Located on the banks of two rivers: Pho Chhu (meaning father) and Mo Chhu (meaning mother), Punakha is a small but culturally very important city in central Bhutan and well connected by road. It is one such place where I would love to settle in and enjoy rest of my life in peace.
Everyone in the city knows everyone else making it one big joint family. The ever-glowing faced locals are always happy to help. The small food joints serve splendid Bhutanese cuisine.The quietly flowing rivers intricately polishes the white rocks in smooth round shape giving it an ‘out-of-fairy-tale’ look. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
Either you can hire a taxi from Thimpu or take 3 –hour bus morning from Thimpu bus stand. Taking taxi would be better option as the route is very beautiful and one can take any number of short and long breaks.
Also the road from Thimpu to Punakha is being widened owing to which roads are blocked for some hours in the morning and evening.
Staying in Punakha
Once in Punakha, you have three options – return on the same day, stay at a costly river side resorts or stay in very cheap hotel and soak in the grandeur of the city. We chose the third option which helped us in normalizing the rather expensive Phobjikha leg of our trip.
However we spend our evening sipping tea and snacking at the beautiful riverfront lawn of Dhamchen resort plus we got free wifi :). It is a must go place.
Rate of Hotel Shivaling: INR 600 for double bed room (negotiated rate) ((Phone: (00975) 77467415)
Places to visit in Punakha
It is the second oldest and most stunning dzong of Bhutan. It was the administrative center and the seat of the Government of Bhutan until 1955. It stands majestically at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley.
The dzong has three courtyards: the first courtyard is for administrative functions and houses a huge chorten with a Bodhi tree. The second courtyard houses the monastic quarters and the third one houses the main temple
Locals told me that during spring the dzong gets decorated with the lilac-coloured jacaranda trees that grow around it. I would love to visit it once during that time.
It is at the mid way between Thimpu and Punakha and windiest place in Bhutan. The moment you exit the car, you will be literally and actually blown away. Literally by the views of majestic Himalayan ranges and actually by the fierce wind. It is also the location of 108 chortens constructed as a memorial to honor the victory of the Bhutanese army in the 2003 war of Southern Bhutan
Punakha suspension bridge
Punakha is home to Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge which is close to 400m long. Do cross it.
It is another dzong near Punakha (Lobesa to be precise) famous for phallus paintings. We were running short on time so skipped it.
River side somewhere outside Punakha
The crystal clear water and white sand was so mesmerizing that we parked our car and got down to river banks to click some amazing pics. If you travel from Punakha to Phobijikha, there are many such pretty places
Eating in Punakha
The city has few restaurants only which serves buffet meals mostly. Eat at Phuenzhi Diner restaurant for set Bhutanese meal. Try classical noodles, vegetables, rice at open buffet and ema datshi dishes.
Most importantly, spend you evening with coffee, sandwich and french fries at Damchen Resort
Also eat at the Dochula Restaurant located atop the Dochula pass if you are not in a hurry. It has a semi-circular glass enclosed sitting area apart from outside sitting and toilet facilities