Punakha district, levelling from 1300m at the valley floor rises to almost 3000m around Dochhula pass, served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 till 1907. Thimphu’s monk body and the Je Khenpo (leader of Bhutan’s religious order) still come to Punakha to pass the winter. Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. There are splendid views of the distant Himalayas at Dochula pass (alt. 3,050m) on Thimphu – Punakha road.
- Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong was strategically built at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (male river) and Mo Chhu (female river) by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1637 to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsr Ugyen Wangchuck. It has been destroyed by four fires and an earthquake in 1897 and has frequently been devastated by flooding from the great northern glaciers. The dzong has now been fully restored to its original splendor. The Dzong is open for visitors during Punakha festival and in summer months when the monk body moves to Thimphu.
- Khamsum Yuley Temple
This fascinating temple was built by the Queen Mother of the 5th King to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The best of the spiritual art works are painted on the inner walls. There are also paintings of Buddhist teachers and tutelary deities of the country. This is a great temple to study the symbolic meanings from frescoes and sculptures.
- Chhimi Lhakhang
The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behaviour to dramatise his teachings and due to this also known as ‘Divine Madman’. The Divine Madman sits there though a statue this time. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. It is about 30 minute walk across field from the road to the temple.
The village of Talo (alt. 2,800m) which is scattered along the hill slopes is known for its cleanliness and hygiene among Punakha villages. Talo Sangnacholing is built on a plateau and has majestic view of surrounding villages. It’s an adventure to enjoy corn harvest with the farmers and also an opportunity to look for Himalayan bear. A walk through Talo and down to the other village of Nobgang will be a great day’s itinerary. The women of Talo are particular known for their beauty.
- Nalanda Buddhist College
It is located below Talo above Walakha over looking the Thinleygang valley on the main East-West highway. It was founded by 9th Je Khenpo, Shakya Rinchen, considered to be a reincarnation of Rechungpa, in 1754. In this Buddhist College, monks even do have the scheduled English classes.
- Chorten Nigpo
A Walk through the several villages and rice fields will reach you to the Chorten Ningpo. For adventure loving hard core walkers we recommend a detour to Hokotso, a lowland lake that holds many legends. This is recommended in autumn though.
Almost two and half an hour climb across Dompala hill from Punakha Dzong will take you to the limbukha Village. The walk across the 200m long suspension bridge, fascinating view of Punakha dzong, phochu river, mochu river, amidst chirpine forest and absolute fresh and natural breeze will reach you to the beautiful Limbukha village without realizing that you have climbed almost three hour hill up.
Limbukha farmers grow Bhutan’s famous red rice which is supposed to have medicinal values. This particular rice needs clean mountain spring so that the taste is good and nutritional value maintained. Limbukha is also known for its love of peace and tranquility. Legends says that during medieval wars the ‘limpus’ or the people of Limbukha always volunteered as peace negotiators. This is also depicted during yearly festival called ‘Serda’ when the men are found carrying peace flags instead of swords and fireworks.