Set in a lush and fertile valley on the confluence of the Mo (Mother) and Pho (Father) rivers, Punakha was the capital of Bhutan for 300 years before it was moved to Thimphu. The area surrounding the city produces bountiful supplies of rice, oranges and bananas; the whole valley lent a serene atmosphere by its abundance and rich heritage. Sat proudly in the centre of Punakha right on the rivers is the Dzong, widely acclaimed as Bhutan’s most magnificent building.

What to see

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Consider Bhutan’s most beautiful dzong, this magnificent structure is set right on the confluence of the Mo and Pho rivers. Built in 1638, Punakha is the second oldest and second largest dzong in the country and served as the seat of government until it was moved to Thimphu in 1955. Still the winter residence of the dratshang, the dzong houses a number of sacred relics, whilst its location on the river and in the sunny climes of the Punakha valley only makes the white-washed walls and brightly coloured roof all the more impressive.

Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang

Nestled amongst paddy fields and small villages just outside of Punakha, Chimi Lhakhang is a yellow-roofed Buddhist temple that is also considered a temple of fertility. Built in the late 15th/early 16th century to honour Lama Drukpa Kunley who was said to have subdued a demon with a magical thunderbolt of wisdom, the temple is visited by childless women and couples looking for a wang (blessing). A ramble through the fields surrounding the temple is a lovely way to get a glimpse of rural village life.

Where to stay

Uma by COMO Punakha

Uma by COMO, Punakha, is a luxury lodge located at the far western end of the lush Punakha Valley. Every room commands sweeping views of the valley and the Mo Chu River as it winds its way through the rice fields and orchards. A range of massages and therapies are available at the COMO Shambhala Retreat nestled in a woodland glade near to the hotel.

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