Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still, it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo ( Chief Abbot ). Blessed with a temperate climate and fed by Pho Chu (male) and Punakha Mo Chu (female) rivers, Punakha is the most fertile valley in the country. There is the splendid view of the distant Himalayas at Dochula pass ( alt. 3,100 m ) on Thimphu - Punakha road.
THINGS TO DO IN PUNAKHA
- Excursion to Chimi Lhakhang
The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behaviour to dramatise his teachings and due to this also known as "Divine Madman". This temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child. It is about 30-minute walk across the field from the road to the temple.
- Excursion to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
A beautiful hike takes one to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, which was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.
- Excursion to Nalanda Buddhist College
Locals call this place 'Dalayna' while the monks refer to it as 'Nalanda Buddhist College'. Drive here in the afternoon and enjoy your evening tea supplemented by the ravishing view in front, along with interaction with local monks.
- Excursion to Punakha Ritsha Village
'Ritsha' meaning '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 by gardens and the rice fields. The gardens also usually have fruit-bearing plants like oranges and papaya among the organic vegetables. In recent years, the farming work is mechanized and power-tillers instead of bullocks are used to plough the fields and villagers have become relatively prosperous. This is a model rice-growing village in western Bhutan.
- Excursion to Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery
Perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking valleys of Punakha and Wangduephodrang, gleams the magnificent structures of Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang (Temple). The temple houses a 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrigzig chagtong chentong). Other statues include those of Guru Padmasambhava, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of longevity). The Avalokiteshvara statue, one of the biggest in the country, was the handiwork of entirely local Bhutanese artisans.
- Excursion to Talo
The village of Talo (alt. 2,800m) which is scattered along the hill slopes, known for its cleanliness and hygiene among Punakha villages. Talo Sangnacholing is built on a plateau and has a majestic view of surrounding villages. The beautiful farmhouses of the village have its own flower gardens and on the hill slope, corns and sweet peas are grown in abundance. The women of Talo are particularly known for their beauty.
- Punakha Dzong
Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637, by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region, Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan's history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King. The Dzong is open for visitors during Punakha festival and in summer months when the monk body moves to Thimphu.
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