Steffie Bivens

Steffie Bivens

Published: 18 Sep 2023


Punakha Dzong, also known as the “Palace of Great Happiness,” is a remarkable landmark situated in the Punakha Valley of Bhutan. This majestic fortress is not only a visual delight but is also steeped in rich history and cultural significance. It is an architectural gem that symbolizes the nation’s religious and political heritage. Punakha Dzong holds a prominent place in Bhutanese culture as it served as the winter capital for over 300 years. Today, it functions as a religious and administrative center, housing beautifully adorned monastic sections and serving as the seat of the Je Khenpo, the head of Bhutan’s religious clergy.

Table of Contents

The Oldest Dzong in Bhutan

Punakha Dzong, also known as “The Palace of Great Happiness,” is the oldest and second largest dzong (fortress) in Bhutan. It was built in 1637 and holds significant historical and cultural importance in the country. This magnificent architectural marvel is a prime example of traditional Bhutanese craftsmanship and craftsmanship.

A Bridge Built by Divine Intervention

One of the most fascinating facts about Punakha Dzong is the construction of the iconic bridge, known as the “Punakha Suspension Bridge.” Legend has it that the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of Bhutan, had a vision of a bridge made of twisted cane while meditating. Inspired by this divine vision, he ordered the construction of the suspension bridge, which still stands proudly today.

Home to the Winter Residence of the Central Monk Body

Punakha Dzong serves as the winter residence of the Central Monk Body, which comprises the Je Khenpo (the Chief Abbot) and the monk body of central Bhutan. During the colder months, the monks shift from Thimphu to Punakha Dzong, making it a spiritual hub and a place of deep religious significance.

The Relic of Guru Rinpoche

Punakha Dzong houses a sacred relic of Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, who is revered as the second Buddha in Bhutan. The relic is enshrined in the Machey Lhakhang (The Great Temple) within the dzong, attracting Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world.

Astonishing Architectural Design

The stunning architectural design of Punakha Dzong showcases the mastery of traditional Bhutanese craftsmanship. It is built using a combination of rammed earth, stone, and wood, with intricate carvings and vivid paintings adorning its walls and pillars. The dzong’s strategic location at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers adds to its picturesque beauty.

Survived Multiple Earthquakes

Punakha Dzong has withstood several earthquakes throughout its history, which is a testament to the impeccable engineering techniques used in its construction. The dzong’s solid foundation and robust structure have enabled it to survive the test of time and natural disasters.

The Coronation Venue

Punakha Dzong holds immense significance in Bhutanese history as it served as the venue for the coronation of the first king of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck, in The royal tradition of coronation ceremonies continued in Punakha Dzong until the monarchies transitioned to a democratic system.

A Legendary Guardian

Legend has it that a ferocious yet protective deity named Pelden Lhamo guards Punakha Dzong. It is believed that this deity, who takes the form of a wrathful female, safeguards the dzong against any potential harm or evil forces.

Hosts Vibrant Festivals

Punakha Dzong is the venue for some of Bhutan’s most vibrant and significant festivals, including the famous Punakha Drubchen and Punakha Tshechu. During these festivals, the dzong becomes a hub of cultural celebrations and religious performances, attracting both locals and tourists alike.

An Abode of Peace

Punakha Dzong has been widely regarded as an abode of peace and tranquility. The serene surroundings and spiritual ambiance make it a preferred location for meditation and retreats, providing a sense of solace and inner peace to those who visit.

Protected as a National Heritage Site

Recognizing its cultural, historical, and religious significance, Punakha Dzong has been designated as a national heritage site by the Bhutanese government. This status safeguards and preserves the dzong’s integrity and ensures its protection for future generations.

The Witness of Royal Weddings

Punakha Dzong has witnessed numerous royal weddings, including the grand ceremony of the current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema in The dzong’s majestic courtyard and the traditional rituals performed within its sacred walls make it an ideal setting for such regal ceremonies.

Breathtaking Location Surrounded by Natural Beauty

Punakha Dzong is nestled in the picturesque Punakha Valley, with lush green fields, meandering rivers, and towering mountains forming its backdrop. The scenic beauty surrounding the dzong adds to its allure, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers.

Symbolizes the Male and Female Principles

Punakha Dzong is often interpreted as a symbol of the union between the male and female principles in Bhutanese spirituality. The dzong’s location at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers represents the harmonious coming together of these two essential forces.

A Testament of Bhutanese Identity

Punakha Dzong stands as a proud symbol of Bhutanese national identity and sovereignty. Its unique architectural style and cultural significance epitomize the rich heritage and deep-rooted traditions of the Bhutanese people.

A Scene of Filmography

Punakha Dzong has served as a scenic backdrop for various national and international film productions. Its grandeur and captivating beauty have attracted filmmakers from around the globe, showcasing the dzong’s allure on the silver screen.

Open to Visitors

Punakha Dzong welcomes visitors from all around the world who are keen to explore its historical and cultural treasures. Its open doors provide an opportunity for individuals to learn about Bhutanese heritage and immerse themselves in the captivating ambiance of this remarkable fortress.

Offers a Glimpse into Bhutan’s Monastic Life

Within the walls of Punakha Dzong, visitors can experience a glimpse of Bhutan’s monastic life. The dzong houses several monastic sections, where monks engage in spiritual practices, study Buddhist philosophy, and perform religious rituals.

These 18 intriguing facts about Punakha Dzong (with monastic sections) highlight the historical, cultural, and architectural significance of this ancient fortress. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a spiritual seeker, or a lover of natural beauty, a visit to Punakha Dzong is sure to leave you awe-inspired and enriched with the treasures of Bhutanese heritage.


Punakha Dzong with its monastic sections is a remarkable landmark that holds deep significance in Bhutanese history and culture. Its stunning architecture, rich cultural heritage, and scenic location make it a must-visit destination for travelers in the region.

As you explore Punakha Dzong, you will be fascinated by the unique blend of spirituality and grandeur that emanates from this sacred complex. The monastic sections within the dzong provide a glimpse into the daily lives of the Buddhist monks and offer a serene atmosphere for contemplation and spiritual growth.

Whether you are a history enthusiast, a cultural explorer, or simply seeking a peaceful escape from the bustling world, Punakha Dzong with its monastic sections will leave an indelible mark on your journey through Bhutan.


1. What is Punakha Dzong?

Punakha Dzong, also known as the Palace of Great Happiness, is a fortress-monastery located in Punakha, Bhutan. It serves as the administrative and religious center of the region.

2. How old is Punakha Dzong?

Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 and is one of the oldest and largest dzongs in Bhutan.

3. What is the significance of Punakha Dzong?

Punakha Dzong holds great importance in Bhutanese history as it served as the winter residence of the Bhutanese kings. It is also the site of important religious festivals and ceremonies.

4. Can visitors explore the monastic sections?

Yes, visitors are allowed to explore the monastic sections of Punakha Dzong. However, it is essential to dress modestly and respectfully as a mark of reverence.

5. Is Punakha Dzong accessible to all visitors?

Punakha Dzong is accessible to most visitors. However, please note that there may be limitations for individuals with mobility issues due to the architectural layout and elevation changes.

6. Are there any special events or festivals held at Punakha Dzong?

Yes, Punakha Dzong is known for hosting vibrant festivals like the Punakha Tshechu, where locals and tourists come together to witness traditional dances, mask performances, and religious rituals.

7. Are there any nearby attractions to visit in Punakha?

Apart from Punakha Dzong, you can explore attractions like the Chimi Lhakhang, Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, and the beautiful Punakha Suspension Bridge.