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Punakha Bhutan



PUNAKHA: The old Capital of Bhutan until the early 1960’s when the Capital was shifted to Thimphu. It is still the Winter residence of the Central Monastic Body who migrate there around November and come back to Thimphu around March. The valley is warm and through it runs one of the largest rivers of Bhutan, the Punatsang Chhu, which is comprised of 2 tributaries, the Pho chhu and the Mo chhu (the male and the female rivers). It is also known for it’s fertility and hence crops, especially rice and chillies. The banks of the rivers are home to the extremely rare White Bellied Herons.

KHAMSUM YUELLEY NAMGYAL CHORTEN: Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, a temple that stands majestically on a strategic ridge above Punakha valley. The temple was built by the Queen Mothers to ward off negative energies, promote peace, stability and harmony in a changing world after it was prophesied in the scriptures by Thragthung Dudjom Lingpa.. It is said all its unique architectural designs have been drawn from the scriptures. The hike takes about 45 minutes one way through relatively easy path through paddy fields and thin pine forest. Once at the top, you can enter the stupa and climb all the way to the top for a breath taking view of the valley below.

Yebisa Farmhouse stay/ visit: Go to the village of Yebisa below Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten and visit one of the oldest houses there. It is a traditional 3 storied building made of rammed mud and timber dating back to the mid 19th century and used to belong to the local leader of that area. The great grandchildren of the man now reside there and use the house pretty much like it was used by their ancestors, keeping their cattle in the ground floor, granary in the middle floor, residence in the 3rd floor and the space between the room and the ceiling is used for drying. Their way of life is still of farming and you can experience it the Bhutanese way by spending one night there if you’re interested and maybe try working in the fields or with the animals. You can stay in their altar room (as it is traditionally used as a guest room too) but will have to go outside for bathroom just like olden times except that nowadays it’s a proper toilet.

Yebisa – Sonagasa Hike (Throughout the year): This is a great hike anytime of the year. It starts from Yebisa village, going through it and the paddy field surrounding it while following the river downstream. It’s will be lush green during monsoon and golden brown during Autumn as the paddy ripens. The trail then goes along a small patch of trees (mostly pine trees) before coming to a suspension bridge and a small road (to Aman Kora Resort). You’ll have to keep following the trail beside the bridge and keep following the river near the bank, the path soon becomes wider and then you’ll see the open valley where there is the Royal horse ranch/ stable and some sheep which is kept there. Once you reach a wide open space with manicured lawns, you will be able to see Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten behind sitting majestically on a small hill. The manicured lawn is actually a small ‘practice’ golf course of the Royal family and there’s a Royal Guest house close by. You’ll have to continue walking through the Royal Garden below where there are many different plants which the Queen Grantmother and the Queen mothers have brought from different places. Your vehicle will pick you up at the end of the garden just outside the gate. All in all, this hike will take about 2 hours from the village till the pick-up point.

Jiligang hike: This hike also starts from the village of Yebisa below Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. From the village, you’ll have to hike towards the community school which sits on a small hill above the village. From there the trail gets a bit steep as you enter the pine forest. In about 30-45 minutes you will reach the mountain ridge and from there the trail is easy as it goes down on a gentle slope to reach to a temple. From there you will be able to see both the ‘Male’ and the ‘Female’ river valleys. There is a small hole in the ground through which the Divine Mad Man was believed to have sent a cat to the valley below. Continue further southwards along the mountain ridge to reach towards the ‘Male’ river’s valley near Punakha Dzong. Overall, this hike will take about 3 – 4 hours.

Rinchengang Village: It is about 5 minutes walk up from road point and one of the oldest continually inhabited villages in the country. The people of this village were apparently brought in from Cooch Behar region in India during the 17th Century to help in the construction of the great Dzongs that were being built during that time; one may even be able to tell the difference in appearances from other people living in Punakha region. The people there are still considered to be very skilled craftsmen in traditional construction and are sought after, especially in construction or renovation of Dzongs. Houses there are mostly built of mud bricks which is a unique feature specialised to this village.

Chimi Lhakhang: Also known as the ‘Temple of Fertility’, it sits on the top of a small round hill surrounded by rice fields. The temple is dedicated to Lam Drukpa Kuenley, also known as ‘The Divine Madman’. He was an accomplished master but he is remembered more for the outrageous nature of his teachings, often using sexual inclinations. In Bhutan, he is also a cultural icon around whom countless factual and fictional stories have been told. Lam Drukpa Kuenley originally built a small stupa on this site and is today, marked by a black stupa. It is a pilgrimage site especially for couples without children and many swear that one will be blessed with children after visiting this place.

Punakha Dzong: The Punakha Dzong or the Pungtang Dechen Phortang Dzong is located at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and the Po Chhu River, combine to form the Puna Tsang Chu which in turn is a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra River. The Dzong was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638 on the exact spot as prophesized by the Guru Rinpoche some 800 years ago. The Dzong is the second largest and the second oldest Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong is home to some of the most sacred relics of the Drukpa Kagyu School of Buddhism; it is also home to the sacred mortal remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Terton Pema Lingpa. Punakha Dzong has also served as the capital Bhutan till 1955 before the capital was moved to Thimphu. The Dzong is still the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (chief abbot) and the central monastic body and plays host to the annual Punakha Tshechu Festival which is very popular with the locals and tourists alike.

Sangchen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery: Perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking valleys of Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang is the magnificent stupa like temple built by the 5th King’s Maternal Grandfather to encourage females to pursue Buddhist studies. The temple houses a 14 foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara. Other statues include those of Guru Padmasambhava, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Tshela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tshepamey (Buddha of Longevity). The Avalokiteshvara statue, one of the biggest in the country, is the handiwork of entirely local Bhutanese artisans. The temple complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation center for nuns, where, apart from religious trainings, also provides life skills trainings such as tailoring, embroidery, statue sculpting and thanks (scroll) painting.

Mochu river rafting (Throughout the year): No special courses are required for anyone to run this course as long as you don’t mind paddling and getting completely wet. It starts from near Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten and is about 7 kms away from Punakha Dzong towards north and takes about 20-30 minutes of drive. The river runs a gentle course (class 1 – 2) with about 10 small rapids and is a great way to relax and cool down in the Summer and Autumn months while enjoying spectacular views of the lush green alpine valley and wild flowers, water birds and animals. The rafting guide will give you certain instructions to follow for safety while on the raft and then off you can go. Along the way you will also float right under the traditional bridge beside the massive Dzong. It will take about 2 – 2 ½ hours from start to finish and the distance covered by the raft is about 10-12kms.

Nunnery – Laptsakha Hike (Throughout the year): The hike starts from Sangchen Lhundrup Dorji Nunnery (1650m) and goes along the trail which will take you along the slopes of Wolakha/ Talo mountain giving you beautiful views of Wangdue valley below to end at Laptsakha (1950m). The hike begins with a slightly steep gradient through sparse forest of pine trees with view of the valley if you turn back. In about 20-25 minutes you will finish the first part of the hike and come out on the road. You will have to walk about 100m along the road and then catch your trail up the mountain slope which will take you through another small patch of sparsely forested area before you come across some houses. From there you enter the village and then the walk will be through paddy fields and plum trees. Overall it will take you about 1 hour – 1 ½ hour to reach the top. The exit point will be near a 16th century temple which used to be the winter residence of the reincarnation of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Zhabdrung Jigme Chogyal (1862-1904).

Nubgang Hike: Drive up to the village of Nubgang which is on top of the hill overlooking Punakha valley towards West. The village is the ancestral home of the Queen mothers and has a palace for the 4th King, the residence of the 5th King’s Grandfather and 2 stupas built by Zhabdrung Jigme Chogyal. The temple dates back to around early 20th century and is beautiful to go for a short visit. You’ll walk through the village and fields before you slowly start descending towards Punakha Dzong. It can be quite slippery if it rains but otherwise it a beautiful hike with beautiful view of the Dzong below.


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What our customers have to say

A great trip, thank you. Also appreciated Bishnu, our driver.

GINETTE CLAUDINE HENGESCH

What our customers have to say

You have wonderful guides. They are well educated, highly informed problem solver, historian and good communication skills. They showed us presentation from normal programme with different topics. They let us discuss interests – photography and arrange programme accordingly. They always showed positive energy and passion to us. They never argued, instead suggested. We are very happy. My husband was very happy with them as he describe him as professional guide. Thank you so much.

DR. ROLF DIETER

What our customers have to say

Thanks to you and our very nice and patient guide, we had an amazing experience. He was very patient with our questions about Bhutan and very gentlemanly during the entire journey. We appreciate it very much

Yingjie Wu

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