The grand Punakha Dzong is held by many to be the most beautiful dzong in the country, and is often photographed in the springtime when the purple flowers of the jacaranda trees blossom against the backdrop of the dzong’s white walls. Constructed in 1637, its six-story high “utse,” or central tower, is a highlight.
Hike to Chimi Lakhang, a temple dedicated to the “Divine Madman”, an eccentric Bhutanese monk from the 15th century who is said to have tamed a female demon with his “thunderbolt.” It is not uncommon to see quite skillfully rendered phalluses adorning the walls of Bhutanese temples and homes, and Bhutanese pilgrims travel here specifically to pray for fertility blessings.
Go white-water rafting in the Punakha Valley. Your journey will begin about two miles north of Punakha Dzong, continue past a winter residence of the Queen of Bhutan, and some gorgeous farmland. Rafting time varies from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your interest. (Available from September through May only).
For lunch, visit a farmhouse and join a family for a cooking demonstration and tasting. Enjoy a cup of fresh yak butter tea or home-brewed liquor – fiery arak or sweet sinchang. Help them make ema datsi (cheese chili), buckwheat noodles and pancakes with red rice, served along with hot chili curries.
Sunrise at Khamsum Chorten
Watch the sunrise from the Khamsum Chorten. The Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten is a 100-foot tall stupa with three levels. Dedicated to Bhutan’s Fifth King, the Chorten was built to banish negative energy while providing peace, stability, and harmony in an ever-changing world.
Dochu La Pass
Have tea at Dochu La Pass, located between Punakha and Thimphu. Dochu La is marked by a large array of prayer flags and a rhododendron forest surrounding 108 chortens, or stupas. The chortens are a more recent addition to Dochu La; they were built in 2005 to commemorate the loss of lives in fighting between Bhutanese soldiers and Indian rebels.