Once the capital of Bhutan, Punakha is about 72 kms from Thimphu and it took us 3 hours by car. After crossing Dochula pass, we began the descent with the winding roads leading us to the Punakha valley.
Driving down into the valley we shed a few layers of warm clothing. Unlike Thimphu, here it’s quite warm in the winters.
The two main rivers of Bhutan are the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu which converge at the majestic Punakha Dzong.
We walked across the covered wooden cantilever bridge, crossing the Mo Chhu river to enter the dzong.
Inside, a path leads you to a steep flight of steps. Climbing up the steps your permits are checked by officials before you enter the inner courtyard that houses the administrative offices. Photography beyond the steps is not entertained!
The Punakha valley which has an abundant supply of water and fertile soil makes it suitable for cultivating rice. Local farmers mostly grow the Himalayan red rice. Being winter, most of the paddy had been harvested.
From Punakha, we made our way towards Chimi Lhakhang, a very popular and revered monastery that lies on the periphery of the fertile valley of Lobesa. The temple is popularly considered to be a temple of fertility.
From the main road we walked through the rice fields. This dusty path, lined with prayer flags leads to a hillock on which stands this monastery.
On the way back, we stopped by at this shack to pick up a stone painting – Buddhist motifs painted on stones picked from the river bed, especially for the tourist!