Located at an elevation of 1200m, the Punakha Valley in Bhutan is much loved for its grand vistas and salubrious climes, with warm winters and hot summers broken by vestal breezes riding off the spectacular Himalayan pinnacles that surround it. While its natural beauty certainly holds huge appeal from travelers, Punakha has also been a lead player in Bhutan’s history. The things to do in Punakha certainly revolve around these two pivotal points.

The Buddha Connect

The best thing to do to open your acquaintance with Punakha is a visit to the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang. While the route to this nunnery offers up-close and personal experiences with Punakha, natural beauty, it also introduces you to the country’s Buddhist roots. The nunnery, which overlooks Toebesa and the gorgeous Punakha Valley, is famous also for the unique depiction of the great lamas of the Drukpa Kagyu order carved into the black rocks surrounding it. Amongst the other things to do here is to spend time at the 14-foot-high statue of Avalokiteshwara and watch the nuns being trained in traditional skills as part of their education here

Riding the river

While Bhutan’s mountainous terrain is not conducive to experimenting with its wild rivers, rafters can opt for the milder Mo Chu (female river) and Pho Chu (male river) in the Punakha district. At their confluence stands the historic Punakha Dzong, whose grand structure offers great photops. The gentler Mo Chhu provides rapids of Grades 1 – 2+ while the Pho Chhu River is more challenging with rapids from Grade 2 – 3+ over 10 km. Another thing to do here is to take a photo of the largest suspension bridge and try spotting a member of the last surviving populations of the critically endangered, white-bellied herons here.

Travelling to Punakha’s popular Gasa Hotsprings is a rewarding experience for sure. There are five general bathhouses to choose from for a dip in the healing mineral-rich waters which can vary in temperature and medicinal properties. Locals consider them to be blessings of the Buddha. Other things to do as you drive to this spot is to stop and savour the beauty of the Punakha Valley’s picturesquely set villages and pretty mountain streams along the way.

Historic Temple

Another very pleasant thing to do in Punakha is to set off on a short trek to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. The temple at this site was commissioned by the spiritual Queen Mother of Bhutan, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk, to bring peace and prosperity to the Kingdom as well as the world.

Mingling with the friendly folk of Punakha Valley, exploring its natural beauty and its historically connected spots provides travellers many reasons to make many return trips to this lovely district of Bhutan.

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