Thimphu - Punakha. This morning drive to Punakha, an old winter capital of Bhutan. En-route stop at the lofty Dochu La Pass, 10,000ft/3,048m to view the rugged eastern Himalayas, including Bhutan's highest mountain, Gangkar Punsum, 24,770ft/7,550m. The road then drops down through varied–ever changing forest, finally emerging into the highly cultivated Punakha valley.
This afternoon visit the impressive Punakha Dzong or Pungthang Dechen Phodrang "Palace of Great Happiness," which is located on the confluence of two rivers (Phochu and Mochu). It was built in 1637 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal and following the ancient traditions, it serves as winter residence for chief abbot (Je-khenpo) and the monks of Central Monastic Body, who returns to Thimphu in the summer. The building was damaged and rebuilt several times, due to flooding, fire and earth quake. It is one exemplary masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture.
Later hike to the Chimi lhakhang – the temple of Divine Madman which was built by lama Drukpa Kunley in 1499. Legend has it that he subdued the demoness of the Dochu la with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom.’ A wooden effigy of the Lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the Lhakhang, and childless women go to the temple to receive a wang (blessing) from the saint. It’s a 20-minute walk across the rice fields from the road at Sopsokha to the temple. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana. There are very few monks at the temple, which is surrounded by a row of prayer wheels and some very beautiful slate carvings.
Overnight: Punakha. | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner