London • Kolkata • Bagdogra • Phuentsholing • Paro • Thimphu • Cheri Goemba • Punakha • Gangtey • Punakha • Gasa • Thimphu • Paro • Kolkata • London
A Geology Field Trip to The Hidden Kingdom of Bhutan
Study the geology, natural history and culture of a very spiritual Himalayan Kingdom
A Small Group Tour Led by Dr Danny Clark-Lowes - Himalayan Geologist
Saturday 17th March to Friday 30th March l 2018
Dr Danny Clark-Lowes is a geologist, educated at Cambridge and London universities, who has given industry training courses on geology at locations throughout the world, as well as publishing scientific papers and books. He is also a mountaineer who has climbed in the Swiss Alps and in the Himalaya. He will lead this tour to Bhutan which will look at aspects of the geology and geography of the spectacular Himalaya, and will help participants achieve an understanding of how mountain belts and their associated rock types are created through plate movements.
On this tour we will experience the rich culture of the country, with visits to Buddhist dzongs and monasteries, some perched on the edge of precipitous cliffs amply deserving the title ‘fortress of the gods’. We will travel in comfortable vehicles, on tar and dirt roads, and undertake some treks in remoter areas. We will come to understand how mountain belts and their associated rock types are created through plate movements. Accommodation will be at good hotels, local lodges and a wildlife reserve, with one night at a well-appointed camp at the northern settlement of Gasa. This trip is suitable for amateur geologists, those with an interest in learning some geology and those who simply enjoy being in the mountains.
Departure on Emirate Airlines flight to Kolkata via Dubai. Departures are available from London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle airports.
Arrive Kolkata in the morning. Transfer to The Lalit Grand Eastern Hotel. Sightseeing of the historic city of Kolkata in the afternoon. A heritage walk and visit to British Cemetries will be arranged with a local historian of Kolkata.
Fly from Kolkata to Bagdogra and drive to Phuentsholing in Bhutan, close to the national border. We travel through subtropical vegetation viewing occasional outcrops of the sedimentary Siwalik Series. Notice the spectacular architecture of the buildings as we cross from India into Bhutan, the border marked by a rather charming gate. Note also the change in culture from India, with Bhutanese praying in the centre of town.
Geologically we will be crossing the main boundary thrust (MBT), a very young structure which is still seismically active and is responsible for the majority of recent Himalayan earthquakes. South of this thrust fault zone are sedimentary rocks of the Siwaliks whilst to the north are low-grade metamorphic rocks of the Lesser Himalayan Series. Night at Phuentsholing.
Drive north, gaining height steadily to Thimphu, via Paro, and spend the night at Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan. On the way to Paro, we see geological evidence of the seismic activity that is so prominent in the Himalayas. Crossing the Main Central Thrust (MCT), which is exposed in a c. 10km section, we see exposures of high-grade metamorphic schists and gneisses of the Greater Himalayan Crystalline Series. Movement of tens of kilometres on this thrust zone has brought to the surface rocks that were previously buried to great depths and subjected to high temperatures and pressures beneath the mountain chain to the north. Through the range of minerals present in these schists and gneisses we gain an insight into the processes involved in building the Himalayas.
Our interest is not only geological on the road to Paro, the many monasteries that we will see dotted across the valley offer breath-taking views of the pastoral valley which is famous for its red rice. One of these monasteries is the greatly-revered Kyichu Lhakhang.
Drive northwards in attractive well vegetated valley to visit the Cheri Goemba which involves a trek up a steep path. The wildlife and flora of this valley are renowned. A variety of metamorphic rocks are seen in the road cuttings and streams. We return to Thimphu in time to visit the Dzong. See how a local garnet migmatite gneiss is utilised as building stone for the massive Dzong. Second night at Thimphu.
Today we travel to Gangtey by-passing Punakha. Views of the high Himalaya including the Masang Khan (7200m) to the north are stunning, seen from the Dochu La, a pass at 3140m elevation. Further east, just short of the Pele La (3420m) we leave the main east-west route of central Bhutan and head south to our hotel in the wildlife reserve at Gangtey, famed for its migratory black-necked cranes. On our journey we see large and dramatic exposures of white leucogranites, intruded into high-grade metamorphic gneisses of the Chekha Formation. The white granites display large dark coloured tourmaline crystals.
A quiet day to enjoy the serenity of this game reserve and the comfort of the hotel. A trek to the dzong of Gangtey will bring rewards in the form of varied birdlife and evidence of Palaeozoic sedimentary rocks (some fossilferous) lying above high-grade metamorphics, an indication that the South Tibetan Detachment Zone, a major thrust fault zone, cuts through the Pele La area. The marsh area that attracts the black-necked cranes was created by glacial moraines damming the valley’s river.
Drive to Punakha, until 1955 the capital of Bhutan, and visit the beautiful Dzong, famed for its architecture and located at the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers that flow around its border. Visit the sights of Punakha which include gaily-painted house facades. Night at Punakha.
Drive to Gasa north of Punakha via Tashitang continuing along the great Mo Chhu river. We will witness subtropical vegetation and a fertile valley with wild orchards and banana trees. Geologically we will see deformed granites of Cambrian age and whitish marbles. The road continues through gorges, meadows and rice terraces, during which we pass some picturesque villages and houses. At Gasa (2860m elevation) visit Dzong and look around the picturesque town, visiting the archery ground, teashop and small bazaar, and enjoy the views of the mountains surrounding the town. Night in well-appointed camp.
After breakfast we walk down an ancient mule track to the thermal springs that rise to the surface here. The area is famed for these hot springs which are warm and carbonated and reputed to have strong healing properties. Deep faulting in the region allows waters heated at depth to rise to the surface. There will be time for those who wish to bathe and take advantage of the reputed properties of these waters. Drive back to Punakha where we spend the night.
Drive to Paro via Thimphu, where we will have a break. Night at delightful traditional hotel in Paro. We will stay in Paro for 3 nights as there is much to see here and in the surrounding area.
Today we take the road over the Chele La pass to Haa. The Chele La pass (3810m and our highest point on the trip) is home to the Bhutanese blue poppy. We will take a short hike around this area and view the Killey Goemba monastery which is perched in the mountain side overlooking the valley. At Haa we visit the Wangchulo Dzong and Drakshang and take a walk up to the Shek Drak. On our journey to and from Haa we see biotite-rich quartzites (forming cliffs) interbedded with softer mica-garnet schists, In addition there are two marble marker beds. Night at Paro.
Today we visit Taktshang Goemba (Tigers nest monastery), Bhutan’s most venerated religious site and certainly the monastery with the most spectacular setting. A steep walk through pine forests and past exposures of high-grade metamorphics, mainly gneisses, brings us to this cliff-top monastery – an outstanding example of Bhutanese architecture, much rebuilt after various fires. For our final night we will have a bonfire and celebratory dinner with a cultural troupe performing masked and ethnic dances.
Flight Paro to Kolkata and connect to your home-bound Emirate Airlines flight back to London via Dubai.
- How to Book this Tour
- Travel Insurance
- International flights in economy class on scheduled Emirate airlines flight.
International flight Paro to Kolkata in Economy class on Druk Air.
- Internal flight from Kolkata to Bagdogra in economy class.
- Accommodation with private facilities as mentioned in the itinerary.
- Meal Plan: Full board arrangements in Bhutan. Breakfast only in Kolkata.
- All transfers and sightseeing arrangements by a private small coach.
- Entry fee for monuments and places of interest.
- Bhutan visa fee and Tourism Development fee.
- Services of a local English speaking guide.
- Services of Dr Danny Clark-Lowes – Himalayan Geologist as Trip Leader
- Full ATOL and ABTA Bonding.
Cost does not include:
- Visa fee for India. On booking we will send you a step by step guide to apply online for an E-tourist visa for India.
- Travel Insurance. You can obtain a comprehensive travel insurance from Travel & General click here
- Any expenses of a personal nature.
- Tips and gratuities.
- To book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £500.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Credit card payment will be charge at 2% extra. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.
- If you wish to join the tour and fly from any country other than United Kingdom please contact us for land only arrangements.
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
- It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
- It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
- It covers you for all activities.
- Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
- Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
- If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.
If you have any question about your cover, please check with your insurer.
For a comprehensive travel insurance quote - please click here