Turtuk – Facts and Complete Travel Guide

Turtuk is a small village located in the Leh district of the Union territory of Ladakh. Nestled in the Karakoram ranges, it is one of the northernmost villages of India. It is about 205 km from the district headquarters (Leh) and about 2.5 km from the Line of Control between Pakistan and India. 

  • Known as the village divided by a border, Turtuk is situated on the banks of the Shyok River. 
  • Geographically, the village was in the Baltistan region which was under the control of Pakistan until the 1971 war, when the Indian soldiers captured some of the villages.
  • Turtuk is also one of the few villages which are populated by Balti people in India.
  • It is the last outpost of India in the north, after which Pakistan administered Gilgit-Baltistan begins.
  • Turtuk is also known as the gateway to the Siachen Glacier making it a strategically important region in the northern part of the country.
Turtuk

It is undoubtedly one of the remotest offbeat destinations in the whole country but at the same time, the exquisiteness of the village and the hospitable nature of the locals is hard to miss. Immerse yourself in a tranquil atmosphere while experiencing unparalleled scenic views and the unique culture in the high-altitude deserts of Ladakh.

Turtuk Travel Guide

We have compiled a comprehensive travel guide in this blog post for exploring Turtuk in the best possible way. It will cover all the vital information, including accommodation, transport, and all the major attractions to see in the breathtaking village.

If you are planning a trip to Turtuk, our travel guide will help you plan a memorable and perfect trip. Our team of dedicated specialists from Ladakh offers customized tour packages at discounted prices to all our customers who wish to spend an incredible holiday in Ladakh. If you have any queries related to Turtuk, feel free to contact us. Get the best deals to explore Nubra Valley in our Ladakh tour packages.

Places to visit in Turtuk

1. Trekking / Sightseeing

You can start your day by trekking your way through the lush greenery, to the monastery. As you hike on the rocky terrain, you will discover an incredible view so perfect that you would look constantly to believe it. You will be treated to a phenomenal view of the riverbank and icy glaciers glancing down upon you.

2. Waterfall

You can take a trek to the waterfall which is located high up on the mountain. At some places, it seems like the waterfall is literally hugging the mountains. Although trekking to this waterfall is a bit challenging but as you reach there you will find the view from the top utterly captivating. You can also catch a glimpse of the mighty K-2, the second-highest mountain in the world. The artistry of nature and the panoramic views of the landscape will simply leave you speechless. 

3. Mosque

During your stay in Turtuk, you can pay a visit to the beautiful mosque of the village. The archaic mosque dates back to medieval times and over the years it has been renovated several times. The mosque contains some very intricate carvings on its wooden pillars and ceiling. 

4. Monastery

You can also visit the Buddhist Monastery (Gompa), which is situated at the far end of the village. Just like every other monastery in the valley, this one also offers a mind-boggling view of the entire valley. A walk to the monastery will take you through the green fields of this beautiful village and you will also get some stunning views of the K-2 peak.

5. Balti Heritage Home 

You can visit the 15th century Balti Heritage Home which is built in one of the narrow lanes of the Turtuk village. The Heritage Home contains the original Balti artifacts collection dating 400 years back.

6. Balti Museum

There is another museum in Turtuk which is located in Farol. In this museum, you can gather knowledge about the history of the Balti Dynasty and the Balti people. While taking a tour of the museum, the heir of the museum gives a detailed description of the artifacts and history of the previous rulers who have ruled the region. 

7. Natural Cold Storage

You may not find this natural wonder anywhere else but in Turtuk. The villagers keep their perishables inside small hollows which are naturally cold. Because of the underground glacial watercourse, these small hollows remain icy throughout the year, and these natural cold storages are really something that you would not see on daily basis.

 8. Thang

You can visit India’s northernmost village of Thang which is located 10 km from Turtuk. Thang is the farthest point located near the Line of Control and borders are barely 2 km away from this point. The entry to this area is restricted and one needs to obtain a permit but on reaching this point you will be able to see the border fence which denotes the Line of Control.

9. Brokpa Fort

The Brokpa Fort is situated in a scenic location on the banks of the Shyok River. The ancient fort dates back to 5000 years when the Brokpas were a nomadic clan of Ladakh. The ruins of the Brokpa fort in Turtuk will give you an insight into the lives of the Yabgo Dynasty.

Other famous places of Turtuk

Other than these famous attractions you can also add these interesting places to get a broader overview of the cultural background and history of Turtuk:

  • Historic Pologround
  • Royals House and Museum
  • Traditional Handlooms
  • Water Mill

Things to do in Turtuk

Apart from visiting the above-recommended places, there are some more things to do in Turtuk:

  • Bond with the villagers and learn about their unique Balti culture. 
  • Stay in a local’s homestay and experience their simple lifestyle
  • Take a walk around the green fields and enjoy the natural beauty of the place
  • Hike to the waterfall
  • Take a selfie on the wooden bridge with lofty mountains in the background.
  • Enjoy eating fresh and delicious apricots and walnuts
  • Stay overnight at a campsite
  • Take a stroll along the banks of the Shyok River
  • Trek to the Buddhist Monastery in the village
  • Spot the gigantic K-2 peak from the monastery

Itinerary Guide – How to plan your Itinerary for Turtuk Village

Planning a perfect Itinerary for the Turtuk trip without an expert guide is not an easy task. We have built an Itinerary with our experts and planned a trip to Turtuk to share our exhilarating experience with you. It would be best if you read it to know all about Turtuk to plan your itinerary easily.

  • Spend the first two days sightseeing in Leh
  • Plan the third day for the Nubra Valley trip
  • Visit Turutk village on the fourth day of your Ladakh tour

Our Turtuk village Itinerary is crafted by experts and is considered one of the best Itinerary for a trip to Turtuk which is included in the Ladakh tour package.

Preparing for Turtuk Trip

We had been planning a trip to Turtuk for quite a long time. Finally, we decided to plan an adventurous trip to Turtuk, the last village on the northernmost frontier of India. We had already packed our backpacks a day ahead of our journey. The next morning, we had our breakfast and were ready to leave for Turtuk. On the way, we crossed the mighty Khardung La and halted there for a while. 

While driving on the high passes, we came across several glaciers and the most mesmerizing sceneries. At some places, the road workers were busy maintaining the roads to make them accessible for travelers. The roads were quite smooth, so it did not take us long enough to reach Khalsar, where the road divided into two, of which the left went towards Sumur and Panamik, and the right led to Diskit. We took the left turn that led us to Diskit, Hunder, and Turtuk.

Diskit

On our way to Turtuk, we passed the Diskit village. We were amazed by the scenic beauty of the desert-like dunes that stretched across the roads. The landscape, clothing, language, culture, and even the physical features of people changed quite drastically as we crossed over into the Nubra Valley. We could see grey sand and dust building up like a dense cloud on the riverbank, and nothing was visible except our taxi and a few locals working on the nearby roads. Time seemed to stand still along with the stillness of the warm air of the desert valley. We could not take our eyes off the picturesque views and later stopped to camp in the dunes at night.

The next day, we visited the oldest and also one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in Diskit. The main attraction of the monastery was the 32 ft high statue of Maitreya Buddha that faced the Shyok River and felt like it dominated the skies of the entire region. We took some pictures below the gigantic Jhampa statue and after some time headed towards Hunder.

Hunder

Hunder was one of the most adventurous places on our way to Turtuk. We played in the sand dunes beside the double-humped camels. The ATV ride in the dunes of Hunder and the Camel safaris were the most exciting experiences on the way to Turtuk. While riding the ATV at such a high altitude, we could literally feel the gentle air blowing past our faces. Besides, the snowclad mountain peaks, the magnificent Shyok River, and the apricot orchards added to the overall beauty of the valley.

Although the river looked horrible due to its color as the melted glacier came with sand and mud but still, our journey was wonderful because of the splendid surrounding atmosphere.

Turtuk village

After driving continuously for 2 hours from Hunder, we finally reached Turtuk village. The region was a part of Pakistan until 1971 when the Indian Army captured it during the war. The village was opened for tourism in 2010 and after some time it gained immense popularity. While the natural beauty of the village was beyond imagination, the kaleidoscope landscapes and the scenic roads left us in complete awe. At the same time, the people were exceptionally helpful, friendly, and hospitable. 

We stayed there for a night and the next day we were welcomed with the most beautiful sunrise ever. The morning sunshine filled us with positivity and reenergized us for our upcoming adventure. We had our breakfast and went down to sit by the riverside for a while. We put our feet in the cold water and watched the water rushing making its way through the stones. 

Surrounded by the majestic Himalayas, the village seemed more like a paradise. A stream divided the village into two parts and these two parts were connected by a small bridge. We had already arranged a homestay for us that was run by a local man of the village. So, our driver parked the car near the bridge and then we entered the village through the bridge. 

We could see lush green paddy fields till the end of the village, a concrete footpath leading to the houses, and a systematically arranged canal system that brought water from the nearby streams to the agricultural fields. The stunning view of the village and the hills wiped away all our fatigue and exhaustion of the day-long journey in a moment.

Farol

In the afternoon, when the sun was still shining leaving behind yellow shadows on the mountains, we decided to take a tour of the Farol part of the village. As we walked through the green fields, our Tour Guide explained the daily life of the villagers. We were told that agriculture is the major source of livelihood in Turtuk and the locals usually own apricot and walnut orchards. After the tour, we came across a small cafe near the bridge. We had some tea and then ordered our lunch. The cafeteria also served Indian cuisine although we recommend trying something such as apricot chutney and buckwheat pancake with dry fruits. We paid our bill and then finally returned to our homestay for a good night’s sleep.

Youl

The next morning we woke up early as we had not seen other parts of the village. After having breakfast, we were ready to explore the Youl part of the Turtuk village with our Tour Guide. We crossed the bridge over the stream and continued to walk until we reached the museum of the village.

Wooden bridge in Turtuk

Turtuk is an amalgam of entirely different cultures and you can find Balti, Tibetan, Kashmiri, people of Aryan descent, and many others. And if you want to explore this place in the best way, we recommend staying at least a day or two there.

Museum

The museum was built inside a heritage house and preserved a unique culture that survived despite conflicts and shifting borders. It was beautifully maintained and contained different objects related to the Yabgo Dynasty. The collection included, arrows used in war coins, old earthen pots, shields, lapis lazuli encrusted swords, silver ink containers, paintings, family record books, clothes, footwear headgear, stuffed heads of hunted animals leopard traps, along with a donation box for the daily visitors. On the wall, the whole line of the Yabgo Dynasty was set, and titled “The Pedigree of Rajas of Yabgo Dynasty Chhorbat Khapulu Baltistan.”

Luckily, we also met the current successor of the dynasty, Yabgo Mohammad Khan Kacho. He briefed us about the previous rulers, their legacies, and the various objects that were preserved in the museum. He earned his livelihood by selling vegetables and fruits to the Indian Army. As we went upstairs from the courtyard, we saw some bows, arrows, maps, artifacts, and the remnants of Baltistan’s kingdom. 

Back to Leh

As we left the village, we met a lot of small children who were on their way to school, smiling and talking with one another. We had bought a box of chocolates from Nubra a day before, so we offered some chocolates to the children and they happily accepted them. Waving them goodbye there was only one thing that struck our minds that wherever we go we can always express our love through small gifts and broader smiles.

Conclusion

Turtuk, a village with stark beauty, surrounded by apricot orchards, cozy wooden houses nestled between snowcapped mountains and divided by blue waters of Shyok River. The beauty of this village is its culture and people. Since it is one of the four Baltistani villages which is under India’s control, therefore you can visit this offbeat village to experience the rich Balti culture.

The alluring high-altitude border village, with its welcoming and hospitable people, is completely focused on creating a harmonious atmosphere. Because of their efforts and friendly nature, tourists from all over the world visit Turtuk and return with fabulous memories of love and enjoyment received from the locals.

We arrange trips to Turtuk, Nubra Valley and other famous touristy places of Ladakh at a very reasonable price. View popular Ladakh tour packages.

How to reach Turtuk village

The quickest and easiest way to reach Turtuk is to arrive at Kushok Bakula Leh Airport by flight and then hire a cab from Leh to Turtuk Village.

turtuk map

Step by step guide to reaching Turtuk

  • Reach Leh town first
  • Stay in Leh for at least a night to Acclimatize properly.
  • Go to Leh Taxi stand to hire a cab from Leh to Turtuk Village.
  • Start the trip to Turtuk early in the morning.

A detailed guide on how to reach Turtuk

By Air
  • The nearest airport is Kushok Bakula airport at a distance of 205 km.
  • Once you arrive at Kushok Bakula Airport in Leh, you can reach Turtuk Village by hiring a taxi from Leh.
By train
  • The closest railway stations are Kalka & Jammu Tawi Railway Stations.
  • The best way to travel via train to Turtuk is to take a train from your hometown and reach the Kalka or Jammu Tawi railway station.
  • From Kalka or Jammu, you can arrive at Leh in a bus or a shared taxi.
  • Once you reach Leh, you can get a taxi from Taxi stand Leh to reach Turtuk Village.
By road

To reach Turtuk, you need to arrive at Leh first using one of the two given routes:

  • Manali to Sarchu to Leh to Turtuk
  • Jammu to Srinagar to Leh to Turtuk
Route1
RouteTravel TimeDistance
1Delhi to Manali12 to 14 hrs540 km
2Manali to Sarchu5 to 6 hrs177 km
3Sarchu to Leh5 to 7 hrs250 km
4Leh to Turtuk6 to 7 hrs204 km
Route 2
RouteTravel TimeDistance
1Delhi to Jammu10 to 12 hrs594 km
2Jammu to Srinagar6 to 8 hrs260 km
3Srinagar to Leh8 to 12 hrs430 km
4Leh to Turtuk6 hrs204 km

Read this article to know the easiest way to reach Ladakh.

Vehicles that are available in Leh to hire for the Turtuk village trip

The most common types of vehicle available to hire in Leh are:

  • SUVs such as Innova and Xylo for up to 4 person
  • Eeco/van for 2-4 person
  • Tempo traveler for a big group

The Best Bikes available in Leh to hire to go to Turtuk village are:

  • Royal Enfield Himalaya : 411cc – best suited for 1 person
  • Royal Enfield Standard : 500cc – best for 2 people (one rider and one pillion)
  • Royal Enfield Classic : 350cc – best suited for one person
  • Royal Enfield Standard – 350cc – best for 1 person
  • Scooty – for one person

Travel Tips

There are a few useful tips that would help you make your trip to Turtuk amazing:

  • Travel during the shoulder season (April, May, October, and November) for a budget trip.
  • Stay a night in Leh for acclimatization before visiting Turtuk.
  • Don’t plan a direct trip from Manali or Sarchu to Turtuk. As it would make the trip very tiresome. Also, the taxis from other places than Leh are not allowed to enter Turtuk, so you need to hire a taxi from Leh to visit Turtuk village. You can drive your own vehicle but it is very important to acclimatize properly before visiting Turtuk.
  • The most recommended Itinerary for Turtuk is to stay in Leh for two nights and then visit Nubra Valley. After that, visit Turtuk directly from the Nubra Valley.
  • If you are traveling in your vehicle, plan the traveling route to Turtuk village as per the routes given in the map above. Also, it would be best if you fill your fuel tank to full in Leh and carry some extra fuel before starting the journey from Leh.
  • On the way to Turtuk village, you have to travel through Khardungla pass which is at a very high altitude (18,379 feet), so it is recommended not to stay at Khardungla for a long time. Also, it is important to carry an oxygen cylinder in your vehicle from Leh.
  • It’s recommended to plan a two-day trip to Turtuk. But, if it’s a one-day trip, start your journey to Turtuk early in the morning.
  • Read things to carry for Ladakh trip to know what pack for your Turtuk trip.
  • Turtuk is located in a remote region where cell phone signals are very weak. However, BSNL SIMs receive better signals than other SIMs, so carry a postpaid BSNL SIM from your hometown before visiting Ladakh.
  • Carry some cash from Leh before traveling to Turtuk village, as there aren’t many ATMs through this route.

Best time to visit Turtuk

Mid-May to late September is the best time to visit Turtuk village, as the climate would be very pleasant and the natural beauty would be at its best during these months. Read the best time to visit Ladakh to know the ideal time to visit other famous places in Ladakh.

Geography, History, Weather, Culture and Demography of Turtuk

Geography

Turtuk is located in Baltistan, a region completely under the control of Pakistan. It is one of the four Baltistani villages which were captured during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. The other three villages were Chalunka, Tyakshi, and Dhothang. Turtuk is the largest these our villages and is situated in the Chorbat part of the Shyok Valley which lies across the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. It is divided into three sections:

  1. Youl: Youl is the oldest area of the village and is home to one of the two mosques in Turtuk. As most of the farming takes place in this area, as such it is a densely populated region with abundant tradition, greenery, and generosity.
  2. Chutang: Chutang is situated on the banks of the Shyok river. This region is the cultural and educational center of Turtuk. One can enjoy talking and playing with the kids while they are on their way to school. During the winter season, the villagers who stay at high altitudes descend towards the Chutang area as the river is the primary source of water and vegetation.
  3. Pharol: One can reach Pharol by crossing a small bridge. This place is home to most of the greenhouses and guesthouses in the village. One can get an amazing view of the K-2 peaks while taking a stroll around the buckwheat fields.
VillageTurtuk
TehsilDiskit-Nubra
District headquarterLeh
Union territoryLadakh
CountryIndia
Altitude9,846 ft
Time ZoneUTC+5:30

Google Map

Demography

Population6864
Male percent63%
Female percent37%
Total Literates4446
Literacy rate57%
Total households826
2011 census data
  • The population of Turtuk as per 2011 census is 6864 people.
  • Sex Ratio is 581.
  • Total number of males are 4342
  • Total number of females are 2522
  • Turtuk has a literacy rate of 76%, with male literates 3428 and female literates 1018.
  • The total number of households in Turtuk is 826.

History

Turtuk was inhabited by the Dardic tribe (earliest known tribe) locally known as Brogpas, who migrated from Chilas, a place in Pakistan. They lived in Turtuk for a very long time, most probably from the 13th century AD. Around the 13th century AD, the village was captured by two warriors namely Yangdrang and Chuli. They killed the King and ultimately the villagers fled Turtuk to different villages now called Dah, Hanu, and Domkhar. Nowadays, the majority of the population in Turtuk are the descendants of Yangdrang and Chuli. Gradually, people from different regions came to Turtuk bringing in more diversity. 

The people of Turtuk followed the Bon religion before the advent of Islam. Hence one can find Bon rituals in the architecture as well as the tradition. When the famous Persian Sufi preacher and poet, Syed Ali Shah Hamdani came to Turtuk, the people of Turtuk embraced Islam. Just like other people of Baltistan, the people of Turtuk practice the Sufi sect (Sufi Noorbakshia), named after Syed Mohammad Noorbaksh (disciple of Shah Hamdani). Later in the 19th century, various sects from other places, such as Hanafi started converting the Sufi Noorbakshias. Presently, only half of the entire population of Turtuk practice the Sufi sect, and the rest practice Sunni or Wahhabi sect.

In 1971, the Indo-Pakistan war took place in Turtuk when the Indian Army under the command of Brigadier Udai Singh captured the village after the Pakistani Army retreated a day earlier. Since then, Turtuk is a part of India and the Indian Army has brought about several reforms while encouraging development and prosperity. 

Culture

Baltistan was a separate kingdom before the era of war that has remolded the region in recent times. Earlier, the Yabgo Dynasty (Central Asian Empire) ruled Turtuk from 800 to 1800 AD. In the 13th century, Syed Ali Shah Hamdani brought about numerous cultural changes, and consequently, it became a plethora of cultures. The mosques and gompas in Turtuk reflect the Iranian designs and Buddhist patterns. 

Weather

Being a high-altitude cold desert, the weather in Turtuk remains cold all year round. During the summer months of May, June, and July the temperature does not exceed 20 Degrees Celcius. The entire region of Turtuk receives very less amount of rainfall and sometimes only in the month of July.

The winters are very harsh in Turtuk. Although it receives a very less amount of snowfall, however, during January and February, the temperature remains as low as -10 to -15 Degrees Celcius.

References

About the author

Sam K. Pandepa is a certified travel agent of Ladakh. He completed his MBA in 2012 and has worked as a tourist guide up to 2015. After that, he is working as a travel agent.