Chencho Dema | Punakha

One of Punakha’s well-known tourist attractions is the longest suspension bridge that connects Chubu and Dzomi gewogs, decorated with colourful prayer flags. The bridge, which connects the two banks by cables fixed to enormous cement blocks, swings in heavy winds.

It’s unclear exactly when it started to be frequented by tourists, but it has undoubtedly become a popular destination for tourists for a considerable amount of time now.

According to a Department of Tourism official, as it is the longest suspension bridge in the country, it is historically and architecturally amazing. “The beautiful picturesque views it provides of the valley and Phochhu is another reason for the tourists’ visits,” said the official.

The best time of day to visit the bridge depends on several factors, including the weather and the crowd. The ideal time to visit the Punakha suspension bridge is in the morning when the weather is cool and there are not many visitors around.

The bridge is often less crowded in the morning hours before the tourist buses arrive. The visitors have a chance to enjoy the scenic view and cross the bridge without much disturbance.

The longest bridge turns a tourist hotspot

“However, if you want to witness the bridge at its liveliest and bustling, one should visit during the afternoon or evening when the locals are returning from work or school. You’ll experience the hustle and bustle of the locals crossing the bridge,” the official said.

According to locals, more than 20 tourists, both regional and international, visit the bridge for a walk and photography.

It is said that the bridge was first built in 1637 by Thangthong Gyalpo, a famous Buddhist master and bridge builder. He was known for building several iron chain bridges across the Himalayan countries such as Bhutan and Tibet.

The steel bridge is suspended around 60 meters above the Phochhu and spans a distance of approximately 160 to 180 meters and about 1.2 meters wide. Visitors cross the bridge to reach the Punakha Dzong, a historic fortress and monastery located on the other side of the river.

The bridge is often adorned with colourful prayer flags. Likewise, any visitor, even tourists hoist prayer flags along the side rails of the bridge.

When the flags fade and wear out, it is customary for the community to take them down and replace them with new ones.

The DoT is raising awareness about the bridge via its social media and marketing channels and invites the visiting press and media influencers to visit the bridge.

Punakha residents said that the bridge has to be renovated because it is risky for walkers due to broken iron netting and rusty chains. The DoT official said that the department will liaise with the dzongkhag administration and other relevant officials to address such concerns.

The suspension bridge was renovated several times and was originally built to connect Punakha Dzong to the small villages of Shengana, Samdingkha and Sangkha, on the other side of Phochhu.