From Thimphu the drive to Punakha takes you via the impressive Dochula Pass which offers stunning panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges.
The 108 chortens, called the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang, at the top of the pass were commissioned by the Queen Mother and they are popular with locals as a site of spiritual importance to the Bhutanese.
Punakha, a historical city and once the capital of Bhutan is located in the west of the country and due to its temperate climate, the area offers lush, fertile lands perfect for rice growing. As you drive through the region you will see it dotted with rice terraces. Punakha Dzong, or “the palace of great happiness”, is one of the key sites to visit in the city, it is especially pretty during Spring when the Jacaranda trees flower and display their beautiful purple blooms against the white-washed walls of the dzong.
Just north of Punakha is part of Jigme Dorji National Park, the second largest National Park in the country which also incorporates Wangchuck Centennial Park in central Bhutan and stretches across the top third of the country. The park offers the most diverse range of climates of any national park starting from the leafy forested regions around Punakha all the way up to the glaciers on the northern border with Tibet and of course sacred Mount Jomolhari. The park is home to a range of wildlife including many endangered species such as the snow leopard, Bengal tiger, Himalayan black bear and Bhutan’s national animal, the unusual looking takin. The park offers an excellent range of trekking routes and some of the best bird-watching in the country.