Things to Do in Punakha

A cozy small town in the laps of Bhutan Himalayas of Bhutan, there are too many best things to do in Punakha if you are a lover of nature. Although, the prime attraction is Punakha Dzong, the 17th-century fortress standing at the midpoint of the Pho and Mo Chhu rivers, the backdrop of this fort of Punakha valley is an ethereal treat to the eyes. Tourists flock to this fortress to experience the Punakha Tshechu, a religious festival that is best known for the masked dances and pompous music. Punakha should be your destination for a few days as to explore it completely; grasp the serene beauty of the Punakha river, stay at the exotic resorts and stroll along the paddy fields. Punakha us the largest producer of rice and this is the reason of its unspoiled beauty that gives you a lifetime of memories on your trip to Bhutan. It had been the capital of the Dragon land once upon a time. If you are an adventure lover, Punakha has the best for you, where you can spend time in hiking and short drives. Most of the families hire a cab and get around to see the attractions around. However, without a car hire trip, you can visit the Suspension bridge and Punakha Dzong while in Punakha.

Punakha is a great excursion spot from Paro or Thimphu and the cab driver charges around 3000 NU for the entire trip. A day’s sightseeing in Punakha approximately costs around 1000 NU to 1500 NU. The climate in Punakha is comfortable and temperate climate; it is warmer than Thimpu and Paro. Trekking is one of the best things to do in Punakha and the place is almost at zero level of crime that allows you to stroll for long hours along any road. If you plan to visit attractions around Punakha, do not miss Koma Hot Springs (Koma Tsachu) and Guru Rinpoche Caves (Geon Tsechu) that is just a twelve kilometer drive and two hour exciting hike.

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Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Drukgyel Dzong, a historic fortress in Bhutan, stands as a symbol of the nation's resilience and cultural legacy. Built in the 17th century to commemorate victory over Tibetan invaders, it once served as a strategic stronghold. Despite being in ruins today, following a fire, it remains a poignant reminder of Bhutan's past glory and military prowess. Including a visit to Drukgyel Dzong adds depth to any Bhutan trip, offering insights into the country's rich history and heritage.

Highlights: If you want to have a view of the splendid architectural and artistic vision of the Bhutanese culture, this is the perfect place to visit. The place has become a huge tourist attraction place as it is one of its kind in the world. The extensive rice fields and miniature chortens that surround the temple also add up to the nice aura.

Location: It is located in the region of Punakha in Bhutan

Timings: There is no timing as such but since it’s a temple, the ideal timings are from early morning to evening.

Pricing: Visit to the temple and surrounding regions is completely free of cost.

Punakha is the Punakha Dzong’s administrative centre which is the second largest and the second oldest dzong in Bhutan. Some may even refer to the Punakha Dzong as the Palace of Great Happiness or the Pungthang Dewachen Phodrang.

Highlights: Punakha is one of the 20 districts of Bhutan. Until 1955, Punakha was the capital of Bhutan. Post that the capital was changed to Thimphu. Known for the Punakha Dzong which is the most majestic and gorgeous dzong of the country, the place is a must visit. It is accessible via a 3 hour drive east of the capital city of Thimpu. You can reach the dzong after crossing a pass in the mountains. This place is glorious and breath taking right from the first glimpse of it from the road. Nestled strategically between the two rivers Mo Chu (females) and Pho Chu (male), you’ll see noticeable color difference between the river’s waters. Punakha is affixed to the mainland by an arched wooden bridge. It comprises of several precious relics from the times when successive kings resigned from the kingdom over Punakha.

Location: It is located 72 km away from Thimpu.

Timings: Open round the year.

Pricing: Entry is free
Zangdo Pelri Temple

Zangdo Pelri Temple, nestled in the heart of Thimphu, Bhutan, is a serene sanctuary revered for its spiritual significance. Constructed in the style of Guru Rinpoche's celestial abode, it exudes an aura of tranquility and devotion. The temple's intricate architecture and vibrant paintings offer a glimpse into Bhutan's rich cultural heritage. Including a visit to Zangdo Pelri Temple in Bhutan tour packages allows travelers to experience the spiritual essence of the country while marveling at its architectural splendor.

Highlights: Zangdo Pelri Temple is a magnificent place in Bhutan that definitely deserves your attention. On the earth level of this temple, you can find the statues of Guru along with his eight Manifestations. The wall is enclosed with several paintings taken from the life of Buddha. On the second floor of the temple, you can find statues of Avalokiteshwaram, eight Bodhisattavas and Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal. Finally, on the top floor you can see the main statue of the Buddha Amitabha.

Location: Zangdo Pelri Temple is located near the weekend market in Phuntsholing in Bhutan.

Timings: Can be visited from dawn to dusk each day.

Pricing: Entry is free.

Punakha Winter Trek

Having an altitude of 3400 meters this is one of the easiest and the most popular trekking journey among amateur trekkers through the ancient capital of Bhutan, Punakha. The trekking trail commences from Thimphu and concludes in the beautiful Punakha valley. Being a short trek, the gradual slopes on the trekking trail does not seem to be too much concern for the hikers, make usre to include this in your Bhutan tour packages

The old foot trail snakes through luscious valleys, green landscapes, dense forestlands and golden rice fields. The trail crosses through Phajoding Monastery and beautiful Sinchula Pass. Due to low altitude and much warmer climate, the trek is often preferred during winters.

Highlights: Phajoding Monastry

Duration: 4 days/3 nights

Location: Punakha, Bhutan

Best Season: March to May, September to November are considered as ideal time, however it can be done during December to February too.

Punakha Tshechu And Drubchen Festival
A popular annual festival, Punakha Tshechu and Drubchen gets celebrated in Punakha which is located in the western side of Bhutan. The festival has great historical importance which makes it more popular among natives. In 17thcentury, Tibetan forces invaded Bhutan from where Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the Buddhist saint, led the victory of the country. This auspicious occasion was celebrated with the introduction of the celebration of Punakha Drubchen which is continued till date once every year. In 2005, Punakha Tshechu was introduced to preserve Buddhist documents and his teachings. Usually these festivals occur simultaneously and in both of them much entertainment is provided by performances in folk dance. Religious customs are performed in both the festivals in the same manner as done in earlier times Highlights: Folk dances by the natives. Festival Time: Usually in the month of March
Wildlife Safari
Being isolated from the outside world and its modernization for too long and the deep seated Buddhist value of preserving and respecting the nature have made Bhutan one of the finest places in the world to witness the biodiversity of flora and fauna. Unarguably, this land of Himalayan kingdom is a paradise for those who love to connect with the wild.

Asiatic elephants, black bear, leopards, tiger and golden langur among other mammals can be seen in their natural habitat. You also have the chance to get the glimpse of the mighty beast, Tiger. The wildlife safaris, tiger safaris and bird watching tours are held through the dense forests.

: The dense forests of Mo Chhu River and various hills and mountains of Bhutan.

Best time/season
: April to June and September to November

Approx Price
: For 15 days Tiger Safari tour, the approximate price is 250,000 BTN.

Difficulty Level
: Easy.
Jigme Dorji National Park

Visit Jigme Dorji National Park to explore Bhutan's natural paradise, where a variety of plants and animals coexist peacefully. Here, you can witness Takin (Bhutan’s national animal) and admire the beauty of the Blue Poppy (Bhutan’s national flower). This Park can impress you with its large wildlife population, which includes over 300 different bird species. You can also spot the snow leopard and Bengal tiger, two endangered species thriving here as a result of conservation initiatives.

Torsa Strict Nature Reserve

Torsa is one of the most famous tourist attractions for it is the only Nature Reserve in the world which has not been destroyed by human inhabitation. It is adorned with beautiful alpine and broad leaves tree forests, making it a favoured trekking route in Bhutan. The name came to existence from the River Toorsa which penetrates from Tibet. Including a visit to Torsa in Bhutan tour packages allows visitors to experience the unspoiled beauty and biodiversity of this remarkable wilderness sanctuary.

The Nature Reserve is situated at this Junction is bordering both Sikkim and China. The Nature reserve is also a dwelling to many species of endangered flora and fauna, Rufous necked Hornbill being one of them.

Highlights: Excellent climate, landscapes include deciduous forests, alpine meadows, scrublands and temperate forests. A small lake, Sinchulunga, which is the source of fresh water stream is part of the Reserve; undisturbed by human settlement, this place showcases a unique tranquillity and serenity.

Location: Western Haa

Best season: March to September and Jan to March

Punakha Suspension Bridge

Punakha Suspension Bridge is one of the longest suspension bridges in Bhutan and stretches up to a length of approximately 520 feet! You can enjoy spectacular views of the river flowing underneath the bridge or the valleys rolling in every direction. Made with solid planks of wood and cables anchored to massive cement block, the bridge is surprisingly stable for its length and is covered in colourful religious flags at all points. It also acts as a starting point for several multi-day trekking trips in the region, so make sure to include this attraction in your Bhutan tour packages.

You can also stopover at the bridge if you are visiting the famous Punakha Dzong as it lies only half a mile away from the religious centre. You simply have to head north from the dzong, walk past the cremation grounds and follow the river to reach the bridge.

Khansum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
Standing regally on the hill above the Punakha valley, Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten is a classic example of beautiful traditions and architecture of Bhutan. The temple was built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother for warding off the negative forces and bringing peace and harmony for all the living beings. The thing that sets this Chorten apart is that it was built on the principals described in the Holy Scriptures rather than modern engineering manuals. The golden spire and intricate wall patterns are fine example of art and tradition of Bhutan.

: Enjoy the panoramic view of the valley from the top of the Chorten. The little hike to reach the Chorten will take you to the adventurous suspension bridge and the lush green rice fields.

: Located in Punakha Valley the hill at which the Chorten is standing is half hour drive from Punakha Dzong.

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If you love doing adventure activities and looking for undiscovered places, Bhutan is a perfect dose of thrill.

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. Including a visit to the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery in Bhutan tour packages allows travelers to immerse themselves in the tranquility and beauty of this sacred site while experiencing the cultural heritage of the country.

The gleaming white washed 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.

Highlights: 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.

Location: The temple complex is located in Wangdue.

Timing: 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM

Prices: N/A

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong, known as 'The Palace of Great Happiness,' is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture. It was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The dzong (palace) is nestled at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in the beautiful Punakha Valley. Its rustic beauty and natural surroundings make it a must-visit stop for travelers considering Bhutan packages, offering a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the captivating allure of Bhutan's cultural and natural heritage.

Chimi L Hakhang Temple

One of the most revered temples of Bhutan, Chimi L’hakhang is considered as the temple of fertility, dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, popularly known as the Divine Madman. Lama Drukpa Kuenley is a legendary saint in Bhutan, who is much revered in the country but because of his unusual way of teaching, he is considered an eccentric. Visiting this sacred site is a highlight of Bhutan trip packages, offering insight into the country's spiritual heritage and the unique character of its revered saints. 

People from all across the country come to the temple to pray for children. The couples visiting the temple are sanctified with a wooden phallus, the imitation of the saint’s iron bow and arrows and his scriptures. Surrounded by the abundant paddy fields this temple is a must visit.

Location: The temple lies on the edge of the Lobesa valley on the confluence of the borders of Thimphu, Punakha and Wangduephodrang.

Best time/season: The best time to visit the Chimi L'hakhang Temple is spring and autumn.

Approx Price: N/A

Difficulty Level: N/A

the places to visit in Bhutan have a certain charm of their own wherever you go in this country.

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Punakha Things To Do FAQs

What are some of the best things to do in Punakha?

Punakha, located in Bhutan is a popular tourist destination in the country. The place has quite a number of locations for sightseeing. Punakha Dzong, Chimi Lhakhang, Jigme Dorji National Park, Rishta Village, WangduePhodrang are a few of the places for sightseeing. Other than that, hiking, trekking, wildlife safari, rafting, and camping are common attractions for the visiting tourists. The array of activities that can be done there is vast and this makes Punakha a unique place to visit and one to cherish.

Which places are best for trekking in Punakha?

The best trekking experiences of trekking in Punakha are during the winter when the Government of the country organizes the Winter Trek for the ancient capital of the country, Other than this Punakha Domche Trekking is also very popular during the Punakha festival. The route of the winter trek covers the Sinchula Pass and the Phajoding Monastery and March-May or September-November are the ideal times to cover this route. The Damoche trek covers from Punakha to Paro via Thimpu. In Thimpu, one can spend an entire day sightseeing.

Where can we go for hiking in Punakha?

Hiking is a must do activity when one is visiting Punakha. There are numerous hikes available in this place; the number being quite high which leads a tourist to be totally spoilt for choices.Short hikes include KhamsumYuelleyNamgyelChorten, Jana Village Lamperi to Lumbitsawa, Dochu La to LungchuzekhaGompa to name a few. Punakha-Limbukha-Samtengang is a good route for a longer hike. The short hikes away from the town are very scenic in nature and the one from ChortenNebu to Kabji Hoko Tso gives a fantastic view of Phobjikha Valley.

Which are the best destinations for wildlife safari in Punakha?

The Jigme Dorji National Park that sprawls through Paro, Thimpu, and Punakha is an ideal destination for the wildlife safari. Musk deer, snow leopard, red panda are among the few endangered species found there. Marmot, pika, barking deer, wild dog are some of the other species found there. The national park is also home to more than 300 different species of birds thus making the environment pretty lively. The national park has a rich collection of florals and also is the only park in Bhutan where the national animal, the national plant, the national bird and the national flower exist together.

Which are the best places to do rafting in Punakha?

Rafting in the Mochu - Fochu River in Punakha is a common activity. The guides out there are excellent and helpful in nature. The rafts are usually kept in excellent condition and the scenic beauty of the journey is impressive. There are small rapids in places but they are enough to set the adrenaline flowing and make a memorable experience out of it. White Water Rafting is a must do activity if one is visiting Punakha.

Which are best places for camping in Punakha?

Surrounded by the Punastangchu valley, Punakha is an ideal destination for camping if one is visiting Bhutan. Autumn and Spring are the recommended seasons for camping and one can even choose to camp by the Mochu-Fochu River. This is usually accompanied by a day rafting activity followed by a night camp on the banks of the river which makes it a memorable experience on a whole. Various tourism agencies provide such camps and everything will be provided by them.

Punakha Things To Do Reviews

Shuchita DHAWAN
Reviewed: 27 Jun 2024
It was an excellent trip , would like to engage with Thrillophilia in future too
Shuchita DHAWAN
Shuchita DHAWAN
Shuchita DHAWAN
Shuchita DHAWAN
Shuchita DHAWAN
Shuchita DHAWAN
Shachi Pandey
Reviewed: 26 Mar 2024
The trip was planned beautifully. We had our leisure time and we explored as well. Sujeet, our organiser did an amazing job. All our needs and requirements were fulfilled. The team in Bhutan, our guide Loten and our driver Drukta were very sweet and made our journey memorable. We couldn’t get anythi... Read More

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