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Turtuk, Leh Ladakh Overview

Turtuk is a small village located in Nubra Valley region of Ladakh, on the banks of Shyok River. It is the northernmost villages in India lying very close to the India Pakistan border, in the Baltistan region. Turtuk is an unexplored and offbeat place, opened to tourists only in 2010. There isn't much to do in Turtuk apart from trekking and visiting the 2 monasteries and the Royal House. The picturesque village with its tiny houses and fields is surreal. It remains cut off from Ladakh for 6 months during winter.

The upper area of this village is what the actual Turtuk was decades ago, and later on, it expanded to the lower region. Notably, the Turtuk Village covers three areas, namely - Chutang, Yul, and Farol. Chutang is the area right next to Shyok River. It is the village center today, where the local school and health center are situated, and all the educational and cultural activities are organized. Yul is the lush green area where most of the farming takes place, and it is the oldest part of Turtuk. Lastly, Farol is the area encompassing most of the guest houses in Turtuk, and you will have to cross a wooden bridge to reach here. Farol features buckwheat fields, and visitors can also view the K2 peak from here, the second-highest peak in the world after Mount Everest.

There is a museum nestled in the upper part of this village and has a charming two-storied structure featuring four small rooms with old-style low-heightened roofs & small windows. The owner of this heritage house cum museum offers its guided tour with great passion providing insights into Turtuk's past. The charm of Turtuk is its people and culture. It is one of the few places in India to experience the Balti culture as Turtuk is one of the four Baltistani villages under India's control. The rest are controlled by Pakistan. The postcard village houses a few homestays and guesthouses with locals welcoming tourists with warmth.

Must Know Before You Visit Turtuk

Tips :

  • Taste the variety of fruits Turtuk is known for, specially apricots
  • The homestays and guesthouses in Turtuk are not available online. It is best to explore and ask the locals or book through an agent
  • Wifi is available at some places in Turtuk. BSNL postpaid numbers work intermittently.
  • No banks or ATMs are there in Turtuk. Also, there is no petrol pump here. The closest gas station lies in Leh.
  • Electricity is available only for a few hours
  • Turtuk is a military dominated and sensitive area.
  • There is no availability of medical assistance in Turtuk except for some minor ailments.
  • The main languages spoken here are Ladakhi, Urdu, and Balti

Permit :

  • Foreign nationals have to obtain Ladakh Protected Area Permit to enter Turtuk village. It can be obtained priorly from a travel agent
  • Indians need to obtain an Inner Line Permit and have to show a government-id to enter Turtuk
  • Permits are also available online

Turtuk Highlights

1. Turtuk Waterfall Trek

Turtuk Waterfall Trek
The waterfall in Turtuk is a recommended spot for visitors to trek up to enjoy the ethereal beauty of this place. There is an uphill climb leading to the point of origin of the waterfall. The trekking (Read More) trail is steep and gets a bit narrow sometimes, but it offers priceless views of the surrounding mountains and the valley on the way. Though you will have to climb a little, once you reach the top, you will get truly spell-binding views of the village. On days when the weather remains clear, you can even catch sight of K2 Peak, one of the highest mountain peaks on earth.

2. Polo Ground

Polo Ground
The Turtuk Village has a 16th-century polo ground built in a traditional manner in a backdrop of snowy mountains. Polo was played significantly in the Baltistan region, and this village shares the sam (Read More)e passion for polo as the other regions of the valley. Visitors might see local villagers playing a game on this ground. As the locals are quite friendly, you might get a chance to play polo on this ground. Various championships are organized here every so often to keep the spirit of this traditional sport alive in the region and fortify the cultural heritage.

3. Balti Heritage House and Museum

Balti Heritage House and Museum
You can visit the 19th-century Balti Heritage House in Turtuk, which is a 150-year-old traditional Balti house that is now converted into a museum. It offers a glimpse of the slowly waning Balti way o (Read More)f life. You will find various items on exhibit inside this house, including a mix of centuries-old huge royal storage pots & cooking utensils composed of stone, brass, and copper with intricate carvings. There is a section of dresses where silver-studded headgear, primeval robes & shawls made from animal furs, and gemstone jewelry are on display. Visitors are required to pay an entry fee of INR 70 at this museum, excluding a charge of INR 30 for visiting the Natural cold storage located in this museum.

Timings: Monday - Sunday: 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM

4. Monastery

Although a vast chunk of the population in this village is Muslim, you will still find a small Buddhist Monastery (Gompa) maintained by the residents that is set on a hilltop above the village. Hiking (Read More) up to the monastery is a delightful experience and is not much difficult. It takes around half an hour to trek to this Gompa, including a steep climb on a rock, but the excursion rewards you with the stunning views of Shyok valley from this monastery. You will get some scenic views of the Himalayan & Karakoram ranges, including the snow-topped K2 peak from the top.

5. Ruins of Brokpa Fort

Ruins of Brokpa Fort
The Brokpa Fort is situated in an impressive location on the Shyok river bank. Brokpas are recognized to be a 5000 years old ethnic tribe of Ladakh. Today, the Brokpa Fort is present in ruins in Turtu (Read More)k. It is an amazing spot to visit, especially for history enthusiasts and people who love to do photography at places with rustic charm. These ruins of Brokpa Fort will make you go backward in time, and you will get to know how the Yagbo royalty lived.

6. Thang

In the Turtuk sector, Thang is the furthermost point towards the Line of Control, where the Indian territory ends. It is set at a distance of around 10 km from Turtuk village. The border with Pakistan (Read More)-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) is only 2 km from here. The route from Turtuk to Thang is very delightful and once you arrive here, you will see the border fence, which indicates the LOC. Visitors are required to have a permit to visit this area.

7. Camping in Turtuk

Camping in Turtuk
Camping in the natural backdrop of Turtuk village is one of the major highlights. There are a few campsites available in Turtuk, namely the Buckwheat Root Camp and Turtuk Holiday Resort. These offer n (Read More)ice tented, comfortable accommodations. Also, those carrying their own camping gear can enjoy self-camping in Turtuk, but not at any place. You can ask a local resident to suggest a spot to pitch the tent or if required, you can pay them a little for a spot. Camping far away from your routine hustle at this beautiful destination will let you unwind.

Read More on Turtuk

How to Reach Turtuk

The best way to reach Turtuk is to board a taxi or rent a car. It takes about 8-9 hours to reach from Leh which is almost 200km away. The road to Turtuk passes through Khardung La (one of the highest motorable roads in India), Hunder, and Diksit. Some tourists stop at Hunder or Nubra Valley overnight.
Bi-weekly buses are also available from Leh to Turtuk. The travel can be rough because of the road conditions

People and Culture of Turtuk Village

Turtuk is a mystifying land of unique culture, geography, and emotion that you will experience on your visit. It is the only region within the Indian border that is home to people of Balti origin. In olden times, Baltistan was a separate kingdom ruled by the Yabgo dynasty. Today, there are almost 4000 residents here, and though most Ladakh practices Buddhism as the main religion, the majority population belongs to the Muslim community, including Noorkbakhshias, Shias, and Shias Muslims. While traveling to this village from Hunder, you will discover a change in culture, language, and appearance of people just like you have arrived in Baltistan. Here, you will see a totally different culture and lifestyle. 

The residents mostly speak Balti, Urdu, & Ladakhi and are extremely friendly to the visitors. Remarkably the Balti language is a mixture of Persian and Tibetan, and Turtuk has a unique ethnicity. The locals of Turtuk village look beautiful as they have very fair skin, rosy cheeks, and facial features comparable to Afghanis. This village teaches that humans are not defined by geographical borders. For most of the travelers visiting Turtuk, interacting with the residents of this village is one of the most-liked things. You cannot ignore the quaintness of this village and the friendliness of its residents.

General Trivia

Natural Cold Storage Weather
Turtuk village remains extremely cold in winter, similar to other parts of Ladakh, but days in summer are somewhat warm. As it is a remote location, it does not facilitate the villagers to source the daily needs items at their convenience. Also, the electricity supply is limited, so there is no option of storing eatables in refrigerators. Therefore, the residents opted for an innovative solution to make natural cold storage. These are little rooms built with stones, also called hollows or stone bunkers, featuring such an arrangement of stones that the gaps amidst them facilitate the cold air to glide inside. The underground glacial watercourse enhances the cooling effect and helps keep these chambers icy cold across the year. As a result, the villagers easily store perishable food items here.

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