Located on a stretch of land where the Pho chhu and Mo chhu converge, the Punakha dzong served as the centre of government and the first session of the National Assembly was also held here in 1953.
Punakha was the first capital of Bhutan and the country’s first king was crowned here in 1907.
In the 8th century, Guru Rinpoche had prophesied that a young man named Namgyel would come to a mountain that appeared like a sleeping elephant and build a dzong upon the elephant’s trunk. To fulfill this prophecy, Zhabdrung commissioned Zow Balep, a carpenter to construct the dzong in 1637.
Aside from its structural beauty, Punakha Dzong is also notable for containing the preserved remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan, as well as a sacred relic known as the Ranjung Karsapani.
This relic is a self-created image of Avalokiteswara that miraculously emerged from the vertebrae of Tsangpa Gyarey, the founder of the Drukpa School when he was cremated.
While you’re in Punakha, another great site to visit is the Temple of Drukpa Kinley the Divine Madman, where you can receive blessings from a wooden phallus, famously known for helping couples without children conceive.
Punakha valley also boasts a pleasant climate with warm winters and hot summers, making it an ideal respite from the colder valleys of Bhutan.