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Bhutan Tour: The Scenic Punakha and Dochula Pass

It was a pleasant, warm morning we started our journey to Punakha from the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu. Bright sunshine flooded the mountains and the valley, scenic beauty all around to behold we kept driving along the road running in parallel with the meandering river. The joy was unfathomable and that was one of the best days in my life. The photos of Punakha are so vivid that simply looking at them can make my day better… 🙂   So, I dedicate this post to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Today Was a Good Day.

We completed the local sightseeing in Thimphu on our first day in Bhutan. Next day was scheduled for Punakha Monastery (or Punakha Dzong) which is 3 to 4-hour drive from Thimphu. The drive was as usual beautiful through the Himalayan mountains. I tried to capture the scenic beauty on the way as much as possible.

way to punakha, punakha, bhutan

bhutan, punakha, mountains,valley

Dochula Pass

We drove to Punakha via Dochula Pass, one of the highest points in Bhutan (10,000 ft). It’s about one hour drive from Thimphu towards Punakha and a favorite stopover for tourists. The uniqueness of Dochula Pass lies in the wonderful combination of natural and man-made architectures. The place offers 360 degree view of the Himalayan mountain ranges. Bonus is this beautiful architecture – the 108 chortens in circular construction – add to the charm of the place. Unfortunately, we missed the mountain views as it was all covered in cloud in the end of May. Our driver said you can get the best view in winter. 😦  Well, never mind…the view I got is no less lovely. What do you think?

dochula pass, bhutan, chortens

108 chortens dochula bhutanNow take a look at the other side of Dochula Pass. The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang is a beautiful temple built in the memory of the king, Druk Gyalpo.

Dochula pass, bhutan, bhutan tour, sightseeing

dochula pass, bhutan, mountain views

bhutan dochula pass

Dochula pass 2

dochula pass

As the time passed more and more cars arrived at the spot and I could see spontaneous touristy activities all around.

dochula pass, bhutan, touristy activities, bhutan tour

I think there was a feel-good factor in the air which was quite infectious. I felt so happy and grateful to be alive under the sun and enjoy the view.

view at dochula pass, bhutan

By the way, if you have time you can enjoy a leisurely break at the beautiful Druk Wangyel Cafe at Dochula Pass. But the place is a little expensive. Here a one-liter mineral water bottle of Rs 20 cost us Rs 36.

druk wangyel cafe, dochula pass, bhutan

There was this curious visitor at the gate of the cafe. But no one seemed to welcome him. Poor doggie! 😦

druk wangyel cafe dochula

Important info:

Carry enough drinking water during the long drive from Thimphu to Punakha. We didn’t see a proper shop or restaurant from where we could buy drinking water on the way.

Punakha 

Situated on the meeting point of Bhutan’s two important rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu, Punakha Dzong is a place of scenic and spiritual charm. The air, the water, the green plantation looked so clean and pure that you’ll instantly feel in harmony with the place. The monastery is built over a huge area including well-manicured gardens and ponds.

pho chhu and mo chhu rivers

punakha monastery by pho chhu

punakha dzong

You enter the monastery through this beautiful gateway and cross a traditionally designed wooden bridge that takes you on the other side of Pho Chhu (“Chhu” means “river” in vernacular).

punakha monastery gate, punakha, bhutan

punakha, pho chhu,punakha monastery, bhutan

punakha monastery garden, bhutan

The traditional Tibetan style architecture of the monastery is a treat to the eye. And it perfectly blended with the beautiful surrounding.

punakha monastery (2)

punakha, monastery, bhutan

punakha, monastery, bhutan, Tibetan architecture

Entering the monastery can be a bit difficult with these steep ladder like stair case. Remember, that you must not wear baring clothes, else you may be denied access into the main temple in the images below.

entering punakha dzong

inside punakha dzong

inside punakha monasteryWell, the Punakha Monastery is not only a place for monks and pilgrims. There are other habitats too and they are rapidly growing in numbers. 🙂

beehive, punakha, monastery, bhutan

It was wonderful to roam around in the monastery premises, full of beautiful orchards and the ponds which they use for pisciculture.

punakha dzong lake

phochhu river bhutan

punakha landscape

punakha monastery garden 2

punakha, monastery, garden, bhutan

bougainvillea, punakha, monastery, bhutan,

However, Punakha is not just the monastery. It’s much more than that. The clear blue sky, the wide open riverbeds, and the trees and flowers all around make this place divinely beautiful. Take a look at the following images and you’ll agree with me.

pho chhu, river, punakha, bhutan

riverside punakha

punakha, mo chhu river, bhutan

After spending some hours in the monastery we went to a riverside restaurant where we were served lunch. After lunch we were on the road again – the road to Wangdue. I’ll share that story soon.

I hope you like this tour of Punakha and Dochula Pass with me. 🙂

You can also take a look at the first part of my Bhutan Tour Photo Essay – Thimphu through my lenses for more photos and information on Bhutan travel.

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69 thoughts on “Bhutan Tour: The Scenic Punakha and Dochula Pass

    1. Exactly! Bhutan’s tourism industry is growing but it is yet to be swarmed by the crowd of travelers. So, there is a sense of calm and simplicity which I liked very much. Thank you for dropping by Debbie. Do visit again 🙂

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      1. I read one of Isabelle Allende’s books – forgot the title – the Kingdom of .. something…. which was based on her travels in Bhutan – beautiful story – I really hope Bhutan does not go the way of so many other south east asian countries and uses tourism as an income generator – because the country gets spoiled by countless tourists, people become money orientated, foreign problems enter the country and their goes the neighbourhood. i hope at least one country can remain free from the marauding hordes of tourism. a few backpackers like yourself is all Bhutan needs. thanks for the story and photos, and yes, i will drop in again 🙂

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      2. Is it “Kingdom of the Golden Dragon”? Thanks for mentioning. I’ll look for this book. 🙂 And thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts. I agree with you. Since tourism has the potential to earn foreign money and thereby develop the economy. Let’s see how long this small kingdom can retain its simplicity and purity. Thank you 🙂

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  1. The pictures are as if slices of a heavenly life are here on your blog Moon ! I agree with Shweta , I too have seen you for the first time in a picture ..and you look fab girl 🙂 The description is clear and intriguing (chu is river, remember to take water with you ) and I would certainly love to visit this place with bee hives people , greenery and serenity… A Wonderful place .

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    1. Thank you for a lovely comment Kokila. I believe if you visit the place we’ll get some wonderful haikus and visualize the natural beauty there even through your words… 🙂

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  2. The monetary looks calm and peaceful, this is the first time I see you in a picture and lovely to see you my friend. Your description and account of Punakha is so good, I didn’t regret not seeing the mountain photos.

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  3. Wow… you enjoyed every bit of it… the mountains here look green green, the Himalayan mountains, sometimes they are snow capped, barren look, sometimes green… I suppose the green mountains are not Himalayan mountains… lovely architecture… when anyone talks about temple I think of temple as in India a religious place where Gods are placed to worship but checking out these temples, its more open, colouful, cheerful and has nature all around it…just my kind of temple any day. The pass looks lovely, the roads, the veiws, the structure for the king… it was a good travel exploration for me too… and I am tempted for this Bhutha travel(:… no visas required for it right?.

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