The ancient capital still boasts agriculture, religious and political influences. It’s a must-stop for anyone traveling throughout Bhutan.
Until 1955, Punakha was the country’s capital until it was later moved to Thimphu. It is situated on the east side of Thimphu and can be reach by car in 3 hours. Punakha is the city that held the royal wedding back in 2011, thus it still plays in important role among 20 districts of Bhutan. Travelers arrive here mainly for the Punakha Dzong and Chimi Lahkhang Monastery, where you will meet many lamas of all ages. Although you’ll love the warmer weather in this region and probably want to stay longer, but most of the sightseeing here can be done here within 24 hours.
Chances are, you’ll probably be getting into Punakha with a driver already, but most of the landmarks can be done by walking. Although we still recommend seeing Punkaha by car.
*Please note: Not every place listed has a website or can be indicated by interactive maps. But they’re all known by locals and drivers.
SEE: Punakha Dzong
As the second oldest, second largest but the most majestic dzong in Bhutan, this is also the location of current Bhutan King’s royal wedding back in 2011. The Punakha Dzong sits at the cross of the Male and Female River: Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) river. The dzong acts as a city hall, court of justice and many governmental administrative offices. It also acts as a temple and a monastery. The most fascinating fact is that it houses a sacred relic and the remains of renowned Buddhist lamas.
SEE: Chimi Lhakhang Monastery
Women finding themselves dealing with infertility often come to Chimi Lhakhang temple. Blessings from the spirits of Buddhas here have been said to be magical. Even to this day, many couples have returned with children, giving thanks to the Buddhas. The route to Chimi Lhakhang is a trek through farmlands and small villages, then a small hike . Built in 1499, the monastery now houses many young lamas who you’ll meet during the visit. They’ll probably be one of the most adorable characters you’ll encounter in Bhutan!
EAT: Chimi Lakhang Cafeteria
$$$$ Chimi Lakhang Trail, Village of Sopsokha, Punakha, Bhutan
Can’t miss this place, especially when it’s on the way to Chimi Lakhang Monastery. It is a lovely restaurant before or after the hike to catch a breath. The restaurant has an amazing view, and it is run by the same owners of Hotel Lobesa (see below.) The husband/wife duo are superbly friendly and kind, the food they serve in both establishments are fantastic. Although Chimi Lakhang Cafeteria can be filled with tourists, having local owners who are so generous and truly kind make a difference. Sip a cold beer or two, enjoy the view and devour authentic Bhutanese cuisine!
$$$$ Lobesa, Bhutan
The recently opened Hotel Lobesa is wonderful. Although there aren’t many hotel options in Punakha, this one takes the cake as everything is still brand new. You will not find many hotel options in Punakha, so Hotel Lobesa arrives as a lovely surprise. Enjoy your stay here, it’s not the ultimate resort but it has every bit of a boutiquey charm that truly fits our appetite!