Punakha, a small and quaint town in the heart of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, was once the capital of the Wangchuk kings that still rule the country. While the kings may have left, the old world charm of the city has remained. Set in the Punakha valley and at the confluence of the Pho and Mo Chhu rivers, the town has a variety of experiences to offer to tourists, and here are just a few things to do in Punakha for you!
9 Must-Have Experiences In Punakha On Your Next Trip
There are innumerable experiences to have in Bhutan but if you’re really visiting Punakha, then here are 9 things to do that you ought to add to your itinerary!
1. Take snaps of the Punakha Dzong
The Punakha Dzong was built in the 1637 and holds high value in the life of the royal family of Bhutan. Located right at the confluence of the Mo and Pho Chhu, the palace of great happiness, as it is called, is the most picturesque of all of dzongs in Bhutan, which are palace like administrative centres built in a unique style of Bhutanese architecture. While there are plenty of places to see around the Punakha Dzong, one of the essential things to do in Punakha, Bhutan is to get a picture perfect shot of the Dzong itself. There are three established photo points around the palace for this.
Timings: 9AM to 4PM
Entry fee: No charge
2. Hike to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
The temple of the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten was commissioned by the Queen Mother of Bhutan Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. The temple was designed based on Buddhist scriptures and was built to bring peace and prosperity to the Kingdom as well as the world. However, it is the trek to the temple that invites a lot of people to the place. The trek takes about an hour and is one of the best Punakha things to do. Be sure to go to the top of the temple for the best views of the entire valley.
Timings: 6AM to 6PM
3. Walk to Chimi Lhakhang Temple
One of the most unusual things to do in Punakha is to visit the Chimi Lhakhang Temple that is the abode of Drukpa Kunley who advocated the use of phallic imagery as a way to ward off the evil spirits. The temple is filled with phallic images inside and outside on the walls, so if you have a taste for the bizarre and fascinating, this tradition represents a great shot for your photo-trip. Getting to the temple again is a journey in itself, and you have a hike through 15 minutes of paddy fields set against the low mountains of the valley before you get to the hill at the top of which the temple is located.
Entry fee: None
Timings: 9AM to 5PM
4. Cross the Punakha Suspension Bridge
Suspension bridges are actually a common sight over the hilly terrain and quick rivers of the valleys in Bhutan. There is no record for how old the Punakha suspension bridge is, but it certainly is high. Built high above the swift Pho Chhu, you will encounter the Punakha Suspension Bridge if you elect not to hike to the Chimi Lakhang Temple. It is one of the longest suspension bridges in all of Bhutan, about 160-180 metres long, and crossing it is one of the best things to do in Punakha if you are looking for an adrenaline high on your Bhutan trip.
5. White Water Rafting in Punakha
One of the recently trending things to do in Punakha and certainly one of its hidden gems, white water rafting on the Mo and Pho Chhu river as it enters the Devil’s Gorge has become a popular attraction for thrill seekers. Rafting in the Brahmaputra or its tributaries has always been attractive for extreme sports fanatics, and the choppy rapids of the Mo Chhu provides about 10 kilometres of 10 rapids that are at 2-2+. On the other hand, the Pho Chhu river has a much tougher course of 15 rapids sprinkled over 12 kilometres, ranging in difficulty level between 2 and 4.
Timings: 8AM – 5PM
Cost: INR 2000-2500(peak seasons), INR 1000-1500(off season)
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6. Go shopping in Punakha
On your Bhutan trip, shopping is really fun and the gorgeous stoles and woollens made in the local style out of material that is sourced from local sheep are available in little shops and markets everywhere. If you are wondering what to do in Punakha for shopping, the city centre is where you can get all kinds of things you want to take back from your Bhutan trip. Dry fruits are also available in ample supply here, and local artisan work including statues, jewellery and other quirky home decor items are commonly available in Punakha shops.
7. Meditate at the Talo Monastery
Located at the very top of the Punakha valley, the small settlement of Talo is located at a height of 2800 metres, the village is a great example of how the Bhutanese people exist in harmony with nature. With the picturesque Punakha valley in the background, go right up to the Talo monastery where you will soon discover that you are the only one. A truly transcendent and transformative experience for people who have been here, the village is an hour long trek which in itself is one of the better activities to do in Punakha.
Best time to visit: March to May and October to November
Suggested Read: 9 Soul-Satisfying Things To Do In Paro On Your Bhutan Getaway
8. Eat at the Dochula Resort Restaurant
While making your way to Punakha from Thimpu, you will pass through the Dochula pass that separates the two valleys. The pass has exquisite views of the Bhutan Himalayas, especially the Gangkar Puensum which is Bhutan’s highest peak. The Dochula Resort restaurant is a great place to enjoy this. The restaurant, besides the world’s most surreal setting, offers great local cuisine and beverages for your culinary pleasures. One of the top things to do in Punakha.
9. Go bird watching in Jigme Dorji National Park
The Jigme Dorji National Park is the site of tremendous biodiversity, primarily because it encompasses areas with elevations ranging from 1400 to 7000 meters. Consequently, the reserve houses some of the world’s rarest species. Birdwatchers are especially excited by the kind of birds that one can spot inside the reserve and this is one of the best things to do in Punakha, Bhutan.
Timings: 9AM to 5PM from Monday to Friday
Further Read: Dochula Pass, Bhutan: 3 Reasons You Must Visit It
These things to do in Punakha are a must for any tourist looking to live the experiences of coming here. Just plan your Bhutan trip with TravelTriangle now and head out for these exhilarating experiences right away
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