Punakha Dzong: Bhutan's Majestic Fortress at the Confluence of Rivers

Discover Punakha Dzong: Winter Capital of Bhutan and an imposing Fortress

Nov 23rd, 2023

Punakha Dzong, also known as Pungthang Dechen Phodrang, is a majestic fortress located at the confluence of the Pho Chhu(father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley. 
It is the second oldest and second largest Dzong in Bhutan. Dzongs are unique Bhutanese architectural marvels that serve as both religious and administrative centers. 

Punakha Dzong, a massive fortified complex with whitewashed walls, towering watchtowers and intricate wooden carvings, is a great example of this.

It is divided into three courtyards. The outer courtyard is the largest and most open, and it features a large white victory Chorten as well as a Bodhi tree. Moving inward, the middle courtyard is reserved for monastic quarters, including the monks' main temple and living quarters. Finally, the inner courtyard is considered the most sacred part of the Dzong, and it is where the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism are kept.
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan, built the Dzong in the 17th century. For over 300 years, it served as the seat of the Bhutanese government until the capital was moved to Thimphu in 1955. The Dzong is home to a number of sacred relics, including the Rangjung Kharsapani, a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha that is said to be self-manifest. The Dzong also houses the winter residence of the Je Khenpo, the chief abbot of Bhutan. 

Punakha Dzong is also known for its beautiful gardens, which are particularly stunning in the spring when the jacaranda trees are in bloom. Today, it remains an important religious and cultural center for Bhutanese people.

Here are some of the key features of Punakha Dzong:
Utse: The Utse is the six-storied central tower of the Dzong. It is the tallest structure in the Dzong and is home to the main temple, which contains gold statues of the Buddha and Guru Rinpoche.
The Moenlam Chorten (Victory Chorten): This is a large white Chorten located in the outer courtyard of the Dzong. It was built in the 17th century to commemorate the victory of the Bhutanese over the Tibetan invaders
Machen Lhakhang: This temple is located in the inner courtyard of the Dzong and is home to the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Kuenrey Lhakhang: This temple is located in the middle courtyard of the Dzong and is the main temple for the monks who live at the Dzong.
Punakha Suspension Bridge: This bridge is located near the Dzong and is one of the longest suspension bridges in Bhutan. It offers stunning views of the Dzong and the surrounding valley.

Best time to visit the Punakha Dzong
The best time to visit the Punakha Dzong is during the winter months (October to March) when the weather is mild and sunny. The Dzong is also open during the summer months (April to June), but the weather can be hot and humid. 

Tips for visiting the Punakha Dzong
The Punakha Dzong is a sacred place, so it is important to dress respectfully when visiting. This means wearing long sleeves and pants, and removing your shoes before entering the temples.
Photography is allowed in the outer courtyard of the Dzong, but it is not allowed in the inner courtyard or in the temples.
There is a small entrance fee to visit the Punakha Dzong.
The Dzong is open to visitors from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, seven days a week.

How to get to the Punakha Dzong
The Punakha Dzong is located about 72 kilometers from the capital city of Thimphu. It can be reached by car or taxi in about 2.5 hours. There are also public buses that run from Thimphu to Punakha, but the journey can take up to 3.5 hours.
The Punakha Dzong is a truly magnificent structure and is a must-see for anyone visiting Bhutan. It is a place where history, culture, and religion converge to create a truly unique and awe-inspiring experience. 

Travel with OurGuest ​​​​​​to Bhutan for a magical experience of this hidden Kingdom.


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