Punakha is a very popular haven for avian-fauna enthusiasts: Today as you Drive towards the north following the emerald Mo Chu River for a day hike to Khamsum Yueley Namgyel Lhakhang, you will have a rare opportunity in spotting many of the globally endangered birds like the ruddy shell duck, the Pallas’ fishing eagle, the ibis bill, etc, along this river. Built in 1991 for the country’s peace and prosperity, Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel is attributed to the Warrior king, Gesar of Ling. To get to this temple is a 45 minute walk across paddy fields and farm houses and this gentle endeavor will bring you face to face with the locals working in their fields. Your easy labor of getting to the top will reward you with picture perfect views of the Punakha valley with the serpentine Mo Chu River noiselessly gliding along the valley.
Optional to the above: if hike is tiring some then from the nearby suspension bridge you can rent the Raft for few hours. Discuss your plan ahead with your tour guide in regard to rafting if you are interested so booking have to be done earlier in advance.
The main highlight of the trip to the Punakha valley partially owes its credit to the Punakha Dzong. Aptly named ‘Pungthang Dewachhen Phodrang (which translates as ‘the Palace of eternal joy’), this Dzong is the personal favorite of the majority not just for its sheer beauty but also for its enormous historic proportions.
Punakha is synonymous with history: the very reason that it is the winter Capital of Bhutan, the chosen refuge of the Chief Abbot and his monk subjects makes this locale a place of enormous holistic proportions. This magnificent structured Dzong built in 1637 at the confluence of the Pho Chu-Male River and Mo Chu-Female Rivers, Punakha Dzong is the winter home for the central monk body headed by the Chief Abbot of Bhutan. From the exterior, this formidable structure holds a commanding position, and as you cross over a suspension bridge to embark upon an exploration of this 17th century fortress with its white washed walls, steep entrance stairs and ornate interior, you will marvel how such a structure came to be built in the absence of modern technology.
As you step in the Kuenrey or the assembly hall, the walls will reveal to you an intricate mural depicting the pictorial story from the events of the life of the Buddha while three giant gold statues dating from the 18th century preside over the hall of some 1000 praying monks.
Just as you smell the last whiff of the fragrance of Jacaranda flowers once you get in the car and even as the lingering fragrance and memories begin to fade away, you will be given some preparatory directions by your guide for a visit to Chhime Lhakhang. More popularly known as the Temple of Fertility, it serves as a final refuge for the barren women who propitiate the Divine man by receiving ‘Wang’, a sort of empowerment blessing from a humungous pairs of wooden phalluses that are the main relics of this temple. About 20 minutes walk back to the car park just before the walk ends brings to a cafeteria where you stop for lunch and refreshments before the onward drive to Paro via the Dochula pass.
Driving Distance: 133 KMS
Duration: 8-9 Hours (Inclusive of hikes, sightseeing, lunch stop and drive)
Overnight@ Hotel or Farmhouse Stay