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Tourist Places To Visit In Punakha
Punakha, the erstwhile capital of Bhutan is rich in sacred and cultural heritage. The confluence of the Father river Pho Chuu and the Mother river Mo Chuu make Punakha’s rice fields and organic farms produce an abundance of fruits and vegetables. There are many ancient monasteries, unique temples and bridges that make the Punakha Valley, a must- see in your travel list. Here’s an array of some of the most beautiful tourist places of Punakha that you might want to visit.
Punakha Dzong, also known as Pungtang Dewa Chhenbi Phodrang is the Palace of bliss. It is the second and most beautiful Dzong built in this country. Built by Ngawang Namgyal between 1637-38, the Dzong contains his sacred remains and that of Terton Pema Lingpa.
Built at the confluence of the Pho Chuu and the Mo Chuu rivers, the Punakha Dzong rises up majestic in its architectural grandeur. The Punakha Dzong serves as the winter capital of Je Kenpo, the Chief Abbot of the clergy of Bhutan and also functions as Punakha’s administrative centre. The locale around the Dzong turns beautiful in spring with mauve flowers of the Jacaranda trees bursting into blossoms.
June to Mid-November : 9 am - 5 pm
Mid-November to May : 11 am - 1 pm and 3 pm - 5 pm.
Punakha Suspension Bridge
Over the Pho Chuu River is the Punakha Suspension Bridge that connects Punakha Town to the Punakha Dzong. The 160 m long Punakha Bridge is the second longest suspension Bridge of Bhutan. On clear days, a walk across the bridge gives us a magnificent view of the lofty mountain peaks towering overhead, the Pho Chuu River rambling along under our feet along with a motorway. Spring and Autumn are the best seasons to walk along the bridge when we get a panoramic view of the hills and plains, carpeted with wild flowers.
Chimi Lhakhang is a Buddhist Temple of Fertility built in 1499 by Ngawang Choegyel, with the blessings of Saint Drukpa Kuenley, the Divine Madman, who exemplified his doctrines with humour and songs. The Lhakhang contains the wooden symbol of the phallus that Drukpa Kuenley brought with him from Tibet. The Wooden Phallus with the silver handle is used to bless couples who seek progeny. Phallic symbols are a tradition in Bhutan as they are believed to drive away the evil eye. The Chimi Monastery lies near the village of Sopsakha, about 10 miles away from Punakha. The houses in the neighbouring villages have their walls painted with the phallic symbols. Childless couples throng to the temple to be blessed with a baby and expectant mothers come to the temple to pick a name for their babies. The Temple is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
While in Punakha do make it a point to visit this model village, about 1 km away from the Punakha Gasa Highway. Most of Bhutan’s red and white rice varieties are grown in the fields of Ritsha Village.
The people here live in small mud-pounded houses that are only two storeys high. The village that sits at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains looks fertile and blooming during Spring, when the flowers on the slopes blossom in a myriad of colours and the orchards around the houses bestow papayas and oranges in abundance. Ritsha Village is one of Bhutan’s Model villages and it is worth a visit to see how well flourished the rural parts of Bhutan are.
Sangcchen Dorji Luemdrup Nunnery
Sangcchen Dorji Luemdrup Nunnery overlooks the Punakha Valley. It is a temple which has a mediation centre and school for nuns who are taught statue making, Thangka painting, tailoring and embroidery. The temple has a gigantic 14 foot bronze statue of Avalokiteshwara (chenrigzig chagtong chentong) said to be the biggest statue in Bhutan. You can also find the statues of Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava, Ngawang Namgyal, 21 Taras and Tsepamay.
The Sangcchen Dorji Luemdrup Nunnery is 33 km from Punakha. The temple is open from 6 am - 6 pm.
Limbukha, about 14 km away from Punakha Valley, is one of the most beautiful and peaceful hamlets of Bhutan. It is not only the landscape; but also the paddy fields and the pine trees on the way to Limbukha that fill you with serenity. The natives of Limbukha known as ‘Limpus,’ acted as the negotiators of harmony during wars of the medieval period. Even today, the Limpus carry peace flags instead of swords during the annual Serda festival of Punakha.
You can hike to Limbukha, crossing over the Suspension bridge near the Punakha Dzong and walk through the alpine forests of Dompala Hill until you reach Limbukha. From Punakha Valley, it’s a 4-6 hour hike to Limbukha.
Talo is a little hamlet that sits on the plateau above Punakha Valley. It is about 2800 m above mean sea level. Visit the Talo Sangnacholing Monastery for its architecture. Taro is said to be the most clean and hygienic of Bhutan’s villages and the women of Taro, the most beautiful.
Majestic pine and conifer trees that rise overhead and the pea and corn fields dotting the village green, makes Talo perfect for a tour. The village lies scattered across the plateau and offers a panoramic view of the Punakha Valley below. Talo lies about 5 km from Punakha Valley and you can easily trek up to Talo.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten is a Buddhist Monastery that lies on a hillock above the Punakha Valley. The Chorten, dedicated to the Dragon-King was built in 1990, under the instructions of the Queen Mother. The Chorten has statues, paintings and murals of shielding Gods who were housed to protect the people and country of Bhutan. The outer walls are in the form of a pagoda, while the inner shrine has a gigantic statue of Vajrakilaya, the most powerful of protective deities. There are murals of Yab-Yum or peaceful deities on the walls. The top of the three storied Chorten offers an astounding view of the mountain peaks.
Khamsum Yulley Chorten is about 10 km away from Punakha Valley. You can hike through the beautiful forests and across the suspension bridge over Mo Chuu River to reach Khamsum Chorten. The temple timings are from 6 am - 6 pm.