Places to visit in Punakha

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Punakha is a beautiful district in Bhutan known for its stunning natural scenery and rich cultural heritage. Here are some places you might want to visit in Punakha:

Punakha Dzong 

  • Also known as Pungtang Dewa chhenbi Phodrang (Palace of Great Bliss), is an iconic fortress located at the confluence of two rivers, the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu, in Punakha district of Bhutan. It is one of the most famous and stunning landmarks in Bhutan and is considered to be one of the most beautiful dzongs in the country.

    The dzong was built in 1637 by the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of Bhutan, to serve as the seat of the government and the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (chief abbot) and the central monastic body. It also played an important role in defending the country from invasions.
    The dzong is an impressive example of Bhutanese architecture, featuring towering white walls, golden roofs, and ornate woodcarvings and paintings. The dzong is also home to several important relics and works of art, including the preserved remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a statue of Buddha, and other valuable religious artifacts.

    Punakha Dzong is also the site of several important religious and cultural events, including the Punakha Tshechu, an annual festival featuring colorful masked dances, traditional music, and other cultural activities.

Chimi Lhakhang

  • Punakha district of Bhutan. The temple is dedicated to Drukpa Kunley, a Tibetan Buddhist saint who is also known as the Divine Madman.
    According to legend, Drukpa Kunley used his "flaming thunderbolt" or "magic thunderbolt" to subdue demons and convert people to Buddhism.
    Chimi Lhakhang is located in a picturesque rural setting surrounded by rice fields and hills. It is accessible by a short walk through the village of Sopsokha, which is known for its traditional Bhutanese architecture.
    The temple itself is small but colorful, with traditional Bhutanese architecture and colorful paintings on the walls. The courtyard outside the temple is decorated with prayer flags.

    One of the main draws of Chimi Lhakhang is its association with fertility. Couples who are struggling to conceive often visit the temple to receive blessings from the resident monk, who uses a wooden phallus to bless them. The phallus is also a popular souvenir for visitors to the temple.

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

  • The temple is perched on a hill overlooking the Punakha valley, and is known for its beautiful architecture, intricate artwork, and stunning views.
    The temple was built in 2004 to honor our king and promote peace, stability, and harmony in the country. It is one of the most recently built temples in Bhutan, and is considered to be one of the country's most impressive landmarks.

    The temple features a traditional Bhutanese architecture, with four storeys, each of which represents a different aspect of Buddhist teaching. The exterior is adorned with intricate carvings and paintings, and the interior is decorated with colorful murals and statues of Buddhist deities.

    One of the highlights of visiting Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten is the hike to the temple itself. The trail winds through a picturesque rural setting, with stunning views of the valley and the surrounding hills. The hike takes around 45 minutes to an hour, and is considered to be moderately challenging.
    Once at the temple, visitors can take in the stunning views and explore the interior, which features a meditation room and a shrine room. The temple is also home to a large prayer wheel, which visitors can spin for good luck.

Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery

  • The nunnery is situated on a hilltop overlooking the Khuruthang valley and Lobesa valley.

    The nunnery was established in 2008 to provide education and training to nuns from Bhutan and the surrounding region. The nunnery is also home to a temple dedicated to the Buddhist deity Avalokiteshvara, as well as a meditation hall and accommodation for the nuns.

    One of the main attractions of the nunnery is its stunning architecture. The nunnery features traditional Bhutanese design elements, including white-washed walls, ornate woodcarvings, and colorful paintings. The temple is particularly impressive, with a golden roof and intricate carvings on the walls and columns.

    In addition to its cultural and religious significance, Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery is also a popular destination for its stunning views. From the hilltop location, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the Punakha valley and surrounding hills, making it a perfect spot for photography and relaxation.

Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge

  • Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge is a pedestrian bridge that spans the Pho Chhu River and connects the Punakha Dzong to the nearby countryside.
    The bridge is 160 meters long and hangs 60 meters above the river, making it one of the longest suspension bridges in Bhutan. It is made of steel cables and wooden planks, and is designed to withstand the strong winds and heavy rains that are common in the area.

    Crossing the bridge is a thrilling experience, as visitors can feel the bridge sway and bounce as they walk across it. The views from the bridge are also spectacular, with panoramic views of the Punakha valley and surrounding hills.

    In addition to its scenic and thrilling qualities, the Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge also has historical and cultural significance. It was built in the 16th century to connect the Punakha Dzong to the nearby villages and has been an important transportation route for centuries.

Chorten Nyingpo Lhakhang 

  • The temple is situated on a ridgeline that is approximately two kilometers uphill from the right bank of the Mo Chhu river in Kabisa gewog (district). Even though the name of the place has the term "chorten" in it, it is more accurately referred to as a lhakhang since there are no significant chortens present on the premises.

    The main buildings of interest are the three-story lhakhang and a long gatehouse to the east. A spacious quadrangle, now paved with flagstones, is located between them.

    While many lhakhangs have a similar style to dzong architecture, the central compound at Chorten Nyingpo Lhakhang strongly resembles an utse, the fortified strongholds at the centers of dzongs and other fortress-monasteries. On the ground floor, the windows are quite small, making it difficult, if not impossible, for potential attackers to gain entry through them. Only higher up, well beyond the reach of any ladders, do the rabsel-style windows open up to provide broad, panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. On the exterior, the compound was probably once enclosed by high walls that encompassed the lhakhang and the courtyard, with only the gatehouse still standing, although such walls no longer exist.

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