River Lodge

River Lodge is set on a low ridge with a clear view over Chamkhar town and the glacier-fed Tang Chhu, just a short walk away from the market in the center of town. Even more than the great location, though, it's the genuinely warm hospitality of owner Pema Dawa and his family that sways many first-time guests to stay here again when they come back to Bumthang. Pema's reputation is that no guest request is too much, and he goes out of his way to make his guests comfortable. If something goes wrong, he does whatever he needs to do to fix it. For many returning guests, River Lodge is a home away from home.

A bukhari wood-burning stove keeps the huge dining room warm, and the food is all organic, served straight from the fields and gardens of Bumthang. Trained chefs cook up Continental, Indian, Chinese, and Thai dishes, as well as Bhutanese favorites like haoentoe dumplings from Haa district and local Bumthang specialties like putta noodles and khuli buckwheat pancakes. With breakfast they serve local cheese and homemade wild strawberry preserves. The chefs field special dietary requests as well (including vegetarian dishes). An adjacent bar serves imported and local drinks. Wifi is available in the dining room and reception area.

The 30 rooms — 10 standard, deluxe, and super deluxe rooms each — are clean and warm, with comfortable beds, tiled bathrooms, reasonably modern amenities, and (usually) plenty of hot water. Many of the rooms have good views of Chamkhar town; deluxe rooms facing the valley tend to be the best of all. Rooms are stocked with blankets and most are fitted with electric heaters, though some still have bukharis. The friendly English-speaking staff provides room service, and all rooms are stocked with soft drinks, mineral water, coffee, and tea.

River Lodge also offers a number of touches that set it apart. The lodge's small library stocks a variety of books on the art, culture, history of Bhutan, and owner Pema, a Bumthang native, is always happy to share even more about the Kingdom. A small handicrafts shop sells textiles and jewelry from across the country. Guests can request hot stone baths, massages, a sauna and steam bath, and spa treatments. On request, the staff arranges mini-tsechus (religious festivals) and explains the meaning of the various dances. At night, they serve ara (rice wine) around bonfires while singers entertain guests with Bhutanese songs old and new. Yak and horse riding are there there for the asking, as are games of archery and khuru (darts). The lodge also provides binoculars for bird watching, walking poles for hiking, and bikes for riding.