The Roof of the World
Kathmandu to Kathmandu
Exclusive small group tour. Number of participants: 6 -12
23 March - 6 April 2023 *11 spaces*
15 Days/14 Nights
Prices are per person, based on 2 people sharing a room, bed & breakfast accommodation, with lunches & dinners included on trekking days (8 in total).
Single supplement applies - please make contact for details.
This geological journey through Nepal really is a journey to the roof of the world. You can see how the world's tallest mountains, the Himalaya, are continuing to grow as India collides into Asia. Not only are folded, faulted and metamorphosed rocks visible, but fabulous fossils too, which were once on the margins ofa long-since closed-up ocean floor. The journey takes you up the Kali Gandaki Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world, to one of Nepal's remotest areas, the Upper Mustang Valley, where you can experience not only the stunning geology but also the vibrant Tibetan culture.
**Whilst this tour is mainly vehicle-based, there are a number of treks included in the itinerary, so a good level of fitness is required. The longest trek is 4 hours long (with an optional, additional 4 hours), but we will ensure that trek options are offered to suit participants' fitness levels. The tour is also conducted at altitude (a maximum of 3,840m), however, the journey northwards takes places over nine days, allowing plenty of time for acclimatisation.**
If you have any concerns, please feel free to contact us to discuss.
Terraced agriculture on slopes of Kathmandu Nappe metamorphics (Day 2)
Rippled quartzites of Lesser Himalayan Series (Day 2)
Precambrian stromatolites of Lesser Himalayan Series (Day 3)
View northwards from Pokhara of Fishtail Mountain and the Annapurna Range (Day 4)
Kali Gandaki Gorge looking north, the ‘deepest gorge in the world’; Dhaulagiri (8167m) lies on the left, to the west, and Annapurna (8091m) to the east (Day 5)
Ptygmatic folds in gneisses of the Greater Himalayan Series (Day 6)
Lupra Fault interpretation (Day 7)
Folds and faults in Cretaceous strata near Kagbeni (Day 7)
View from Kagbeni west to Mount Nilgiri (7061m) (Day 7)
Ammonite preserved in calcareous nodule, locally termed a ‘Shaligram’ (Day 7)
View northwards from Kagbeni into Mustang (Day 8)
Multicoloured strata of the Thakkhola Graben at Ghami (Day 9)
Lo Mantang (Day 10)
Jarkot, near Muktinath, with Dhaulagiri (8167m) as a backdrop (Day 12)
Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. You will be greeted by an airport pick-up service and taken to our hotel.
Day 2: After breakfast, drive westwards to Bandipur through a subtropical region of Nepal, passing from Quaternary lacustrine sediments of the Kathmandu Basin to crystalline rocks of the Kathmandu Nappe and on into low grade metamorphics of the Lesser Himalayan Series. Among these are Precambrian rippled quartzites viewed near a Gurkha Village just short of Bandipur, where we spend the night.
Day 3: Drive to Butwal via Mugling Bridge and Bharatpur. Stops to look at Precambrian stromatolites and fluvial sandstones of the Siwaliks. We cross two major boundaries on this traverse, the Main Boundary Thrust and the Main Frontier Thrust. We look for mylonites in the shear zone. The night is spent in Butwal.
Day 4: Drive to Pokhara studying the rocks of the Lesser Himalayan Series and the Palpa Klippe. Here Permo-Carboniferous sediments of the Gondwana Tansen Group, are seen lying beneath tectonically-emlaced Precambrian metamorphics. We look for tillites in the Tansen Group. At Pokhara view mountains of Annapurna Range and visit limestone caves. Overnight at the luxurious Hotel Fish Tail Lodge, Pokhara overlooking the Phewa Lake.
Day 5: Drive to Tatopani via Beni crossing from the Lesser to the Greater Himalayan Series. For the latter part of the journey we follow the course of the Kali Gandaki River. Stops to look at rocks of differing metamorphic grade. Quaternary lake deposits and landslides can also be observed. Overnight at local lodge. Visit hot springs. The night is spent in Tatopani.
Day 6: Drive Tatopani to Jomsom (2,700m) following the spectacular Kali Gandaki Valley. Crossing the Chomrong Thrust we pass into higher grade metamorphic rocks of the Greater Himalayan Series with abundant garnet schists, gneisses and evidence of anatexis. Then crossing the South Tibetan Detachment we see dramatic Tibetan / Tethyan folded strata, all virtually un-metamorphosed. Among these are the folded Lower Palaeozoic Nilgiri limestones. We commenced the day in sub-tropical vegetation but here the vegetation includes pine, cypress and juniper forest. Apples are grown at Marpha, used for apple juice and apple brandy. Just short of Jomsom we visit the small ‘Tibetan’ village of Syang and take tea. Fabulous views of Mount Nilgiri North (7,061m). The night is spent in Jomsom.
Day 7: Study beautiful water worn rocks in the river bed around Jomsom. Trek from Jomsom to Kagbeni, known as the ‘Gateway to Mustang’, through deformed Mesozoic strata of the Tethyan Himalayan Series. The trek is 11kms with less than 100m height gain and usually takes about 5 hours. Impressively folded rocks are visible in the cliffs on either side of the wide valley. We pause to study the Lupra Fault. Dramatic mountain scenery amidst arid ‘Tibetan’ landscape. A shorter variant to this trek is available. Search for Jurassic ammonites in the river bed. Observe Quaternary fluvial, lacustrine and alluvial fan deposits. Visit Red House Museum in the early evening. Overnight at the Yakdonald Guesthouse where yakburgers are on the menu. The night is spent in Kagbeni.
Day 8: Our journey from Kagbeni to Syanboche takes us through Chhuksang, a typical Tibetan settlement. Our route allows the study of dramatic cliffs on either side of deep ravines. These expose Cretaceous clastics with plant remains and Miocene terrestrial deposits of the Thhakola Graben. We discuss the origins of this extensional graben. After crossing the Bhena La (3860m) we visit the Chungsi cave on an attractive trek along the Syanboche river. This is a three hour trek and does not involve much height gain. Night at local guesthouse in Syanboche.
Day 9: Drive to Lo Mantang visiting Ghami on the way. Ghami has a small museum and Tibetan handicrafts. Later we take a side valley on the west to visit the beautiful little monastery of Ghar Gumba (3950m). Here we take a trek to see the ‘Red Cliffs’ a dramatic exposure of the Tethyan sediments. This is a three hour trek, there and back, and involves some modest height gain. Crossing the Lo La a splendid panorama opens up to the north with the Lo Mantang settlement nestled in the centre, its grey black royal palace standing out. Two nights at local guesthouse.
Day 10: Lo Mantang. Explore this ancient hidden Tibetan settlement, hidden from view until recent years, with its several monasteries, some with exquisite frescoes, all located within the old ‘city’ walls. Semi-precious stones available for purchase. Take trekking route off road to north of Lo Manthang, visiting Choser Cave and passing numerous chortens. This is a four hour trek on gentle tracks. We spend a second night in Lo Mantang.
Day 11: Drive back south remaining mainly on the west side of the Kali Gandaki as it flows downstream to and beyond Kagbeni. We take a side valley diversion to a local shrine approached by ladders up a cliff face. Small caves and underground shrines are decorated with frescoes on Miocene sandstone walls displaying cross bedding and ripple lamination. Travel on through Syanboche to stay the night at a local guesthouse in Chhuksang.
Day 12: Drive to Kagbeni and thence on to Muktinath, the major local pilgrimage site, with numerous temples. Spectacular views of Dhaulagiri (8167m) can be seen from here. Options exist: Take a tour of the temples and ‘everlasting flame’, a natural methane flame that has burned for centuries (2 hours). Take a local trekking route over Cretaceous marine sandstones and shales and find ‘shaligrams’, holy ammonite-bearing nodules (3 hours). The night is spent in Muktinath.
Day 13: Drive to Jomsom, headquarters of the Mustang District, and stop to see major folds in the Tethyan Lower Jurassic strata in the hillsides. Visit small museum with good displays about the natural history of Mustang. Splendid views of mountains surrounding the small airstrip. Jomsom is located partly on Quaternary glacial deposits and partly on lacustrine deposits, visible on both banks of the river. Overnight at a local hotel.
Day 14: Fly Jomsom to Pokhara, a spectacular flight through the mountains, and on to Kathmandu. Overnight at Kathmandu Guest House.
Day 15: Transfer to Kathmandu Airport for flight home.
Geological guiding from Danny Clarke-Lowes & James Cresswell
Bed & breakfast accommodation in hotels
Full board in trek lodges (8 nights)
Shuttle to and from airport
Upper Mustang special trekking permit (USD $500)
Flights to and from Nepal
Internal Jomson-Kathmandu flight at the end of the tour (USD $248). This must be paid to local agent during tour
Lunches and dinners (on hotel nights - 6 nights)
Alcohol and soft drinks
The principal guide is Danny Clark-Lowes, supported by GeoWorld Travel's director James Cresswell. Danny is a British geologist with many years of geological industry training and geological tour guiding behind him. Danny has also published extensively, with articles and publications on North Africa and Nepal, among many others. He is currently completing a book on the geology of the Himalayas which will be published prior to our 2023 trip.