Chortens are the structures that drive evil spirits and negative forces in check, and you can find many beautiful Chortens all across Bhutan. One of the lovely ones is Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, which can be reached by a small hike from the main road across the Mo Chhu river. You can get stupendous views of the higher snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan mountain ranges from this place on a clear day.
Around 12 km from Punakha Dzong lies Mitesgang, the place where the Caves of Guru Rinpoche is located. A short drive up a rough road or a 2-hour walk from the highway will lead you to these sacred caves, where Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated.
It is hard to miss the 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara on the top of the hills overlooking the valleys of Punakha and Wangdue, which constitutes the main part of Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang.
The temple also consists of many other grand statues of the Buddhist Gods, a higher learning and meditation centre for nuns where nuns also learn statue making and thangka painting.
Places To Visit In Punakha
On the way from Thimpu to Punakha lies Dochula Pass, which consists of Chorten built as a memorial to all the soldiers that lost their lives during the combat of Chinese invasion. It overlooks the snow-capped Himalayan mountains that consist of 7 to 8 tallest peaks, and you can also the see the stunning views of the divine Jhomolahri Mountain on a clear day. It is one of the most popular stop-overs for people traveling from Thimpu to Punakha. If you are visiting this region during the peak winters, the place is carpeted in thick snow, which is a sight to behold.
Punakha Suspension Bridge
One of the most iconic spots for those traveling to Punakha is the suspension bridge built across the confluence of Mo Chhu and Po Chhu rivers. Walking on this 250m long suspension bridge is thrilling, but the views of the valley from the bridge is marvellous. The valley is serene except for the sound of river gurgling and the chirping birds. It is a great place for some photography and to stop over for the views, and surprisingly, it is not on the list of places to visit in Punakha!
One of the most remote and hygienic villages in Punakha is Talo, scattered along the hill slopes by the river. The village offers a magnificent view of the valleys, laden with crops like paddy, rice, flowers and fruits. Stop by to witness the countryside of Bhutan at Talo.
If you pass through the Punakha Dzong and cross the other side of the suspension bridge, a hike up the hill overlooking the rivers, the bridge and Dzong steeped in abundant greenery will lead you to Limbukha, after a hike of almost 3 hours. This region is known for the production of the staple pink/red rice that is consumed widely in Bhutan. The rice, which is said to possess medicinal values, is distributed to the other parts if Bhutan from here.
Adventure in Mo Chhu River
Whitewater rafting in Mo Chhu River is a popular adventure activity in Punakha. During the spring and the fall seasons, which is the best time to visit Bhutan, the river is ideal for whitewater rafting. Apart from enjoying the views of the valleys, you get to boost your adrenaline rush through this fun-filled activity
Punakha Ritsha Village
Translating into the foot of the fill in the local language, ‘Ritsha is a picturesque village surrounded by rice fields, which is the primary crop of the village. Due to the use of modern equipment and farming machinery, this village is regarded as an example village for latest farming practices in western Bhutan. One of the offbeat things to do in Punakha would be to explore Ritsha to experience the rural Bhutanese culture and life.
Jigme Dorji National Park
Many do know about the reserve area which is very close to Punakha. Jigme Dorji National Park is huge and is abode to rare wild species including the Red Pand, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear and Tigers. The national animal of Bhutan, Takin can also be found in this park.
When you travel to Mitesgang, you come across this natural hot springs, which is a popular place among the locals for a getaway. Although not very huge, these hot springs are flanked by the valleys which give great views, making it ideal for camping. There are 3 pools, and a building consists of a provision for staying.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
If hiking is your thing, hike up from the Punakha town to reach the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, which was built to ward off evil forces and restore positivity. The Chorten is the prominent structure in the upper Punakha Valley offering commanding views across the Mo Chhu.
Places To Visit In Punakha
Punakha enjoys the typical weather of Bhutan consisting of 4 major seasons, with the best time to visit Punakha being the spring and the fall seasons, i.e. the months of February to May and late September to November. Punakha’s average temperature is around 30 to 32 degree Celsius. The winter is not as severe in the central regions, but snowfall is not uncommon, with temperatures dropping to negative during this season.
Recommended read: What is the best time to visit Bhutan?
How To Reach Punakha?
The distance from Thimpu to Punakha is 86km, and it takes 2 to 3 hours to reach Punakha from Thimpu. There are many regular public buses from Thimpu to Punakha, which starts at Thimpu bus stand. You can also travel by car to Punakha from Thimpu, which is ideal if you are traveling in groups to cover the attractions too. Punakha to Paro distance is more than 125 km and it takes 4 to 5 hours depending on your time of travel to reach Punakha from Paro.
Where To Stay in Punakha?
It is difficult to find hostels or accommodation suiting the backpackers as the culture in Bhutan is more oriented towards homestays, guesthouses, resorts and hotels in Punakha, Bhutan. You can get budget guest houses as well as luxury budget options. You can check the hotel prices online here.
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