Visiting Turtuk – The Last Indian Village on Indo-Pak Border

Turtuk is a beautiful little hamlet, located in the Indian Baltistan with the gorgeous flowing Shyok river flowing in the backdrop. This lovely village is located on the border of India and Pakistan and is a few km away from the popular touristy Nubra Valley.

Turtuk has a population of 4000 people and offers pristine views of Karakoram Ranges of Himalayas.

History of Turtuk

urtuk was part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir up until 1971 when Major Chewang Rinchen and his troops captured and made it a part of India. With time, the villagers have become more accepting of Indians and the Indian government.

About Turtuk

Turtuk is one of the 4 villages that come under Indian Balistan and only one where the tourists are allowed to stay and visit.

Unlike rest of the Ladakh, Turtuk is not a barren wasteland. Turtuk is surrounded with lush green trees and meandering streams. Most of the people living in Turtuk follow Islam unlike their Ladakhi counterparts who are majority of Buddhists. Turtuk is also known as the Apricot capital of Ladakh.

Reaching Turtuk from Diskit

As a solo traveler, the idea of hiring a personal car for Turtuk was foolish. But there is only 1 bus leaving from Diskit in the afternoon and it gets booked really fast.

Booking bus ticket from Diskit to Turtuk – To book the bus ticket, you’ll have to come to the market area. One of the hardware shops sell tickets for the bus. Make sure that you book your ticket in the morning.

Bus from Turtuk to Diskit – There is no bus booking from Turtuk to Diskit. Reach the main road and the bus will arrive around 6:00 AM.

Since there is no point in staying in Diskit on the day I was leaving for Turtuk, I decided to checkout, keep my luggage in the hotel’s cloak room and visit the beautiful Diskit Monastery. I did the local sightseeing after I had a confirm ticket for the bus going to Turtuk.

Culture in Turtuk

Baltistan was a different kingdom ruled by the Yagbo dynasty, a Central Asian empire from Turkistan during the 800 to 1800 AD. Baltistan was dominated by Buddhism till the 13th century. The region embraced Islam after Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani an Irani poet arrived here and started preaching about Islam. Today, the majority of population of this region is Muslim but their customs are totally different than that of the Mainland India or Pakistan. There are beautiful Buddhist Monasteries in the village and you’ll see many small gompas along the road.

Inner Line Permit for Turtuk

Inner Line Permit are a must for Indian Nationals to visit Turtuk. Tourissts from foreign countries need Protected Area Permit . You can apply for online permits or get it from TIC Office, Main Market, Leh on all working days between 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

What to Eat in turtuk

Turtuk’s culture is totally opposite to rest of Ladakh so the food is also unique. For some reason, the folks here also don’t know how to count one plate because everything was in such a huge quantity that I couldn’t finish whatever was being served. It was really embarrassing because leaving food is a sign of being a bad guest.

But Turtuk has some amazing delicacies. Since the village grows apricot in bulk, the prepare many desserts with it. Phudinichu is something that you need to try. Also, don’t miss Kissir (Kisir) with butter and a dip called Tsemik and darsamik that are made from curd. Kissir is a roti made from Buckwheat and is served with dips and chutneys. Friends Café in Turtuk serves superb Balti food along with tea and mo mo. It is also one of the few places with wifi so you’ll find a lot of crowd here.

Ethical Travel in Turtuk

Turtuk is one of those places that many bloggers present as exotic and unique because the folks living here look different. Photographers have promoted it as a destination that is ideal for portrait photography and many end up harassing local kids for photos. This has also become some sort of business as many have started asking for a small fee in return of these photos. If you are going to Turtuk, please make sure that you travel the place like a well informed citizen and don’t make them feel like they are different or unique.

Planning a visit to Thang

Thang is the closest you can get to Pakistan or LOC. But reaching here requires some effort. If you are a solo traveler visiting Turtuk then it totally depends on your luck if you are able to hitchhike or not. The best way to visit Thang from Turtuk in such scenario is by hiring a car that will cost you INR 500.

Also make sure that you have all the id proofs and permits with you as you will need to show them at the border checkpost.

Best Places to Visit in Turtuk

  1. Natural Cold Storage – These little hollows are colder than rest of the surroundings so villagers keep their perishables inside. These cold storage are actually the openings through which underground glacial watercourse flows by.
  2. Balti Museum – Balti Museum is the home to the King of Turtuk. There are many historical artefacts on display that will take you back in time. You can have a small chat with the king and learn about the history of the region. It is just a lovely place and a must visit according to me.
  3. Polo Ground – Polo lies in the heart of Ladakh. It is also popular here and is some 500 metres away from the main village.
  4. Brokpa Fort – The fort lies in ruins but is a nice place to introduce you to the history of this region. If you are traveling solo then you can only visit this place by hiring a private cab.
  5. Water Mill – This Greek style watermill is an interesting place to spend a few minutes while wandering around the village.
  6. Balti Heritage Home – It is a heritage house converted into a museum. Each room is built in traditional Balti style. There are many interesting displays that include dresses, cutlaries, and furs. There is an entry fee of Rs. 50 to enter the house.

Hope you liked the article and it will help you plan your trip in future.

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  1. Sanjay Mishra

    What an amazing list!!!
    Always looking for great spots to photograph!