Punakha, a former capital of Bhutan, is located in the west of the country.
Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until the 1960's, and still retains the serene atmosphere of a place with a regal past. The dzong is the main attraction, but there are also other sites of interest in and around this pleasant little town. Along with Paro and Jakar, Punakha completes the triangle of most popular tourist destinations.
Buses and taxis available from Thimphu. Shared taxis terminate at (and depart from) Kuruthang, which is a few kilometers from Punakha. A shared taxi costs around 150nu for the 90 minute to two hour journey to/from the capital.
All attractions in the town (including the dzong) can be reached on foot. There is a taxi rank near the dzong, where taxis can be hired for visiting sites of interest outside the town, but within the valley.
- Punakha Dzong. Majestically standing on an island between the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers, the city's dzong is one of the most photogenic of all Bhutan's ancient fortresses, and you will see pictures of it hanging in hotels and restaurants throughout the country. The dzong is joined to the mainland by an arched wooden bridge, and contains many precious relics from the days when successive kings reigned the kingdom from this valley. The dzong serves as the winter home of the monastic body.
- Trekking. Go for trekking anywhere and everywhere from Punakha. Crime has got no possibilites here. One can walk for long hours.
- Meri Puensum Punakha. Tel:+975 2 584237. Perched on a hillside, this resort overlooks the beautiful and pristine Puna Tsang Chu and offers a panoramic view of nearby villages and surrounding countryside. The rooms are basic and have bathrooms with hot water and local cable TV connection
- Damchen Resort is a mid-range resort located just outside town center along the banks of the river. It is a 5 minute walk from the taxi/bus stand.
- Hotel Shivling. Tel: +975 2 584670. Located at Khuruthang over the main road near the taxi stop. The rooms are functional but unclean and only good for those on a shoe string budget (Nu. 850+). The walls and carpets are old/dirty, the rooms have flies and cockroaches and there are open sewers around the building. The owner is Sonam who is very warm. Punakha Dzong is about 5Km from this place. A shared taxi will cost you Nu.30 to the Dzong
The Guru Rinpoche Caves (Geon Tsephu) and Koma Hot Springs (Koma Tsachu) are a twelve kilometer drive from Punakha followed by a two hour hike.
- Guru Rinpoche Caves (Geon Tsephu). A steep two hour walk from the small community of Mitesgang. There is a small temple at the caves where pilgrims can lay their bedding. Otherwise the pasture just below provides space for camping (though leaches are common in the summer). It is said that Guru Rinpoche visited these caves after his retreat at Maratika in Nepal, and it was here that he was able to fully see the form of Amitayus, the Buddha of Long Life. As is common at many Bhutanese sacred sites, there are self risen characters in rock and places to scramble through while making dedications for the benefit of other beings and to remove one's own defilements. Ponies for carrying baggage can be rented for a small fee from the house across from the suspension bridge in Mitesgang. While the walk is not overly arduous, paths are not easy to follow, and so the pony handler also acts as a guide. Mitesgang is around 12km from Phunakha.
- Hot springs (tsachu). Koma Tsachu is a vigorous two hour walk from the small community of Mitesgang. There are three bathing pools covered by simple rooves, and a four roomed building with solar lighting where sleeping bags and mats can be laid (there is no charge for staying in the building). Outside, there is ample room to pitch tents and rock overhangs to camp under. See information for Guru Rinpoche caves (above) regarding hiring of ponies.
- Chimi Lhakhang Village. Chimi Lhakhang, also known as Chime Lhakhang or Monastery or temple, is a Buddhist monastery in Punakha District, Bhutan. Located near Lobesa, it stands on a round hillock and was built in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Choegyel, after the site was blessed by the "Divine Madman" the maverick saint Drukpa Kinley (1455–1529) who built a chorten on the site. The Lhakhang is located 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from Punakha near a village called Sopsokha from where a 20 minutes walk along muddy and dusty path through agricultural fields of mustards and rice, leads to a hillock where the monastery and the chorten are situated. Prayer flags are lined all along the road from the tiny village hamlet known as Yowakha, along a drain or stream to the monastery. All houses in the village have paintings of phalluses on their exterior walls. The lama Kunley had called the hillock where the monastery exists as the breast of a woman because of its round shape.