Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until and still it is the winter seat of Je Khnep (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits.
There are splendid views of the distant Himalayas at Dochula pas (alt. 3,050m) on Thimphu – Punakha road. The road from Paro/Thimphu passes climbs steadily through a temperate type of leafy forest where rhododendron and magnolia bloom in March, April and May, and then drops down to semi tropical zone where, orange and banana tress and cactuses are found in abundance.
Places of Interest in and around Punakha
Punakha Dzong : Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region, Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King. The Dzong is open for visitors during Punakha festival and in summer months when the monk body moves to Thimphu.
Wangduephodrang is the last town on the central highway before central Bhutan. The town is not more than an enlarged village with a few well-provided shops. Located in the south of Punakha, the higher reaches of the Wangduephodrang valley provide rich pastureland for cattle. This district is also famous for its fine bamboo products, slate and stone carvings.
Wangduephodrang Dzong : Sitting on top of the hill at the confluence of Punakha Chhu and Tang Chhu rivers, Wangduephodrang Dzong is town’s most visible features. The Dzong is open for visitors during Wangduephodrang Tsechu celebrated in autumn.