The Rutog granitic pluton lies in the Gangdese magmatic arc in the westernmost part of the Lhasa Terrane, NW Tibet, and has SHRIMP zircon U–Pb ages of c. 80 Ma. The pluton consists of granodiorite and monzogranite with SiO2 ranging from 62 to 72 wt % and Al2 O3 from 15 to 17 wt %. The rocks contain 2.33–4.93 wt % K2O and 3.42–5.52 wt % Na2O and have Na2O/K2O ratios of 0.74–2.00. Their chondrite-normalized rare earth element (REE) patterns are enriched in LREE ((La/Yb)n = 15 to 26) and do not show significant Eu anomalies (δEu = 0.68–1.15). On a primitive mantle-normalized trace element diagram, the rocks are rich in large ion lithophile elements (LILE) and poor in high field strength elements (HFSE), HREE and Y. Their Sr/Y ratios range from 15 to 78 with an average of 30. The rocks have constant initial 87Sr/86Sr ratios (0.7045 to 0.7049) and slightly positive εNd(t) values (+0.1 to +2.3), similar to I-type granites generated in an arc setting. The geochemistry of the Rutog pluton is best explained by partial melting of a thickened continental crust, triggered by underplating of basaltic magmas in a mantle wedge. The formation of the Rutog pluton suggests flat subduction of the Neo-Tethyan oceanic lithosphere from the south. Crustal thickening may have occurred in the Late Cretaceous prior to the India–Asia collision.