Phuntsholing at a glance

Punakha is a town in the Himalayas of Bhutan. It's known for the Punakha Dzong, a 17th-century fortress at the juncture of the Pho and Mo Chhu rivers. The fortress hosts the Punakha Tshechu, a religious festival featuring masked dances and music. In the surrounding Punakha Valley, temples include the fertility-focused Chimi Lhakhang and the hilltop Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, which has river and mountain views.



Area 346 mi
Capital Phuntsholing is the second-largest city in Bhutan by population (60,400).
Population 20,537 (2005)
Official Languages Tibeto-Burman

Phuentsholing is the point of entry for travelers arriving by bus from Kolkata and Siliguri and the town functions primarily as a place where Bhutanese and Indians do business. The architecture is modern, and there is no dzong, famous monastery or in fact anything of particular interest to tourists. However, like all of Bhutan, it does offer a clean, pleasant and safe environment in which to go about your business. NB: Until 2005, it was possible for overseas visitors to enter the town without a Bhutanese visa. Except for Indian nationals, this is no longer possible. Indians are denied entry beyond the checkpost in the absence of a permit.

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  • Karbandi Monastery
    Karbandi Monastery

    It will take you 30 minutes to reach Karbandi monastery from the Phuentsholing town (take a cab) and it is situated at the altitude of 400 meters on a small hillock. This was the former winter sojourn of the Royal Grandmother…Ashi Phuntsho Choedron. Inside the temple compound there are huge statues of Guru Rinpoche, Shakyamuni Buddha and Shabdrung Ngawang.There is a beautiful garden located outside the monastery that gives a panoramic view of the plains of Bengal and the town of Phuentsholing. There also 8 separate kinds of Buddhist stupas and they are objects worth photographing.Per popular local lore, an Indian pilgrim couple visited the Karbandi and prayed for a baby... their wish was shortly granted and since then couples with infertility issues have been visiting the Karbandi Monastery. 

  • Zaow–Crunchy Rice Snack
    Zaow–Crunchy Rice Snack

    At just about every local home I visited in Bhutan, they would offer milk tea (chai) or suja (butter tea) plus a communal basket of puffed rice known as zaow.

    Zaow is not too puffy but more on the crunchy side rather than the puffy side — it has a texture almost like the crunchiness of un-popped popcorn. It’s a Bhutanese snack food that’s very common and it goes so well together with a cup of tea.

    Sometimes zaow is eaten with chunks of butter mixed in. The most memorable version of zaow I was served in Bhutan was in Phobjikha Valley, and it came with a frighteningly large chunk of butter on top!

  • Chogo (Chhurpi)–Hardest Cheese In The World
    Chogo (Chhurpi)–Hardest Cheese In The World

    Chogoo (or chhurpi) just might be the most rock hard, yet edible, cheese snack in the world.This dried yak cheese, which is also common throughout Tibet and Nepal in the Himalayas, is the ultimate preservation of cheese, and it’s so hard you have to gnaw on it for hours before it starts to dissolve on your tongue.It’s the type of snack you eat when you’re walking through the rugged mountains and you need to be chewing on something. You’ll see strands of chogoo hanging like necklaces around markets in Bhutan. Give it a try!

  • Ezay

    There’s no way I would compile a list of Bhutanese food without paying full respect to ezay, which refers to any kind of Bhutanese chili sauce.Now you might be thinking, chili sauce is not really a food… but in Bhutan, ezay is so mandatory to eat with every meal that it can be considered a dish of its own. And sometimes it’s almost more like a salad than a chili sauce.From my first meal to my last meal in Bhutan, I couldn’t get enough ezay. And I don’t care what I’m eating, ezay literally goes with and complements every Bhutanese food you can imagine.Just like ema datshi, there are no two ezays that taste the same. Everyone in Bhutan has their own recipe and combination of ingredients. A couple of my favorites include dried chilies, Sichuan pepper, tree tomato (amazing ingredient), and a sprinkle of cheese for extra flavoring.

  • Phallus paintings
    Phallus paintings

    Phallus paintings in Bhutan are esoteric symbols, which have their origins in the Chimi Lhakhang monastery near Punakha, the former capital of Bhutan. The village monastery was built in honour of Lama Drukpa Kunley who lived in the 15-16th century and who was popularly known as the "Mad Saint" (nyönpa) or “Divine Madman” for his unorthodox ways of teaching, which amounted to being bizarre and shocking

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