Punakha 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.

Punakha valley is famous in Bhutan for rice farming. Both red and white rice are grown along the river valley of Pho and Mo Chu, two of the most prominent rivers in Bhutan. Ritsha (meaning at the base of a hill) is a typical village in Punakha. The village houses are made of pounded mud with stone foundations. Each house is only two storeys high. Surrounding the houses are the gardens and the rice fields. The gardens also usually have fruit bearing plants like oranges and papaya among the organic vegetables. The village is 1km away from Punakha-Gasa high-way and currently the villagers are engaged in constructing the 1km farm road. In the recent years, the farming work is mechanized and power-tillers instead of bullocks are used to plough the fields and villagers have become relatively prosperous. This is a model rice growing village in western Bhutan.

Area 1,200 m (3,900 ft)
Capital Punakha dzongkhag
Population 23,462
Official Languages Tibeto-Burman

Pungthang Dewachen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness) or Punakha Dzong was constructed by Tuebi Zaow Balip under the great command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637 and believed to have been completed in a two year time period. It is also the country's most beautiful Dzong. It is the winter residence of Bhutan's Central Monastic Body led by HH the Je Khenpo. The Dzong houses the most sacred relics of the Southern Drukpa Kagyu school including the Rangjung Kasarpani, and the sacred remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Tertön Padma Lingpa.

In 1907, Punakha Dzong was the site of the coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck as the first King of Bhutan. Three years later, a treaty was signed at Punakha whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs.

  • Punakha Drubchen
    Punakha Drubchen

    Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival as it hosts the a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with the Tibetan army. This is one of the oldest festivals of the district. It shows a detailed dramatization of how the local Bhutanese militia duped and defeated an invading Tibetan army and forced them to withdraw. This 17th century event was also the beginning of the consolidation process of Bhutan as a country and it is historically very significant for the country. This event is also a celebration of a Bhutanese roots.

  • Punakha Tshechu
    Punakha Tshechu

    The Punakha Tshechu is one of the most popular Tshechus in the country. It is held right after the popular Punakha Drubchen. The unfurling of the thongdrol (a large tapestry) of Guru Rinpoche is the main attraction of the festival. It is believed that a mere sight of the thongdrol liberates an onlooker and cleanses him of his sins.

  • 4th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition
    4th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition

    The 4th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition will be held at the Thangzona, in Punakha. The exhibition is open to the public from 26th to 29th April, and promises to be as amazing as always.  This year, the RBFE is dedicated to Bhutan -India Friendship, as we celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties between our two countries.

  • Punakha Dzongkhag
    Punakha Dzongkhag

    Punakha Dzongkhag has been inextricably linked with momentous occasions in Bhutanese history. It served as the capital of the country from 1637 to 1907 and the first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. Punakha Dzong is not only the second oldest and second largest dzong but it also has one of the most majestic structures in the country.

    October 13, 2011 marked an unforgettable wedding of the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to Jetsun Pema which was held at Punakha Dzong. Punakha Dzong was built at the confluence of two major rivers in Bhutan, the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu, which converge in this valley. It is an especially beautiful sight on sunny days with sunlight reflecting off the water onto its white-washed walls.

    In addition to its structural beauty, Punakha Dzong is notable for containing the preserved remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan as well as a sacred relic known as the Ranjung Karsapani. This relic is a self-created image of Avalokiteswara that miraculously emerged from the vertebrae of Tsangpa Gyarey, the founder of the Drukpa School when he was cremated.

    Punakha valley has a pleasant climate with warm winters and hot summers. It is located at an average elevation of 1200 m above sea level. Owing to the favourable climatic conditions, rice has become the main cash crop cultivated in the region.


  • Khur-le

    Especially common as a Bhutanese breakfast food and for on the go eating in Bhutan, khur-le is a Bhutanese pancake made from buckwheat, wheat, or barley flour.You typically eat khur-le along with Bhutanese main dishes, like ema datshi or shakam datshi, or even just with eggs and ezay (chili sauce). When I was in Haa Valley, Bhutan, I ate khur-le just about every day at my home-stay for breakfast.They have a spongy texture, but are a bit more hearty and filling than a white wheat flour pancake. They are the type of pancake you want to be eating in a cold climate.

  • Puta

    Especially common in the Bumthang region of Bhutan, puta are noodles made from highly nutritious buckwheat that can be grown in high altitudes. For puta, the noodles are prepared and boiled, and sometimes before being served the noodles are stir fried in mustard oil along with a light seasoning of salt and Sichuan pepper.

    Puta are a traditional Bhutanese staple, and they really reminded me of Japanese soba noodles.

  • 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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