Weather in Punakha
June to August are actually monsoon season in Bhutan when up to a metre of rain could fall, and much of the landscape is covered by a thick cloud. The warmest weather can be found September to October, and they are also the busiest when the valleys are in full bloom. November through to February can be extremely cold with even some snowfall in places. March to May have sunny days and pleasant temperatures although May can be quite a humid month.