High in the Himalayas, the town of Punaka sits at 3,930ft above sea level, best known for the Punakha Dzong, which served as the seat of government until the mid-1950s.
Built in the 17th century, Punakha Dzong is a beautiful and typically Bhutanese fortress style building at the junction of the mighty Phochu and Mochu Rivers. With whitewashed walls, gently sloping roofs, gold painted turrets and leafy, lilac jacaranda trees surrounding it, this is, in our opinion, probably the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan. It seems the Bhutanese royal family would agree as the current King chose it as his wedding venue in 2011, and all previous kings have been crowned here.
As well as spending plenty of time exploring the dzong and greeting the 1,000 or so monks who live here, visitors to Punakha should also leave some time to get to grips with their beautiful valley surroundings. One of our favourite ways to do this is from the glacier-fed Pho Chu River on an adrenaline filled white water rafting adventure. As an alternative to the rafting, visitors could also take a walk through farmland up to Khamsum Yuley Namgay Chorten, a beautiful tiered shrine built on a ridge and dedicated to the king and the wellbeing of the people. There are stunning views from here across the patchwork valley of rice paddies and orange groves.