Punakha, the former capital of the country, Bhutan is a quaint town in the heart of Punakha-Wangdue Valley. Amidst all the elegance of this little town, this place is also home to the marvelous Punakha suspension bridge which is the second longest suspension bridge in Bhutan and connects the old administrative centre of Punakha Dzongkhag to the rest of the valley. It is perched high above the swift river Po Chu and spans about 160-180 meters in length. This iron chain bridge has been a precursor for modern suspension bridges in the world. For all the adrenaline junkies, here is a handy guide to the beautiful yet scary suspension bridge in Bhutan.
About The Punakha Suspension Bridge
One of the oldest suspension bridges in the world, Punakha Suspension Bridge in Bhutan was believed to be built by the Buddhist Monk, Thangtong Gyalpo. Over the years it has undergone its share of refurbishment but it was once one of the eight bridges that served as the precursor to many of our modern suspension bridges. Punakha suspension brudge length is 160 metres! Gyalpo chain bridges did not include the suspended wooden deck and this makes walking across the bridge quite a thrilling experience.
Punakha Dzong Suspension Bridge is an important part of the architectural history of Bhutan as it was built to connect the villages of Shengana, Samdingkha and Wangkha to the Palace of the Wangchuk Kings. The bridge was built as the Dzong lies in the confluence of the rivers Po Chu and Mo Chu rivers and is vulnerable to the flash floods caused by the glacier lakes.
This hanging bridge in Bhutan is draped with prayer flags all along and provides a perfect spot for bird watching and nature photography not to mention the panic attacks it gives to a few visitors as it sways a bit due to the strong winds from the flowing river beneath.
How To Get To Punakha Suspension Bridge
Punakha does not have an airport of its own. Visitors have to travel from Thimphu by road through Dochula which would take 2 hours of the journey time. One can opt for the travel from Paro which is about 110 kms via Thimphu. To 5-7 kilometers north of Punakha, one can find the marvellous river, Po Chu and the majestic suspension bridge. Punakha Suspension Bridge is a 0.5 kms walk from the car park and would take about 15 mins to cross the bridge.
Highlights Of Punakha Suspension Bridge
Though the walk across the bridge is an adventure in itself, the Punakha Suspension Bridge connects the town of Punakha to many important and religious places that are worth a visit.
1. Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong was built in the 17th Century by the first Zhabdrung Rinpoche. It has served as an administrative and the religious centre of the Unified Bhutan. Presently, it is the winter resort for the main Monk body. Commonly known as the palace of happiness or bliss, this architecture is the second oldest and largest Dzong in Bhutan. It has been a victim of natural calamities from time and again and yet stands majestically on the tip of the elephant hill. The grand Tsechu Festival takes place in the Dzong every year.
Entry Fee: INR 300
Timings: 8:30 to 17:00 (in summers) and 11:00 to 17:00 (in winters)
Suggested Read: 10 Best Places To Visit in Punakha, The Old Capital Of Bhutan
2. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
Standing magnificently over 9 years, this 4-storey Temple was built based on the Holy scriptures. It is dedicated to the well being of the Kingdom and was commissioned by Her Majesty, the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck. It is perched on top of the Yambesa Hill and visitors have to cross the Punakha Suspension Bridge and hike up across the rice terraces for 15-20 minutes to reach the Chorten. The Temple is a fine example of the Bhutanese culture.
Entry Fee: Free
Timings: Any time of the day before sunset
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3. Chimi Lhakhang Temple
It is a fertility Temple built in the honour of Saint Drukpa Kunley. He was known as the Divine Madman whose remains can still be found in the Wangcha village across the other side of the Punakha Suspension Bridge. Visitors have to hike for 20 minutes across the paddy fields to reach the temple. The temple has a golden roof that can be noticed from quite a distance. A statue of Guru Padmasambhava is found inside the Temple where couples seek blessings.
Entry Fee: Free
Timings: 9:00 to 17:00
4. White Water Rafting Along The Po Chu River
Apart from the hiking and trekking to the temples and monasteries, visitors can opt for another adventurous activity of white water rafting along the Po Chu river. Po Chu river or male river as it literally means is 16 kms long and has 15 rapids of 2-4 classes. Experienced rafters are on board for the safety of the first timers. Rafters drift along the backdrop of the Punakha Dzong and under the Punakha Suspension Bridge and often encounter birds like white bellied herons and kingfishers.
Fee: INR 2000 per person
Location: Gunji Thang – A Po Chu Riverbank
Best time: October to May
Timings: 8:00 to 17:00
Best Time To Visit Punakha Suspension Bridge
Punakha has a moderate climate all year long. February to April and October to December are the preferred months for the visit to Punakha. It is a wise choice to avoid this valley in the rainy season as flash floods are a common sight here. The Tsechu festival will be held in the end of February or early March every year making it the best time to enjoy the spring weather and culture of Bhutan. The spring season with 18℃ of average temperature brings in the beautiful landscapes of purple jacaranda flowers all along the valley.
Tips To Visit Punakha Suspension Bridge
- Ngultrum is Bhutan’s currency but in case one falls short of it, not to fret, Rupee is widely accepted across the country.
- Take off the hats and sunglasses while entering the Dzongs, Chortens or even while crossing the bridge.
- Shorts are not allowed inside the temples, Dzongs and chortens. Make sure that the knees and shoulders are covered. Refrain from taking photographs inside the religious centres.
- Carry an emergency medical kit for motion sickness.
- Do not throw garbage into the river.
Further Read: 10 Invigorating Adventure Sports In Bhutan You Must Try
For the people who are looking out for an adventurous vacation, this attraction is a must visit while in the country. Don’t waste time and plan your much-worth Bhutan trip with TravelTriangle and enjoy a serene holiday in the most picturesque settings of nature!