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Punakha Tourism And Travel Guide
10.7° C / 51.3° F
March to May
5 to 7 Days
Paro International Airport (123.8 kms)
Hasimara (259.1 kms)
Punakha, in the western parts of Bhutan, is a beautiful low lying valley which is home to the Palace of Great Happiness. Going around Punakha you find abundant lush paddy fields made fertile by gushing rivers, the second biggest and most beautiful Dzong of Bhutan, tiny spotless villages, a lake on the mountain top and trek trails through Bhutan’s longest Suspension Bridge with forests of pines and rhododendrons. Check out a village on the summit, the Hot Springs believed to cure illnesses and the temple of Fertility.
Punakha has a warm and pleasant climate that draws tourists from the world over. If you are keen on visiting Punakha, this Travel and Tourism Guide will tell you how to reach Punakha, about the places you can visit and the things you can do there.
How to Reach
You need a special permit to travel to Punakha. When you reach Bhutan, travel to Thimphu’s Immigration Office and get a permit for Punakha.
Bhutan’s International Airport is at Paro. There are flights to Paro from New Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Kathmandu, Dhaka and Bangkok. You can fly to Paro and then from the Airport, hire a taxi to Thimphu, complete the formalities, get the permit and proceed to Punakha. The distance from Paro International Airport to Punakha is about 123 km.
Hasimara in West Bengal is about 17 km from the Jaigaon-Phuentsholing Border between India and Bhutan. Via Thimphu, the distance from Hasimara to Punakha is about 259 km and it should take about 7 hours drive through a beautiful countryside.
Travel from Kolkata to Hasimara by train and you can get a taxi or a bus to the Phuentsholing Border and thereon proceed to Punakha via Thimphu, by road. From Phuentsholing, Punakha is about 240 km and it takes around 7 hours drive.
Weather and Best time to Visit
Punakha welcomes spring with a burst of flowers, a warm season and grand festivals. Spring is a good time to visit Punakha. The Jacarandas and rhododendrons in bloom are a feast for the eyes.
Summer in Punakha is hot, with midday rains cooling off the earth. Nights are cooler, though. Paddy fields get lush and verdant after the rains.
This is another good time to visit Punakha. The clear blue skies and the cool weather are alluring, giving us ample scope for trekking up the mountains, visiting the monasteries and rafting. Take your cameras along.
Winter is not too cold here in Punakha. The days are warm, with occasional snowfall in late February and nights are cooler. It’s off season, so you can tour more and get reasonable discounts in accommodations and tours.
Things to Do
Hiking and Trekking:
You can hike through enchanting forests to remote villages and ancient monasteries. There are always short hourly hikes like the Chimi Lhakhang Hike or Khamsum Chorten Hike or longer hikes you can opt for, like the Samtengang Winter Trek.
White Water Rafting along the Mo Chuu and Pho Chuu rivers is blissful. Watch the migratory water birds at close quarters and the imposing Punakha Dzong on the banks as you raft past.
Punakha is a photographer’s paradise. Take your camera along while walking on the banks of Pho Chuu and Mo Chuu rivers to picture the wild Himalayan birds like Pallas’ Fish Eagles and the rare White-Bellied Herons. In the denser pine treed forests, you can hear Stripe Throat Yuhinas, Long-Tailed Minivets and Red-Headed Tits chirping from the tree-tops.
Take a trip to Wangduephodrang about 15 km away from Punakha. The district is popular for its bamboo and slate carvings.
Hot Spring Cure:
Since ancient times, the Bhutanese believed that a dip or soak in natural hot springs would cure their ailments. You find natural hot springs in many parts of Bhutan. Punakha’s Koma and Chubu Tshachu are favourite hotspots for locals and tourists, more so in cold winter months.
Apart from souvenirs like face masks, prayer bells and Dharma Wheels, you would find some exotic local Bhutanese products like soaps made of lemongrass, pine, lavender and apple, varieties of mountain honey, Green tea and Lemongrass sprays.
You find that Bhutanese cuisine is influenced by the food of China, Tibet and India. The staple food of Bhutan has a lot of cheese and chillies, which to the Bhutanese, is more of a vegetable, rather than a spice. Ema Datshi, cheese and chillies with steaming red rice, Paksha Paa, pork with red chillies and Momos are some of Bhutan’s popular traditional meals.
There are a fair number of restaurants in Punakha that you can eat at. Try the Chimi Lhakhang Cafeteria, if you have hiked up to the Chimi Lhakhang Temple, the Lobesa Village Restaurant, encased in a beautiful landscape in Lobesa Village or the UMA Punakha that serves traditional Bhutanese and International cuisines.