Planning a Perfect Punakha Valley Vacation in Bhutan
Among the tourist attractions of Bhutan, Punakha Valley is one of the most eminent ones. Punakha is a small Himalayan town located in the valleys of this great mountain range. The beauty of this valley comes from Mo Chhu and Po Rivers that run through this region. In the past, Punakha was a capital and cultural center of Bhutan.
How to reach Punakha Valley?
If you are flying to Bhutan, you can find flights from Paro to Punakha. Punakha is just 120 km away from Paro. If you are looking for road routes, you can find buses and cabs from numerous parts of the country to this valley. If you are travelling from India, the closest airport is in Bagdogra.
From Bagdogra, you can find buses or train to Bhutan. You can also choose road transportation from India via Jaigaon, W. Bengal. The closest railway station is this route is located in Jaigaon.
Permit to visit Punakha Valley
If you are not a Bhutanese, you would need a Bhutan tourist visa. Every year, only a limited number of visas are allowed by the government. Citizens of Maldives, India, and Bangladesh can receive permits after arrival and there is no charge for visa for these three countries.
You should have the following when you enter Bhutan.
- A valid passport with at least six more months of validity from the date of entry into Bhutan
- Passport size photo
- Itinerary of your stay, booking confirmation of any hotel that you are about to stay
- If you are a solo travel, you would need an undertaking letter
- A filled and signed tourist permit form (online permit system is also available - for entry via Phuentsholing and Paro)
If you are not from the above mentioned countries, you need to obtain a visa before entry. You can also choose to apply via online system by any tour operator. The cost of visa is USD 40 and it would take a minimum of 72 hours for clearance. The clearance letter should be submitted in the Bhutan airport to receive visa stamping.
Must read : Permits and Visa in Bhutan
Minimum Requirement for International Tourists
An international tourist (apart from Maldives, India, and Bangladesh) should have booked all the below services to receive visa.
- Minimum 3-star hotel accommodation throughout the stay
- If 4-star or 5-star hotel is booked, additional premium must be paid
- A licensed tour guide for your entire stay
- Booking of every travel inside the country, including your departure flight
- Any haulage or equipment required for camping or trekking
- $200 per head per night is charged as fee for those who visit in Jan, Feb, June, July, Aug, and Dec. $250 per head per night is charged for the rest of the months.
RAP for Punakha
Restricted area permit is not essential for Punakha Valley, Paro, and Thimphu. If you are travelling to other regions of Bhutan, you need RAP (Restricted Area Permit), which is issued for 7-14 days.
Accommodation in Punakha Valley
There are numerous hotels of varying budget in Punakha. You can find hotels from $20 per night to $150 per night rate. It is best to book a good hotel of a high reputation so that you can enjoy basic amenities.
Read Bhutan Travel Guide :
- Adventure Activities in Bhutan
- Best Time to Visit Bhutan
- Culture and Traditions of Bhutan
- Top Things to do in Bhutan
- Tourist Destination in Bhutan
Top tourism sites to cover in Punakha Valley
Are you planning a visit to Punakha Valley? Here are the top attractions to cover.
1. Punakha Dzong
The main attraction of this region is this old Dzong, which was built at the point where River Pho and River Mo Chhu meet. This is the second-largest and second-oldest Dzong of the country. Today, this structure stands as the administrative structure of this district. If you are visiting in spring, the region will be filled with jarcaranda trees, which will be at bloom with lilac flowers.
2. Chimi Lhakhang
This is a Buddhist monastery, called as the fertility temple. Couples without children visit this temple to wish for a baby. Main deity of this temple is Lama Drukpa Kunley, a 15th century saint and magician of Tibet. Phalluses symbols are worn by the locals as charms.
3. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
This is a traditional structure built by Queen Mother in 2004. One has to hike for 45 minutes through scenic route to reach this Chorten. The view of Punakha Valley from this Chorten is breathtaking.
This is a Buddhist monastery located in the hill overlooking Punakha. The view of the valley and the town from this plateau is mesmerizing. If you wish to take part in TaloTshechu festival, visit in March. This four days festival is quite common among tourists to enjoy local traditions and celebrations.
5. Punakha Ritsha
This is a famous village, where you can find fertile lands used for paddy cultivation. You can find both white and red rice grown here. This village is also famous for its lush landscape and picturesque view.
Suggested Tour :
Tourist attractions to enjoy in Punakha Valley
- River rafting - River Mo Chhu
- Suspension bridge thrill walk - Punakha suspension bridge over River Mo Chhu
- Mountain pass drive - Dohula Pass drive to enjoy a scenic Mountain jeep ride and also a visit to 108 Druk Wangyal Chorten.
- Safari at Jigme Dorji National Park - you can spot animals like Himalayan black bear, red panda, snow bear, Bengal Tiger, blue sheep, and others. You can also spot numerous bird species here.
Currency of Punakha Valley
Bhutan currency is Ngultrum. 1 INR (Indian rupee) is equal to 1 Ngultrum. 77 Ngultrum is equal to 1 USD. The value changes with time and make sure to check the current currency rate before you fly to Punakha Valley.
Certain service providers and shops might accept Indian currency of lower denomination, up to INR 100. It is best to convert money into Ngultrum before entering Punakha Valley.
Suggested tour to Bhutan :
Best time to visit Punakha Valley
March - May
This is the spring and summer season, when the flowers will be at bloom and the greenery will be lush. You can get a pristine view from the viewpoints and enjoying outdoor activities will be much easier. This is one of the prime tourism seasons in this region. The temperature ranges between 26 degrees and 5 degrees C.
June - August
This is the monsoon season of the region. The region receives heavy rainfall and all the outdoor activities will be blocked for safety reasons. If you are visiting to enjoy the natural beauty of the land, this is a mesmerizing time.
However, starting from safari to viewpoints, all the outdoor activities would be best avoided during monsoon season.
September - November
This is the autumn season and this season makes the valley look colorful. Numerous festivals take place during this season and the temperature is pleasing to explore the region with ease.
December - February
This is the winter season. Winter does not have rainfall or snowfall in Punakha Valley. The temperature is pleasing and will not fall below 5 degrees C. This is one of the best times to visit Punakha Valley for exploration, outdoor activities, and much more.