10 Best Places To Visit in Punakha, The Old Capital Of Bhutan


The long lost, ancient capital of Bhutan, Punakha, sits at the intersection of the two main rivers of the country – Pho (father) Chhu and Mo (mother) Chhu. The city is around seventy kilometres away from the present capital, Thimphu. Surrounded by hills all around, Punakha is a relatively warm place, with an average annual temperature touching 20 degrees Celsius. Located at an elevation of 1200 metres only, Punakha resembles the meadows of paradise, full of paddy fields that upto two rice crops in a year. There are several things for tourists to see as part of Punakha sightseeing. Read on to know more about all the important places to visit in Punakha

10 Places To See In Punakha On Your Next Trip To Bhutan

Of all the tourist attractions in Bhutan, these 10 places in Punakha are the ultimate ones to visit if you’re looking for a soul-satisfying experience. Take a look!

  • Punakha Dzong
  • Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
  • Ritsha
  • Mo Chhu
  • Chimi Lhakhang
  • Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang
  • Jigme Dorji National Park
  • Dochula Pass
  • Koma Tsachu
  • Limbhukha Village

1. Punakha Dzong

the epitome of architecture in Bhutan

Image Credit: ycchen for Pixabay

The Punakha Dzong was built back in 1637 and has served as an enduring symbol of a united Bhutan since. Dzongs are distinctive forts that have served as administrative centres in Bhutanese districts for centuries. The Punakha Dzong is the largest dzong in Bhutan and one of the most regal places to visit in Punakha. The beautiful complex is the epitome of architecture in Bhutan, and its beautifully decorated rooms and prayer halls are a treat for visitors that come here.

Timings: 9AM to 4PM

Entry fee: No charges

Must Read: 9 Soul-Satisfying Things To Do In Paro On Your Bhutan Getaway

2. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

a Buddhist temple

This is a Buddhist temple completed in 2004 was commissioned by the Queen Mother. Built to ward off all the evil spirits and promote peace and harmony in the world, the Khamsum Yulley chorten is one of the most popular Punakha tourist places. The temple complex also serves as fine example of the architectural traditions of the country. The temple can be reached after hiking through the paddies and then up a small hill laden with prayer wheels. The enormous statue of Vajrakilaya, the easily angered Buddhist god, is the first thing that you see when you walk into the temple.

Timings: 6AM to 6PM

3. Ritsha

Ritsha In Punakha

This is a small Bhutanese village, one of the unexpected Punakha tourist spots, just moments away from Punakha city known for its unique techniques for growing rice as well its beautiful architecture. During the harvest seasons around the monsoon, tours of the vineyard are popular here. The village also has a monastery that has attracted the attention of visitors with its magnificent architecture and centuries old religious traditions that continue even today. One of the most charming places to visit in Punakha.

Best time to come to Ritsha: All throughout the year

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4. Mo Chhu

a popular place for thrill seekers

Mo Chhu, literally the Mother, is an extremely important river in the consciousness of the Himalayan nation. The river passes into the Mo Chhu valley and then into the Devil’s Gorge which is a popular place for thrill seekers to go kayaking or river rafting. However, around Punakha, the river makes for the best places to visit in Punakha, as it makes its way through the rice paddies and the golden domes of the Namgyal Chorten to the Pho Chhu right at the footsteps of the Punakha Dzong.

5. Chimi Lhakhang

beautiful Buddhist monastery

This beautiful Buddhist monastery was built back in the 14th century by Drukpa king Ngawang Choegyel and is counted amongst the most important things to visit in Punakha. As legend has it, the Buddhist monk Drukpa Kunley defeated a demon here and trapped it inside a rock here. Do not be shocked to find phallus symbols strewn everywhere inside and on the walls of the temple. The legacy of Drukpa Kunley who advocated outrageous ways to ward off evil beings, the phallus symbol is used throughout Bhutan to cast away the spirits.

Entry fee: None

Timings: 9AM to 5PM

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6. Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang

Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang

The Sangchhen Dorji Lheundrup Lakhang is another major stop on the religious Punakha tourism map. The central attraction of the two-floor temple and nunnery is the 14 foot statue of Avalokiteshvara. The temple, that overlooks the scenic valleys of Punakha, Toebesa and Wangduephodrang, is noted for the blocks made in black marble that surround the main stupa depicting the 84 Mahasiddhis that are central to the Bhutan Buddhism. Mostly deserted, the place offers lovely views and serenity of a Buddhist place of worship.

7. Jigme Dorji National Park

Jigme Dorji National Park In Punakha

Image Source

The Jigme Dorji is the second largest national park in Bhutan. On the list of tentative World Heritage Sites for a long time, the park is spread most of Gasa district and other districts as well, including Punakha. Because it covers areas ranging in elevation from 1400 to 7000 metres, it houses an incredibly varied biodiversity. The place is one of the best places to see in Punakha and indeed Bhutan for birdwatchers. You may chance upon the occasional red panda or blue sheep here. The endangered Himalayan Black bear, snow leopard and Bengal Tiger are also found here.

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8. Dochula Pass

 the scenic views of valleys

Image Credit: suketdedhia for Pixabay

The road from Thimpu to the Punakha is marked by the Dochula Pass, located at a height of 3100 metres. The pass does not only have all the scenic views of valleys on both sides but also is the site of the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens, built by the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. Besides the chortens, you will also find here the Druk Wangyal Lakhang, which is the site of the annual Dochula Druk Wangyel festival. The Gangkar Puensum, Bhutan’s highest mountain peak, has a commanding presence around the pass, and the place is one of the essential Punakha sightseeing places.

9. Koma Tsachu

Koma Tsachu

The Koma Tsachu water springs are a one-hour drive away from the township of Punakha, followed by a hike up a hill that takes about two hours. The water spring are actually located inside the Jigme Dorji National Park. The bathing pools here are housed in four different rooms, complete with solar lighting, mats and tents that can be pitched outside. The hot water springs are supposed to have therapeutic value.

Location: 12 kilometres from Punakha

Entry fee: No charge

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10. Limbhukha Village

Limbhukha Village

Image Credit: Larisa-K for Pixabay

This peaceful village that is only a half hour drive away from the Punakha city centre epitomises the serene beauty of the kingdom of Bhutan. A paddy village set in the heart of the Punakha valley, the village has a long standing tradition for peace. It is believed that peace negotiators in the medieval times came from Limbukha, and even today, the village celebrates the Serda festival where the village marches with flags of peace in place of swords. The village can be your answer to the question of what to see in Punakha on the weekend.

Location: 14 kilometres from Punakha

Further Read: Dochula Pass, Bhutan: 3 Reasons You Must Visit It

The places to visit in Punakha are an essential part of any tour you may be planning. So, plan your Bhutan holiday with TravelTriangle now to visit Punakha and experience the joys of the Himalayan kingdom first hand!

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Frequently Asked Questions About Places To Visit In Punakha

What is Punakha famous for?

Punakha is famous for its amazing 17th-century fortress, its unique techniques for growing rice as well its beautiful architecture. Punakha is situated at the juncture of two beautiful rivers the Pho and Mo Chhu rivers which makes this place look even more majestic.

Which are the best places to visit in Punakha for couples?

Some of the most romantic places to visit in Punakha for couples are: 1. Punakha Dzong 2. Khamsum Yueling Monastery 3. Chimi Lhakhang 4. Rishta Village 5. Jigme Dorji National Park

What is there to do in Punakha?

Some of the most amazing things to do in Punakha to make your trip memorable are: 1. Take snaps of the Punakha Dzong 2. Hike to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten 3. Walk to Chimi Lhakhang Temple 4. Cross the Punakha Suspension Bridge 5. White Water Rafting in Punakha

Is Punakha a safe place to visit?

Punakha is a remarkably safe place for all kinds of tourists but it is always wise to be a little cautious and not go out looking for trouble in unknown lands.

How long should I spend in Punakha?

A 2 to 3 days trip is more than enough for a place like Punakha where you can cover a lot of places and popular attractions in a very short time.

What is the best time to visit Punakha?

March to May is springtime in Punakha and is one of the best times to visit this beautiful place and explore its serenity and alluring beauty.

What is the weather like in Punakha?

Punakha has a warm and temperate climate and summers are quite rainy. The average annual temperature is around 18 ℃.

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