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Things To Do In Punakha
Punakha’s lovely seasons, the fertile plains and the gushing Pho Chuu and Mo Chuu rivers are full of verve. They present ample scope for adventure sports like trekking and rafting. Explore the valley on foot, walk across the Punakha Suspension Bridge, meditate in Talo Monastery, and watch the harvesting in Ritsha village, take photographs of exotic birds like the White-bellied Heron in the lowlands of Punakha. Go shopping for exotic goods or participate in Punakha’s local festivals. We will tell you about the things you can do in Punakha, before returning home with sweet memories.
Guru Rinpoche Caves and Koma Hot Springs
About 12 km away from Punakha is a small hamlet called Mitesgang. A two hour hike from Mitesgang leads to the Guru Rinpoche caves where it is said the Guru meditated after his return from Nepal. You can camp close to the caves, which are ideal for meditation and exploration of the backwoods.
Koma Tshachu or Menchu is a Hot Spring that is about an hour’s ride from Punakha, towards the road leading to Gasa. The Bhutanese believe that Hot Springs have medicinal properties and bathing in one, especially in winter, can cure them off their illnesses. You can pitch tents beside the river, close to the three Hot Spring ponds and soak in, for as long as you like.
You can choose the Punakha Winter Trek from Thimphu to Punakha, hiking across Sinchula Pass, paddy fields and lush green forests. Since Punakha is at lower altitudes, trekking is fine even in winter, though the March-May and September-November trekking trips are more pleasing. You can hike to Kabje Hoko Tsho, the lake that lies at 1,829 m on a mountain top in Punakha. If you like a walk through wild forests of rhododendrons, pines and oaks and gentle hamlets, you can choose the Samtengang trek from Punakha to Wangduephodrang.
If you enjoy water sports, rafting down the Mo Chuu River should be your precise pick. The grand and majestic Punakha Dzong sits on the banks where the Mo Chuu River joins the Pho Chuu. Originating from the Bhutan-Tibet border, the gentle female river Mo Chuu flows southwards through Punakha where the more rapid male river Pho Chuu flowing from the northeast joins it.
Rafting down the fresh water rivers that are fed continuously by the melting glaciers is a beloved spectator sport of tourists in Punakha. You get a wonderful feel drifting past the imposing Punakha Dzong and watching the migratory water birds at close quarters.
Bhutan has so many things that are typically Bhutanese. There is the wooden face mask, chiselled so beautifully out of pine, carved and painted with silk and brocade, the Thangkas that represent Buddhist teachings on cotton or silk appliqué and painted with natural colours, yathra or cloth made out of sheep or yak wool and then transformed aesthetically into clothes, wall hangings and rugs. You can shop for prayer bells and Bhutanese Postal stamps. If you visit Chimi Lhakhang, you can drop in at the Sun, Moon, Star Handicrafts and the Phallus Handicrafts for a variety of souvenirs including symbols of phalluses in different sizes and colours.
If you can plan a trip to Bhutan during festivals, that would be an experience you can relish forever. Punakha celebrates some of the most oldest and significant festivals of Bhutan. Usually held in the month of February or March, the Punakha Drubchen or Dromche dramatically recreates the 17th century war between Bhutan and Tibet, how the invading army withdrew from Bhutan leading to the consolidation of Bhutan into a united country. The Punakha Tshechu, which is a very colourful festival held in the courtyard of the Punakha Dzong, closely follows the Punakha Drubchen. The Tshechu honours Guru Rinpoche with masked dances and culminates with the unfurling of the Thangka.
Punakha Tshechu is such a grand festival that throngs of people from neighbouring district join the locals in celebrating it.