Chungthang is a small town at the confluence of the Lachen and Lachung rivers. Here the river Teesta, the lifeline of Sikkim is formed. The two most picturesque and common tourist destinations of North Sikkim, Lachen, and Lachung, can be reached only through Chungthang. The North Sikkim Highway coming from Gangtok via Mongan bifurcates here. The road on the right leads towards Lachung and then to Yumthang valley, Yumesamdong and Katao, all in the high altitude plateau above 12000ft. The road on the left is called Lachen road and reaches Lachen and then further north up to Thangu, Gurudongmar and Tso-Lamu Lake on the Tibet border.
The small town is full of legends that claim it to be the place from where the word Demaong (the hidden valley of rice) first originated in Sikkim. According to legend, the revered guru Padmasambhava took rice here on his way to Tibet. Some of the rice is said to have fallen into the ground. The land even today grows rice where the surrounding area doesn't. There is a stone bearing the footprint of the Guru.
The Chungthang Dam
The government has been building a dam over river Teesta just below the confluence. Once completed, a 60-meter high dam is expected to come up under the Teesta III hydroelectric project. The power generation is supposed to happen at Singhik. The project has resulted in major construction work in the area. A separate village has come up on the other side of Lachen Chu (chu meaning river) to support the construction of the project. Once completed, the project is supposed to generate 1200 megawatts of power.
From Gangtok, Chungthang is less than 100 km away but takes 5 hours or more due to the rough terrain. As for the rest of North Sikkim, a tourist must book a package tour and travel through an authorized agent to get a permit and direct travel is restricted. From Gangtok, you will first travel to Mangan (64 km, 3 hours), the district capital of North Sikkim. From Mangan, the road follows the Teesta river till Chungthang only once crossing it at Tong (11 km before the town). At Mangan and Tong check post you will need to show your permit before further travel.
Where to Stay
Chungthang has some small restaurants to serve the traveller. There is hardly any accommodation worth its name. You may travel here based in Lachen or Lachung where plenty of accommodation options exist.
Although North Sikkim may generate a feeling of cold weather in your mind, Chungthang is at an altitude of just 5500 feet. The weather here is comfortable throughout the year. Summer weather varies between 15 to 25 centigrade. In winter it varies between 7 to 15 degrees. Chungthang receives heavy rainfall throughout the year. The monsoon months of July to September especially witness heavy rainfall. A landslide caused by heavy downpours is common during Monsoon months.
Altitude - 5300 ft
Latitude -27.6 North
Longitude -88.64 East
Weather - Though in North Sikkim, the lower altitude of Chungthang ensures relatively less cold weather here.