Punakha Dzong is undoubtedly the most beautiful and charming Dzong in Bhutan, standing tall right at the confluence of two rivers Pho Chhu (Father River) and Mo Chhu (Mother River). You will be completely mesmerized with this Dzong, especially in spring when it is enveloped by lilac coloured Jacaranda flowers spread against the white washed towering walls.
Despite being damaged by fire and floods multiple times, Punakha Dzong still stands tall and beautiful. Punakha also served as Bhutan‘s capital before the honour was transferred to Thimphu in fiftys. To reach the Dzong, you have to cross a spectacular wooden bridge. After crossing the bridge, there is a temple on your left. Bhutanese parents visit the temple to get blessings for their children. Right in front of the temple is the long set of stairs leading to the big wooden entry gate of Punakha Dzong.
You can enter the Dzong after producing your permit and making an entry. Inside of the Dzong is equally beautiful with a large courtyard lined with administrative buildings on 3 sides and a huge temple at the front. Wooden carving of roof and windows against huge whitewashed walls adds to the charm of this beautiful edifice. Towards the end is the ‘hundred pillar’ assembly hall temple with massive gold statues of Lord Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and Divine Madman. You would love to sit in the temple and inhale the calmness deep within you.
Punakha Dzong comes to life in Spring when lilac coloured flowers bloom to the full and cover the Dzong surroundings. It looks right out of fairy tale with a background of wooden bridge over river flowing with gushing sound and mountains overlooking this beautiful whitewashed huge edifice.
Just outside Punakha Dzong, you will also find the local market where local farmers come to sell vegetables, fresh from farms. You can do a quick shopping of fruits and cucumbers in case you are hungry as there is not any decent restaurants near Dzong.
Backyard of the Dzong is equally beautiful with a small water pond and green ground lined up with lilac flowers. There is also a spectacular suspension bridge at a 15 minute walk from the Dzong. Take an exit from the backyanrd and walk straight till you get a mud road that leads to this beautiful suspension bridge.
How to reach Punakha Dzong
Thimphu to Punakha is around 75 kms and take around 3 hours drive. You can book a complete cab for return journey on the same day (~Nu. 2400), take a shared cab (Nu. 300 per person one way) or take bus (Nu 80 per person one way). Bus ride is comfortable but frequency is limited. Only 2 buses run each side (9 AM and 2 PM). Please click here for directions.
Where to stay at Punakha/Khuruthang
Dzong is the key attraction of Punakha town and most tourists visit Punakha as a day trip from Thimphu. In case, you are looking for night stay, there are few options available at Khuruthang. Few years ago, Punakha town was relocated to Khuruthang, a township around 5 kilometers from Punakha. Damchen Resorts at Khuruthang is a great option for night stay situated right on the side of river. Please click here for more stay options in Khuruthang and Punakha.
How to reach Suspension Bridge
In Dzong open hours (8 am to 5 pm), you can just cross the wooden bridge to reach Dzong and then take exit from the backyard. A walk of around 15 minutes and you will reach the suspension bridge. In case you reach early (before 8 am), Dzong gates remain closed and you have to take a long detour (~ 30 minutes). Walk straight ahead on the road parallel to river till you reach an iron bridge. After crossing the bridge, walk on the road to reach the backyard of the Dzong and from there, another 5 minute walk to reach the suspension bridge.
Things to take care
- Please carry your entry permit and extension for entry to restricted areas as it is checked at the Dzong gate.
- Visitors are expected to dress properly for visit to all Dzongs in Bhutan. Bhutanese visit the Dzongs in their traditional dress. Tourist males are expected to wear collared T-shirts/full pants while females are expected to cover their arms.
- Please carry something to eat as there are no decent restaurants around Punakha Dzong.
- Please carry water and cap as Punakha valley is hotter compared to other Bhutan cities and it may get scorching during noon in summers.
Bhutanese Government has recently introduced an entry fee of 300 Ngultrum (Bhutan Currency) per person for entry to Punakha Dzong applicable for Indian travellers.