Surrounded by the two major rivers of the country, Pho Chu (Male river ) and Mo chu (Female river ) is the majestic Punakha Dzong. It is one of the prominent landmarks of the country at par with Paro Taktshang and the famous Dochula.

Punakha Dzong is the 2nd of 20 Dzongs being built in the country and the 2nd largest Dzong built by the unifier of the country, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.

The Dzong served as the capital of Bhutan untill it was shifted to Thimphu in 1955. The first National Assembly of Bhutan was also conducted in Punakha Dzong.

A lot of nationally important events are conducted in Punakha Fortress including the wedding ceremony of his Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Namgyel Wangchuck to the queen Ashi Jetsun Pema Wangchuck. The naming ceremony of the Royal Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck was also done in Punakha Dzong.

The Dzong also houses some of the national treasures like the Rangjung Kharsapani that is secretly brought to Bhutan by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel from Tibet. It is opened for the public and vistors only once a year during Punakha Dromche.

Some of the unique features of this fortress are as follows. 

Structur​​​​e of the Dzong

Strategically located in between the two rivers, Punakha Dzong is structurally  considered as one of the most beautiful and the scenic Dzongs of Bhutan.

The Dzong has 3 courtyards called docheys unlike other Dzongs with only two. Each docheys are equally important.

The first dochey is for administrative functions. There is a large stupa and the bodhi tree in it. The second dochey has the entrance to the Utse. The 3rd dochey leads to the main temple that houses the main treasures. No one except the King and Je Khenpo are allowed in the treasury. 

Punakha Dromche and the Tshechu (local festival)

Punakha dromche is the annual event held inside the Dzong. Various mask dances and the cultural shows are performed to mark the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan invasion during the time of Zhabdrung in 17th century.

Following the 3 day Dromche, Punakha tshechu is held. The tshechu is considered one of the most important tshechus in the country. A large portrait of Guru Rinpoche called 'Thongdrel' is unfurled during the tshechu.  It is believed that a mere sight or the thongdrel will liberate oneself from the sins and bad lucks.

One can come and witness this fascinating festivals from all over the world. You can catch the drukair and tashi airline from Bangkok, Singapore, India, Dhaka, and Nepal to come and be part of the festival.

Sightseeing

1. Punakha Fortress Evening View

A romantic walk or a solo walk just nearby the fortress is breath taking. With the refreshing evening breeze from the Male and Female river and the fortress decorated with lights is something you should not miss while you are in Punakha.

2. Punakha Suspension bridge

At about half a mile north to the Punakha Dzong is the longest suspension bridge of Bhutan with160 meters.

It is usually adorned with the colorful fortune and remains breezy all through the day. One can take a very fascinating pictures on it. And if one is lucky, you may also come across the people doing the photography and videography as the bridge is one of the much sought shooting areas.

3. Cremation ground

It may sound insane to visit the cremation ground. But for the tourists it may be quite a pretty good idea to look around what the cremation ground of Bhutan really looks like.

The cremation ground is on the way to the suspension bridge.

4. House of Galem

Galem and Singye are famous in Bhutan like the Romeo and Juliet.

Galem, a girl from Changyul felt in love with Singye. But Galem's parents didn't approve their marriage. They had their eyes set to wed Galem to the local lord.

Unfortunately, Galem who is pregnant with Singye's child dies along the river bank after the harsh treatment from her parents.

The news of Galem's death becomes unbearable to Singye who jumps over the blazing flame on the burial of Galem and kills himself. Thus, their love story is still a wonder in the country.

So, at the village called Changyul, at about half the mile from Punakha Dzong, the old house of Galem is still kept undestructed.

5. Khuruthang town

Khuruthang town is the fast growing local district town of Punakha.

If you are a tourist, you can enjoy the typical market feel of Bhutan from it. Adjacent to the town is the Ugyen Academy which is one of the academically best performing schools of the country.

6. White water rafting

White water rafting over pho chu and Mo chu are very famous in Punakha district.

A lot of both local and foreigners are found rafting on a daily basis.

Conclusion

Whether you are a cultural lover, enjoys the landscapes and architect, or adventourous, Punakha offers a complete package. Sometimes it is simply better to try everything, which is why our tour packages are designed carefully so that you experience a bit of everything. 


About the author

Karma Wangmo

Passionate traveller and blogger, she shares her experience and findings of the unique cultures and attractions in Bhutan. Studied sustainable development management from the College of Natural Resources, Bhutan, sustainability is her top-notch.

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