Zhabdrung built the Punakha Dzong in 1637. According to the narratives, the chief carpenter “Zow Balep” who was commissioned to construct the Dzong had a vision of the impressive architectural design of the Dzong in his dream which was then actualized. The Dzong was invaded twice by the Tibetan troops in 1639 and 1644. The Tibetan invasion failed on both accounts. There are also stories about the Tibetan commander publicly accepting the defeat to Zhabdrung. To commemorate the victory, a festival known as the Punakha Domche was celebrated. This tradition is continued even today where men play a role of Pazaps (Victorious soldiers) and reenact the war. Another significant event that took place in the Dzong was the institution of Monarchy in Bhutan by crowing Ugyen Wangchuck as the First King. Punakha valley was the first capital of Bhutan and Dzong served as the seat of the central Government.

The Dzong is built on the confluence of the Pho (Male) Chhu and Mo (Female) Chhu River. A three steep wooden staircases lead into the Dzong. The staircases were designed to be removed during the times of war making the Dzong impenetrable. The Dzong has a six storied central tower which houses the most sacred relic in the country. The relic is a self-created image of the Bodhisattva of compassion. The assembly hall for the monks known as the Kunrey houses a gigantic statue of Buddha, Zhabdrung and Guru Rinpoche. One of the temples within the Dzong has the embalmed body of Zhabdrung. Zhabdrung is known for unifying modern day Bhutan. As a tradition, all Kings begin their reigns by offering prayer at this shrine.

 (Built by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal in 1637, the Punakha Dzong, also known as ‘Pungthang Dewachhen Gi Phodrang’ or ‘The Palace of Great Bliss’ is located at the confluence of the Pho (male) Chu and Mo (female) Chhu rivers. Guru Rinpoche prophesied that a person by the name Namgyel would arrive at a hill that resembled a sleeping elephant. And true to his words, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel arrived at the very hill and built the Dzong. It was the second structure of its kind to be built in Bhutan after the Semtokha Dzong and therefore it is the second oldest as well as the second largest Dzong in the country. Today it serves as the administrative center of Punakha Dzongkhag as well as the Winter Home of the ‘Zhung Dratshang,’ or the Central Monastic Body. It served as the capital and seat of the government until the mid-1950s. It houses the most sacred relics in the country, the ‘Rangjung Kasarpani’ and the embalmed remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It was here that the first Hereditary Monarch of the kingdom – His Majesty the King Ugyen Wangchuk, was crowned and it was here that the First National Assembly was hosted. Moreover, it was here that the Royal Wedding (of the Fifth hereditary Monarch His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Gyaltsuen (Queen) Ashi Jetsun Pema was held, which is why it is the most important Dzong in Bhutanese history.

The Dzong is unusual in that it has three ‘Docheys’ or courtyards instead of the usual two. The first courtyard is for administrative functions and houses a huge white Chorten and a Bodhi tree. To the far left corner is a collection of stones and a shrine dedicated to the ‘Tsomem’ or Queen of the Nagas. The second courtyard houses the monastic quarters and is separated from the first by the ‘Utse’ or the Central Tower. In this courtyard there are two halls, one of which was used when Ugyen Wangchuck, the First King of Bhutan, was presented with the Order of the Knight Commander of the Indian Empire (KCIE) by John Claude White in 1905.

In the southernmost courtyard is the Temple where the remains of the ‘Terton’ or ‘Treasure Discoverer,’Pema Lingpa, and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal are preserved. The Zhabdrung died in Punakha Dzong, and his body is still preserved in the ‘Machey,’ (which translates as ‘sacred embalmed body’), Lhakhang. Other than two guardian lamas, only the King and the Je Khenpo are allowed into the premises. Both come to receive blessings before they take up their offices. At the south end is the ‘hundred-pillar’ Assembly Hall. The exceptional murals, which were commissioned by the second Druk Desi, depict the life of the Buddha. The massive gold statues of the Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and the Zhabdrung date back to the mid-18th century. Though the Dzong was repeatedly damaged by flood, earth quake and fire, each time it was rebuilt to its original grandeur.

Access to the Dzong is across the ‘Bazam’ or Traditional Cantilever Bridge. The room above the bridge entrance has displays on the renovations and architectural details of the Bhutanese cantilever bridge.

A smaller building – the ‘Dzongchung’ or ‘Small Dzong,’ houses a statue of the Buddha which dates back as early as 1326. The construction on the current Dzong began as early as 1637 and was completed the following year. Later embellishments included the construction of a chapel to commemorate the victory over the Tibetans in 1639. The arms captured during the battle are preserved in the Dzong to this day. A visit could really qualify as the highlight of your visit to Bhutan if the historical significance is anything to go by.  )

POPULAR ATTRACTIONS

These are the most popular ones there plenty more to discover, hidden places

Crossing the Chele La Pass at an elevation of 3, 988 meters above sea level (from where we get to enjoy excellent views of Mount.

Haa Excursion

At Tachog Lhakhang you will be crossing a six hundred year old bridge built by the renowned iron bridge builder Drubthob (or the Realized and Accomplished One) Thangtong Gyelpo, a fourteenth century saint who built over fifty eight iron bridges throughout Tibet and Bhutan, mainly with the intent of helping pilgrims get to holy places.

Tachog Lhakhang

Haa, one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, was only opened to tourists as late as 2001. The sacred worth of the valley is complemented by the two sacred temples – Lhakhang Karpo and the Lhakhang Nagpo.

Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo

Kila Nunnery, popularly referred to as Chele La Gompa straddles the cliff facing Paro, with great views of Paro valley and Jele Dzong.

Kila Gompa Nunnery

Gangtey is one of the most beautiful destinations in Bhutan. It is a wide glacial valley with a central stream meandering through the open grassland and thickets of dwarf bamboo.

Gangtey Valley

Tashichho Dzong has been the seat of the government since 1952 and presently houses the throne room and offices of the King, the Secretariat and the Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance. Other government departments are housed in buildings nearby.

TashiChhodzong

Behind the Punakha Dzong stretches the Punakha Suspension Bridge, the second longest of its kind in Bhutan. Connecting the Punakha Dzong with the Punakha town, the suspension bridge spans over 350 meters and dangles above the meandering Pho Chhu river.

Suspension Bridge

The bazaar was initiated in 2011 to provide Bhutanese artisans a platform to display and sell their products. It showcases a wide range of authentic made-in-Bhutan arts and craft products.

Crafts Bazaar

Weaving is an integral component of the culture and tradition of Bhutan. With the aim to preserve and promote this living art, the Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan was instituted in May 2005 under the patronage of Her Majesty Gyalyum (Queen Mother) Sangay Choden Wangchuck as a non-government, non-profit organization.

Textile Museum

We Bhutanese treasure our traditional art forms and deem it crucial to preserve them as part of our cultural and religious heritage. It is what gives us our unique identity.

National Institute for Zorig Chusum

The Takin, which the locals refer to as ‘Drong Gyemtsi’ is the National Animal of Bhutan. It has the face of a goat and the body of a cow. The unique looking animal is associated with Drukpa Kunley, a fifteenth century saint, commonly referred to by Westerners as the ‘Divine Madman,’ and sometimes even as ‘The Original Gangsta of Tantra’ due to his unorthodox ways of teaching.

Takin Preserve

Crossing a small cantilever bridge over the Wang Chhu it is a steady climb up hill. People maintain that Zhabdrung spent upto three years in retreat at Cheri.

Cheri Monastery

This nice offbeat hike will take about two hours, depending on your stamina. There is a well-laid path and the climb isn’t very steep as well. The pathway to the monastery is lined with pine and rhododendron trees, colorful prayer-flags, cute resting spots, prayer wheels, Chortens and meditation huts.

Tango Monastery

There are very few things in life that are as satisfactory as a hot stone bath to help you unwind after a long day.

Hot Stone Bath

Built sometime in the seventh century by the Tibetan Buddhist King SongstenGyempo, KyichuLhakhang is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan and is of prime interest for art connoisseurs, historians, pilgrims and visitors alike.

Kyichu Lhakhang

Originally, the Dzong was referred to as ‘Rinche Pung Dzong,’ or ‘Rinpung Dzong,’ which translates as ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels.’ Over time it came to be known as Paro Dzong.

Paro Dzong

Though it originally used to be called Jakar Yugyal Dzong, over time, it has come to be known as Jakar Dzong, which translates as ‘White Bird Dzong,’ and owes its origins to the legend of how a white bird dramatically perched on that very spot where the Dzong was built and how it came to be interpreted as a good omen.

Jakar Dzong

The micro-brewery as well as the Swiss Farm was started in 1996 Fritz Maurer, a Swiss national who got married to a Bhutanese and went on to set up a brewery, and a Swiss Farm.

Bumthang Brewery

Jampey Lhakhang is said to be one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo in 659 AD. This temple is believed to have been built in a single day in order to pin down a giant female ogress obstructing the spread of Buddhism.

Jambay Lhakhang

The museum was established with artifacts found in the manor that had been handed down from generation to generation through the ages.

Ogyen Chholing

It is one of the most important sites related to Pema Lingpa the renowned Terton (Treasure Discoverer) who is attributed to have founded the monastery.

Kunzang Dra Monastery

Though the valley of Tang is the most remote of Bumthang’s valleys, the Arcadian scenes are truly picture perfect. It is the most off-the-beaten track destinations around Bumthang, and is known for its sheep and buckwheat.

Tang

Perched on a small hillock that rises from the valley floor, Gangtey Monastery is a very important monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism – the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition.

Gangtey Monastery

The village of Gaselo is an ideal location for day excursions and picnics. The region is primarily agrarian and the entire landscape is characterized by the most beautiful rice fields.

Gaselo Village

Adjacent to the 108 Chortens is a memorial in honor of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck and in commemoration of the hundred years of monarchy in Bhutan.

Druk Wangyal Lhakhang

Mojo Park is a live music venue and is a very popular weekend hangout for locals and travelers. You will get to try out local brews and interact with locals.

Nightlife in Bhutan

While on this trek, besides the scenic beauty of Himalayan ranges you will be visiting the two most revered Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Bhutan, Bumdra and Taktshang Monastery. Bumdra means ‘Rock of One Hundred Thousand Foot Prints’. The legends say that a hundred thousand Dakinis (angels) descended here and left their footprints on the rock […]

Bumdra Trek

Located in South West of Paro and covering an area of roughly 1706 sq. km, Haa is one of the smallest Dzongkhag in the country. This tiny region is one of the most beautiful and isolated areas in the kingdom, adorned with pristine alpine forests and tranquil mountain peaks.  Haa is the ancestral home of […]

Haa

The king of Bumthang region in the 8th century fell terribly ill after falling out with the local guardian deity. Desperate to recover from the curse, he invited Guru Rinpoche to Bumthang to help the King regain his health.

Kurje Lhakhang

Taktsang translates to The Tiger’s Nest. The monastery is situated 900 meters above the Paro valley precariously perched on a cliff. It has an equally fascinating history.

Paro Taktsang Monastery

Taktsang translates to The Tiger’s Nest. The monastery is situated 900 meters above the Paro valley precariously perched on a cliff. It has an equally fascinating history.

Paro Ta Dzong National Museum

The memorial chorten in Thimphu was built in the honor of the Third King of Bhutan. The Tibetan style white washed stupa is crowned with a golden crescent moon and the sun.

Memorial Chorten

The 51 meter statue of Buddha Shakyamuni sits atop a hill overlooking the Thimphu valley. Buddha Dordenma statue is one of the most prominent landmarks of Thimphu city.

Buddha Dordenma Statue