Punakha, was the winter seat of the government of Bhutan till 1952. Subsequently, the capital was permanently shifted to Thimphu. Punakha lies at an altitude of 1,350 metres and is 72kms from Thimphu. Its small size is no measure for the role played by it, in Bhutan’s history. It has the distinction of being the winter capital of Bhutan for 300 years.
Punakha’s claim to fame is the Punakha Dzong which was known in ancient times as the Pungthang Dechhen Phrodang or “the palace of great happiness”. It dates back to 1637. It is the second Dzong to be built in Bhutan and resembles a gigantic ship and is located at the confluence of the rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu. The Dzong was the coronation site of Ugyen Wangchuck, the first king of Bhutan in 1907. It was also here the historic treaty was signed with the British 1910, wherein they agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan. Today, the Dzong is the winter home for the clergy, who migrate from Thimphu to spend the coldest six months here.
The Punakha Dzong is one of Bhutan’s most beautiful sites, especially when the Jacaranda around it bursts into beautiful violet, in the months of March and April.