Punakha – The Valley of Great Happiness
A place of great importance, Punakha or the once a capital of Bhutan, is fast emerging as a tourist hub among the visitors. The town served as the country’s capital from 1673 until 1907 after the capital seat got shifted to Thimphu.
Showcasing quite a contrasting atmosphere than the rest of the country, Punakha enjoys a pretty warm summer and a balmy winter. However, as the temperature remains pleasant, visitors can enjoy their stays in this gorgeous town as well as across the entire valley. Reaching an astounding height of 1,200m, the valley is also known for its scenic rice cultivation.
Located only 3 hours’ drive away from Thimphu, Punakha is also the heavenly abode of the much acclaimed ‘Punakha Dzong’, which is fondly called the ‘Palace of Great Happiness’. Built under the supervision of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637, this glorious fortress seats at the confluence point of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. Built in traditional Bhutanese architecture, the dzong possesses the mortal remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who is revered as the unifier of Bhutan.
Best Time to Visit Punakha: Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November)
How to Reach Punakha
Punakha Valley doesn’t have any airport. If you are planning to reach Punakha by air, you should book your flights from some of the selected airports in India to the Paro International Airport in Paro. The Indian airports that offers flight to Paro are: Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati (Assam), Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, Bodhgaya Airport in Gaya (Bihar), and Bagdogra Airport in Siliguri (West Bengal). Upon landing at the Paro International Airport, you can take the local buses or hire a private taxi to reach Punakha by air.
Since Bhutan doesn’t have railway connectivity, you may not be able to reach Punakha directly by train, but can have a break journey to satiate all your yearning. In order to complete this journey, you can book your train journey to New Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, New Alipurduar, or Hasimara railway stations in West Bengal.
From any of these railway stations, you can drive to a town called Jaigaon, and make your Bhutan entry through Phuentsholing town. From this Bhutanese town, you can board the local buses or take cabs to reach Punakha.
As already mentioned, Jaigaon serves as the best point to enter in the Land of Thunder Dragons via Phuentsholing town of Bhutan. From thins town, you can drive along the Phuentsholing-Thimphu Highway to reach Punakha after driving around 222km (6 hours by road).
Places to Visit in Punakha
Koma Tsachu Hot springs
Geon Tsephu (or the Guru Rinpoche Caves)
Things to Do in Punakha
Bathing in hot springs