Punakha Travel Guide

Discover the best things to do, how to get around, where to stay, and what to eat in Punakha, Bhutan. Plan your trip with this comprehensive Punakha travel guide.

Introduction to Punakha

Punakha is a breathtaking destination nestled in the Himalayan Mountains of Bhutan. Known for its stunning landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, it beckons visitors from around the world to come and experience its charm.

This hidden gem of Bhutan is located in the western region of the country, and it was the former capital of Bhutan until 1955. Punakha is surrounded by some of the most scenic valleys and mountains, including the Pho Chu river to the west and the Mo Chu river to the east.

If you are planning to visit Bhutan, then Punakha should definitely be on your itinerary. In this travel guide, we will take a look at some of the best things to do, where to stay, what to eat, and how to get around in Punakha.

List of Places to Visit in Punakha

Punakha has plenty of attractions to explore. From culturally important museums and historical places to natural attractions, hiking and biking routes, and outdoor adventures, Punakha has something for everyone.

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Punakha Dzong: This majestic fortress is one of the largest Dzongs (fortresses) in Bhutan and is located at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu rivers. It was built in 1637 and served as the seat of government until the capital was moved to Thimphu.

  • Chimi Lhakhang: One of the favorite tourist attractions in Punakha, this Buddhist temple is also known as the Fertility Temple. It is believed that the temple has the power to bless couples with fertility and bless women seeking childbirth.

  • Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten: This is a beautiful Buddhist stupa located on the hilltop overlooking the Punakha valley. The temple was built in 2004, and it offers visitors a serene and peaceful environment.

Natural Attractions of Punakha: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Dochula Pass: This is one of the most scenic mountain passes in Bhutan and is located on the way to Punakha from Thimphu. It offers panoramic views of the Himalayas and is home to 108 chortens (stupas).

  • Punakha Suspension Bridge: This is the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan and offers stunning views of the Punakha valley. Visitors can also enjoy rafting in the Mo Chu river beneath the bridge.

  • Jigme Dorji National Park: Covering an area of 4,349 square kilometers, this is the second-largest National Park in Bhutan. It is home to a wide range of flora and fauna, including Bengal tigers, black bears, red pandas, and snow leopards.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Punakha

Punakha is a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and there are plenty of hiking and biking trails available to explore the natural beauty of the valley.

  • Punakha Valley Trek: This trek takes visitors through the lush green valleys and terraced fields of Punakha. It is an easy and enjoyable hike, and it takes about four hours to complete.

  • Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Trek: This trek takes visitors through the villages, rice fields, and forests of Punakha. The highlight of the trek is the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten.

  • Mountain Biking: Visitors can rent mountain bikes and explore the valley on their own. The roads in Punakha are not heavily trafficked, making it a perfect destination for biking enthusiasts.

Best Things to Do in Punakha: Activities and Tours

Apart from hiking and biking, visitors can also indulge in other outdoor activities in Punakha, including camping, fishing, and rafting.

  • Rafting in Mo Chu and Pho Chu rivers: This is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Punakha, and it offers visitors an adrenaline-charged rafting experience.

  • Camping: Visitors can camp in the beautiful landscapes of Punakha and enjoy the peaceful environment.

  • Fishing: Punakha is an angler’s paradise, and visitors can enjoy fishing in the clear rivers and streams of the valley.

Week-Long Itinerary for Punakha

Punakha can be explored in a week, and visitors can enjoy every aspect of this beautiful valley. Here is a week-long itinerary for Punakha.

Day Activity
Day 1 Arrival in Paro and travel to Thimphu
Day 2 Sightseeing in Thimphu
Day 3 Travel from Thimphu to Punakha and visit Punakha Dzong
Day 4 Hiking in Punakha and visit to Chimi Lhakhang
Day 5 Rafting and camping in Punakha
Day 6 Hiking to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten and visit to the Punakha Suspension Bridge
Day 7 Departure from Paro

Food and Drink Scene of Punakha

Punakha offers a unique culinary experience to visitors, and visitors can enjoy the local dishes, including:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Ema Datshi: This is the national dish of Bhutan and is made with melted cheese and chili peppers.

  • Jasha Maroo: A spicy chicken dish popular in Bhutan.

  • Phaksha Paa: A pork dish with spicy chili and garlic.

Local Beverages

  • Butter Tea: A salty tea made with butter and salt, and it is served hot.

  • Ara: A popular alcoholic drink made with rice.

  • Suja: A salty tea, mixed with milk, butter, and salt.

Where to Stay in Punakha: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

There are plenty of accommodation options available in Punakha, from luxurious hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses.

  • Uma Punakha by COMO: A luxury resort offering panoramic views of the Punakha valley.

  • Drubchhu Resort: A mid-range resort offering comfortable accommodations with scenic views.

  • Punakha Family Guesthouse: A budget-friendly guesthouse offering simple accommodations and excellent hospitality.

What to Buy in Punakha: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Visitors can take home some of the local products and souvenirs as a memory of their trip to Punakha.

  • Handicrafts: Bhutanese handicrafts are famous worldwide, and visitors can buy a wide range of handmade products, including intricate textiles, wood-carvings, and paintings.

  • Red Rice: Bhutan is known for its red rice, and visitors can take some of it home as a souvenir.

  • Handmade paper: Bhutanese handmade paper is unique, and visitors can buy journals, notebooks, and other products made from it.

Local Culture and Customs of Punakha

Bhutan is a country that values its traditional customs and culture. Visitors are expected to follow the local customs and dress codes.

  • Dress Code: It is customary to dress modestly, and visitors are advised to wear long pants and shirts that cover their shoulders.

  • Respect for Local Customs: Visitors are expected to respect the local customs and traditions, including removing their shoes before entering temples and other religious sites.

Best Time to Visit Punakha

The best time to visit Punakha is from March to May and from September to November. During these months, the weather in Punakha is pleasant, and visitors can enjoy the scenic beauty of the valley.

Do’s and Don’ts of Punakha


  • Respect the local customs and traditions.
  • Dress modestly.
  • Remove shoes before entering temples and other religious sites.


  • Litter in public places.
  • Take photographs of people without their permission.
  • Purchase antiques or religious artifacts without consulting with the authorities.

Safety and Health

Safety in Punakha

Punakha is a safe destination, and visitors can explore the valley with confidence. However, visitors are advised to be cautious while hiking or trekking in the valley.

Health in Punakha

Visitors are advised to get vaccinated for Tetanus, Diphtheria, Measles, and Mumps before visiting Bhutan. It is also recommended to carry a first-aid kit with basic medicines.

Getting to Punakha: Transportation Options and Logistics

Punakha can be easily accessed from other parts of Bhutan.

Airports Near Punakha

The nearest airport to Punakha is the Paro International Airport, and it is about 127 km away from Punakha.

Bus Stations Near Punakha

Buses run between Thimphu and Punakha on a regular basis. The ride takes around 3-4 hours, and the ticket costs around 150 BTN.

Other Options

Private taxis can be hired to travel between different parts of Bhutan. Visitors can also opt for guided tours of the valley, which include transportation.

How to Get Around in Punakha

Taxis and private cars can be hired to explore the valley. Visitors can also rent bicycles to explore the valley at their own pace.

Where to Go Next from Punakha: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

After exploring Punakha, visitors can travel to other destinations in Bhutan, including:

  • Thimphu: The capital city of Bhutan, known for its scenic beauty, vibrant culture, and colorful festivals.

  • Paro: A beautiful valley that is home to the famous Tiger’s Nest monastery.


Punakha is a must-visit destination in Bhutan. Its stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and vibrant history make it an unforgettable experience for visitors. Plan your trip to Punakha, and immerse yourself in the beauty of this hidden gem of Bhutan.