Luxury holidays in Punakha

Having served as Bhutan’s capital for centuries, the temperate valley town of Punakha is steeped in national history, much of it centred around its vast riverside dzong. Legend has it that this fortified monastery was finished in just two years – no mean feat considered it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in the country. Although it’s no longer the seat of the government, it’s where every Bhutanese king has been crowned, and houses the remains of Ngawang Namgyal, the Bearded Lama, who unified Bhutan in the 1630s. On either side of the river, forests climb into cloud-wreathed mountains, which make for an inspiring hike – for something fairly easy, try the popular route to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal, a hillside chorten (Buddhist monument) built to ward off negative forces and create harmony between all living beings. Punakha is particularly well suited to outdoor pursuits: its climate is more temperate than some Bhutanese towns, bringing milder winters and warmer summers.

When to go

Spring (March to May) is one of the best times to visit, when the blossoms are out and the weather is warm. Winter (October to December) is also an option, bringing clear skies and plenty sunshine. From May, things get more hot and humid; monsoons arrive from June to September, often hiding the mountains in thick cloud.

Getting there

  • Planes

    Unless you’re already in the country, you'll almost certainly be flying into Paro, Bhutan’s only international airport. Most people get there by flying to Delhi, Bangkok or Calcutta, then hopping on a Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines service. From Paro, the drive takes around four hours.
  • Automobiles

    Bhutan’s tourism laws make it essential to arrange your transport in advance, so it’s unlikely you’ll be doing any driving of your own. And if you were, you’d need to take into account that roads are often mountainous and winding, meaning they’re best tackled by locals.