Around 15.5 miles (25 km) east of Thimphu, Punakha and its gorgeous valley typically offers visitors their first real taste of rural Bhutan. Built in around 1638 and beautifully sited at the confluence of two rivers, its dzong ranks among the country’s most famous monasteries. It is a veritable showcase of Bhutanese craftsmanship, with a particularly impressive assembly hall featuring fine clay statues and intricate murals.

The dzong also hosts a well-known festival, during which an enormous thondrol – an extraordinary appliquéd sacred banner – is unfurled, conferring merit on all who see it.


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