By Chencho Dema

Punakha— The Punakha Dzong, nestled between the Phochhu and Mochhu rivers, has become a popular location for locals and visitors alike, who flock to capture the breathtaking view of the dzong and the bazam in a single frame. However, the lack of basic amenities such as restrooms and a parking area has prompted urgent need for development of this renowned tourist viewpoint, according to residents, tourists, and guides.

Close to 7,500 tourists visited the dzong in 2022. As of June 13 this year, the number of visitors has already reached 28,487, bringing the total tally over the past 18 months to 35,871.

Dorji Dhradhul, director general of the Tourism Department, acknowledged the significance of the viewpoint and expressed interest in further developing the area. “Punakha Dzong is undeniably one of the most visited sites in the country, and we are eager to explore the possibilities of enhancing the experience for visitors.”

He also pointed out that the responsibility for such development projects lies with the local governments.

As part of the flagship programme, the former Tourism Council of Bhutan, in consultation with the dzongkhag administration, developed a viewpoint or photo point in the Punakha Central School premises, which offers a vantage point facing the dzong.

However, visitors have expressed disappointment with the current state of the viewpoint.

“When I heard about this perfect spot for capturing the dzong, I had high expectations. Unfortunately, it turned out to be just an ordinary place without any amenities,” remarked one tourist from India.

Radha Wangmo, a cultural guide, shared her concerns about the lack of facilities and the potential hazards of spending too much time there. “Given that it’s located on a highway, it can be dangerous, especially when there are many tourists. I always ensure my guests do not linger for too long.”

Tshering Choden, another tour guide, suggested that the dzongkhag consider allowing local vendors to open small handicraft shops at the viewpoint. Currently, visitors are directed to Chimi Lhakhang for shopping for souvenirs and handicrafts, as Punakha lacks any such establishments along the way.