Bhutan | Punakha

Punakha Dzong

Embrace Bhutan Cultural Tour

Punakha | Bhutan

09 Nov 2019 | Sat

Day 03 of 13

  • Drive | Thimphu to Punakha
  • Dochula Pass | 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens
  • Lunch | Divine Cafeteria Punakha
  • Chimi Lhakhang
  • Punakha Dzong
  • Drubchhu Resort Punakha

Punakha Dzong

After a short 15 minute drive from Chimi Lhakhang, it was time to visit one of the most beautiful structures in Bhutan, the Punakha Dzong. We first stopped off by a small park (Confluence View) that was a perfect location to take pictures of Punakha Dzong. Meaning “the palace of great happiness or bliss”, our first view of Punakha Dzong was breathtaking! It is such a beautiful architectural masterpiece!

Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” and “a masterpiece of Bhutanese Architecture”, built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, the saint who unified Bhutan.

The Dzong lies between the Fo Chu (male river) and the Mo Chu (female river), and is the winter home of the Central Monk Body. It is believed that the Mo Chu and the Fo Chu were once lovers, flowing in the same bed. One evening, after a quarrel, the Mo Chu left silently during the night, moving to the next valley. Ever since, the Fo Chu has been rushing down to the confluence, trying to catch his estranged lover.

A devastating flash flood in 1994 washed away a major part of the Dzong. His Majesty the fourth King personally supervised the reconstruction of Dzong, a project that has occupied thousands of skilled craftsmen and builders during the past twelve years. The results of the restoration are amazing. You will be seeing the most magnificent architectural and artistic masterpiece in the Kingdom, just consecrated in an elaborate ceremony in May of 2003.

The Dzongs are Bhutanese architectural masterpieces built in the past to serve a number of purposes. They served as administrative centers and as houses for the clergy. They were also used as garrisons by the army and people gathered in the dzong courtyards during festivities.

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Punakha Dzong Near Covered Bridge

Impressive Majestic Structure

From the moment you walk through the impressive covered bridge and approach the entrance, you will be immediately impressed by the sheer size of this majestic structure. At the foot of the stairs, you will stop and look straight up at where you need to climb to reach the top. You will start with a series of stone steps (which are no problem) and then about halfway up it will transition to what I call “Bhutanese Stairs”. They resemble wooden stairs but in reality, they function more like a ladder – extremely steep! It’s not a problem but you do have to be careful when factoring in there are several other people walking up and down the stairs at the same time.

Entrance into Punakha Dzong with Challenging Stairs

The Punakha Dzong, also known as Pungthang Dewa chhenbi Phodrang (meaning “the palace of great happiness or bliss”, is the administrative centre of Punakha District in Punakha, Bhutan. Constructed by Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, in 1637–38, it is the second oldest and second-largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures. The dzong houses the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, including the Rangjung Kharsapani and the sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal and the tertön Pema Lingpa.

Punakha Dzong was the administrative center and the seat of the Government of Bhutan until 1955 when the capital was moved to Thimphu.

– from Wikipedia Punakha Dzong

Once we reached the top, our guide Tashi showed us a few significant artwork paintings and then we walked out into the large open courtyard area. The grand size and scale of the courtyard were impressive. Around the perimeter were ground-level and second-story walkways that surrounded the courtyard, with a large Bodhi tree located in the center.

Large Courtyard with Bodhi Tree

What really made this area special was all of the amazing colorfully painted, Bhutanese-styled woodworking on all of the exterior surfaces (see photos below). Even though this unique Bhutanese style can be found in Dzongs and structures throughout the country – seeing this for the first time was simply breathtaking!

Amazing Colorfully Painted, Bhutanese-Styled Woodworking on Display Throughout

The scale of the architecture is impressive (especially vertically) while walking around, many of the structure features tower over you like a giant.

Large Scale, Towering Structures

We would continue walking through several more areas including a smaller courtyard area. We took a lot of pictures, mostly covering the impressive woodworking and painted artwork. Unfortunately, it started getting late in the afternoon and we had to wrap up our visit here.

Impressive Artwork Over Doorway

We really enjoyed visiting Punakha Dzong and can now understand why it is referred to as the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan. It’s quite the architectural beauty!

Punakha Dzong

Map – Punakha Dzong

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