Placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, the dzong was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of the region. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in recent years by the present monarch. The dzong is open for visitors during the Punakha festival (early spring) and in the summer months, after the monk body has returned to Thimphu.
Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten
This three storey chorten was built by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Tsering Yangdon for the protection of the country. It has an impressive view of Punakha dzong especially when driving back to Punakha. The deities represented here belong to a teaching cycle of Dudjom Rinpoche, a great Nyingmapa master (1904-87). The functions of the deities are to subjugate enemies and harmful influences and also to spread peace and harmony. The chorten is a half hour walk from the main road.
Drive to Punakha Dzong, which can be visited from April to November while the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the central monk body are at their summer quarters in Thimphu. Stroll across the narrow suspension bridge (about 200m long) above the river and enjoy fresh breezes and a splendid view of this massive dzong. Follow the farmhouses gradually climbing towards the Dompala hills. Enjoy superb views of Punakha Dzong and surrounding villages as you climb upwards through the pine forests, to Limbukha, a journey of about two and a half hours. Limbukha farmers grow Bhutan’s famous red rice, which is well known for its health-giving properties. This particular rice needs clean mountain spring water so that the taste is good and nutritional value maintained. Limbukha is also known for its love of peace and tranquility. According to legend, during medieval wars the “Limpus” (people of Limbukha) always volunteered their services as negotiators for peace. Their traditional role is honored on the last day of Punakha’s annual religious festival, when Limbukha men taking part in the concluding procession out from the dzong carry flags of peace, rather than weapons of war.
This lhakhang, built in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest and most sacred shrines in Bhutan (the other being Jambey Lhakhang in Bumthang). Kyichu Lhakhang is composed of twin temples. The first temple was built by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. In 1968, H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, arranged for a second temple to be built alongside the first one, in same style.
The picturesque village of Talo, scattered along a ridge above the Punakha valley at an altitude of around 2,800m, is known amongst Punakha villages for its neat and clean appearance. Talo Sangnacholing is built on a small plateau at the top of the village, and from there one has a majestic view of the entire valley and surrounding villages, and the high hills beyond Wangduephodrang which mark the gateway to central Bhutan. The women here are particularly known for their beauty. Talo is about an hour’s drive from Punakha.